1. Standard memberScriabin
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    17 Feb '09 18:37
    What do we mean when we use the word "God?"

    I didn't use the word just then, I only mentioned it.

    But if I were to state a proposition in which I used the word, how would you assume what I meant by that word? Would you believe that your idea of what I meant is the same thing you understand the word to mean?

    I'm not arguing about whatever it is folks mean by the word -- merely trying to understand what frame of reference is out there.

    For example, is God an anthropomorphic entity who is aware and interested in us as individuals? Or is God what Spinoza posited, “a being absolutely infinite, i.e., a substance consisting of an infinity of attributes, of which each one expresses an eternal and infinite essence.”

    In short, Spinoza is saying that God—an infinite, necessary and uncaused, indivisible being—is the only substance of the universe.

    I do not put this forward as what I believe, it is merely to show there are alternative meanings for the use of the word "God."
  2. Cape Town
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    17 Feb '09 19:29
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    What do we mean when we use the word "God?"
    It depends whose talking.

    I do not put this forward as what I believe, it is merely to show there are alternative meanings for the use of the word "God."
    And I think that spinoza and others who use those 'alternative' meanings do so with the deliberate intention to deceive both themselves and others. They are avoiding the distasteful admission that they are in fact atheist and simultaneously trying to give the universe some sort of farther figure feeling without justification.
  3. Standard memberScriabin
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    17 Feb '09 22:14
    why do you say this?
    what if you are wrong and Spinoza was perfectly sincere.
    He sure went to a lot of trouble, years and years of writing, cast out of his community and made an untouchable, just to deliberately wave his fingers from his nose.

    I'm sure he was sincere and he believed what he said.

    And what of Prince Siddhartha Guatama? He was insincere? That would be news ...
  4. Standard memberScriabin
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    17 Feb '09 22:15
    btw, what do you mean by the word "atheist?"

    looks to me as though you mean "anyone who does not believe as I do" because not to do so makes you feel threatened or insecure.
  5. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Feb '09 03:24
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    It depends whose talking.

    [b]I do not put this forward as what I believe, it is merely to show there are alternative meanings for the use of the word "God."

    And I think that spinoza and others who use those 'alternative' meanings do so with the deliberate intention to deceive both themselves and others. They are avoiding the distasteful admission ...[text shortened]... ously trying to give the universe some sort of farther figure feeling without justification.[/b]
    I think you are wrong here. For one thing (though I have little background on Spinoza), I believe that Spinoza laid out the attributes that people(in his cultural context) conventionally assign definitionally to “God”, and then applied those attributes (somewhat “naturalistically”?) to the universe in reaching his conclusion.

    But, I think the broader error here is to assume that the word “god” (note that we are using an English word) always and everywhere has applied solely to a particular concept—that of the supernatural being (or beings) that you and I both reject—except for those who use “alternative” meanings for deliberate deception. I don’t think that a reading, for example, of the “eastern” literature (e.g., Buddhist, Vedantist, Kashmiri Shaivism) would support that assumption. As a further example, the fact that “folk religion” might treat the gods of various polytheistic systems (both the more animistic and the more anthropomorphic) as actual beings, does not mean that others did not, from the beginning, treat them more archetypally.

    Question: Is a nondualist necessarily the same kind of “atheist” as, say, rwingett? If someone asks me if I am an atheist, and I reply that I am a nondualist—am I attempting to deceive? Some of us (including yourself, as I recall, and No.1 Marauder) have preferred to call ourselves “nontheists” in an attempt to point up the subtle difference: a Zen Buddhist may not be the same kind of “atheist” as a (for lack of a better term) “secular” atheist. Nondualism certainly posits no being-god; and yet such thoroughly nondualistic systems as Kashmiri Shaivism employ theistic language symbolically and metaphorically, with absolutely no intention to deceive—either others or themselves.
  6. Cape Town
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    18 Feb '09 05:31
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I think you are wrong here. For one thing (though I have little background on Spinoza), I believe that Spinoza laid out the attributes that people(in his cultural context) conventionally assign definitionally to “God”, and then applied those attributes (somewhat “naturalistically”?) to the universe in reaching his conclusion.
    I admit I know next to nothing about Spinoza. I was actually thinking more of Einstein and other more recent people who appear to me to have reasons other than reason to label the universe 'God'. I can think of several reasons which may be wrong - I am just speculating - A desire not to be labeled 'atheist' and thus get shunned by the religious - Many people seem to have a natural desire to have a 'god' of some sort, and are willing to invent one if one is not readily available.

    But, I think the broader error here is to assume that the word “god” (note that we are using an English word) always and everywhere has applied solely to a particular concept—that of the supernatural being (or beings) that you and I both reject—except for those who use “alternative” meanings for deliberate deception.
    I made no such assumption. My issue is that the current popular meaning is well known and anyone who uses the word in other ways knows very well that a misunderstanding is more likely than not going to occur. For example the group that called themselves 'Satanists' do not believe in the existence of Satan, but it is well known that many people assume that they do - such a misunderstanding is almost certainly intentional. We all know of the misunderstanding created by Einsteins use of the term. Why would anyone today wish to create the same misunderstanding about themselves? What is so important about using that word that it is worth the misunderstanding? Why not pick another?
  7. weedhopper
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    18 Feb '09 05:34
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    What do we mean when we use the word "God?"

    I didn't use the word just then, I only mentioned it.

    But if I were to state a proposition in which I used the word, how would you assume what I meant by that word? Would you believe that your idea of what I meant is the same thing you understand the word to mean?

    I'm not arguing about whatever it is folk ...[text shortened]... elieve, it is merely to show there are alternative meanings for the use of the word "God."
    I would assume you were speaking of a mysterious, spirit being who has infinite power and created all things.
  8. Cape Town
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    18 Feb '09 06:16
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Question: Is a nondualist necessarily the same kind of “atheist” as, say, rwingett? If someone asks me if I am an atheist, and I reply that I am a nondualist—am I attempting to deceive? Some of us (including yourself, as I recall, and No.1 Marauder) have preferred to call ourselves “nontheists” in an attempt to point up the subtle difference: a Z ...[text shortened]... lically and metaphorically, with absolutely no intention to deceive—either others or themselves.
    I could be entirely mistaken about why people employ theistic language symbolically and metaphorically, and your post has certainly gone some way to convince me that I am mistaken, but in the past when I have discussed it with people they have not given me satisfactory reasons for the use of the theistic symbolism that justifies the known outcome that misunderstanding will occur. It lead me to believe that the misunderstanding was intentional.
  9. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Feb '09 06:461 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I admit I know next to nothing about Spinoza. I was actually thinking more of Einstein and other more recent people who appear to me to have reasons other than reason to label the universe 'God'. I can think of several reasons which may be wrong - I am just speculating - A desire not to be labeled 'atheist' and thus get shunned by the religious - Many peo rtant about using that word that it is worth the misunderstanding? Why not pick another?
    On the one hand, I agree with you about the “current popular meaning”, and in most discourse on here I try to make it clear if I’m drawing on some other understanding of the word; and mostly, I just don’t for the sake of clarity. But that’s a matter of the context of discourse. (Personally, I don’t use the G-word much at all.)

    —I also think you’re right about LaVeyian Satanists, by the way.

    On the other hand, I don’t see why I—or Spinoza or Einstein or members of some longstanding religious/philosophical traditions that have used “g-words” in other ways—ought to in all cases simply bend to popular usage. Just as I do not see that conventional usages ought to necessarily trump symbolic usages. There is more than one kind of meaningful speech. If I, for example, explain the deliberate Shiva symbology in Kashmiri Shaivism, I see no warrant for someone to claim, “Well, they ought not to use that symbology, but ought to express their nondualism in plainer terms.”

    Or that Lao Tzu ought not have written the Tao Te Ching in the style that he did. Or that the Upanishads are flawed when they use theistic terms symbolically.

    Most words have multiple definitions, let alone a range of connotations. Some definitions are technical, and restricted to narrower domains of discourse. This is as true of philosophy and religion as it is of science. The meanings of words also can depend on a cultural context. The most that can be expected is that one clearly define how one is using one’s terms, if one is speaking to an audience that might not know.

    Let’s take another example from my recent reading: Nietzsche’s (in)famous dictum that “God is dead”. Some literalists might assume that Nietzsche is referring to some supernatural being that was alive and died. But such literalists have simply not done their “due diligence” in reading Nietzsche. To anyone who has done their homework, such an interpretation is absurd. Was Nietzsche trying to be confusing? No. He was being provocative as a way of making a sharp point; whether he was right or wrong is beside the point (from a historical viewpoint, one might judge him wrong—but that, too, is arguable, since that god-concept died for many of us). Was he trying to deceive? Not at all. I place the fault with those who jump to a conclusion without, as I say, doing their homework: if they don’t want to study Nietzsche, that’s perfectly okay—there are lots of things that I am not particularly interested in studying—but then they should refrain from assuming some understanding based on either “popular meaning” or their own particular definitions.
    Sometimes I will yield to another person’s definition of a term for the sake of advancing discussion. Sometimes I won’t. Often, when I won’t, it’s because I think they are attempting to impose their definition in a context where I think it results in a misinterpretation—I have offered some examples above.

    Again, there are different kinds of meaningful speech. There are different domains of discourse. And there are (and have been) different god-concepts; and which of those concepts is viewed as “conventional” may itself depend on context.

    ____________________________________

    EDIT: I just saw your second post. I hope my over-long post here has provided some examples of context wherein those who use theistic language symbolically, or in other than the conventions of “western” religious discourse, do not intend either misunderstanding or deceit.

    I cannot, for example, simply read the Upanishads under the assumption, or expectation, that the rishis are going to use terms the way I would in everyday discourse—or expect that their tradition ought to have recognized, let alone acceded to, what I may view as “conventional” usage within my own cultural context. My problem, if it is a problem, is that I have spent sufficient time in some alternative domains of discourse, that I sometimes lose the sense of “conventional” usage at all.
  10. Cape Town
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    18 Feb '09 07:23
    Originally posted by vistesd
    EDIT: I just saw your second post. I hope my over-long post here has provided some examples of context wherein those who use theistic language symbolically, or in other than the conventions of “western” religious discourse, do not intend either misunderstanding or deceit.
    I think I stand corrected. Though I still think it was unwise of Einstein to use the word as he did, I now see that there is a significant amount of works that do use the term in that way and he may have simply expected people to be a bit more knowledgeable on the subject than they generally are - or he simply didn't care if people misinterpreted him.
    I also realize after some thought that even the use of other words could lead to misunderstanding. For example it is not clear to me whether the 'Gaia' in 'the Gaia hypothesis' is some form of 'god'.
  11. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Feb '09 07:52
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I think I stand corrected. Though I still think it was unwise of Einstein to use the word as he did, I now see that there is a significant amount of works that do use the term in that way and he may have simply expected people to be a bit more knowledgeable on the subject than they generally are - or he simply didn't care if people misinterpreted him.
    I ...[text shortened]... it is not clear to me whether the 'Gaia' in 'the Gaia hypothesis' is some form of 'god'.
    Your basic point about misunderstanding is certainly valid. As is your point about deceit, or self-deceit—sometimes. (I have wrestled with the question myself over use of non-theist as opposed to atheist, as part of my ongoing self-vigilance.)

    Another one that your Gaia example reminds me of is “chaos theory”. Now if I use the word chaos, I often feel the need to specify whether I mean the study of nonlinear dynamics, or chaos as opposed to order, or chaos as opposed to (orderly, coherent) cosmos…

    To fess up a bit, Palynka recently nailed me when I criticized his using a nonstandard definition. (Hoisted by me own petard!)

    And, once again—for the very reasons you mention—I seldom use the “G-word” on here in anything but the conventional sense.
  12. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    18 Feb '09 08:041 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd

    And, once again—for the very reasons you mention—I seldom use the “G-word” on here in anything but the conventional sense.
    The figure that you mention is a cultural artefact -- a thing of the mind. As such, it is an affection of the One substance ...
  13. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Feb '09 08:18
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    The figure that you mention is a cultural artefact -- a thing of the mind. As such, it is an affection of the One substance ...
    Or, if one is more process oriented, the One process… 😉

    I was just thinking of process theology in terms of Scriabin’s question. I posted this some time ago on the Spiritual Quotes thread:

    “The neo-Platonic sympathies of the Church fathers impelled the theology of the Western monotheistic religions to the orthodox philosophical stance that to see God as existent we must conceive of him as a being, a substance of some (presumably very nonstandard) sort. To the pleasure of philosophers and the vexation of theologians, this has opened up a host of theological difficulties. For example: (1) On the classical conception of the matter, a substance must always originate from substances. Q: Whence God? A: From himself; he is causa sui. (2) Substances generally have contingent properties. Q: Does God? A: No; he is in all respects (self) necessitated. (3) Substances standardly have spatiotemporal emplacement. Q: Does God? A: No; he, unlike standard substances, exists altogether outside place and time. And so on. No sooner has Western theology made God a substance in order to satisfy its ontological predilections than it has to break all the rules for substances and take away with one hand what it seemed to give us with the other.”

    —Nicholas Rescher, Process Philosophy: A Survey of Basic Issues, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000.
  14. Standard memberblack beetle
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    18 Feb '09 08:30
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    What do we mean when we use the word "God?"

    I didn't use the word just then, I only mentioned it.

    But if I were to state a proposition in which I used the word, how would you assume what I meant by that word? Would you believe that your idea of what I meant is the same thing you understand the word to mean?

    I'm not arguing about whatever it is folk ...[text shortened]... elieve, it is merely to show there are alternative meanings for the use of the word "God."
    I understand "God" as a plexus of barriersđŸ˜”
  15. Cape Town
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    18 Feb '09 08:32
    I suppose that there is always a danger in using analogies or symbology as it is always open to being 'over interpreted' often even by the person who first creates the analogy. For example the father-son relationship in Christianity between Jesus and 'the Father' is taken by some to be symbolic but they often loose sight of the symbolism and take it far more literally. The same applies to the use of words like 'life' or 'death' in Christianity where there is often confusion as to what they mean in a given context.
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