Saturday, October 29, 2011

Counterpoints: Richard Dawkins and C.S. Lewis


Richard Dawkins: "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." [1]

C.S. Lewis: "If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning." [2] 

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnotes:
1. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden, p. 55.
2. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

33 comments:

Kimberly Sue said...

I think Dawkins' statement is rather interesting, considering that most scientists (even atheists) see such order in the universe. If only Dawkins were not so blind, he would see that he has a deep drive within himself - a purpose. He is passionately driven to say that there is no God. He believes that there is purpose in his crusade. Where in the world did his sense of purpose come from, if there is not purpose or meaning in the universe?

Yo said...

His sense of purpose came from the same place all his other traits came from. Purpose gives a reason to live. Living increases the chances you will breed. Its not that difficult.

Chase said...

Welcome to the blog Yo! And thanks for taking the time to comment. A question for you to clarify for me what you are saying:

Are you saying the only reason Dawkins does what he does is to increase the chance he will breed?

Thanks.

Kimberly Sue said...

Yo, what is your definiton of "trait"?

Daniel Schealler said...

@Kimberly Sue

Dawkins does not deny the existence of order in his quote.

I think your statement is rather interesting, because it suggests that you think that 'design' and 'purpose' are synonymous with 'order'.

It's also interesting in that you seem to think that an absence of purpose in the universe should imply that individual organisms cannot be purposeful on their own terms.

David Evans said...

@Kimberly Sue

Have you read Dawkins? If you had, I think you would know he is well aware that he has his own purposes. I think he is committed to science as our best way of finding out about the world, and opposed to religion as at best irrelevant and at worst false and obstructive.

He also believes, as I do, that our intellects and feelings were shaped by the demands of survival and reproduction. That doesn't mean that we can only use them for those ends, as he spelled out eloquently at the end of "The Selfish Gene".

Lewis strikes me as glib. Of course, if we attach meanings to things, there must be meanings in the universe (i.e. ours). That doesn't mean that the universe as a whole has an overarching meaning supplied by a God.

CV said...

Hi Daniel,

Just a follow up on your response to Kimberly Sue’s comment. I think design and purpose are synonymous with order when you look at the universe, specifically when referring to how it was created and the anthropic constants in place that allow us to exist on Earth.

The Teleological Argument States:

1. Every design had a designer.

2. The universe has a highly complex design.

3. Therefore the universe had a Designer.

To me this seems more logical than the alternative. That being that the universe and the fine tuning evidence we observe is actually just the result of chaos or “natural processes” putting it all together.

Chase said...

Hi Daniel,

In a debate with Professor John Lennox at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Dawkins essentially stated that for one to face up to the fact that there is no God and no meaning in the universe is a noble action.

So my question is: How can any action be noble if, as Dawkins states, there is "no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference"?

I am sure that Dawkins would respond by saying that it is noble simply because we humans ascribe nobility to it. However, if this is the case (i.e. if nobility is humanly founded), it means nothing, because according to Dawkins, in the grand scope of the universe humans mean nothing. Therefore it follows that his pursuit means nothing.

Nobility only has meaning if it is based on a noble God.

Also, you state:

He also believes, as I do, that our intellects and feelings were shaped by the demands of survival and reproduction. That doesn't mean that we can only use them for those ends.

My question to this is: If we have the demands of survival and reproduction upon us, why would we use our intellects and feelings for anything but survival and reproduction?

I look forward to your response.

God bless

Daniel Schealler said...

@CV

"I think design and purpose are synonymous with order when you look at the universe..."

Why?

Daniel Schealler said...

@Chase

"How can any action be noble if, as Dawkins states, there is "no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference"?

The answer to this question will depend on the definition of 'noble' that is currently in play.

You were good enough to supply one: "Nobility only has meaning if it is based on a noble God."

I find that wording a little clumsy - but that's okay. It gets the gist across.

IF we accept this definition (note the 'if') then it follows that in a Godless universe there is no such thing as nobility.

The trick, of course, is that I do not accept your definition. ^_^

Have you noticed that, just like with CV above, your definition itself assumes the very thing that you are attempting to prove to me?

If I were to hazard a definition, I would say that the concept of 'noble' is a form of rhetorical persuasion that human cultures adopt to positively reinforce pro-social behavior.

Given that concepts such as this are very powerful motivators upon which our society, infrastructure, lives, health, and comfort strongly depend. This is sufficient to make the concept meaningful to us.

Note that this is an important question when it comes to the notion of what makes something meaningful. The question to ask is: Meaningful to whom.

Also: Your second question seems to be in response to Yo. That wasn't me.

However, I'll be presumptuous and answer the second question anyway. ^_^

I think you're confusing first-order and second-order causation.

Our intellects do not have to be entirely focused on survival in order to have been shaped by survival.

Particularly in the case of self-sacrificing behavior. If by making a personal sacrifice to myself I can increase the fitness of my immediate family by significantly more, then it follows that any genes I possess that have copies in my kin will have their general fitness increased.

The genes don't provide logic, because they don't think in terms of logic, because they don't think.

All that is required is to manifest an emotional trigger that reinforces pro-kin behavior. We don't have to be aware of the survival advantage behind the motivation in order for there to be a survival advantage.

Kimberly Sue said...

@Daniel, I agree completely with what CV said. To me it makes much more sense that a Designer would have put such order into this world rather that through some random process this Universe would have somehow come to be (with such order).

@David, I have read and listened to pieces of Dawkins' works and have watched debates with Dawkins. I am aware of his commitment to science, and I certainly respect that. I too believe that science can tell us much about this world. In fact, I believe it can also tell us about the supernatural world. When natural and scientific processes are known and well-established, it is then that we can recognize something super-natural...The Resurrection of Jesus Christ for instance, which is abundantly supported as fact by history. A person rising from the dead is certainly not understood by natural processes. And so with the extensive physical, historical evidence for the resurrection if Christ, it becomes clear there IS a supernatural realm.

CV said...

@Daniel:

Because an external input of information is necessary.

From "God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?" by Dr. John Lennox p. 159:

"After all, if we went to Mars and discovered a long sequence of piles of titanium cubes receding towards the Martian Horizon where the piles each consisted of a prime number of cubes and the piles were in the correct ascending order 1,2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,...then we would surely immediately conclude that this arrangement involved an intelligent input even if we had no idea whatsoever of the nature of the intelligence behind it. But if we discovered something much more complex- say a DNA molecule- then naturalistic scientists would presumably conclude that it was the result of chance and necessity!"

Daniel Schealler said...

@CV

Lennox's analogy internally assumes that complexity/order implies design.

To justify that:

The case of the piles of cubes increasing in a sequence of primes appeals to our intuition because it is a specific pattern that we recognize as something that we do ourselves on a regular basis, and we are unfamiliar with naturally occurring examples - perhaps because they do not exist, but perhaps because they are simply rare.

So the piles of cubes PoC have at least two properties:

PoC:A - Complexity
PoC:B - Specific pattern that strongly correlates with an intentional agent.

The mistake in Lennox's argument is that he conflates these two properties under the tacit assumption that complexity implies design.

He then moves onto DNA, which certainly is a complex molecule, and attempts to apply the same reasoning.

However, this is a problem because DNA has only been shown to demonstrate one property in common with PoC.

DNA:A - Complexity

What has not been shown is that the complexity of DNA is the kind of thing that we would expect to see only from intentional agents. This is the conclusion that Lennox is attempting to persuade us to draw - but you'll notice that this very conclusion must be assumed within the analogy itself in order to make the argument work.

Petitio principii.

---------------------

Also: The statement that the universe required an input of information in order to get going is a tricky one - very easy to equivocate between the meanings of 'information' without realizing it.

If we use 'information' as the contrasting term to 'entropy', then to say that the universe has order is also to say that the universe has information.

And again - if you start out by assuming that this information had to come from a designer, it is certainly going to be very easy 'prove' that there must have been a designer.

Again - the argument must internally assume its conclusion in order to draw that conclusion.

Which is fine if you're satisfied with resting your beliefs on transparently fallacious reasoning. By all means, be my guest. ^_^

But for me, this is one of the issues that has, over the past few years, made me extremely cynical about the intellectual consistency of intelligent design proponents. The arguments always boil down to petitio principii - usually (but not always) tacitly hidden within a fallacious analogy such as the one supplied by Lennox above.

But when I point it out, the person who presented the argument shrugs it off as if nothing happened, then offers me another argument with the exact same internal flaw.

It starts to feel as if people are less interested in what is true than they are in trying to provide a post-hoc rationalization for something they already believe to be true.

This line of argument is never going to be persuasive to a critical skeptic. That is not the fault of the skeptic, it is the fault of the argument.

RkBall said...

"No good or evil".

This from the guy who refuses to debate William Lane Craig because he (allegedly) advocates genocide?!

Doesn't Dawkins realize the embedded moral sense that produces such righteous indignation is just a cruel burp of mindless, indifferent evolution and no different, at base, than indigestion?

Luke Nix said...

Dawkins affirms subjective and relative meaning and values, but denies any of either that are universal to all species or the universe itself. Neither of the quotes by Dawkins or Lewis are addressing subjective or relative meaning and values, though.

I see several red herrings (such as the one above) and a few rabbit trails in this thread of comments. However, I do not see where anyone has engaged the statement that Lewis made. Let's get back to what these men are speaking of: objective meaning and objective values.

Is there a reason for an atheist to believe that any creature would or even could discover its objective meaninglessness?

Daniel Schealler said...

@Luke Nix

"Is there a reason for an atheist to believe that any creature would or even could discover its objective meaninglessness?"

I think that 'objective meaninglessness' is an oxymoron.

Meaningless to whom?

Or perhaps more to the point: What is this property 'meaning' that you ascribe to things such that it continues to be relevant in the absence of an agent that finds it meaningful?

I cannot conceive of such a thing.

Which does not mean it cannot be - it might just be a lack of imagination on my part.

Enlighten me.

Luke Nix said...

@Daniel Schealler

I'm not sure what you wish to conclude from your comment about objective meaninglessness being an oxymoron.

Keep in mind that if you wish to demand that meaning requires a person to hold the value, then nothing you say has objective meaning (since there is no person above all). Your statements are only meaningful to those persons who hold them to be that. Which means (haha) that the meaningfulness of your statements is completely subjective. If you wish to disagree with that, then you concede that there is objective meaning.

Chase said...

Daniel,

You posted:

“The answer to this question will depend on the definition of 'noble' that is currently in play.You were good enough to supply one: ‘Nobility only has meaning if it is based on a noble God.’I find that wording a little clumsy.”

My statement is not a definition of nobility. It is a statement.

You posted:

“If I were to hazard a definition, I would say that the concept of 'noble' is a form of rhetorical persuasion that human cultures adopt to positively reinforce pro-social behavior. Given that concepts such as this are very powerful motivators upon which our society, infrastructure, lives, health, and comfort strongly depend. This is sufficient to make the concept meaningful to us.”

You state the definition and meaning of nobility are human concepts. In a universe without God, humans die and that is it. Thus the foundation for the definition and meaning of nobility crumbles. It has no authority to impose said definition and meaning and therefore does not have TRUE meaning.

Again I state that nobility (or any virtue; e.g. love, compassion, honesty) only has TRUE meaning if it is based on God.

You posted:

“Our intellects do not have to be entirely focused on survival in order to have been shaped by survival. Particularly in the case of self-sacrificing behavior. If by making a personal sacrifice to myself I can increase the fitness of my immediate family by significantly more, then it follows that any genes I possess that have copies in my kin will have their general fitness increased.”

You are correct that this was not directed at you. I meant to direct it to David who may of course still respond. My apologies to both of you.

Nonetheless, the example of “self-sacrificing behavior” you provide is not self-sacrificing at all. You making personal sacrifices for your immediate family is still increasing the fitness of YOUR genes.

Therefore what do you make of this truly self-sacrificing example: A single male firefighter rushing into a building on the verge of collapse to rescue a stranger. How does this increase the fitness of his genes?

God bless

Daniel Schealler said...

@Luke

Sorry if I'm not being clear.

That said, I want to nip something in the bud very quickly.

"Your statements are only meaningful to those persons who hold them to be that."

There is a difference between:

1) 'meaning' as in 'the word bannana means a curvy yellow fruit that is high in potassium'

2) The meaning of life is to do the best we can for others

The usage in 1) applies to how we use language to match words against concepts. Language is a human thing. That 'meaning' of this sort is subjective and evolving is, I think, trivial and uncontroversial.

Which is why I assumed that we were talking about 'meaning' in the sense of 2).

However, when you say that 'your statements are only meaningful' that sounds to me like we're discussing 1), which is silly.

I just want to make sure that my assumption here is holding correct. We're discussing meaning in the sense of 2), right?

I'll assume the answer is yes and continue - but if the answer is no then please say so, because we need to have an entirely different conversation than the one I thought we were having.

-------------------------------

Okay. Digression aside:

Sorry if I'm not being clear.

I'm trying to argue that there never could have been an objective 'meaningfulness' or 'meaninglessness' waiting to be discovered because meaning is a subjective quality of experience, not an objective property of existence.

The form of my argument was pretty simple.

If I'm wrong, show me this objective meaning; what it is or could be such that it remains relevant to our discussion even in the absence of an agent to care about it.

Daniel Schealler said...

@Chase

"My statement is not a definition of nobility. It is a statement."

Indeed it was - but I felt that the statement was sufficient that I could draw a definition from it.

If you feel I have incorrectly represented you, feel free to supply whatever definition you'd like to set the record straight.

"In a universe without God, humans die and that is it. Thus the foundation for the definition and meaning of nobility crumbles. It has no authority to impose said definition and meaning and therefore does not have TRUE meaning."

I don't understand why eternity is so commonly viewed as a prerequisite for a meaningful existence.

Why do people think this so easily?

Indeed - we do not last for ever.

Everything is transitory.

But everything matters while it is.

"Again I state that nobility (or any virtue; e.g. love, compassion, honesty) only has TRUE meaning if it is based on God."

Y'see, this is really weird to me.

Nobility, love, compassion, honesty will always continue to have meaning to me regardless of whether God exists or whether or not He agrees with me.

And again - if everything only TRULY matters if it is relative to God - well, then everything is still relative, isn't it? It's just that you're priviliging God's perspective over everything else.

Which means that our discussion isn't about what is TRUE meaning anymore, but it is about what is GOD'S meaning. And of course you have left unsaid why we should care about GOD'S meaning more than OUR meaning or why I should care about it more than MY meaning. It is by no means obvious why that should be so - at least, it is not obvious to me.

"Therefore what do you make of this truly self-sacrificing example: A single male firefighter rushing into a building on the verge of collapse to rescue a stranger. How does this increase the fitness of his genes?"

Oh, that?

That's trivial.

The old trigger can be fired by a stimulus that is other than what was the primary adaptive trigger.

For example, we like to eat sweet things for reasons to do with the value of rapidly consuming energy-dense food as it becomes available in an environment where food is scarce and prone to spoil if not consumed relatively quickly.

Which was fine for a few thousand years.

But then we invented the processes for how to maintain corn farms, manufacture sucrose and store our food in refrigerators. But the old triggers remain. So now America has an obesity epidemic.

The self-sacrificing behavior thing is a similar principle. The old trigger can be fired by a 'non-adaptive' (from the perspective of gene survival) stimuli, either by accident or (increasingly as our understanding of psychology and the impact of culture advances) by conscious design of human beings.

So the fact that I donate monthly to charities is a little bit like the fact that I too much cheese - except of course for the fact that we can intellectually understand that the former is a net positive to be encouraged while the latter is a nasty habit I need to curb for the sake of my long term health.

And so we invent terms like 'noble' and 'moral' and 'healthy' and so on, terms that are explicitly designed to stimulate the old emotional triggers and reinforce the desired behavior.

See what I did there, tying it back into the central point I'm making in all my comments about the role of meaning and morality as cultural constructs? That all came together rather neatly, I thought. *taps side of nose knowingly*

^_^

Chase said...

Daniel,

You posted:

"meaning is a subjective quality of experience, not an objective property of existence."

You are applying this statement ABOUT MEANING to all humanity thereby making an objective statement. Yet the statement says anything ABOUT MEANING is subjective. The statement is self defeating. It cannot be a standard ABOUT MEANING for all of us and yet claim that we all make our own standards ABOUT MEANING.

God bless

Luke Nix said...

#Daniel

Meaning in the sense that we are talking is a combo of both your number 1 and 2.

Your #2 is more of purpose, than meaning. Obviously, this is what you are talking about (until you pose the question about "meaning to who").

So, you believe that there is no such thing as objective meaning (purpose). If there isn't, then you should be able to say that life is objectively meaningless (purposeless). If a person is demanded for meaning (where your #1 actually comes into play), then you can't even say that life is purposeless (because it requires a person). The best you most accurate statement you could say about purpose is that you are agnostic about objective purpose (since "purposeful" and "purposeless" both require the existence of a being that you deny exists).

Does meaning, in your second sense, require a person or not? If it does not, then your question posed to me is nonsensical. If it does, then you must reconcile that person in light of atheism.

Daniel Schealler said...

@Chase

Err... What?

I don't actually understand what you're getting at.

Humans can be objectively observed to exist.

On the other hand, meaning cannot - and more to the point, when I think about it, I can't see how meaning makes sense outside of an agent's subjective view on the world.

...

I'm making an objective claim about how agents (objective entities) derive meaning from their subjective experience.

I don't see where you think the inconsistency lies, here. Again - I'm just confused. Your objection doesn't make any sense to me.

Do you think I am arguing that all human beings must find the same thing meaningful? Because I'm not. One of the implications of my argument is that different people will find meaning in different things. Which is fine by me. One person might find meaning in raising a family of happy children - another might find meaning in dedicating their lives to improving the quality of life in poor countries - another might find meaning in rebellion against a tyrannical dictator. Different things appeal to different people. I'm not trying to claim that everyone finds the same thing meaningful. To the contrary.

Are you equivocating between the two senses of the word 'meaning' I described above in my discussion with Luke?

I just...

What?

I don't understand what you're on about.

Daniel Schealler said...

@Luke

"Meaning in the sense that we are talking is a combo of both your number 1 and 2."

O_o

1) and 2) are unrelated concepts.

1) is all about how language functions as a usage-driven convention.

2) is all about what people find meaningful in life.

I don't understand how these two concepts of the term 'meaning' can be conflated into one conversation. Each meaning deserves its own discussion, surely?

"If a person is demanded for meaning..."

In which sense of the term 'meaning' are they being asked?

If a person is demanded to define their terms (as I have done above at least once) then they can supply additional information as to flesh out the concepts they are attempting to convey with those terms.

If someone is being demanded to explain what in life they find meaningful, then the natures of the question and the answer are very different. More comparable to being asked about their favorite color than to define their term.

These are very different questions.

--

"... If there isn't, then you should be able to say that life is objectively meaningless (purposeless)."

Important point: Not every utterance that looks like a statement is a statement.

Consider:

A) Life is objectively smell-ful.

Is A true or false? Neither. It is an incoherent non-statement. It certainly isn't true - but it isn't false either because the statement doesn't even make enough sense in the first place to qualify as false. It's not even wrong.

B) Life is objectively meaning-ful.

Is B true or false? Neither. It is an incoherent non-statement. It certainly isn't true - but it isn't false either because the statement doesn't even make enough sense in the first place to qualify as false. It's not even wrong.

--

"The best you most accurate statement you could say about purpose is that you are agnostic about objective purpose..."

Agnosticism implies that the knowledge in question either a) hasn't been acquired, or perhaps b) cannot be acquired.

That doesn't apply here, because even agnosticism assumes a coherent concept about which we are claiming to have or not-have any knowledge.

If you must have an 'ism' word, then my position on the question of objective meanigfullness has much more in common with ignosticism than agnosticism.

--

"Does meaning, in your second sense, require a person or not?"

Yes, it requires at least one agent.

"If it does, then you must reconcile that person in light of atheism."

Reconcile that person in light of atheism?

What does that mean(1)?

My claim is that meaningfulness is a subjective quality of experience - which requires at least one agent to be having the qualitative experience.

This view is entirely compatible with atheism, simply by virtue of the fact that no deity needs to be invoked in order to explain it.

I had no need of that hypothesis.

Where was the challenge supposed to be?

Chase said...

Daniel,

I will try to bring some clarity.

You posted:

"My claim is that meaningfulness is a subjective quality of experience"

By your own admission it is an objective claim. Agents (which I assume you mean humans which I also assume you mean all humans) derive meaning from their subjective quality of experience. According to you, this is an established process for deriving meaning. So there is at least one thing (this process) that can be known (i.e. has meaning) objectively. Yet the claim states that meaning can only be derived subjectively. Your claim defeats itself.

Perhaps this will also help

You posted:

"Not every utterance that looks like a statement is a statement."

Consider:

A) smell-fulness is a subjective quality of experience.

Is A true or false? Neither. It is an incoherent non-statement. It certainly isn't true - but it isn't false either because the statement doesn't even make enough sense in the first place to qualify as false. It's not even wrong.

B) meaning-fulness is a subjective quality of experience.

Is B true or false? Neither. It is an incoherent non-statement. It certainly isn't true - but it isn't false either because the statement doesn't even make enough sense in the first place to qualify as false. It's not even wrong.

Using your argument I can conclude that your statement is an incoherent nonstatement. If we follow your logic we end up not being able to know anything at all(i.e. not being able to apply meaning to anything at all).

God bless

Daniel Schealler said...

@Chase

Consider the following claims:

1) Pain is a subjective quality of experience.

2) Smell is a subjective quality of experience.

3) Meaningfulness is a subjective quality of experience.

4) Human beings are capable of subjective experience.

Would you object to 1), 2) and 4) on the same grounds as you object to 3)?

If no: Then what do you think is different about these claims?

If yes: At least one of us is clearly using the terminology incorrectly. And I'm not trying to be cute there - I'm no philosopher, so I'm happy to admit that I might be mistaken in how I am applying the words 'objective' and 'subjective' in the current context.

--

"A) smell-fulness is a subjective quality of experience.

...

B) meaning-fulness is a subjective quality of experience."

Actually, I think that this A and B are totally coherent and true statements about the possible qualities of subjective experience.

...

I think that, again, I just don't understand where you're coming from.

I can see why we can't make objective claims about what 'yellow' is.

And I can see why we can't make an objective claim about whether or not my subjective experience of 'yellow' is the same as your subjective experience of yellow.

But the objective claim that human beings behave consistently with their reports of 'color' as part of their experience isn't a problem.

To the point that we can objectively diagnose color-blindness as a physical condition, to the point that accessibility standards for my own profession dictate that notification messages that rely on being colored green and red to indicate success or failure should be discouraged because we acknowledge as objective fact the subjective experiences of color-blind people.

I fail to see the problem here.

A part of me wants to jump up and down on the concept of heterophenomenology... But really, I don't think that I should have to.

I don't think that making the objective claim that other people are capable of feeling pain, or that other people are capable of having subjective experiences, is something that should have to justified in that way.

I don't think these should be controversial claims in this context.

It feels like a derailing of the discussion about what nature of meaningfulness into a side issue.

Chad said...

For those interested, philosopher William Lane Craig makes some points that directly relate to some of the topics being discussed here in this article.

Mariano said...

Extraordinary fine tuning requires an extraordinary fine tuner.

Chase said...

Daniel,

Let us say you are correct. Life has no objective meaningfulness.

If this is what my life is to be based on I have some questions first.

Does this not have to be objectively meaningful to be correct?

Also, I did not come to know this through my own subjective experience. I was influenced by an outside agent (you). So, does this now show that meaning can be derived in other ways than just my own subjective experience?

And one more thing. Now that both you and I have come to know this is it still just subjective meaning or is it now objective meaning? Or is it neither?

You may have the last word as I also feel our discussion has reached an end. I have enjoyed it!

God bless

Daniel Schealler said...

@Chase

Fair enough. ^_^

I think my final word will have to be that we've been talking past each other.

"Does this not have to be objectively meaningful to be correct?"

I see this as an equivocation between the two senses of 'meaning' that I've mentioned earlier - I don't think they should be conflated.

I think this is what lies at the heart of our disagreement, and what has taken us so far from the initial point of the thread.

All the same, it was a fun road while we were travelling.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

@Daniel Schealler

You have endorsed ignosticism while at the same time saying that the concepts of meaningful-ness and meaningless-ness are "incoherent non statements".

If this is the case in regard to meaningful-ness and meaningless-ness... how can you bring yourself to hold to ignosticism which states the following:

"The view that a coherent definition of God must be presented before the question of the existence of god can be meaningfully discussed. Furthermore, if that definition is unfalsifiable, the ignostic takes the theological noncognitivist position that the question of the existence of God (per that definition) is meaningless. In this case, the concept of God is not considered meaningless; the term "God" is considered meaningless." (emphasis mine)

This seems to be problematic as the words meaningful and meaningless are used to define something in a seemingly objective fashion.

Daniel Schealler said...

@Anonymous

"You have endorsed ignosticism while at the same time saying that the concepts of meaningful-ness and meaningless-ness are "incoherent non statements"."

This is an entirely incorrect reading of what I've been saying.

1) I did not endorse ignosticism.

2) I did not say that that the concepts of meaningful-ness and meaningless-ness are "incoherent non statements".

Furthermore, you're committing the same fallacy of equivocation that I have complained about earlier in this thread.

---

1) I did not endorse ignosticism

Luke said that my position was that I was agnostic about objective purpose

I felt that agnosticism wasn't quite the right metaphor for my position.

I stated that my position on the question of objective meanigfullness has much more in common with ignosticism than agnosticism.

I can understand why you might have read this to be an endorsement of ignosticism - it's a reasonable reading.

But if you look closely, I didn't actually endorse ignosticism. I only stated that my position has more in common with ignosticism than with agnositicism.

I didn't say that my position is ignosticism.

---

2) I did not say that that the concepts of meaningful-ness and meaningless-ness are "incoherent non statements".

I said that particular utterances were incoherent non-statements:

A) Life is objectively smell-ful.

B) Life is objectively meaning-ful.

True, one of those utterances involved the use of the term 'meaning-ful'.

But I did not claim that the terms 'meaning-ful' and 'smell-ful' were themselves I said that the utterances, each taken as a a whole, were an incoherent non-statements.

Although... It should be pointed out that concepts are not statements. So in that sense it's true that the concept of 'meaningfullness' is a non-statement.

The concept of 'meaningful' itself certainly does represent a coherent idea that is capable of communication and understanding via discourse.

Daniel Schealler said...

---

Fallacy of equivocation

'Meaning' has at least two meanings.

We can demonstrate this between two different kinds of answer to the question: "What is the meaning of life?"

One kind of answer would be: A complex collection of molecules that exhibit metabolism and reproductive capabilities.

There's a lot of room for bickering when it comes to the exact biological definition that can seperate life from non-life. Viruses in particular tend to blur the lines between living and non-living matter.

But that's just one kind of answer we can give to the question.

The other kind of answer we can give is something like: The meaning of life is to make the world a better place for everyone to live.

Its an entirely different sense of the word 'meaning' which is strongly related to concepts such as self-actualization...

Although again here there's a lot of room for disagreement about what does or does not qualify as legitimate meaning in this sense.

These two senses of the term 'meaning' should not be conflated. To do so is committing the fallacy of equivocation.

Consider the following example from wikipedia:

1)A feather is light.
2)What is light cannot be dark.
--
3) Therefore, a feather cannot be dark.

It demonstrates the equivocation fallacy, because the two senses of the term 'light' are being conflated inappropriately.

I've repeatedly gone on record as saying that the two senses of the term 'meaningful' that can possibly be employed here should not be conflated, and that I am using the term in the sense of "The meaning of life is leaving the world a better place" or something similar.

However, it is very clear that the quote you have taken about ignosticism is using meaningful in the sense that a subject may be meaningfully discussed. This is clearly a usage more in line with the notion that "The meaning of life is a complex molecule that can metabolize and reproduce."

This isn't what I had in mind regarding my usage of the term 'meaning' in this comment thread.

Which is why I think you're falling prey to the fallacy of equivocation in your objection to me here.