The Cognitive Unintelligibility Of God


#1

If God is the independent creator of the substantially material and monistic universe, then God is purely metaphysical and cannot be perceived, nor known empirically, by us because of it’s intangibility. God would be an incomprehensible entity, forever obscured to anything with a finite, cognitive capacity. Therefore, I contend that no one is able to believe in God because of the fact that no one knows what God is. If one does not know what God is, then one cannot believe in God, for in order to believe that something exists, one must first know what it is that they are believing to exist. Can a man who does not know what a, “FGTYR,” is, believe that a, “FGTYR,” exists? And, if a, “FGTYR,” is beyond human comprehension, can it be described meaningfully through an analogy with something tangible?

Analogies and negations are useful tools for elucidating a known concept, however, they are only useful insofar as the concept is known. A negation can never be useful for describing God, as saying what God is not, does not tell you what God is. And, similarly, an analogy is only valid insofar as it is able to refer to something known.


#2
  • If one does not know what God is, then one cannot believe in God, for in order to believe that something exists, one must first know what it is that they are believing to exist.*

One does not need to know something ‘perfectly’ in all of its details to surmise its existence.

What about the empirical fact that people do believe in God?


#3

A man would know what an “FYTGR” was if the “FYTGR” revealed itself to him. Our faith is based upon divine revelation and not empirical science. God reveals to us as much as we need to know (His will be done). Of course we cannot “take-in” or phathom the entirity of God. Those with no Fatih will never accept God’s plan or the Incarnation. (incarnation = God among us as Man, - how much more “real” could he be to us?)

(see Frank Sheed’s “Theology and Sanity” for a very good study of the nature of God as revealed to creation)


#4

God would be completely unknowable unless he revealed himself in an intelligible way which can be adequately (but not completely) grasped by human minds. This is exactly what Christianity claims for itself, that God revealed himself through Scripture and the Church.


#5

[quote=bwv 1080]God would be completely unknowable unless he revealed himself in an intelligible way which can be adequately (but not completely) grasped by human minds. This is exactly what Christianity claims for itself, that God revealed himself through Scripture and the Church.
[/quote]

Catholic theology teaches that God is, to some extent, knowable even without revelation.


#6

[quote=squirt]* If one does not know what God is, then one cannot believe in God, for in order to believe that something exists, one must first know what it is that they are believing to exist.*

One does not need to know something ‘perfectly’ in all of its details to surmise its existence.

What about the empirical fact that people do believe in God?
[/quote]

I’m not sure that I correctly understand your question, however, you are correct in that we are not able to perceive physical entities for what they actually are, but rather we perceive an approximated version of the whole truth. For instance, modern physics tells us that we perceive 1/100,000,000 of reality; that’s a frightening figure, I know. Nonetheless, the fact remains that we are able to perceive parts of reality --parts of the whole truth-- and we therefore know of the existence of macro-scopic entities which are a significant part of our everyday lives. However, this is wholly unlike God, in that God is assumed to be purely metaphysical and incomprehensible, which would essentially make God unperceivable (inappreciable) to us. Thus, it is impossible to know God empirically, and just as impossible to believe that God exists. That is my arguement, and hopefully it should accurately answer your question.


#7

Hi James,

I was basically asking what you made of the fact that many people do believe in God.

There are lots of things that are proposed for belief in science that are incomprehensible in the sense that we can’t imagine them based on our experience. String theory with a world of more than 10 dimensions for example. Can you imagine 10 dimensions?

Empiricism, of course, is not the only route to knowledge.

We can look at ourselves and realize that we ‘are.’ Being is intelligible to us. And many theists think of God as just that: pure ‘be-ing.’

squirt

ps Thanks for starting this thread. Very interesting topic! :thumbsup:


#8

Take the time to read it. The answers are all there:

How God is known by us

Justin


#9

The poison of nominalism and the cure

Justin


#10

James,

I’m planning on working on this thread starting next week … you’d be more than welcome to join in and give your perspective on the arguments.

Some Summa for the Summer Time


#11

[quote=squirt]Hi James,

I was basically asking what you made of the fact that many people do believe in God.

There are lots of things that are proposed for belief in science that are incomprehensible in the sense that we can’t imagine them based on our experience. String theory with a world of more than 10 dimensions for example. Can you imagine 10 dimensions?

ps Thanks for starting this thread. Very interesting topic! :thumbsup:
[/quote]

Hmm. . . . Well, it seems reasonable to me that people who claim to believe in God, do not actually believe in God, at least not in the ordinary sense of the word ‘believe’, but rather believe in a particular way of living, namely, the life of a christian, and all that goes with it. Accordingly, when I hear people assert that they believe in God, I take it rather as a typical expression, and nothing more. To me, it is as if they are saying, “How amazing it is that there should be existence.” I think that the extraordinary belief in God, is really just a sign of bewilderment and confusion in regards to the cosmology of the universe. That’s my two cents.

And, yes, there are many things discovered through science that cannot be fathomed. For instance, we cannot conceive of the sub-atomic reality, however, we know that it is there since we are able to experience it indirectly and not within itself.


#12

[quote=James Kanatous]Hmm. . . . Well, it seems reasonable to me that people who claim to believe in God, do not actually believe in God, at least not in the ordinary sense of the word ‘believe’, but rather believe in a particular way of living, namely, the life of a christian, and all that goes with it.
[/quote]

hmmm … except for going to Church a lot and believing in God, the day-to-day life I lead as a Christian isn’t all that much different from my decades as an atheist …


#13

[quote=James Kanatous]And, yes, there are many things discovered through science that cannot be fathomed. For instance, we cannot conceive of the sub-atomic reality, however, we know that it is there since we are able to experience it indirectly and not within itself.
[/quote]

Actually, don’t we posit (as opposed to know) that it is there as it provides a very useful model with predictive power? As far as I know it is still hypotheically falsifiable, although very likely to be true.


#14

[quote=squirt]hmmm … except for going to Church a lot and believing in God, the day-to-day life I lead as a Christian isn’t all that much different from my decades as an atheist …
[/quote]

Of course it is not, for in both philosophies there is a fundamental lack of belief in God. Again, I contend that no one knows what the term God signifies. Accordingly, niether a theist, nor an atheist, can believe in God.


#15

[quote=James Kanatous]Of course it is not, for in both philosophies there is a fundamental lack of belief in God. Again, I contend that no one knows what the term God signifies. Accordingly, niether a theist, nor an atheist, can believe in God.
[/quote]

Theism ain’t a philosophy. Neither is atheism.

Different philosophies have implications as to whether or not theism is a viable position, but theism ain’t a philosophy.


#16

[quote=squirt]Actually, don’t we posit (as opposed to know) that it is there as it provides a very useful model with predictive power? As far as I know it is still hypotheically falsifiable, although very likely to be true.
[/quote]

That is a good point. We cannot know what a graviton is, though we can posit the existence of an unperceivable sub-atomic reality, which again, cannot be conceived.


#17

[quote=squirt]Theism ain’t a philosophy. Neither is atheism.

Different philosophies have implications as to whether or not theism is a viable position, but theism ain’t a philosophy.
[/quote]

Philosophy:

  1. philosophy **examination of basic concepts: **the branch of knowledge or academic study devoted to the systematic examination of basic concepts such as truth, existence, reality, causality, and freedom

  2. philosophy **system of thought: **a particular system of thought or doctrine

  3. philosophy **guiding or underlying principles: **a set of basic principles or concepts underlying a particular sphere of knowledge

  4. **set of beliefs or aims: **a precept, or set of precepts, beliefs, principles, or aims, underlying somebody’s practice or conduct

  5. **calm resignation: **restraint, resignation, or calmness and rationality in a person’s behavior or response to events

  6. education **the liberal arts: **the branch of learning that includes the liberal arts and sciences and excludes medicine, law, and theology ( archaic )

[14th century. Via Old French* filosofie from, ultimately, Greek* philosophia , from philosophos * “philosopher”

According to this definition, theism is a philosophy, since it is a set of beliefs which aim at explaining the fundamental principles of life. Similarly, atheism is a philosophy as well.


#18

I would argue that the terms theism and atheism are way too broad to be called philosophies under any of those categories … but maybe it’s just semantics …

ps … in case you don’t read Latin, my sig says:

“If you understand it, it isn’t God.” Kind of interesting, given the topic here. :hmmm:


#19

[quote=squirt]I would argue that the terms theism and atheism are way too broad to be called philosophies under any of those categories … but maybe it’s just semantics …
[/quote]

I honestly think it is just a difference in semantics; we have the same idea, essentially.


#20

A few comments about this philosophy question:
I believe I agree with squirt…that theism and atheism are too broad to each be considered a philosophy. For instance, some theists could be empiricists in that they believe all that they hold true should be empirically proven, and perhaps the proofs for Jesus’ resurrection and other various miracles is sufficient evidence to warrant a belief in God. Others, I’m sure, just believe in God for no reason at all. Athiests, for instance, might be complete relativists who believe no truth exists at all, while others might be naturalists who believe that some truth exists but only that which can be perceived by the senses.

So I don’t know if that actually has any importance in this discussion, but I thought I’d throw my two cents in on that.

As far as a belief in God goes…couldn’t God be seen as a posited explanation for the universe? For instance, there are the classic Scholastic arguments by cosmology, causality, morality, etc (with some updated variations to them) that indicate that God exists. Now I would imagine that James might reply by saying: “Sure, sure but my point still stands because you don’t know anything about this metaphysical God, and therefore, you’re not really believing in anything.”

But I think the importance of the classic “proofs” for God is their role in the calculation of an antecedent probability that God raised Jesus from the dead on the first Easter Sunday (if you have no clue what I’m talking about here we should talk about this in more detail).

I don’t know how familiar everyone here is familiar with the proofs for the Resurrection but they are very convincing in my opinion. I think they are rendered even more convincing by taking into account the probable existence of this metaphysical God.

If Jesus truly was God made flesh, then he truly could have given the Apostles some knowledge of the true God. Granted, this is nowhere near complete knowledge, but I have nowhere near complete knowledge of anyone on this forum but I do believe (justifiably) that you all actually exist and that my belief is about a real you. What is interesting too is that if Jesus really were God made flesh, then the words that the prophets were told by the Spirit of God must also be true. The prophets also, then, give us real knowledge of what this metaphysical God is like.

And finally, if this metaphysical God Incarnate did establish this Church on Earth, we can also know him through Her.


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