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God belongs to what existence category?

  1. May 7, 2003 #1
    Although any discussion concerning this three-letter word, should be placed in the designated sub-topic of this Philosophy forum, the debate on this forum shows a large amount of post that are in concern of this aformentioned three-letter word.

    So the topic of this thread then is a debate about the existence category which suits the three-letter word 'God'.

    Let us define first a primary category of existence. The reason we define it as primary is because other categories of existence are dependend on it.

    The first category of existence is therefore the category of material existence. This category of existence implies that the things that belong to this category exist in a timely, spacely fashion, and undergo change/motion, etc. The consequence of this category of existence is that all things which belong to this are never self-equal, because they undergo change and/or motion. Never are things equal to themselves when they belong to this category of existence, cause that would require things to exist without change and/or motion, or would require time to not exist, which is in contrast to the fact that things belonging to this category of existence DO exist in time and space, and do undergo change and/or motion.

    Well there are plenty of things that belong in this catgeory of existence, as for instance your computer, the earth, the stars and planets, all living animals (and also the dead ones), etc. We can easiliy detect that these things do exist in a timely and spacely manner, and undergo change and/or motion.

    The first question we then adress: does the three-letter word, denoted as 'God' belong to this category of existence?

    In other words: is it in accordance with the definition of God that God exists in a timely, spacely way, and undergoes change and or motion? If so, we can then ask ourselves questions like:
    - where does God exist, in what extend of space does God have existence
    - when does God exist, in what extend of time does God have existence.

    The where and when question clearly contrast any known definitions of God, that is: as far as I know of definitions of God. (which define God as existing without change and/or motion, and thus outside of time and space).

    So my assumption would be that God then would not belong to the primary category of existence.

    Are there other categories of existence?
    Well yes there are, and they can be designated to have existence as well, because we can define this category of existence within our mind.

    What kind of things belong to that category of existence, the category of the mind?

    Well we can think of many things. Mathematical concepts, geometrical concepts, poems, etc. All these things, that exist outside of space and time, and exist without change, can be said to belong to this category of the mind.
    A point in space, as a geometrical concept, is something that clearly does not change in time. It is the modelled space, the geometrical concept of space, that carries such points, but outside of our mind, such points do not realy exist. There might be things in reality that come close to this (things like point-masses, etc) but in a crucial way, they do not exactly fit the description of the geometrical concept of a point in space.

    The essence of the category of mind, is that it is not an independend category of existence. The mind can not exist on it's own, that is without the material reality as such. Our minds are based on the way our brain as a material organ functions. The existence of a mind without a material reality would be a baseless assumption. It would be just as baseless as the existence of the "nothingness" (the absolute negation of all of existence).

    It is my strong assumption that the three-letter word written out as 'God' is a concept, that can only belong to this category of existence: the mind.
    Which means, that it does not exist outside of the mind (there is nothing there in the material reality, that fits the definition of the term 'God') and is dependend on the mind, which itself is dependend on the material reality.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2003 #2
    Your definition of God is an ethnocentric and fundamentalist one. For example, Pantheists can be religious Atheists who worship material reality as somehow Divine, possessed of all the power, beauty, mystery, etc. one could ask for in a God. It is an entirely non-anthropomorphic vision of God.

    Plato was the first to formalize the common western image of God as infinite, idealized, and being most clearly perceived cognitively and emotionally. This is a kind of compromise between the extremely rational materialistic Pantheistic visions and the irrational paradoxical ones of many shamanistic faiths. Where as Pantheist religions can empower the individual with situational ethics and Shamanism allows for an incredible number of interpretations, Plato's vision supports fundamentalist moralities handed down from on high that maintain the statis quo.

    It's odd that an infinite cognitive view of God should support black and white views of the world, but then, the finite and infinite define each other.
  4. May 7, 2003 #3

    Actually, the first question ought to be to define what you mean by the word "god". Once you do this then understand that the points you make may not apply to any other definition. I think Wuli was saying something similar to you. Your comments above about this thread being in the sub-topic gives us clues as to what you think the definition is because I don't think that all discussions about "god" necessarily imply religion. And I perceive that particular forum to be about God as it relates to religion.

    I really don't have anything specific to say about your points except to say that they try to make sense of things based on concepts as they are currently understood. You have neatly divided reality into categories of material and mind. Then based on an unproven assertion that mind is completely dependent on material existence, you make certain points. Overlooking the materialist spin, I think this approach is limited by the same types of things I see all the time. Ideas like "Reality is either this way or it is that way". It amazes me that we conveniently have the concepts to explain all the possibilities for reality. This idea translates to ideas like "Either a god personality exists or reality is just an accidental box full of rocks". I have a hard time believing that reality is this simple. My question is "what possibilities might lie in between these 2 extremes? We cannot discuss these possibilities because we have no words to describe them. The word "god" has too many associations with the extreme. In my opinion, this same thing happens when we try to understand cutting edge science. Theories like quantum mechanics generate much debate on their interpretation because "interpretation" means trying to make it fit into our conceptual framework for reality when perhaps it does not.

    I think the concepts used here "Material" and "Mind" also struggle with definition. Broad labeled categories like this inevitably incorporate other concepts that themselves cannot be properly defined or understood completely ie. "time".

    I hope this post is clear. I'm not really disagreeing with any of your points here. I'm just presenting thoughts that I ponder on as I read threads like this. Carry on.
    Last edited: May 7, 2003
  5. May 7, 2003 #4
    Much in the way water seeks its own level and is the essence of life, God is the essence of being, and is supportive in every single last detail.
  6. May 7, 2003 #5
    That's all good and well, but then you need to define "essence" or your definition cannot be distinguished from what has already been presented.

    No matter what definition of God you use, by the standards of logicians they are all paradoxical or, at the very least, extremely vague.
  7. May 7, 2003 #6
    It is not "my" definition of God. I took the most common definition I know of, and which have been discussed on this forum (while in fact they do not belong on this forum, but in the religion department, since there is bo obvious reason, philosophy should assume the existence of God) over and over.

    if that one isn't good, then please provide me a better definition of God. Or would you say there are more definitions, and even contrasting definitions of God? I do not mind how you define God.
  8. May 7, 2003 #7
    Would you have me pinpoint it and destroy it, as the entomologist destroys the butterfly?

    What does it say in the dictionary by the way?
  9. May 7, 2003 #8
    Re: Re: God belongs to what existence category?

    You're quite right about that. I used a definition which I found most often on here, which defined God as not having existence in a timely/spacely manner, and neither in a changing/motionly way.
    I take it that that is just "one" way to define the existence of God, and there must be others. It even might be the case there are contradictionary definitions of God.

    Same hard perhaps it would probably be to define the human mind.

    Any definition is a strugle of course. It is true for matter, mind, space, time, etc. But in a way, I think, these terms are easier to understand then any definition I have heard of God.
  10. May 7, 2003 #9
    Interesting, looking through dictionary definitions of God I did not see a single one with much resemblance to yours. In addition, philosophy deals with all kinds of issues including the possibility of God. Spinoza's Pantheism being a particularly dramatic case in point.

    As for a decent definition of a God, I would say God(s) are deities or divinities people worship.
  11. May 7, 2003 #10
    It's not "my" definition of a God, but just one I picked up on here.

    Is the worshipping thing a way for these divine entities to exist, i.e. would their existence come to a halt, when they would no longer be worshipped?

    What happened to Wodan for instance? Or Ra?
  12. May 7, 2003 #11
    I would add here seperately that there are five basic states of existence attributed to God(s) that I know of:

    1) Imminant--god is here, now. God is not merely in everything, God is everything. (Pantheism)

    2) Transcendent--god came, did their thing, and split. (Theism)

    3) Imminant & Transcendent--god is somehow both. (Panentheism)

    4)Paradoxical--god is nonsensical, yet obviously true. (absurdism)

    5)Ineffable--exactly what god is and isn't is impossible to say, yet it can be said. (mysticism)
  13. May 7, 2003 #12
    Whether or not God(s) need to be worshiped for them to exist just depends upon your point of view. Some people today, by the way, still worship Wodan and pagan (i.e. not christian) religions are making a come back in the west.

    What is certain, is that Gods are worshiped either out of fear or love or both. It is a pointedly emotional relationship for all believers no matter what rational differences they might have.
  14. May 7, 2003 #13
    This one's for you Wu Li:

    Excerpt from Behold the Spirit, by Alan Watts ...

  15. May 7, 2003 #14
    How about the catagory of 'unproven'?

    I like this catagory too. :smile:
  16. May 7, 2003 #15
    This would indicate that the definition of God then conforms to that of the material reality. The only difference is the used terminology.

    The definition is a bit poor, and can (at least) be seen in two different ways:

    A. One way of regarding this defintion is to assume that God is placed outside of the material world, and from there (some form of 'eternal/unchanging existence') "created" all of matter, space and time, etc. This is: God is seen as the reason of existence, and cause of existence of all of the material world, the universe, etc.
    It is one way of answering the "Fundamental Question" and is the exact opposite as to answer that this question is totally meaningless, or unanswerable (from the very nature of the question). God is then a way for providing an answer to a question that can either be held as without meaning (there is no 'alternative' for an existing world) or unanswerable (any well-founded reason for stating 'X is the case' must be an answer in the form 'because Y is the case', yet the very nature of the question urges us to assume that no such Y can exist).
    This would place the concept of God into the category of the mind.

    B. Another way of regarding this concept is from considering that the known material world, is only a tiny fraction of a much broader material reality, which had no beginning in time, and has no edge or boundary and can be thought as infinite in spatial-temporal extend.
    All of that reality, which we do not yet have real knowledge about, and never will have total knowledge about despite the fact that our knowledge of the world can and ever will be increasing, can be denoted under the term 'God'. The current material reality then has it's origin in an unknown preceding material form (for instance, from the point of view of our current knowledge, we could call the Big Bang our horizon, and have no actual knowledge about the pre-existing material reality).
    The distinction is then based on the part of material reality we actually know about, and the infinite material reality, we do not have
    actual knowledge about. We can shift our 'horizon' of knowledge, but we will always be confronted with the fact that an infinite part of material reality, we do not have actual knowledge about. We can only 'assume' some material reality had always and will always exist, but it will be quite difficult to make a comprehensible description of material reality far behind our present horizon of knowledge, for instance 'before' the Big Bang, outside of our spatial observed universe, or beyond our knowledge of physical laws and physical reality. Even when -in principle- there is no theoretical limit in the understanding of this, material reality can never be understood in full or in an absolute sense.

    This places the concept of God into the category of the material reality.

    The question is in what way God can be defined under both definitions.

    From the previous definition (Transcedent), this does not conflict the first definition (Imminant), if we use the second concept (B).

    A combination of God as all of material reality and God is the reason or cause of the material reality itself, is at first in conflict with each other.
    But it then can be said that the material reality itself, contains it's own reason and cause. The actual material reality negates the fact that such a material reality is not existing, the world states it's own existence.

    Both ways of looking at it, place God in the category of material existence.

    Paradox as an absurd contradiction. We need to be aware that material reality as such is not without contradiction itself.
    For instance: since matter doesn't have a begin or end, it requires us to regard time as infinite. The convept of infinity itself however is a contradiction, and one we cannot get rid of, without running into deeper and more profound contradictions.
    Even absurd ones.

    This places God in the category of existence of the mind.

    Perhaps we need to add here: an absurd mind. An absurdity which is in fact not necessarily, but comes from incomplete understanding of the material reality, in our attempt to avoid contradictions.
    Provided we do not neglect the fact that the material world and also the mind, can never be comprehended and fully understood without contradiction, and our way of reasoning about material reality should include the concept of contradiction. That is: we need to take a dialectical approach to our understanding of the material reality.

    This is to say, that God is undefinable, and all attempts to define it, will always fail. Like the soap we never can grab.

    Because of the feauture of mysticism this would place God in the category of the mind, together with fairy tales and mythology.

    But it can be argued as well, that our very research into the depths of material reality, confronts us with very intruiging concept of reality, which do not stand very far from what mysticism describes.

    If our argument would be that the material world would have to be describable in ordinary terms, it comes out that as seen from that perspective that material reality itself is quite 'mystical'.
    Electrons are in some place, but in the same instance can not be in some exact place at a given time, which confuses our ordinary understanding of some thing that is at a certain and exact place in a certain and exact time. An electron is in a place and is not in a place, at the same time. Etc.

    So, it can be argued that this definition of God, could for this reason as well form ground for asserting that this definition of God places it in the category of matter.

    The argument against that, is that an actual and more profound understanding of material reality, will get rid of any form of mystical concepts which come from applying our ordinary understanding of the world around us, to either the very big or very small physical world.

    Are these all the known and possible definitions for God?
    Last edited: May 7, 2003
  17. May 7, 2003 #16
    This is besides the issue.

    If I claim the existence of for instance a planet orbiting a certain star, which thus far is not backed up by any observational evidence, it could be said that the claim is not proven.

    But this does not contradict the fact that we talk here about a category of existence which is material.

    Which is quite different then the claim that a planet exist in my imagination (having vivid imagination I could even think of the existence of intelligent beings there, the possibility that they have visited earth, etc), circuiting the same star.

    Because then the planet from it's definition has existence only in the mind, and not outside of that.

    I am not investigating the 'proof of God', I merely try to find out, from the (formal) definition of that entity, to what category of existence it would belong.

    I could for instance have my own definition of God, and state that God is the material world beyond the comprehension of the human mind.
    From that definition, it would place God into the realms of material existence. Further it follows from the definition that an actual proof for the existence of God, is always beyond human reachability, independed of the fact that our understanding and knowledge of the world, can increase without any limit. It's the world beyond human knowledge and comprehension. We have good grounds for stating that such a material reality (the part we do not -yet- have actual knowledge of) actually exists (in the same way as the subatomic particles we now know of, do exist, but were in previous times outside of human knowledge), while at the same time, that is something that can not be directly proven (by definition).
    The basis for our grounds on which we do assume a material reality exists outside our current horizon of knowledge, is because we never witnessed an actual limit to our knowledge, thus far we were always able of acquiring more and deeper understanding of the material world.
    Furher, any concept of a material reality, would need to comprehend of the material world, as having no limit or end, or boundary or edge.
    The "no boundary proposal" (Hawking) is the very minimum, but is in fact a too minimal approach. It still entails a possible beginning of the world in real time, and the possibility of a finite size universe.
    This is not how I think of the material reality, which in my vision, does not have a finite extend. Both space, time and matter are infinite in extend.
    Last edited: May 7, 2003
  18. May 7, 2003 #17
    I think BH was at least partly joking. Whatever the case I agree with you that it is not the issue on the table.
  19. May 7, 2003 #18
    That was probably the intention of the remark.

    Nevertheless, for avoiding misunderstanding, I placed a serious comment on that.
  20. May 7, 2003 #19
    Heusdens, all good and fine then, for as suspected it was largely a jest. I still favor the #5 option posted by Wu Li. Here is the progression I see in this thread;

    1) You wish to put God into some sort of category.
    2) It has become apparent that in order to perform step number one God must first be defined.
    3) There is no definition that will satisfy all of the members here at PF (or anywhere else).

    This is where I give up, and why I favor the Ineffable/mystical ‘category’.
  21. May 7, 2003 #20
    What I wish for, and what can be done, are two seperate things.

    I agree with #2. We can only proceed in this, if some well founded definition is being put forwarded.

    From #3 I would conclude we have to consider, the entity for which we seek a definition, is multiple, i.e. has seperate and distinct definitions, that probably do not match up to one solid defined being.

    So, we can in that case proceed, as if they were seperate entities, each having their respective definitions, and not assume from the fact that people consider it to be part of a same and undividable sub-category of existence under the name of 'God', and proceed for each individual definition.

    Or, and that is maybe what you suggest, consider them all as denoting the same entity, which is however attributed with distinct and seperate definitions. The proceedings then run first into the trouble of making sense of those seperate definitions, which when combined make even less sense as each seperate definition alone, and might even show up as showing both from the inside (from one individual definition) and from the outside (the combination of the seperate definitions) an absurd and confusing case.

    I hold it however, that the seperate definitions that exist and that we so far have come across in this thread, is to be treated as that each entirely denotes and defines the entity, for which we want to discover the category of existence to which it might belong, in full, and that we should simply ignore the fact that distinct and contradictionary definitions exist for this entity, despite the fact that each definitions claims that it is the same entity. This is to say: we treat them as conquerring definitions.

    As a sidetrack, it might be worthwhile to find out where each definition originates from, and so, and further if something relevant can be said about the development of such definitions.
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