Re: The Meaning of Life

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2007 10:33:54 +1100

On 2/27/07, Tom Caylor <> wrote:

> On Feb 24, 6:10 pm, "Stathis Papaioannou" <> wrote:
> > On 2/24/07, Tom Caylor <> wrote:
> >
> > > > The universe is not under any obligation to reveal itself to us. All
> we
> > > can
> > > > do is stumble around blindly gathering what data we can and make a
> best
> > > > guess as to what's going on.
> >
> > > This is a metaphysical judgment. There are those who strongly
> > > disagree on rational grounds.
> >
> > One of the problems with the verification principle of logical
> positivism
> > was that it, itself, cannot be verified by the verification principle,
> and
> > hence is subject to the charge of being part of the hated metaphysics
> (and,
> > I suppose, if it could be verified it would be subject to the charge
> that it
> > was a circular argument). But I would get around the problem by stating
> the
> > principles by which science works thus: IF you want to predict the
> weather,
> > build planes that fly, make sick people better THEN you should do such
> and
> > such. By putting it in this conditional form there is no metaphysical
> > component.
> >
> I think you and/or Bruno talked about this internal conditional
> definition of "morality" before. But this is just logical inference
> inside a "closed" system of facts. IF this is true THEN this is
> true. There are no real normative statements here, and thus no real
> moral meaning. IF you want to torture babies, THEN you "should" do
> such and such. This definition of morality does not explain why we
> should want certain things and not others. This definition does not
> suppport the real noble things of morality such as compassion. Some
> examples are:
> IF you want to follow the Creator's path when your enemy strikes you
> on the cheek, THEN you should turn the other cheek and pray for him/
> her.
> IF you want to follow the Creator's path when it comes to a choice
> between your benefit and your neighbor's benefit, THEN you act for
> your neighbor's benefit.
> IF you want to follow the Creator's path when it comes to a choice
> between your life and your friend's life, THEN you should give your
> life.

That's fine in its logical form.

> The thing that is different in this realm of true morality is that the
> Creator is a person that we can get to know (not totally, but in a
> process of growth just like any relationship), so that we aren't just
> cranking out IF/THEN inferences like a machine, but the Holy Spirit
> (analogous to All Soul in Bruno/Plotinus term) affirms with our spirit
> that a certain response or initiative in the current situation is in
> accord with the Creator's personal character. Thus, there is only so
> much convincing that one can do in a forum like this. The rest
> requires actually being shown God's love in a tangible way by another
> person. Then it is still up to each of us to decide how we respond.

OK, but if we skip the question of how we know that God wants us to act in a
particular (moral) way, as well as the question of why we should listen to
him, we still have the Euthyphro dilemma, as raised by Brent:

> > > Science is just a systematisation of this
> > > > process, with guesses taking the form of models and theories.
> >
> > > So science is a just systematisation of a metaphysical judgment. I
> > > agree.
> >
> > > > However, it's
> > > > all tentative, and the scientific method itself is tentative:
> tomorrow
> > > pigs
> > > > might sprout wings and fly, even though this has never happened
> before.
> > > I
> > > > would bet that pigs will still be land-bound tomorrow, because there
> is
> > > no
> > > > reason to think otherwise, but I have to stop short of absolute
> > > certainty. A
> > > > metaphysical position would be that flying pigs are an absurdity or
> an
> > > > anathema and therefore pigs absolutely *cannot* fly. But it is
> arrogant
> > > as
> > > > well as wrong to create absolute certainty, absolute meaning, or
> > > absolute
> > > > anything else by fiat, just because that's what you fancy. If there
> are
> > > some
> > > > things we can't know with certainty or can't know at all, that may
> be
> > > > unfortunate, but it's the way the world is.
> >
> > > > Stathis Papaioannou
> >
> > > Looking over my previous post, I cannot see why you are bringing up
> > > absolute certainty. Also I don't know what "absolute meaning" means,
> > > unless it means knowing meaning with absolute certainty in which case
> > > I don't hold that view.
> >
> > Sorry if I have misunderstood, and if I have been unclear or tangential.
> > Several posts back you spoke of positivism being deficient because "a
> closed
> > system which is supposedly totally explainable will always have at least
> one
> > fixed point that is unexplainable". I read into this an implication that
> God
> > would solve the problem because he could be outside the system, indeed
> > outside all possible systems. But this runs into two problems. The first
> is
> > that positivists are in fact very modest and make no claim to explain
> > everything; the very opposite, in fact. The second is that the concept
> of an
> > entity outside all possible systems, and therefore requiring no cause,
> > design, meaning or any of the other things allegedly necessary for the
> > universe and its components constitutes a restatement of the ontological
> > argument for the existence of God, an argument that is 900 years old and
> has
> > been rejected as invalid even by most theists.
> >
> > Stathis Papaioannou
> I insist that I am not going down the ontological argument path. If
> you want to categorize my argument from meaning, perhaps it is closest
> to Kant's argument from morality. In a scientific system, perhaps
> this is branded as "wishful thinking", but I am also insisting that
> science's basis (anything's basis actually), such as fundamentality,
> generality, beauty, "introspection" is also mystical wishful thinking,
> and naturality is circular, and reproducibility is circular in that
> its pragmatism begs the question of meaning (IF you want to do this,
> THEN reproducible experiments have shown that you "should" do such and
> such).

But you're seeking to break out of this circularity by introducing God, who
doesn't need a creator, designer, source of meaning or morality, containing
these qualities in himself necessarily rather than contingently. If you're
happy to say that God breaks the circularity, why include this extra layer
of complication instead of stopping at the universe?

Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Mon Feb 26 2007 - 18:34:17 PST

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