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Self-defeating arguments...

Discussion in 'The Philosopher' started by Nile577, Jul 6, 2007.

  1. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    (Something I try to understand at the moment in wake of reading some Christian Apologetics stuff)

    If we say:

    - We should not impose moral judgements on other cultures.
    - 'Reality' is unknowable / There are noumena.
    - There is an 'unseen.'
    - Science is the only way to ascertain truth.
    - "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."
    - I cannot think the unthinkable.
    - God is unknowable.
    - Events are random and not connected.

    etc...

    These appear to be instances of self-defeating arguments. That is, they are contradictory in the same way as a sentence that states 'there are no objective truths' (while itself posing as an objective truth). If we say, for example, 'events are not connected,' we imply by that judgement a level of connection allowing us to reach the conclusion. If we say, with Kant, that there is a unreachable 'noumenal' (thing-in-itself) reality behind appearance, are we again making a self-defeating argument in that we are making statements about what we claim is unreachable?

    I am suspicious that it is really so absurdly easy to dismiss thinkers as diverse as Wittgenstein, Hume, Heidegger, Kant et al. Has anyone else thought on this issue? I am half sure I must be missing something either in way of thinking or method.
     
  2. Seditious

    Seditious GodSlayer

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    I don't know about Wittgenstein and Heidegger, but I defend most of Hume, and refute most of Kant, though I don't see how that is connected to the first half of the thread, which I pretty much agree with (but what of 'I cannot think the unthinkable'? isn't that like 'i cannot see the invisible' 'I cannot hear that which makes no noise' just a sentence of repetition with synonyms...)
     
  3. Justin S.

    Justin S. Member

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    I can't comment in terms of "Christian Apologetics", but I have run across these objections more times than I can count. To generalize and avoid a lot of terminology, they are mostly simplistic objections rooted in a naive understanding of language (positing singular, non-divisible meanings of words, confusing the signifier and what is signified, failure to see the difference between "meaning" of a proposition and the "meaning" of its employment, etc.). Related to this is their (poor) interpretation and grounding in certain maxims of "intelligibly", specifically appropriations of "logic" (notably a simplistic take on the principle of non-contradiction).

    Most of the examples listed are easily explained and "resolved" (although, they weren't truly problematic to begin with).

    Concerning Kant, all experience is mediated both by the sensory faculties and the conceptual apparatus. There is no "pure" experience or thought, no "self" that commands an "objective" perspective to grasp "the real" (thing-in-itself). Lacan calls this the gap between inner-representation and the real, its violent fusion- ideology (when inner-representation is taken as the real) What I perceive I know to be mediated, therefore I do not grasp the real in "itself", but through the sensory manifold, conceptualization, etc. This is essentially a form of empiricism, but with the caveat that what is apprehended does not necessarily correspond to anything (ie, "objective truth", an extreme example would be hallucination, though I find that example harmful and unnecessary as all perception is in the play of "truth" and "fiction", disrupting such a dualism). It points to the radical "otherness" of "the other"- Knowledge of a lack of knowledge is a common fact. I fail to see how this is "self-defeating" in any way. Mike, you know better than to listen to those cunning peddlers of ontotheologies ;).
     
  4. Seditious

    Seditious GodSlayer

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    d'you mean like 'of course 'there is an unseen', we know radio waves exist, but if you mean 'there is a spiritual world' that is really a different matter. Or 'events are random and not connected'; there is such a thing as 'causality', but by this we'd mean to deny 'there is no such thing as coincidences'?
     
  5. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Justin: That's an excellent reply. Thanks for taking the time to respond. The Apologetics books I finally got round to reading stemmed from a long-dead thread with Dominick_7. I need to read some Lacan. Your thoughts on ideology are very stimulating to me, and I am reminded of the paper you wrote on Poe and Derrida. Could you direct me to where I might find Derrida's writing on ideology? I am curious to see how he engages with the 'paradox' of forming an 'ideology' of ideology.

    I appreciate your above post somewhat covers this but do you think the same holds not just for a lack of knowledge (about something of which one may obtain knowledge) but a proposed impossibility of knowledge? That is, the 'existence' of a radical, mystical 'other' outside the boundaries of thought, but somehow recognised from within thought? Simply: do you think it is self-defeating to say "'the other' is forever unreachable by thought"?

    (Side thought: I now better understand why Heidegger would perform the trick of writing 'Sein' with a cross through it. I think he wished to signify the 'not-realm' of Being, or the "other," that is not a (some)'thing,' but that which is revealed in the presencing of things. Note: I would once have said: "'that' from which things are presenced," but I now think that's rather problematic, and am I struck by the immense delicacy of the issue.)
     
  6. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    update: I realise your first post probably sufficiently covers my above example in hinting at the misunderstandings/simplistic interpretations of sign and signifier and principle of non-contradiction.
     
  7. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Amusingly, "theism" can also be undone by such simple "paradoxes":

    1 - God is omnipotent

    2 - There is nothing created or possible that God could not control.

    3 - God cannot create an object he could not control.

    4 - God is not omnipotent because there is something he cannot do.

    I was reading today how Carnap and the Vienna circle would have someone shout out 'M' whenever they made a statement in discussion not considered logical. This was done so frequently that they eventually decided to yell 'not-M' for statements considered logically correct.

    Carnap himself would criticise Heidegger over the statement 'the nothing noths.'

    Maybe derbeder, cythraul or demiurge might say a bit more about this (perhaps as applied to the Vienna circle?). Does the Vienna circle's work still hold influence in current analytic philosophy?
     
  8. MURAI

    MURAI -

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    The paradoxes you wrote there can be applied to the concept of evil in the eyes of Christians who take their religion in a literal sense.

    1 - God created everything; including Satan.

    2 - God controls everything; including Satan.

    3 - Man must follow God but not fall to Satan.

    I know Christians who will reply to this by claiming:

    1 - God allows Satan to continue to exist because he forgives him.

    2 - God has given man free will to either do good or go in accordance to him, or do evil acts induced by Satan.

    If god truely cares for humanity, why does he not just cut us some slack and not let Satan exist anymore.
     
  9. Seditious

    Seditious GodSlayer

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    honestly, that "God cannot create an object he could not control." argument is pretty dumb.
    easy enough to say omnipotence is restrained to that which is not logically contradictory, or if you want to claim omnipotence means not only the power to do everything that can logically be done, then fine, god can create 'a rock so big he can't lift it' by simply fucking with what is logical and what isn't, such logic fucking is part of his power, or perhaps he can just by muting his strength for a moment. any way you look at it it's an amusing but ultimately childish idea.

    better is the idea that omniscience itself is a contradictory notion, or that omnipotence and omniscience are incompatible.
     
  10. Scourge of God

    Scourge of God New Metal Member

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    Isn't this just a fancy way of saying that there are obvious limits to discursive logic, one of which is that almost any statement about the world can be seen in some sense to deconstruct itself?
     
  11. JColtrane

    JColtrane Member

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    Both the omnipotence argument and the God/Satan argument are what I would classify as very immature arguments. They can both be taken care of rather quickly:
    (1)Obviously the omnipotence argument does not consider will. Omnipotence is the attribute of a supreme being to do whatever he/she wants to do; to divorce the power to do something from the will to do it is in the case of an omnipotent being highly illogical.
    (2)Clearly the Bible does not teach Satan created as such, but rather a good being that chose evil much like humanity. The Christian view would be that God restrains his power to retain the free will of his creation, which to me makes a lot of sense, until a much better argument comes into play: Ivan's "Rebellion" from The Brothers Karamazov. That is the point where I must admit that the existence of that kind of evil doesn't make much sense to me, but the way I've chosen to deal with it is through the message of hope and justice found in God, not in a rejection of it, which Dostoevsky argues only leads to more suffering.

    I actually agree with SoG; ultimately I think this is much more about the ends of logic than anything else.
     
  12. Norsemaiden

    Norsemaiden barbarian

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    "Science is the only way to ascertain truth."

    I'm not sure why this one is a self-defeating argument.
     
  13. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    "It [differance] derives from no category of being, whether present or absent. And yet those aspects of differance which are thereby delineated are not theological, not even in the order of the most negative of negative theologies, which are always concerned with disengaging a superessentiality beyond the finite categories of essence and existence, that is, of presence and always hastening to recall that God is refused the predicate of existence, only in order to acknowledge his superior, inconceivable, and ineffable mode of being. . . . Differance is not only irreducible to any ontological or theological--ontotheological-- reappropriation, but as the very opening of the space in which ontotheology--philosophy--produces its system and its history, it includes ontotheology, inscribing it and exceeding it without return" - Derrida

    : ...
     
  14. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Presumably because the statement poses as truth in itself and yet is not derived from science?

    (The concept of 'truth,' the 'other' and the role of metaphysics and/or logic seems largely to account for the differences between 'continental' and 'anayltic' thought - a distinction the former would reject, I suspect, as absurd. Perhaps the mods (and others?) should start the planned thread on Heidegger's 'On the essence of truth?')
     
  15. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    I don't think that really resolves it. It sounds absurd, but perhaps one might still say: true omnipotence is self-defeating because one lacks the ability to do other than one wills.

    (Note: I am playing devil's advocate - as Justin pointed out, perhaps there are problems with such "paradoxes" and the assumptions they make. In any case, I suspect the above example is beginner-level "philosophy?")
     
  16. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    I found a post on another forum that pertains to the 'god paradox.' I'll quote it here with a link:

    source: http://richarddawkins.net/forum/vie...start=20&sid=2316565dbd66bf7f1749e9833d7113a5
     
  17. JColtrane

    JColtrane Member

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    That conclusion does not follow at all.
    I would just answer: Yes, math and logic are the way they are because God created them that way. Could he have created them a different way? Yes. Could he change them right now if he wanted to? Yes. There is nothing illogical in those statements if you believe in an omnipotent God, and therefore that argument in no way proves belief in God is untenable.

    On a side note, it would prove it if your conception of God is that of a deist; that is, God is the being who set the world in motion, but is not now active, and does not/cannot change anything about the creation.

    In response to your earlier post in which you quoted me, that is just a redefinition of omnipotence rather than an argument against it.
     
  18. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    I think I now better understand Justin's point about sign and signifier. If one says: I cannot have knowledge of God, 'God' is not the bearded man of theism, God is a 'token' word for that about which I cannot have knowledge. There is no self-defeating paradox in such statement.

    In regards to the 'other' in continental philosophy being forever mystical, we could equally describe the mathematical symbol of infinity as being forever unthinkable to the human mind. Holding infinity to be unthinkable clearly does not render the concept of infinity to be self-defeating. Both the 'other' and the concept of infinity can only be intimated.
     
  19. Scourge of God

    Scourge of God New Metal Member

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    I would maintain in any case that one can have awareness of something of which one has no knowledge - so once was the wind. Like I said, you're running up against one of the basic weaknesses of discursive logic - it is, in the end, a language game, and it suffers in some sense from the distance between language and 'reality' (between which there is no one-to-one correspondence).

    There's a useful distinction that actually emerged from Christian apologetics that might apply here: apprehension vs. comprehension...
     
  20. Seditious

    Seditious GodSlayer

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    yea, pretty much what was said about Logical Positivism.
     

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