God and metaphysics

God and metaphysics
aphrodite
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Posted Jun 3, 2013 - 3:16 AM:
Subject: God and metaphysics
In this post I aim not to argue for or against the existence of a god, but merely to offer insight as to the construction thereof; namely, to illustrate how the properties of these deities mirror our conception of ourselves and of the world.

Part 1

The novel Ishmael popularized the idea of God as an anthropomorphic construction and a means for man to worship himself through the misty mirror of the heavens. Like Narcissus, man fell in love a flawless figure without realizing he
was merely gazing at his own imperfect reflection.

When Eve grabbed the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the novel goes, she imbibed not just its sweet nectars, but divine knowledge of good and evil. With all this knowledge (knowledge is power), man faced unprecedented responsibility; he henceforth was to be the supreme moralizer, guardian, governor of Earth. And in this task, man forgot his place in the hierarchy of things: in possessing everything, commanding everything, man became everything. He forgot that he originally just consumed the seed of truth; he allowed this seed to prosper, flourish, asexually reproduce within himself until its vines had surrounded his soul. Man's assessment of his own affairs (the superego, in other words) was evermore commingled with his essence; and as the mere existence of this ghastly child wasn't sufficient, man granted it immortality and worshiped it every week, on Sunday.

Man, in his western ways, forgot that good-evil was simply another term the Egyptians had given to "everything"; he would forever dichotomize actions into two camps, and be forever ashamed of the demons lurking inside him. Christianity calls the darker force "original sin"; the Kaballah goes as far as denying the existence of evil altogether. Dostoevsky states that within beauty, "God and the devil are fighting, and [this] battlefield is the heart of man." Truth, like beauty, is dependent upon the existence of each; Buddhism, as well, claims they're inseparable. The world would be horrendously boring, Alan Watts says, filled with sunshine and rainbows; perhaps it would be a playground for little children seized by the reins of My Little Pony, but in the adult novel, conflict is the force that allows for resolution.

Yet, to say that a certain degree of relativism approves a moral nihilism would be remiss; in The Picture of Dorian Gray, the body and soul of a man pure of character are severed: one is grafted to the namesake portrait; the fairer part conducts the motions of a life. A life of a man never satisfied and driven to excess, the deranged, and death - he idealizes a suicide as an art piece, and commits two murders - of his dear friend, and of himself, by stabbing the portrait that begot him.

...

Part 2

The type of god described above is the resultant of one metaphysically realist outlook on the world. Experiences and perceptions are digested directly, and no attempt is made either to reconcile or completely obviate the connection between man and the divine.

Let's, now, look at a few other religions. Buddhists believe that the circle of life revolves within a special sort of cycle, a cycle of endless deaths and rebirths (or some variant on this theme; the incarnations need not all be material), that culminates in a higher understanding and escape from this world when the consciousness of the person or entity reaches a certain state. The world is not interpreted with complete skepticism, as say Hume realizes it, but with the sense that no experience can or should be seen at face value. Everything is a god that has concealed itself in one manifestation or another. Buddhism, and the overlapping philosophy of pantheism, are subsets of metaphysical idealism.

Kant also was of this philosophy, but instead of believing in a world of its own behind/beyond this one he prescribed the reality of god in merely a pragmatic sense; he reasoned that to live fully as moral creatures, a higher plane that allowed for perfection of these morals was necessary.

Plato had a similar ideology, but with the Form of the Good as his governing mechanism or idol. In order for a pursuit of justice to be rendered worthwhile, it was necessary for a pure and all-good god to exist who was, himself, just; who couldn't be bribed. Yet, unlike the metaphysical idealists, he believed that objects in the world of the senses have direct veracity; their existence isn't merely symbolic of another order, but a counterpart to the symbolic nature of the Platonic idealism by which they are described. One basic object, the form of the good, exists, that precedes his other basic forms, that then precede the existence of the worldly objects that embody those forms. The whole comes before the parts, a doctrine called priority monism.

Metaphysical positivists sympathize with the empirical edge of science and Occam's razor, and say that nothing exists which cannot be observed by eye or microscope.

All of these worldviews, covering the basic metaphysical stances - realism, idealism, monism, positivism - inform our awareness of what form a god may take. Our notion of god - perhaps through perceptual limitation, perhaps through human arrogance - walks in stride with our understanding of the world.

On Jun 3, 2013 - 6:44 AM, mayor of simpleton responded: "Placebo and redundancy"... possibly another name for the thread?
Gen11
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Posted Jun 3, 2013 - 7:08 AM:


...the overlapping philosophy of pantheism, are subsets of metaphysical idealism.


I might agree, yet there are elements of pragmatism that enter here, as well as a knowing of ones possible ignorance in such matters.

Hence I don't think it would be quite right to assume the implied claim that "Humans create a notion of god", rather than "a human can only perceive a notion of god from the human experience."


'The Ravenous Bugbeast of Traal', perceives is notion of god from its experience...


Indeed, this allows for the atheist, agnostic position(s) as well within its construction, since there may be entities that have never been exposed to the meme. Or have a connotation of the/a meme that is non-human, or otherwise constructed differentially.

I would posit, that in asking questions about 'god' you are really asking the questions of spirituality in general; that which be sacred. It just so happens that this forum is of the western schools of thought and is using the word God.

To be frank, the wealth of oriental and naturalistic perspectives is myriad beyond the scope of what has so far been expressed.
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Posted Jun 3, 2013 - 8:23 PM:

aphrodite wrote:

All of these worldviews, covering the basic metaphysical stances - realism, idealism, monism, positivism - inform our awareness of what form a god may take. Our notion of god - perhaps through perceptual limitation, perhaps through human arrogance - walks in stride with our understanding of the world.



Well, this was Herclitus' view ("if donkey's had gods, the gods would have long ears"), as well as Heidegger's (ontotheology). Needless to say, the post-structuralist would subsume God into discourse and the institutions of power, while indicating that God creates a new useful discourse for institutions and helps them use their power. What point are you trying to make with this?
On Jun 3, 2013 - 11:40 PM, prothero responded: Perhaps the point that as our understanding of the world changes, our conceptions of God must/should change also?
aphrodite
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Posted Jun 4, 2013 - 4:11 AM:

Landru Guide Us wrote:

Well, this was Herclitus' view ("if donkey's had gods, the gods would have long ears"), as well as Heidegger's (ontotheology). Needless to say, the post-structuralist would subsume God into discourse and the institutions of power, while indicating that God creates a new useful discourse for institutions and helps them use their power. What point are you trying to make with this?

On 06/04/13 - 12:40 AM, prothero responded: Perhaps the point that as our understanding of the world changes, our conceptions of God must/should change also?


Yes. There's a dissonance between our moral transience and fallibility and the impermanence and perfection we ascribe to the divine. As long as this veil lingers between the two, we cannot fully comprehend the human meaning and truth behind our notions of god, or reconcile ourselves with the images we have constructed. As we see both ourselves and God through the same lens, attributing qualities to God we don't believe we possess seems like projection - projecting our ideal onto a piece of sky or stream or a shine that we will then revere and emulate. Why can't we just go about it directly?

That's not to say that we should deconstruct the notion of God altogether, but I believe we have to uncouple it from our perceptions of ourselves for it to have any meaning.

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Posted Jun 4, 2013 - 7:41 PM:

aphrodite wrote:


Yes. There's a dissonance between our moral transience and fallibility and the impermanence and perfection we ascribe to the divine. As long as this veil lingers between the two, we cannot fully comprehend the human meaning and truth behind our notions of god, or reconcile ourselves with the images we have constructed. As we see both ourselves and God through the same lens, attributing qualities to God we don't believe we possess seems like projection - projecting our ideal onto a piece of sky or stream or a shine that we will then revere and emulate. Why can't we just go about it directly?

That's not to say that we should deconstruct the notion of God altogether, but I believe we have to uncouple it from our perceptions of ourselves for it to have any meaning.



This is certainly at odds with existential Christianity (which I sort of favor), and the idea of God as "wholly other" to use Bultmann. I have to say I rather rely on the otherness of God to understand the value of the gospel, since without it we appear to be trapped in the self, which I take to be the existential problem Christianity really addresses or at least ought to address.
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Posted Jun 5, 2013 - 1:27 AM:

Landru Guide Us wrote:


This is certainly at odds with existential Christianity (which I sort of favor), and the idea of God as "wholly other" to use Bultmann. I have to say I rather rely on the otherness of God to understand the value of the gospel, since without it we appear to be trapped in the self, which I take to be the existential problem Christianity really addresses or at least ought to address.



What is existential Christianity, exactly? Is it the philosophy Kierkegaard espoused?

In terms of a fractured sense of Self and Other, though, I share your views. I don't think, however, that what is "wholly other" must be God; it can be the world, or it can be the person sitting at the other end of the table. Lacan proposed a similar philosophy: he said that the original form of existence, the Real, precedes language but is fully absorbed in unity. Through learning language (a metaphor for realizing social structure, laws, "I am not him, we are separate people" identity), we lose that sense of oneness; to reacquire that sense, we attempt to merge with the other.

However, Lacan is a pessimist about the fruition of that enterprise; he says that language is an insufficient tool for reaching what we want (yet we can't unlearn it), and further, that Eros (one of the drives, perhaps the primary one for assimilation) is rooted too deeply within the Imaginary template of Self for it ever to be fully externalized.

Perhaps the divine is the solution to Lacan's dilemma, I'm not sure.


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Posted Jun 5, 2013 - 5:45 AM:


The novel Ishmael popularized the idea of God as an anthropomorphic construction and a means for man to worship himself through the misty mirror of the heavens. Like Narcissus, man fell in love a flawless figure without realizing he
was merely gazing at his own imperfect reflection.

Great ideas. This is very on target.



He forgot that he originally just consumed the seed of truth; he allowed this seed to prosper, flourish, asexually reproduce within himself until its vines had surrounded his soul. Man's assessment of his own affairs (the superego, in other words) was evermore commingled with his essence; and as the mere existence of this ghastly child wasn't sufficient, man granted it immortality and worshiped it every week, on Sunday.

Excellent imagery. Great prose.



Man, in his western ways, forgot that good-evil was simply another term the Egyptians had given to "everything"; he would forever dichotomize actions into two camps, and be forever ashamed of the demons lurking inside him. Christianity calls the darker force "original sin"; the Kaballah goes as far as denying the existence of evil altogether.

This is very interesting. You should go into more depth here.



Yet, to say that a certain degree of relativism approves a moral nihilism would be remiss; in The Picture of Dorian Gray, the body and soul of a man pure of character are severed: one is grafted to the namesake portrait; the fairer part conducts the motions of a life. A life of a man never satisfied and driven to excess, the deranged, and death - he idealizes a suicide as an art piece, and commits two murders - of his dear friend, and of himself, by stabbing the portrait that begot him.

I didn't know that that's what happened in that book. Sounds really exciting.



Buddhism, and the overlapping philosophy of pantheism, are subsets of metaphysical idealism.

I'm a pantheist.



Kant also was of this philosophy, but instead of believing in a world of its own behind/beyond this one he prescribed the reality of god in merely a pragmatic sense; he reasoned that to live fully as moral creatures, a higher plane that allowed for perfection of these morals was necessary.

I think Kant might have been a closet atheist. If you read his Groundwork for a metaphysics of morals he seemingly just throws in a sentence about Christ the holy one for no reason, it really looks like he's just doing it to satisfy the authorities. Plus in the Critique of Pure Reason he argues against all the traditional arguments for God and instead just puts its faith in blind faith which I don't think a man as devoted to reason as Kant would do. But ultimately I don't like Kant. He's mostly gibberish.



Plato had a similar ideology, but with the Form of the Good as his governing mechanism or idol. In order for a pursuit of justice to be rendered worthwhile, it was necessary for a pure and all-good god to exist who was, himself, just; who couldn't be bribed. Yet, unlike the metaphysical idealists, he believed that objects in the world of the senses have direct veracity; their existence isn't merely symbolic of another order, but a counterpart to the symbolic nature of the Platonic idealism by which they are described. One basic object, the form of the good, exists, that precedes his other basic forms, that then precede the existence of the worldly objects that embody those forms. The whole comes before the parts, a doctrine called priority monism.

You might also want to point out that Plato believed in a sort of demiurge that tries his best to order intractable matter into a world. This is laid out in the Timeaus. A very bizarre work. It was popular in the Middle Ages. They probably thought much of it was true and they ate up being as gullible as they were.



Our notion of god - perhaps through perceptual limitation, perhaps through human arrogance - walks in stride with our understanding of the world.


Well, surely the urge to anthropomorphize God is a strong impulse. We want God to be like us, something we can relate to. It's difficult to say whether this urge will ever go away. All in all though a really strong essay, great prose, very exciting read.
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Posted Jun 5, 2013 - 4:26 PM:

aphrodite wrote:


What is existential Christianity, exactly? Is it the philosophy Kierkegaard espoused?

In terms of a fractured sense of Self and Other, though, I share your views. I don't think, however, that what is "wholly other" must be God; it can be the world, or it can be the person sitting at the other end of the table. Lacan proposed a similar philosophy: he said that the original form of existence, the Real, precedes language but is fully absorbed in unity. Through learning language (a metaphor for realizing social structure, laws, "I am not him, we are separate people" identity), we lose that sense of oneness; to reacquire that sense, we attempt to merge with the other.

However, Lacan is a pessimist about the fruition of that enterprise; he says that language is an insufficient tool for reaching what we want (yet we can't unlearn it), and further, that Eros (one of the drives, perhaps the primary one for assimilation) is rooted too deeply within the Imaginary template of Self for it ever to be fully externalized.

Perhaps the divine is the solution to Lacan's dilemma, I'm not sure.




I would define existential Christianity as the reinterpretation of the gospel (and the various supplements to the gospel narrative in the form of doctrinal theology) that arose in the wake of Heidegger's existentialsim, and in particular the writings of Bultmann and Jean-Luc Marion (his "God Without Being" being the most interesting example). Though I think the post-structuralists contributed something to it, especially the later "religious" writings of Foucault, where he looked at Christianity as a technology of the self, and Derrida's difficult The Gift of Death.

Your knowledge of Lacan is clearly more extensive than mine, which is limited to his exchanges with Derrida over The Seminar on The Purloined Letter (and I would take Derrida's side on that). But I would agree that the transformation beyond the self is what the gospels are ultimately about, and the core of Christianity's notion of grace.
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