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Explorations in ontology

  1. Feb 5, 2007 #1
    The point of this thread is to post my own currently developed philosophy and see how it holds to everyone's scrutiny.

    I'm an agnostic theist. I personally believe that God exists, and that objectively, humans can't know if God exists or not. I beleive there are two types of truth, subjective and objective. Subjective truth is true for each individual, due to their own personal experiances, and objective truth is true to all of humanity, so long as the individual observing an objectively true statement agrees on the methods that support the objective fact observed.

    For example, in Mathematics, one has to set up rules to go by before a problem can be worked out, and via the application of those rules implies that the one using those rules is in agreement with them. In other words, when we use math, we agree to a contract which states that we must follow the rules of math for any conclusion to be valid (we must agree to the rules of logic in order for the logic to work correctly). The reason I make this distinction is because someone can look at a red object and say it is green, simply because they go by thier own rules. Since humanity has agreed that red objects have a characteristic wavelength range in the lower visible spectrum, then the objective truth is that light with frequencies in the lower visible spectrum are red. So a person has to also agree to refer to that color as red too in order to abide with some way to standardize common experiances among all persons. And so we also must agree to make a discinction between our left and right sides of our bodies in the same way. As long as we agree on common things like these, we are in the world of objective truth. We must agree to the definitions of the words we use to communicate for them to mean anything at all. In other words, subjective truth comes first, and objective truth is a consequence of agreements of definitions and rules and the like.

    Objective truth therefore requires that an individual agree upon the commonalities underlying objectively true arguments. For example, we can say that it is objectively true that the sky is blue because we all agree on the definitions of blue and sky. So if someone believes that "sky" means "the atmosphere on Mars", then the statement "the sky is blue" is not true to them. However, they must conclude that the atmosphere on Earth is blue. This can easily become a problem in semantics, so lets keep in mind that the whole purpose of establishing an objective truth is to make things easier for ourselves, and complicating a fact as simple as "the sky is blue" doesn't make things easier for everyone. So this illustrates the point that it is best to go by the standard definitions and clarify using other words and/or more commonly understood and accepted words when extra clarity is needed. The details of objectively true statements can be followed point by point using its own agreed upon rules of common logic, and so objective truth stands by itself, since it is supported by it's own basic rules and definitions. Objective truth becomes true to an individual (subjectively) so long as he/she agrees on the commonalities. So objective truth is devoid of it's own sentient perception, and behaves deterministically, like a machine or a tool, for those (sentient beings) trained to use it. It is something used to help humanity help itself, it is created by people, and it's used for people.

    Science is a rigorous manifestation of objective truth. It is founded on basic premises such as the scientific method, and all the conclusions made through its use are the most honest forms of objective truth known to man. Therefore, it is best to regard it as the overall persuit of mankind for truth, and so it is wise to accept the premises and definitions, because even if one were to look at the world with their own definitions, they will still observe the same conclusions (in their own understanding) about the world. For example, if one uses a different word for "blue", then they can still make some statement about the sky (to themself) that means the same thing as the "sky is blue" (to science), much like how a system of particles can be described with any set of coordinates, but all sets of coordinates will still make correct predictions of their movement (for each respective set of coordinates) although the predictions of one set can't be used for a different set.

    Science can't conclude as to whether God exists or not because it's premises aren't powerful enough, but it is a good thing because its premises are conservative enough for it to be reliable for individuals who use it. For example, Science can't "feel" the existance of God, because science is not a sentient being--it can't perceive things on it's own, only minds (personalities, consciousnesses, awarenesses) can. So therefore, it lacks the ability to "feel", which makes it less powerful at establishing truths. Another example, I can touch a hot plate, and I can feel pain (as long as my nerves are working correctly), and through my perception of that feeling, I can conclude truths to myself, such as "it is true to me that don't desire to touch a hot plate" or "it is true to me that I do desire to touch a hot plate". What can I say, some people like to feel pain, and to them it is true that they desire to touch a hot plate. So, science can't conclude (by its definition) one way or the other on such topics where it would require first hand perception (such as that which an awareness would experiance). This is the meaning of objectivity in the first place, something true regardless of personal experiance. It is objectively true that one can touch a hot plate, but not objectively true that that person will like or dislike the feeling, although science can establish probabilities, and we can tally how many people like or dislike things, then the probabilities are true, but no decision one way or another can be objectively made. The descision one way or another is only true subjectively.

    If there is one thing that science can't explain, it is the mind. In other words, Science can only view the positions and motions of human bodies in space-time (such as an orchestra), but it can't view the thing that is moving those bodies (the will, the soul, the sentient being). So if two musicians are playing a song perfectly, Science can view the system and try to understand how the two dynamical systems (human bodies) interact with each other, but it may run into problems when seemingly faster than light travel occurs between the two systems (i.e. they both start playing the same note at the same time, but there is no Scientific way to explain this since information couldn't have been exchanged that fast between the two systems. When viewed scientifically--i.e. deviod of the knowledge that the two dynamical systems of particles (human bodies) are controlled by something untouchable by science (awareness/the mind/experiance)--humans seem to be undetermined. In other words, Science can't explain what it is that makes human bodies move the way they do--it can't explain the thing that moves them (the mind).

    With all these clarifications made, now I'd like to say that I agree with all the principles of science, and all the definitions of words common between me and the individual I'm conversing with. Therefore I accept all the conclusions made via science. I can use science to prove things to other people, and if they accept science then they will accept my proof, and I theirs. I recognize that I can't prove the existance of God objectively, but I can prove it to myself with my own supporting personal experiances. Likewise, I could've personally experianced things which subjectively proved the non-existance of God. I can explain my own reasons as a function of my experiances to someone else, but those reasons aren't automatically true to them because they didn't experiance them, I did. Therefore, the existance or non-existance of God can only be proven subjectively, not objectively. In a way, those who come to a full ontological descision aren't being scientific, they are reaching beyond science into something that science can't touch to do so--the perspective and experiances of a sentient being--which I believe is a valid thing to do.

    In my exposition, I've established that truth comes in two forms--subjective and objective. Subjective truth comes first because it has to do with one's personal experiances, and by definition, one's personal experiances can't be understood objectivly (only you know what you experiance and not anyone else). Objective truth requires a "standardization" of definitions and premises--ss long as one abides by that, then they won't have a problem accepting all the conclusions made by that. I've also shown that due to this idea, God's existance can't be proven objectively, but it can be proven subjectively. Therefore, one can know that God exists, but won't be able to prove it to someone else, and one can know that God doesn't exist, but can't prove it to someone else. One can only convince someone else one way or another, not prove. This means that the burden or proof doesn't rest on atheists or theists, since God's existance can't be objectively proven either way. As far as science is concerned, it can't conclude one way or the other, and God both exists and doesn't exist at the same time, much like how science concludes that Schrodinger's cat must be both dead and alive at the same time (only when we can all open the box will we know the true state of the cat). However, a sentient being can conclude one way or the other, he or she can guess the answer to the problem by reaching into something beyond objective truth. They can draw upon personal experiance--subjective truth--whereas Science can't. So the burden of proof lies on oneself. One can prove to themself as to what they feel is true when all of humanity can't conclude on the true answer objectivly.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2007 #2


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    No one can feel the existence of God.
  4. Feb 5, 2007 #3
    And yet, people feel that they can!
  5. Feb 5, 2007 #4


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    That's not correct, you cannot prove or disprove something that cannot be tested for.
  6. Feb 5, 2007 #5
    Yes, quite right. Metaphorically, we can't test if the cat is dead or alive, so we can't objectively conclude one way or the other. If I flip a coin in the wind, science can't tell me if it is heads or tails, but I have the option to guess, and science doesn't.
  7. Feb 5, 2007 #6
    I could ask you to prove it, but you'd be proving something true to yourself, and not true for all of humanity. It is not true to me, so I guess I'm not you.
  8. Feb 5, 2007 #7
    We usually try to convince others (and ourselves) of the truth of certain statements by arguing how they can be applied to things we can experience/measure. You can just hold certain statements for true (and call them subjective truths) just because it feels good, but if that is the only requirement such statements will generally not have much use. They may even prevent you from developing ones that would be useful.

    Of course if you do not want to convince anybody that’s all good, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that in case of the existence of a God the burden of proof doesn’t rest on the theist. Atheists just state that they do not believe in the theists’ proposal, if the theist wants the atheist to believe he should come up with arguments.

    You could come up with many “explanations”. I could come up with a story saying that there is one large pink elephant that blows large expanding bubbles and that our universe is the 5th bubble it blew. It would be unfair to then go on to state that the burden of proof would not only lay with me but would lay just as much with the people who do not believe in my story.
  9. Feb 5, 2007 #8


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    How comforting it must be to have truths that are true for you alone.
  10. Feb 5, 2007 #9
    Have you ever loved someone, or hated someone, that no one else love or hated?

    Or, not to the same degree?

    Is truth that which is true for all people at al times...??

    Or is it a function... a statement of affairs around us?

    Linguistic alchemy turns it in to a *thing*... with all the properties thereof.

    Is proof only that which can be tested for????? I wonder... proof of what?
  11. Feb 5, 2007 #10
    Possibly and possibly not, it depends on how open-minded a person is. I do understand your point though, but I think that a person is never complete, and nobody will ever stop changing their perspective of what is true. If you think about it, do you really belive that what you said is true? You must, otherwise you might not have said it right? Suppose someone thinks you're wrong, then who is right? My answer is that you're both right, because these differences occur due to the fact that you two are different people who have had different experiances.

    If you have your idea about God, and you don't want to change your mind about what you think is true, and someone is trying to prove to you something else, then we get into these arguments about who has the "burden of proof". That is a distraction from the real issue; since God can't be proven to exist or not exist objectively, there is nothing to prove to each other, and nobody has any burden. Objective truth is true for all of humanity, and there ought to be evidence to support any conclusions, either by experiment or by logic or otherwise. So if you could objectively prove the non-existance of God, then you must do so using these methods, but we both agree that nobody can do it objectively--likewise is you wish to prove the existence of God. My point is that it is an empty venture to try to objectively prove it one way or another. What I say is that whatever you think about the subject is true to you, and if you want to see things the other way, the burden of proof is on yourself. Like I said, I'm a theist, but if I wanted to change my opinion, I'd have to look for evidence in my own life, and draw from my own personal experiances, because no doubt the things that I've experianced are true to me. In a way, personal truths (opinions) are like self-fulfilling prophecies, contained in the individual. Whatever your stance, you will find evidence for it in your life to help support what you think is true, and if one day some experiance powerful enough makes you re-evaluate what you think is true, and suppose you do end up changing your mind, then the process will go on again. If you never let yourself settle on anything, then that is just how you are; you wouldn't bother with debates like this since you wouldn't have any opinion, so as far as your impact on humanity, there's nothing wrong with it as far as I'm concerned (but thats just what I think is true).

    You're illustrating the problem with the burden of proof when it comes to this subject. Sure, burden of proof has a place in the search for objective truth, but it doesn't have a place in this debate, since nothing can be objectively proven either way in this case. Surely if it could be proven, we wouldn't be having this debate. This debate is the remnants of a clash between different thoughts and opinions about what is true. Those truths are held by different people who have all had experiances in their lives that reinforce what they think is true. Surely if I was you, and had all your experiances, then I would think the same way as you. I think that both the genetics and environment (nature and nurture) play a part in shaping who a person is. I also think that we all have the same mind, but due to our different circumstances (genetics, environment--nature and nurture), we all develop different personalities. So if I had all the initial conditions (genetics, family/environment/time period/culture) as you had, I would be you, since I would've had all the same experiances and so on, so everything true to me would be what is true to you, and we wouldn't disagree on anything. What I'm trying to explain is the notion that all people have thier own lives, and therefore have had thier own experiances, and so a person can't deny anything that they have experianced (whether it be a thought or a feeling). For an abstract example, if I went to school today, I can't say to myself that I didn't experiance going to school, because there is no doubt in my mind that I did, so that is true to me. Now suppose that nobody witnessed me going to school today (i.e. I can't objectively prove it for some reason), you can either believe me or not when I say that I went to school today, and I can come up with many explainations as to why I did, but you don't have to believe me if you think otherwise, since I can't prove it. Similarly, if I experiance a spiritual moment in my life, I could try and explain it to someone, but if there is no way for me to prove it objectively, then nobody needs to believe me, but that doesn't make it untrue to me, for I personally experianced it.
  12. Feb 5, 2007 #11


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    Have you considered the fact that what you believe to have happened or what you have felt may simply be delusional? That it never really happened, you just imagined whatever you felt? Perhaps brought on by your beliefs and the desire to experience something?
  13. Feb 6, 2007 #12
    From your experience, can you define 'God' in a sense that takes it out of the realm of purely personal experience and into a more 'objective' realm? Or would any definitions regarding personal experience always be subjective?
  14. Feb 6, 2007 #13
    That is the question we must all consider, so yes. I might add, it is a very good question.

    How can I know if I'm not imagining something to be real when it really isn't real? Before we ask that question, we must first have a good idea of what "real" is.

    I don't like Pablo Picasso's work. How do I know that? Good question. I don't have the answer. Perhaps I'm actually delusional, and I'm imagining the feeling that I don't like his work, but in reality, I truely do. I like my friends, but perhaps I'm delusional, and I really don't like them. I don't know how to answer your question, so let it be that I am whatever you want me to be. If you think I'm delusional, then it suits you best to think of me with that attribute.
  15. Feb 6, 2007 #14
    This is a very good question. I don't think I can. I have my own idea, but I can't say that other people's ideas are wrong.

    As far as your second question goes, hmm... what do you think? It is interesting though. I think that there are some things that we can all relate to, such as the feeling of the pull of gravity, or hunger, though it is impossible to test and see if person A actually feels the exact same sensations as person B for these cases. Even though we may not feel the exact same sensations, we can know what we're talking about, as you know the personal experiances I'm referring to.
  16. Feb 6, 2007 #15
    You are using the concept of “something being true” as being synonymous with “suspecting something to be true”, two people can suspect opposite things to be true and you can call that “their subjective truths” but I don’t think you gain much by doing so.

    Being true is a special property of a statement, and usually a valuable one. In any language you can construct a countless number of statements, but only a very small proportion of them will be true, so whenever someone comes up with one the burden of proof is on them, as it is (not considering any proof you might already have) probably false.
  17. Feb 6, 2007 #16
    I don't know if I am, is that how you interpret it? If I experiance something mentally or physically, how could it not be something I experiance? That is the fulcrum of this idea. If you feel something, how can it not be truely something you feel? If you feel cold, there is no suspecting, the truth is you're cold. The person next to you doesn't have to also feel cold for it to be the truth.

    The nitty gritty comes when you consider emotive statements, not rational ones. Usually, when someone is trying to explain an objective truth that they have discovered, the only way to do it is through reason. "All elephants are bright green." is no doubt a false statement due to reason. I object to giving too much leeway to subjective truth also, I'm not going to let someone think that all elephants are bright green, because it is an objective truth that they aren't. Maybe I should tack on another clarification, that when objective truth is in opposition to subjective truth, objective truth wins. So if you find that what you thought before is said to be incorrect, then you should learn why, and you will be enlightened.
  18. Feb 6, 2007 #17
    It is statements about how or what you feel that can be considered true or false. The things that happen are just the things that happen, there is no use in saying they are true or false they just happen (be it you feeling cold or whatever).

    You could state “I feel the presence of God”, based on my idea of what God is I would then assume that you are telling me that you feel the presence of some eternal, omniscient, omnipotent being and I would tend not to believe that so readily. Instead of saying that it is your “subjective truth” that you feel the presence of God, I would say that whatever you are feeling you suspect to be the presence of God.

    (We could then have a discussion in which you try to convince me that what you are experiencing really is the presence of an omnipotent entity)
  19. Feb 6, 2007 #18
    But that doesn't seem very productive.. I can say that there is an invisible elephant over my head, and I KNOW that it's there, but science can't disprove this fact so that automatically makes me less insane?

    I believe there is always an explanation for everything, and that believing something based on experience should only lead to you doing extensive research on what you experienced, NOT blindly believing it.

    In fact in the perfect society nobody would believe anything.
  20. Feb 6, 2007 #19
    What I'm trying to show is that if someone actually thinks/senses/knows there is an invisible elephant over their head, then to their perspective, there is. Insane people are insane because they are actually experiancing things like these, otherwise they wouldn't be insane. There is no reason why that person is less insane because of it.

    I share your belief. I've never accepted "forget about it" as an explaination.

    This isn't objectively true, since humanity doesn't have a collective idea of what a perfect society is.
  21. Feb 6, 2007 #20
    Please expand on this, I don't quite follow just yet.

    You more or less just asked me this question in your previous post. There are two things going on in this hypothetical situation, my perspective and your perspective. In my perspective, it is true that "I feel the presence of God" (I have no idea what that would mean or feel like, but oh well), this is the case at hand, and there is no doubt that it is what I experiance. In your perspective, you interpret this statement as me suspecting it, rather than have actually experianced it, and so to you, it is true that I suspected something.

    As we all are aware, statements can be misinterpreted, and even the person making a statement can unintentionally say the wrong thing and think they said the right thing. It could've been the case that I truely meant to say that "I suspected to have felt the presence of God" (in this hypothetical situation), and you would've interpreted what I was trying to say correctly even though I didn't say it correctly. More words would be needed to clarify what things both of us would've been experiancing and interpreting in order to get a concrete idea of what was going on.

    It is a really simple idea that I'm trying to explain, and I bet you've grasped it for the most part. The main idea is that I postulate that everything a person experiances is undeniable (i.e. a true event or feeling or whatever, for that person). If you witness an apple falling to the ground, you can't deny that it happened, and so you must accept that it is true to you. This particular example isn't simply true to for you, but it's true for everybody, so I make the distinction that things true for everybody are called objective truths, and the others are subjective.

    I haven't attempted it at all so far, and I won't. This current thread is about my philosophy, it's not about me trying to make people believe in God. I don't believe it is incumbant on me to enforce my beliefs on others.

    By the way, I'm glad you're asking all these finely tuned questions and I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2007
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