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Yehezquel Kaufman Analysis, elements that are largely present in politheistic beliefs, and, are negated completely or greatly diminished in monotheistic beliefs.

1. God´s are limited (there is an all emcompasing meta-realm from which everything and anything draws more or less power . Humean Mosaic ?? anyone? -emphasis, mine)
2.presence of a mythology/theogony
3. fluid boundary between divine, human, and, natural worlds
4. Power is materially conceived
5. Magic and divination (all ecompasing meta-realm ...)
6.Cult is automatic
7.Autonomy of Evil
8. Salvation is escape (even for the God´s themselves).
9. Amoral Universe

(Sounds like scientism, to me- emphasis, mine, again)

Kaufma´s conclusion is that Monotheism does not evolve from politheism, at a conceptual level, rather, monotheism is, for the most part , conceptually revolutionary.

Apologetics and Theology / Anyone up to for a turn based chess game?
« on: June 02, 2016, 06:26:00 am »

Apologetics and Theology / There are 100 types of people.
« on: June 01, 2016, 11:49:52 am »

Those who understand the binary number system and grasp moral facts.

Those who understand the binary number system and do not grasp moral facts.

Those who do not understand the binary number system and grasp moral facts.

Those who do not understand the binary number system and do not grasp moral facts.


We all know that´s not the case, by a long shot. In fact the contrary is correct.

Thanks for asking.

Now, use this thread to discuss this subject, and, not other threads that are about other topics.


All too often, posters make absurdly negative claims about Dr. Craig´s skills, credentials, quality of argumentation, character , and the more.

I might dare even say: you name any kind of disgraceful remark, it is said about Dr. Craig, if not weekly close to daily, on these  very threads.

He is misrepresented , slandered, disrespected, as a person, Christian, philosopher, theologian, and historian. His arguments are put in the worst light possible, and, with out showing the slightest intention of charity towards his work, right here in these very threads.

And, I am wondering why is all this even possible? Why is this even allowed with out the slightest comment from the mods.

I usually try to ignore such attitudes and comments, by engaging the subject, but, I think the mods, at least, should not ignore this type of behaviour, if only from time to time.

I am posting here and not directly to the mods, because, I am not interested in a dialog with the mods, I want to state this in the open, for those who are not doing what they should, and those perpetrating those actions to at least dedicate 1 or 2 seconds of their time on the subject, just because, I think it is shameful, and worst.

Also, I am not looking for support, I couldnt care less about it.

There are people here who do not have even a basic (much less complete) grasp of some of the arguments and will openly state about Dr. Craig, a decades long thinker and professional in the areas of philosophy, Theology and Christian history ,that his arguments are silly, while missrepresenting them in the most childish ways.

It is shameful, and, shouldn´t be allowed, you know who you are. 


Please, list your Chance hypotheses on which LPU is actually extremely probable.


The moral argument:
M1. If God did not exist objective moral values and duties would not exist
M2. Objective moral values and duties exist
M3: God exists
M2 (the second premise) from the moral argument has its own support, at least,  in a somewhat similar manner to the following procedure:
P1. My moral intuitions are prima-facie defeasible evidence
P2. I have the intuition that M=necessarily (or contingently), some X is morally wrong given some state of affairs y, as a matter of fact
P3. I have prima facie defeasible evidence that M
P4. I have no other source of reliable evidence that can defeat my intuition that M
P5. I have no other direct intuitions that can defeat my intuition that M
P6: I am justified in believing M.
Corollary: I am justified in believing at least one OMV||D exists.
Roughly speaking, transmission of justification is an ever present epistemic element in science and day to day learning experiences. Epistemic transmission when doing inferential reasoning, for instance, is how we support predictions of future events and, generally expand the sphere of our justified beliefs.
In other words, one can conclude a OMV actually exists through the justification for its existence, just as most epistemic matters.
The argument is that by having an intuition that necessarily (or contingently), x is good/bad/right/wrong given some state of affairs y, as a matter of fact, one has prima-facie justification (P1 and P2)
P3. I have prima facie defeasible evidence that M
P4. I have no other source of reliable evidence that can defeat my intuition that M
P5. I have no other direct intuitions that can defeat my intuition that MC: I am justified in believing M.
Why would you give the same weight to your intuitions that you give to my intuitions, given that you have no acces to the last, and have direct access to the former ?
Nevertheless, you can consider other opinions (P4).
Taken that it is the case that after considering other´s peoples intuitions, your intuition has not changed, you are justified, since you have justification and no defeater for the believe that necessarily, x is good/bad/right/wong given some state of affairs y, as a matter of fact.
Also,That there is disagreement about certain ethical statements does not make them matters of opinion.
Quote from: Thinking Critically About the "Subjective"/"Objective" Distinction Sandra LaFave West Valley College
"Most philosophers would say ethical statements are NOT mere matters of opinion, because there is wide interpersonal and intercultural agreement about what sort of person is a good person, and what sort of behavior is morally problematic. Certainly there are disagreements about ethical matters, but disagreements tend to be over which of several commonly-accepted moral precepts should be applied to a particular case. For example, people disagree about the morality of abortion, but both sides agree that, other things being equal, it's wrong to take innocent human life; we should take care of children the best we can; some pregnancies are unusually problematic; we should be compassionate towards women facing difficult choices, etc. The task is to reason our way to consensus, and most philosophers assume we are alike enough and reason similarly enough that some arguments will prove more compelling than others."
We might disagree on some given moral question, but many agree on the not killing innocent children for fun (for example), for instance.

In summary:
I have justification to believe that (for example) necessarily, killing innocent children for fun is objectively wrong (independent of opinion), as a matter of fact. Thus, I have justification to believe at least an OMV exists, and, I do believe at least an OMVD exists. I would suggest many also have such justification.
I have justification to believe that (for example) necessarily, loving innocent children, cherishing them, supporting them is good independent of opinion, thus, I have justification to believe at least an OMV exists, and, I do believe at least an OMV exists. I would suggest many also have such justification.

Apologetics and Theology / Principle of Credulity
« on: May 19, 2016, 04:51:02 pm »

Quote from: Principle of Credulity- Blackwell- A Companion to Epistemology
This is a term given by Thomas Reid , in An Inquiry Into the Human Mind , Pt VI, sec. 24 (1846, pp. 196–7), to an ‘original principle’ of human nature that involves a ‘disposition to confide in the veracity of others, and to believe what they tell us’ (p. 196). This is an ‘original principle’ in that it operates independently of learning or reasoning. We are so constituted that we naturally, unreflectively, tend to give credence to the testimony of our fellows. This ‘tendency is unlimited in children, until they meet with instances of deceit and falsehood; and it retains a very considerable degree of strength throughout life’ (ibid.). As Reid points out, if ‘no proposition that is uttered in discourse would be believed, until it was examined and tried by reason … most men would be unable to find reasons for believing the thousandth part of what is told them. Such distrust and incredulity would deprive us of the greatest benefits of society…’ (p. 197). Without such an original tendency children would be incapable of learning by instruction. It is only later that the person ‘sets bounds to that authority to which she was at first entirely subject’ (ibid.) ( see testimony ). Reid pairs this principle with the ‘principle of veracity’, which is ‘a propensity to tell the truth, and to use the signs of language, so as to convey our real sentiments’ (p. 196).

How to Criticize with Kindness (Daniel Dennett)


“In disputes upon moral or scientific points,” Arthur Martine counseled in his magnificent 1866 guide to the art of conversation, “let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.” Of course, this isn’t what happens most of the time when we argue, both online and off, but especially when we deploy the artillery of our righteousness from behind the comfortable shield of the keyboard. That form of “criticism” — which is really a menace of reacting rather than responding — is worthy of Mark Twain’s memorable remark that “the critic’s symbol should be the tumble-bug: he deposits his egg in somebody else’s dung, otherwise he could not hatch it.” But it needn’t be this way — there are ways to be critical while remaining charitable, of aiming not to “conquer” but to “come at truth,” not to be right at all costs but to understand and advance the collective understanding.

Daniel Dennett (b. March 28, 1942), whom artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky has called “our best current philosopher” and “the next Bertrand Russell,” poses an apt question that probes some of the basic tendencies and dynamics of today’s everyone-is-a-critic culture: “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”

In Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking (public library) — the same fantastic volume that gave us Dennett on the dignity and art-science of making mistakes — he offers what he calls “the best antidote [for the] tendency to caricature one’s opponent”: a list of rules formulated decades ago by the legendary social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport, best-known for originating the famous tit-for-tat strategy of game theory. Dennett synthesizes the steps:

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
If only the same code of conduct could be applied to critical commentary online, particularly to the indelible inferno of comments.

But rather than a naively utopian, Pollyannaish approach to debate, Dennett points out this is actually a sound psychological strategy that accomplishes one key thing: It transforms your opponent into a more receptive audience for your criticism or dissent, which in turn helps advance the discussion.

Compare and contrast with Susan Sontag’s three steps to refuting any argument, and treat yourself to Dennett’s wholly excellent Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

Apologetics and Theology / Principle of Charity
« on: May 19, 2016, 04:18:36 pm »

Principle of Charity

Quote from: Wikipedia
In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity requires interpreting a speaker's statements to be rational and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation.[1] In its narrowest sense, the goal of this methodological principle is to avoid attributing irrationality, logical fallacies or falsehoods to the others' statements, when a coherent, rational interpretation of the statements is available. According to Simon Blackburn[2] "it constrains the interpreter to maximize the truth or rationality in the subject's sayings."
Neil L. Wilson gave the principle its name in 1958–59. Its main area of application, by his lights, is determining the referent of a proper name:
How should we set about discovering the significance which a person attaches to a given name? […] Let us suppose that somebody (whom I am calling "Charles") makes just the following five assertions containing the name "Caesar." […]
(1) Caesar conquered Gaul. (Gc)
(2) Caesar crossed the Rubicon. (Rc)
(3) Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March. (Mc)
(4) Caesar was addicted to the use of the ablative absolute. (Ac)
(5) Caesar was married to Boadicea. (Bc)
[…] And so we act on what might be called the Principle of Charity. We select as designatum that individual which will make the largest possible number of Charles' statements true. […] We might say the designatum is that individual which satisfies more of the asserted matrices containing the word "Caesar" than does any other individual.[3]
Willard Van Orman Quine and Donald Davidson[4] provide other formulations of the principle of charity. Davidson sometimes referred to it as the principle of rational accommodation. He summarized it: We make maximum sense of the words and thoughts of others when we interpret in a way that optimises agreement. The principle may be invoked to make sense of a speaker's utterances when one is unsure of their meaning. In particular, Quine's use of the principle gives it this latter, wide domain.
Since the time of Quine et al., other philosophers[who?] have formulated at least four versions of the principle of charity. These alternatives may conflict with one another, so which principle to use may depend on the goal of the conversation. The four principles are:
The other uses words in the ordinary way;
The other makes true statements;
The other makes valid arguments;
The other says something interesting.
A related principle is the principle of humanity, which states that we must assume that another speaker's beliefs and desires are connected to each other and to reality in some way, and attribute to him or her "the propositional attitudes one supposes one would have oneself in those circumstances" (Daniel Dennett, "Mid-Term Examination," in The Intentional Stance, p. 343).

Guidelines for respectful, constructive, and inclusive philosophical discussion

Guidelines for respectful, constructive, and inclusive philosophical discussion

Compiled by David Chalmers
The guidelines below are intended primarily for oral philosophical discussion in formal settings: colloquia, conferences, seminars, classes, and so on. Many of them have some application to informal philosophical discussion and to nonphilosophical discussion as well.

The specific norms are intended as means of facilitating more general norms of being respectful, constructive, and inclusive. These probably aren't exceptionless categorical norms (there are situations in which it is appropriate to be disrespectful, destructive, and exclusive). But in many philosophical contexts, they are useful norms to have in place. Groups are encouraged to adapt and modify these guidelines for their purposes as they see fit.

All this is a highly tentative work in progress. Suggestions for addition, subtraction, and change are more than welcome. Thanks to many philosophers for their suggestions so far.

I. Norms of respect

1. Be nice

2. Don't interrupt.

3. Don't present objections as flat dismissals (leave open the possibility that there's a response).

4. Don't be incredulous.

5. Don't roll your eyes, make faces, laugh at a participant, etc, especially to others on the side. (Partial exception for signalling norm violations to the chair.)

6. Don't start side conversations parallel to the main discussion.

7. Acknowledge your interlocutor's insights.

8. Object to theses, don't object to people.

II. Norms of constructiveness

1. Objections are fine, but it's also always OK to be constructive, building on a speaker's project or strengthening their position. Even objections can often be cast in a constructive way.

2. Even when an objection is destructive with respect to a position, it often helps to find a positive insight suggested by the objection.

3. If you find yourself thinking that the project is worthless and there is nothing to be learned from it, think twice before asking your question.

4. It's OK to question the presuppositions of a project or an area, but discussions in which these questions dominate can be unhelpful.

5. You don't need to keep pressing the same objection (individually or collectively) until the speaker says uncle.

6. Remember that philosophy isn't a zero-sum game. (Related version: philosophy isn't Fight Club.)

III. Norms of inclusiveness:

1. Don't dominate the discussion (partial exception for the speaker here!).

2. Raise one question per question (follow-ups are OK, but questions on different topics go to the back of the queue).

3. Try not to let your question (or your answer) run on forever.

4. Acknowledge points made by previous questioners.

5. It's OK to ask a question that you think may be unsophisticated or uninformed.

6. Don't use unnecessarily offensive examples.

IV. Procedural norms (for Q&A after talks; some are specific to the hand/finger system)

1. If there's time, take a 3-5 minute break before Q&A (for resting, leaving, and formulating questions). Hold back questions until after the break.

2. The chair rather than the speaker should field questions (to avoid various biases). The chair should keep a list of questioners rather than making people raise their hands repeatedly.

3. Unless you're speaker, existing questioner, or chair, don't speak without being called on (limited exceptions for occasional jokes and other very brief interjections, not to be abused).

4. Following up your own question is usually fine (unless time is short), but follow-up rounds should usually be increasingly brief, and think twice about whether third and later rounds are really needed.

5. Hand/finger system [optional]: To raise a new question at any point, raise your hand until the chair acknowledges you and adds you to the list. To follow up on an existing question by someone else, raise your finger.

6. Follow-ups should pick up directly on the existing discussion, rather than being tangentially or distantly related (for follow-ups of that sort, raise your hand).

7. The chair should attempt to balance the discussion among participants, prioritizing those who have not spoken before (it isn't mandatory to call on people in the order of seeing them).

8. The chair should try to pace things so that everyone who has a question can ask a question. In short discussion periods, or with a short time remaining, this may be difficult; disallowing fingers helps.

9. The chair should keep in mind the likelihood of various biases (e.g. implicit gender biases) when calling on questioners and applying these norms.

V. Metanorms

1. When norms are violated, the chair is encouraged to gently point this out, and others should feel free to say something or to signal the chair.

2. If it's more comfortable to do so, it's also fine to quietly point out violations after the seminar (or to tell the chair who can talk to the offender).

3. If the chair violates the norms, feel free to say so then or afterwards.

4. Try not to be defensive when a violation is pointed out.

5. Remember that it's quite possible to violate these norms without being a bad person. (I've certainly violated most of them myself.)

6. Respect the chair's enforcement of these norms.

7. Policing usually works better with a light touch.

8. It's reasonable for chairs to apply the norms flexibly and context-sensitively, but watch out for reintroducing biases in doing so.

9. It's fine to negotiate these norms as a group in advance. In a talk, the speaker can ask the chair to suspend some norms (especially norms of constructiveness), though the chair needn't agree.

VI. Potential additional norms (mostly suggested by others; for various reasons I haven't included them on the canonical list, but I'm sympathetic with many of them, and they're certainly worth considering)

1. Maximum two minutes per question (modified version: after two minutes, interruptions are OK).

2. Prioritize junior people in calling on questions (modified version: don't prioritize senior people).

3. Ask permission to follow up your own question (modified version: ask permission for any follow-up after the first).

4. Don't worry about impressing people.

5. Be cautious about pestering the speaker during the break or after the talk (they may need to rest).

Related resources (and sources)

This post is meant in fun spirity, at most, in a cultural information spirt:

According to the achademy of the Spanish language, Americano should not be used to refer to the people that live in the United States of America.

Quote from: Real Academia de la lengua española

Estados Unidos. 1. Nombre abreviado que se usa corrientemente para referirse al país de América del Norte cuyo nombre oficial es Estados Unidos de América. Puede usarse con artículo o sin él. Si se usa precedido de artículo, el verbo va en plural: «Los Estados Unidos han pedido a Francia que aplace su decisión» (Vanguardia [Esp.] 2.9.95). Si se emplea sin artículo, el verbo va en singular: «Estados Unidos está preparado para abrir negociaciones» (Proceso [Méx.] 2.2.97).
2. Es frecuente referirse a este país a través de su abreviatura: EE. UU. Puesto que se trata de una abreviatura, y no de una sigla, debe escribirse con puntos y con un espacio de separación entre los dos pares de letras. Existe también la sigla EUA, que, como corresponde a las siglas, se escribe sin puntos. No debe emplearse en español la sigla USA, que corresponde al nombre inglés United States of America.

3. El gentilicio recomendado, por ser el de uso mayoritario, es estadounidense, aunque en algunos países de América, especialmente en México, se emplea con preferencia la forma estadunidense, también válida. Debe evitarse el empleo de la voz usamericano, por estar formada sobre la sigla inglesa. Tampoco es aceptable la forma estadinense, usada alguna vez en Colombia a propuesta de algunos filólogos, y que no ha prosperado. Coloquialmente se emplea la voz yanqui (→ yanqui), a menudo con matiz despectivo.

4. Está muy generalizado, y resulta aceptable, el uso de norteamericano como sinónimo de estadounidense, ya que, aunque en rigor el término norteamericano podría usarse igualmente en alusión a los habitantes de cualquiera de los países de América del Norte o Norteamérica (→ Norteamérica), se aplica corrientemente a los habitantes de los Estados Unidos. Pero debe evitarse el empleo de americano para referirse exclusivamente a los habitantes de los Estados Unidos, uso abusivo que se explica por el hecho de que los estadounidenses utilizan a menudo el nombre abreviado América (en inglés, sin tilde) para referirse a su país. No debe olvidarse que América es el nombre de todo el continente y son americanos todos los que lo habitan.

U.S. 1. Short name that is commonly used to refer to the country in North America whose official name is the United States of America. It can be used with or without article. If used preceded by article, the verb is plural: "The United States has asked France to postpone its decision" (Vanguard [Eng.] 2.9.95). If used without the article, the verb is singular: "The United States is prepared to open negotiations" (Process [Mex.] 2.2.97).
2. It is common to refer to this country through its abbreviation: EE. UU. Since this is an abbreviation, not an acronym, it should be written with points and with a gap between the two pairs of letters. There is also the acronym USA, which, as the acronym, is written without points. It should not be used the USA Spanish acronym, which corresponds to the English name United States of America.

3. The recommended (as  majority  use it) gentilicio is "EstadoUnidense", although in some countries in America, especially in Mexico, is preferably used  "Estadunidense" , also valid. "USAmericano" the use of this voice should be avoided, being formed on the English acronym basis. Nor is it acceptable "estadinense", once used in Colombia to some philologists proposal and has not prospered. Colloquially the (→ Yankee) the Yankee voice is used, often with derogatory nuance.

4. It is very widespread, and is acceptable, the use of "NorteAmericano" as synonymous with American, because, although strictly speaking the "NorteAmericano" term could also be used in reference to the inhabitants of any country in North America or North America (→ North America ) it is commonly applied to the inhabitants of the United States. But the use of "Americano" should be avoided to refer exclusively to the people of the United States, misuse explained by the fact that Americans often use the abbreviated name America (in English, without tilde) to refer to his country. Do not forget that America is the name of the entire continent and  Americans are  all who inhabit it.

In my experience ,some spanish speaking people refer to Americans as Americanos, others as EstadoUnidenses and similar voices, and then some, as Yankees and gringos, some  colloquially, and some in a derogatory form.

In Mexico, for example,  gringo is very derogatory, but in Brazil it is used colloquially to refer to any foreigner, at least in São Paulo.


Apologetics and Theology / Anselm and Ultra-realism.
« on: May 15, 2016, 05:57:46 pm »
Quote from: Soviet Theory of knowledge

But, the Central problem of medieval scholasticism was the problem of the  ‘Universeals’.
Although we are today accustomed to considering this as an epistemological problem, it was formulated in the Middle Ages as a primarily ontological one: are genus and species used in thought also something real?  In other words, can the mind´s capacity to understand universally what is actually particular be explained in terms of something universal in the known? The Platonic, ultra-realist answer is obvious: the real ‘reals’, the ‘ideas’, are universal and any traces of universality found in the empirical world are due to the fact that the  ‘shadows’ retain some resemblance to the ‘ideas’. Medieval  nominalism reduced the universal to a flatus vocis (mere word) . The intermediate solution – the universal is properly mental but has a fundamentum in re (‘a basis in the thing’) – is often called ‘moderate realism’ to distinguish it from Platonic ‘ultra-realism’.
(See the 84 question  of Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica for a succinct presentation of the moderate position on knowledge).
(Soviet Theory of knowledge).

Quote from: A history of philosophy
His writings (Roscelin´s) have been lost, except for a letter to Abelard, and we have to rely on the testimony of other writters like St. Anselm, Abelard and Joh of Salisbury. These writers make it perfectly clear indeed that Roscelin was an opponent of ultra-realism and that he maintained that only individuals exist, but his positive teaching is not so clear. According to St. Anselm, Roscelin held that  the universal is a mere word ( flatus vocis) and accordingly he is numbered by St. Anselm among contemporary heretics in dialectic. Anselm goes on to remark that the se people think that colour is nothing else but body and the wisdom of man nothing else but the soul, and the chief fault of the  ‘dialectical heretics’ he finds in the fact that their reason is so bound up with their imagination that they cannot free themselves from images and contemplate abstract and purely intelligible objects.
(A history of philosophy. P. 143).

Quote from: Maydole´s deductively valid formalization of Anselm´s Ontological Argument


Ux =df x is understood
Sy =df the concept of y exists-in-the-understanding
Ex =df x exists-in-reality
Gxy =df x is greater than y
Fxy =df x refers to y
 Dx =df x is a definite description
d =df the definite description “(ix) ~©(∃y)Gyx”
g =df (ix)~©(∃y)Gyx
P(Y) =df Y is a great-making property

©. . . =df it is conceivable that . . .

 Here then is our logical reconstruction of Anselm’s ontological argument:

A1 The definite description “that than which it is not conceivable for something to be greater” is understood. (Premise) (Dd & Ud )

 A2 “That than which it is not conceivable for something to be greater” refers to that than which it is not conceivable for something to be greater.
 (Premise) Fdg

A3 The concept of whatever a definite description that is understood refers to has existence-in-the-understanding.
(Premise) (x)(y)((Dx & Fxy & Ux) ⊃ Sy)

 A4 It is conceivable that something is greater than anything that lacks a great-making property that it conceivably has.
(Premise) (x1)(Y)[(P(Y)&∼Yx1&©Yx1)⊃©(∃x2)Gx2x1 ]

A5 Existence-in-reality is a great making property.

A6 Anything the concept of which has existence-in-the-understanding conceivably has existence-in-reality. (Premise) (x)(Sx ⊃ ©Ex)

A7 It is not conceivable that something is greater than that than which it is not conceivable for something to be greater.
(Premise) ∼©(∃y)Gyg


A8 That than which it is not conceivable for something to be greater exists-in-reality.


Apologetics and Theology / Plantinga on Kant
« on: May 14, 2016, 11:41:34 am »
Quote from:  Plantinga, Alvin. Warranted Christian Belief Oxford University Press

2. The Two-World Picture and Reference to the Noumena Now suppose we consider the other main interpretation of Kant: the two-world picture. This is the more traditional way to understand Kant and still, perhaps, deserves the nod. (Here I am not interested in which picture most accurately represents Kant, but whether Kant, taken any plausible way, gives support to the idea that we cannot refer to and think about God.19) On this picture, there are two disjoint realms: phenomena and noumena, the Dinge and the things of experience.

To add another quotation: Accordingly, that which is in space and time is an appearance; it is not anything in itself, but consists merely of representations, which, if not given in us—that is to say, in perception—are nowhere to be met with. (A494, B522)

Now when we think about the application of our concepts to the noumena, we see that this two-world picture divides into two subpictures. (a) The Moderate Subpicture. On the one way of thinking, (some of) our concepts apply to the things in themselves; we can think about them and refer to them, all right, but we can’t have any knowledge of them. When we think about them, predicate properties of them, what we have is just speculation, mere transcendental schein, and we deceive ourselves if we think we have more.

Our knowledge doesn’t extend beyond experience; hence, it does not extend to the realm of the things in themselves. This would explain that bewildering variety and proliferation of metaphysical views Kant found so shocking. The reason, fundamentally, is really that all the metaphysicians have been just guessing, whatever their pretensions to apodictic conclusions and conclusive certainty. Our reason can’t operate in the rarefied atmosphere of the noumena, and the result of trying to do so is a mere beating of wings against the void. Of course Kant also represents his own work in the Critique of Pure Reason as knowledge and as certain and conclusive.

And in that Critique he seems to tell us a fair amount about the Dinge: that they are not in space and time, that the world of experience is (in part) a result of a ‘causal transaction’20 between the Dinge and the transcendental ego, and that the latter has no intellectual intuition into the former. So the picture isn’t wholly coherent. Coherent or not, however, this picture doesn’t even suggest that we cannot think about and predicate properties of God.

What it suggests, instead, is that when we do, we are not on the sure path of knowledge but on some much more hazardous climber’s trail of mere opinion. So the moderate subpicture, too, gives no aid and comfort to the claim that our concepts do not apply to God.

(b) The Radical Subpicture. There is a more striking version of the two-world picture, however, on which we do get the result that we can neither refer to God nor predicate properties of him (call it ‘the radical subpicture’). On both versions of the two-world picture, the appearances are distinct from the things in themselves. The appearances are objects; they exist; they are empirically real. But they are also transcendentally ideal. And what this means, in part, is that they depend for their existence on us (on the transcendental ego) and our cognitive activity. We ourselves are both noumena and phenomena: there is both a noumenal self and an empirical self.

The things in themselves somehow impinge on us (taken as transcendental ego), causing experience in us; there is a productive interaction between the transcendental ego and the Dinge (the other Dinge, since the transcendental ego is itself a noumenon), the result of which is experience, the manifold of experience. As it is initially given to us, this manifold of experience is a blooming, buzzing confusion with no structure. Perhaps it contains among other things what Kant calls ‘representations’ (Vorstellungen); these are of more than one kind, but among them might be phenomenal qualia, something like sense data, or Humean impressions and ideas. The manifold must be ‘worked up’ (Kant’s term) and synthesized by the application of the categories and other concepts. Thus we impose structure and form on it, and in so doing we construct the phenomena, the appearances.

So the phenomena, the things für uns, are constructed out of the manifold of experience. Well, how do we do a thing like that? How do we construct a phenomenon (a horse, let’s say) from the manifold of experience? At this point, the radical subpicture diverges from the more pedestrian version of the two-world picture, for on the radical subpicture, we construct objects by applying concepts (representations, Vorstellungen) to the manifold. The world of appearance gets constructed by virtue of our synthesizing the manifold, which proceeds by way of our applying concepts—both the categories and other concepts—to the manifold. We can’t perceive or in some other way witness this construction; Kant says we are largely unconscious of the activity whereby we structure the manifold and construct the phenomena.

Still, it proceeds by way of the application of concepts to the blooming buzzing manifold of experience. This would require a way of thinking about concepts and their function that is very different from the way of thinking about them I outlined above (a way according to which a concept is fundamentally a grasp of a property). And Kant suggests a different way of thinking of concepts: he sometimes calls them rules.

Kant says that the understanding is the faculty of concepts; it is the source of our concepts. But he also says of the understanding, “We may now characterize it as the faculty of rules. … Sensibility gives us forms (of intuition) but understanding gives us rules” (A126, Kant’s emphasis). And he goes on to say, Rules, so far as they are objective … are called laws. Although we learn many laws through experience, they are only special determinations of still higher laws, and the highest of these, under which the others all stand, issue a priori from the understanding itself. They are not borrowed from experience; on the contrary, they have to confer upon appearances their conformity to law, and so to make experience possible.

 Thus the understanding is something more than a power of formulating rules through comparison of appearances; it is itself the lawgiver of nature. (A127) I don’t for a moment pretend that this passage or others that could be cited are easy to interpret. Still, the passage does seem to suggest that concepts are rules and rules are laws. What sort of rules and what sort of laws? Perhaps they are rules for synthesizing the manifold, rules for constructing the phenomena. This is the heart of the radical subpicture. Again, I don’t mean to suggest that this is Kant’s view, but some of what he says suggests it. (Some of what he says also suggests that it is false; that is part of his charm.)

For example: “What is first given to us is appearance. When combined with consciousness, it is called perception….” Interpretative difficulties abound; the basic idea, however, is that concepts are rules, rules for the synthesis of the manifold and the construction of phenomena. (They are also laws, laws whereby the phenomena are constructed from the manifold of experience.)

These rules apply to portions or bits of experience and, by way of their application, the phenomena are constructed. A rule of this sort perhaps specifies that certain portions of the manifold are to be combined or ‘thought together’ as an object. So, for example, consider your concept of a horse: it instructs you to associate, think together a variety of representations, a variety of items of experience, thus unifying that bit of the manifold into an empirical object: a horse. It is a rule which would say something like: think that particular congeries of representations together as a unity.

Now again, I don’t mean to claim that this is a coherent picture or a coherent way of thinking about concepts; on the contrary, I believe that it is not. But note that if it is coherent, then (at least if all of our concepts have this function21 and only this function) our concepts will not apply to the noumena. Consider the concept being a horse. Understood this way, this concept is a rule for constructing phenomenal objects out of the manifold of experience. Of course it does not apply to the noumena: it cannot be used to construct an object out of them; they are not given to us (experience, the manifold, is what is given to us), and in any event they aren’t the sorts of things out of which phenomenal objects could be constructed.

So it isn’t just that the concept being a horse does not apply to the Dinge in the sense that none of them, as it happens, is a horse (all are nonhorses), for then the complement of that concept—being a nonhorse—would apply. But that concept doesn’t apply either: it, too, is a rule for constructing objects from the manifold. It is another way of unifying, synthesizing the manifold. So thought of, a concept could no more apply to the Dinge than a horse could be a number.

On the radical subpicture, therefore, our concepts surely wouldn’t apply to God, if there were such a person. For God would be a noumenon. God would not be something we have constructed by applying concepts to the manifold of experience (God has created us; we have not constructed him.) So, on the radical subpicture, we can’t refer to, think about, or predicate properties of God. This way of thinking clearly displays a deep incoherence: on this picture, Kant holds that the Dinge stand in a causal or interactive relationship with us, taken as transcendental ego(s);22 and he also says that they are not in space and time.

But on the radical subpicture, Kant (at least if his intellectual equipment is like that of the rest of us)
should not be able to refer to the Dinge at all, or even speculate that there might be such things. He certainly shouldn’t be able to refer to them and attribute to them the properties of being atemporal and aspatial, or the property of affecting the transcendental ego(s), thereby producing experience in them.

He shouldn’t be able to refer to us (i.e., us transcendental egos), claiming that we don’t have the sort of godlike intellectual intuition into reality that would be required if we were to have synthetic a priori knowledge of the world as it is in itself. (On this picture, we might say, Kant’s thought founders on the fact that the picture requires that he have knowledge the picture denies him.) If this picture were really correct, the noumena would have to drop out altogether, so that all that there is is what has been structured or made by us. The idea that there might be reality beyond what we ourselves have constructed out of experience would not be so much as thinkable.23

Plantinga, Alvin. Warranted Christian Belief (p. 19). Oxford University Press.

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