Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Can God Have an Identity?


This was a post on Debucking Christianity's blog comment section. It's by Robert Bumblaough, who apparently is an objectivity. The argument essentially tries to say that God can't have an identity and be infinite at the same time, because by its very nature an identity is limiting and thus finite.

5:11 PM, April 06, 2009

8:13 PM, April 06, 2009
Blogger J.L. Hinman said...

But it is quite easy to prove gods alleged to be both personal beings and infinite in scope cannot exist.

That which is self contradictory can no more exist or occur than can a square circle. Consider this very ancient (and true) argument against the Abrahamic theistic GOD.

Here is the way he lays out the argument.

1.To be GOD, YAHWEH must be an ontological person that is infinite in scope.

2.To be an ontological person is to have a specific identity.

3.To have a specific identity is to necessarily be finite.

4.YAHWEH has a specific identity.

5.YAHWEH therefore is necessarily finite and cannot be infinite.

6.By modus tollens from 1 and 5, YAHWEH cannot be GOD as it cannot both be infinite and finite.

to this I responded: Meta:
question begging: all this proves is that if we accept you premise about identity having to be finite, and you have not proved that, then the litrary place hold (metaphor) used to represent God in the Bible would be impossible as an actual entity, but so what?

In addition to that response I would point that the argument hinges upon #3 "To have a specific identity is to necessarily be finite." That depends of course upon what one means by "a specific identity." I would say first that the very premise is arbitrary, no reason is offered as to why this would be true. Moreover, it's assuming the big man in the sky, that God has the kind of identity I have. I am the identity I have because I am one of many.I am the particular person that I am as opposed to all the others. God is unique. He is not one of many he's only one of his kind. Thus that in itself creates an identity but a much different kind than we have.

One might ask why being infinite would not give God an identity.

12:39 PM, April 07, 2009
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Mr. Hinman: Thank you for your response. I hope you will learn something from communicating with me.

I like humble people. It's always good to see someone ho doesn't have an overinflated sense of ego.

By way of defense of the very ancient argument against personal theistic gods that are imagined as being infinite in scope, I will address your points.

But it is quite easy to prove gods alleged to be both personal beings and infinite in scope cannot exist. That which is self contradictory can no more exist or occur than can a square circle. Consider this very ancient (and true) argument against the Abrahamic theistic GOD.

JLH:(Meta) (what I said on DC)
that is so irrational. what's contradictory about it? Just your arbitrary notion.

all he's done so far is establish that contradictory things can't exist. I'm on board with that but that actually helps my God arguments but it doesn't tell me why an identity can't be infinite.

He then goes into a long diatribe about Ayn Rand:

Ayn Rand wrote: “Rationality is man’s basic virtue, the source of all his other virtues. Man’s basic vice, the source of all his evils, is the act of unfocusing his mind, the suspension of his consciousness, which is not blindness, but the refusal to see, not ignorance, but the refusal to know. Irrationality is the rejection of man’s means of survival and, therefore, a commitment to a course of blind destruction; that which is anti-mind, is anti-life.

She's going to link mystical theology with the irrational because it doesn't pamper her ego or support her selfishness. She turned vice into virtue and scrapped real virtue and made it a vice. So for her being good to the other is evil. If I'm right about God being love and the basic motivation for creating being teh desire to create the good of the other that would make Rand about the most evil person who ever existed.

It's utterly ignorant to link mysticism with irrationality. Reinhold Neibuhr said that mysticism is the ultimate form of ratioanlity.It's Also very ignorant to understand mysticism as "unfocussing."

The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action. It means one’s total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one’s waking hours. It means a commitment to the fullest perception of reality within one’s power and to the constant, active expansion of one’s perception, i.e., of one’s knowledge. It means a commitment to the reality of one’s own existence, i.e., to the principle that all of one’s goals, values and actions take place in reality and, therefore, that one must never place any value or consideration whatsoever above one’s perception of reality. It means a commitment to the principle that all of one’s convictions, values, goals, desires and actions must be based on, derived from, chosen and validated by a process of thought—as precise and scrupulous a process of thought, directed by as ruthlessly strict an application of logic, as one’s fullest capacity permits. It means one’s acceptance of the responsibility of forming one’s own judgments and of living by the work of one’s own mind (which is the virtue of Independence). It means that one must never sacrifice one’s convictions to the opinions or wishes of others (which is the virtue of Integrity)—that one must never attempt to fake reality in any manner (which is the virtue of Honesty)—that one must never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit (which is the virtue of Justice). It means that one must never desire effects without causes, and that one must never enact a cause without assuming full responsibility for its effects—that one must never act like a zombie, i.e., without knowing one’s own purposes and motives—that one must never make any decisions, form any convictions or seek any values out of context, i.e., apart from or against the total, integrated sum of one’s knowledge—and, above all, that one must never seek to get away with contradictions. It means the rejection of any form of mysticism, i.e., any claim to some nonsensory, nonrational, nondefinable, supernatural source of knowledge. It means a commitment to reason, not in sporadic fits or on selected issues or in special emergencies, but as a permanent way of life.” - The Virtue of Selfishness “The Objectivist Ethics,” p.440.

I assume he's quoting this extremely ignorant hog wash to demonstrate the basis of what identity is. But in reality Rand new nothing about individuality. Her views on what makes one an individual bear the resemblance to real thinking that Superman comics bear to Nietzsche. This clap trap demonstrates nothing but that Rand was a third rate thinker.

(1) The real philosopher of the self was Kierkegaard.

(2) Like Jesus Kierkegaard says we must lose ourselves to find who we are.

(3) This is what Rand feared most: she feared not getting to sin.Her philosophy is a vain excuse to laud her sinful desires and to condemn the condemnation she felt for being selfish and hateful.

(4) The sophisticated view of the self understands that true self hood is founding giving, not in taking. It's is when we renounce our selfishness that we truly find our real desires and discover our real identity. that is the paradox of Jesus' dictum about death of self. This what Rynd fears. She can't allow herself to give.

Since rationality entails rejection of mysticism and mysticism includes equating infinity with finitude, to be rational then precludes accepting the dishonest notion that infinite quantity or scope can be finite and have identity. The reason why it is contradictory for a personal being to occur as infinite in scope is as Leonard Peikoff wrote.

The view the says mysticism is opposed to rationality is a comic understanding of mysticism. This is the basis upon which the arguemnt turns, the link between identity and finitude, and it's based upon Rand's fear of losing self and not getting what she wanted. It's based upon one of the most basic misunderstandings of mysticism.

Here he tries defining the nature of the problem:

“‘Infinite’ do not mean large; it means larger than any specific quantity, i.e.: of no specific quantity. An infinite quantity would be a quantity without identity. But A is A. Every entity, accordingly, is finite; it is limited in the number of its qualities and in their extent; this applies to the universe as well. As Aristotle was the first to observe, the concept of ‘infinity’ denotes merely a potentiality of indefinite addition or subdivision. For example, one can continually subdivide a line; but however many segments one has reached at a given point, there are only that many and no more. The actual is always finite.”- “Objectivism: The Philosphy of Ayn Rand”, p.31, by Leonard Peikoff

But of course he's assuming that God has to have the sort of "identity" that a man has. This is merely a mistake based upon literlizing the metaphor and assume that God is a big man in the sky. There is no logical reason why infinite nature of being itself can't be the source consciousness, but not be construed as "conscious" in the sense of a human with personality hang ups and problems and the fixed sense of being "I" as opposed to "though." He's just writing the subject/object dichotomy large in the nature of the universe. God transcendent that dichotomy and is thus capable of being both and thou at the same time.

Here Rand's dreaded mysticism is a perfect answer to this point. The mystic learns the illusory nature of I and thou, he learns that it's all one thing; the undifferentiated unity of all thing is what the mystic discovers in the mystical consciousness. So what we can take from that is the fluid nature of God's union. That God can be both I and thou at the same time.

Another possibility is the Berkeley-Gasswami thing. If the world is a thought in the mind of God, God can be infinite relative to us, yet finite relative to himself and all things beyond the reality we know.

RB draws upon George H. Smith (a big wig in atheist circles from the time before the internet) to ground is argument:

This view was further buttressed by George H. Smith . The following is paraphrased from his book.

exist is to exist as something. To be something is to have a specific nature. That is to have a particular identity. The Laws of Identity A=A and Non-Contradiction A =/= A entail that any ontological being must posses specific determinate characteristics. To have such characteristics is a consequence of being part of nature ..... Having specific determinate characteristics imposes limits, and those limits would restrict the capacities of the .... being. Such restriction then renders the .... being subject to the causal relationships that denote the uniformity of nature in actual existence ....] - “Atheism: The Case Against God.”, p.41 (paraphrasing), by George H. Smith

His point is still arbitrary, he offers no evidence to support it except his own understanding of the term. He's also basing his views upon the notion of human individuality rather than kind of real theological view of God. Paul Tillich offers the obvious answer to this argument in his understanding of God as the ground of being. God is not an individual thing, not just a another thing in the universe, but the category of being itself. Does this mean he has no identity? In the sense of being an individual man yes. but there is no reason to assume that is the Christian view. Tillich didn't think it was.

"To be something is to have a specific identity." But that assumes you are talking about an individual object. God has an identity as the ground of being without being an individual entity.

Thus existence necessitates harmony and consonance with the uniformity of nature. To be subject to causality is to operate in harmony with the nature of existence. Causality is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature. But to occur infinitely in scope negates the necessity of the Law of Identity. Consequently, the notion of God is self-contradictory. This is true in Objective reality and hence is in no way arbitrary.

This statement demonstrates a host of ignorant assumptions that don't squre with basic Christian theology. Now of course you wouldn't expect them to, the problem is the purport to describe the God Christians believe in. So they don't squire with what Christians believe and thus they can't be used as arguments against the Christian concept. For example existence requires harmony with nature, but that applies onto to an object along side other objects in creation. God transcends that category completely.

God is being itself, not an individual existing thing. Existence is what contingencies have, being is what necessity has. "Actions are caused by entities' that's there to demand that God has to be an entity. But it's ignorant it' not true. Causality has nothing to with being an entity. The production of the beings by being need not entail God actually "making things" like a big toy maker in the sky. infinity in scopes contradicts the law of identity, that's nothing more than a refusal to think. There is no evidence that can prove that. That's why he thinks based upon being human. There's no way to know that we can apply that to everything else. Again it assumes a human type of identity.

The reason that he uses that Rand thing about contradicting msyticism is because he knows that mysticism is the to this childish argument. So he wants to get some name calling in so the reader will say "I don't' want to be irrational so i can't believe mystical stuff."

Just another attempt by ignorant people to destroy ideas that are way over their heads.

tomorrow I'll do part 2.


Matt B said...

I like reading your stuff, Metacrock.

J.L. Hinman said...

Well thanks. I appreciate it.

ZAROVE said...

I think the trouble is, the Militant Atheists want to find fault with arguments so create Philosophical constructs that aren't Valid, but sound intelligent.

THis is no different from the old argument that God cannot have Free Will if he has foreknowledge. The idea is that if you know the future you cannot make choices about hte future. The trouble is, sicne God created said future, the argument is foolish. Besides, foreknowledge is not the same hting as a lack of will.

The conflation of the two though creates the argument they use.

The same is here. they define Identity as being finite. Nothing in Identity actually suggests it is finite, but, they have defined it as such.

Its just trickery base don conflation of terms.

J.L. Hinman said...

sound analysis Zor