Thursday, February 14, 2008

The race is not to the swift

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill, but time and chance happen to them all” (Eccl 9:11).

One of the sobering and fascinating features of life is that you can’t predict how someone will finish the race from how he began. Most of us, especially those of us who belong to the middle class or working class, are aware of the fact that life can be unfair. One of the running themes of Scripture is the way in which the rich and powerful frequently oppress the poor.

But Solomon is making a different point in this verse. He’s approaching the issue from the opposite end of the social spectrum. His point is that even folks who start out with every conceivable advantage may lose the race. And this goes to a more general theme in Scripture regarding the reversal of fortunes: the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

Although Solomon’s observation was made some 3000 years ago, we can observe the same phenomenon today. On the one hand, some folks in life get a head start. They have every advantage, in terms of health, wealth, and education. Yet they fall behind.

On the other hand, there are other folks who must overcome one hurdle after another. And yet they take the lead and win the race.

You can’t tell from how people start out in life how they will end. Timing is everything. Providential timing. As one commentator explains:

“The NIV’s ‘chance’ (pega) is an unhappy choice of translation, since this word connotes an impersonal and random forced, whereas Qohelet is clear throughout the book that human fates lies ultimately in God’s hands, no matter how random and impersonal what befalls us may appear. The verbal form pg means ‘to meet, encounter.’ A pega is simply something we encounter on the path of life—a circumstance or situation over which we have no control,” I. Provan, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs Zondervan 2001), 183n2.

We might illustrate this principle by the path of two different sons: Bill Murray and Frank Schaeffer. Both have written tell-all memories about their famous parents.

Along similar lines is the biography of Bertrand Russell by her only daughter: My Father, Bertrand Russell, by Katherine Tait.

Before I discuss the specifics, I’d like to say something about tell-all memoirs. From a Christian standpoint, is this appropriate?

As a rule, I think that families are entitled to a measure of privacy from the prying eyes of the outside world. A family should be a place where we can let down our guard. Where we don’t have to watch our back. That’s where we’re most vulnerable. This is also true for friendships. As a rule, I think it’s a betrayal of trust to broadcast this material to the outside world.

Frank Schaeffer justifies his policy on the grounds of candor. And, up to a point, candor is a good thing. But we need to qualify that virtue. For one thing, I have more right to be candid about myself than I have to be candid about the faults of another, like a mother or sister or father or brother or my best friend.

And while candor is a virtue, so is discretion. There are times when it’s admirable to cover for someone else. By that I don’t mean we should lie for them. But there’s a big difference between telling lies and keeping secrets. It’s a breach of confidence to divulge embarrassing details about the private life of a friend or family member in the name of candor. To humiliate them for all to see. Make a public spectacle of every little indignity.

There needs to be a special justification for violating someone’s private life in this way—especially someone who’s close to us, someone we should treat with reverence and respect. Part of friendship is a concern to protect your friend’s reputation, unless there’s an overriding obligation to the contrary.

However, some people do this to themselves. Some people are famous because they seek the public eye. They hanker to be celebrities. They may even take the initiative in publicizing their private lives. In that case, they’re not entitled to the same degree of privacy, although it may still be none of my business how they conduct their sordid little lives.

On the other hand, some people are famous in spite of themselves. They may be famous because they’re born to famous parents. They may resent their fishbowl existence. They may try their best to avoid the paparazzi. These people are entitled to privacy.

Schaeffer not only talks about his parents, but his siblings and in-laws. What did they ever do to ask for that exposure?

It also depends on what you’re famous for. In some cases, the message is inseparable from the messenger. Both Bertrand Russell and Madelyn Murray-O’Hair took the position that religion was the problem, not the solution. Original sin wasn’t the source of the problem. Just the opposite: belief in original sin was the source of the problem. Atheism was liberating. As soon as we learn to cast off these guilt-feelings and Victorian hang-ups, we will lead happy, healthy lives.

In that case, the mismatch between their hortatory words and their miserable lives is a test of their words. What was the practical result of their emancipation from all things Christian?

It’s not quite the same thing in the case of Christian celebrities. For the message of the Gospel is not that if you become a Christian, you will lead a frictionless existence.

There is also a difference between the failings of a charlatan and failings of true believer. We ought to discredit a religious charlatan. He is pretending to be something he’s not, and exploiting others in the process.

But it’s quite possible fall short of an ideal you sincerely believe in. That is not synonymous with hypocrisy.

There are folks who turn to Christianity because they’re morally flawed. They’re acutely aware of their besetting sins. That’s why the embrace the gospel. They hear the gospel talking about them.

The very titles of the books by Frank Schaeffer and Bill Murray are revealing: Crazy for God v. My Life Without God.

Murray and Schaeffer began at opposite ends of the theological spectrum, and they traded places. Murray ended up where Schaeffer began, while Schaeffer ended up where Murray began.

To judge by this article, Schaeffer has completed his journey from faith to infidelity:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/the-huckabee-win-is-ameri_b_80150.html

I’ve read Murray’s book. I haven’t read Schaeffer’s. I’ve read Schaeffer give interviews about his book. One of the justifications that Schaeffer gives for his exposé is that there wasn’t much privacy at L’Abri. This was already out in the open. Other folks who lived and worked at L’Abri can confirm his recollections.

A difficulty with that claim is that Os Guinness, for one, takes issue with Schaeffer’s version of events:

http://www.newstatesman.com/200710250048

So it’s a problem when Schaeffer calls on other folks in the know to confirm his story, only to have a lead witness impeach his credibility. Testimony is a doubled-edged sword.

But let’s assume, for the same of argument, that his account is accurate. What would be the best way to handle this? For one thing, he could point out that his parents made a common mistake: they were so busy saving the world that they neglected their kids. That’s something that needs to be said. A warning to like-minded parents.

Some missionaries can be absentee parents. They warehouse their kids in boarding school while they rescue the perishing. In the meantime, their own kids are perishing for want of proper parenting. That reflects a misguided sense of priorities.

But Schaeffer could have made that point is less than 300 pages. An essay would do.

He could also make the point that his father was preaching to others out of his own spiritual need. Francis Schaeffer was a deeply flawed individual. No one knew that better than Francis Schaeffer. He was preaching from his own experience. From his own desperate need of the gospel. One parched soul offering the water of life to other parched souls. It takes a thirsty man to truly appreciate a cup of cold water. Francis Schaeffer was leading other desert-dwellers to the spiritual oasis he had discovered. As oasis he needed as much as anyone.

The problem with Frank Schaeffer is that, instead of improving on his parent’s example, instead of building on his advantages, his own journey has been spiritually retrograde. He starts with his parents and then goes backward instead of forward.

And one point he converted to the Orthodox church. I guess he’s still a member in good standing. And that wouldn’t be difficult.

The Orthodox church is very tolerant of liberal, Greek-American politicians and apparatchiks like Michael Dukakis, John Podesta, Art Agnos, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Tsongas, Paul Sarbanes, and John Sarbanes. Why were none of these men ever excommunicated for their social views?
Clearly, Christian ethics is a dead letter in Orthodoxy.

Frank Schaeffer has made a career for himself by tearing down everything his mother and father dedicated their lives to. Torching the good they did for others—out of mean-spirited envy.

By contrast, Bill Murray has seen it from the other side. He’s been there. Unlike Frank Schaeffer, Bill Murray has tried to improve on his parent’s example. Murray did more with less, while Schaeffer did less with more. Murray turned his disadvantage to spiritual advantage, while Schaeffer turned his advantage to spiritual disadvantage.

Two men. Two paths. Two starting lines. Two men crossing paths. From first to last and last to first.

22 comments:

  1. holy ghostbusters2/14/2008 2:45 PM

    This is totally compatible with the atheist worldview. Have you ever considered that Frank and Bill just belong to a psychological type that would rebel against whatever their parents believed? If we could clone both and send Frank III to be raised by atheists and Bill II to be raised by fundies and they both flip flopped , would that satisfy you that your proposed theory is wrong? What would it take to falsify your theory?

    Maybe Frank wasn't motivated by mean spirited envy - he was just traumatised at having to look at that horrible beard every day for the formative years of his life.

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  2. HOLY GHOSTBUSTERS SAID:

    “This is totally compatible with the atheist worldview. Have you ever considered that Frank and Bill just belong to a psychological type that would rebel against whatever their parents believed? If we could clone both and send Frank III to be raised by atheists and Bill II to be raised by fundies and they both flip flopped , would that satisfy you that your proposed theory is wrong? What would it take to falsify your theory?

    Your reaction is totally compatible with the Christian worldview. Have you ever considered that you just belong to a psychological type that is attracted to atheism?

    Since your hypothetical defeater is purely hypothetical, it does nothing to falsify or even undercut my position.

    And only falsehoods are falsifiable. Since the Christian worldview is true, it can’t be falsified.

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  3. This is an unrelated comment. I just don't know where to post this.

    I asked the same questions below at TelicThoughts (if you happen to know the site) but since the discussions there are more empirical than philosophical/metaphysical, my inquiry below (which I posted there) was hardly noticable. So I decided that maybe somebody here at Triablogue may have a good answer to this important philosophical standpoint:

    Recently, I've been reading about solipsism. (Perhaps, you all know what it means but I'll define it anyway.) Solipsism is the highest form of skepticism which states that either: only I exists (metaphysical) or the only thing I could ever know (with 100% certainty) is that I exist (epistemological).

    This is logically coherent. It is actually possible that everything is just my illusion or that I am the sole conscious being who creates reality. Every dialogue I hear from other people, every information I collect actually came from me. Perhaps, I was just bored by being alone so I created a reality with people who seem to possess minds but the thing is, they really don't. Perhaps, I just intentionally forgot that I created everything so that I can live in a dream world where I am not alone.

    Of course, this is totally absurd if taken at face value. But the thing is, if one would think about it, there is a possibility that it is true. There is nothing that could refute solipsism because it is internally consistent. I am not saying that it is true. It's just that there is no way to verify whether it is true or not.

    Just like in a dream — when I dream, the pavement I walk on seems solid, the people I talk to seems to be alive, the people I talk to seem to tell me things that I did not consciously make up (e.g. I meet a guy in my dream and he says, "You know that guy is a crank, blah, blah, blah" whereas I am not consciously thinking about that particular sentence at that moment [where did it come from?]). I also do not doubt that the reality I experience in my dream until I wake up. I also create the reality in my dream by "mere thought."

    The questions now are:

    1. How can I verily say that this reality is not just my own concoction/imagination [just like in a dream]?

    [You might say that I cannot do anything I want here and now (unlike in a dream) but a solipsist can say that perhaps, he sort of programmed everything before he entered the dream world so that they will remain consistent and constant until the solipsist's imagined death wherein he'll come back to his existence as the sole being. A solipsist can intentionally lie to himself so that he'll feel the comfort that other minds exist.]

    The only refutation I can think of right now is that it is more logical for a solipsist to actually create "other minds" (to solve his problem of being alone) than to do an elaborate delusion that there are indeed minds where there is actually none.

    The problem with the solution is: Is it logically coherent to create other minds? I mean, is it logically coherent to detach from yourself a particular consciousness so that it can live independently? What if there is really just one conscious being (monistic) who just lives different lives by creating different realities (at one point or another)? What if, it is logically incoherent that "two minds exist" or that a "mind can create another mind"? Surely I can create thoughts, I can perceive, I can think. But I cannot think of a logical way (in principle) of how to create another being who can have separate thoughts from me.

    I think this is a serious philosophical and metaphysical problem: What if you're the sole being and you just created everything, every bit of information, every relative, every friend, every plant and animal are all forgotten figments of your imagination that just continue to linger (pre-programmed) just to make your grand delusion believable?

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  4. "And only falsehoods are falsifiable. Since the Christian worldview is true, it can’t be falsified."

    While is it true that truth cannot be falsifiable, human beliefs about the truth - whether they be scientific theories or theological claims. In other words, human beings have to allow for the possibility that their beliefs can be disproven. Merely asserting that Christianity is unfalsifiable because it is true is granting a premise that others would not accept. While truths-in-themselves are not falsifiable, beliefs and theories are. Thus Christian belief, if it is true, can and should be subjected to the test of falsifiability.

    Moreover, even if a theory turns out to be true, it can still be subjected to the test of falsifiability. You can see this with gravity: if there would be one instance of an object falling up rather than down, then the theory would be falsified. As it stands, gravity has not yet been falsified.

    Thus, Holy Ghostbuster's question, "What would it take to falsify your theory?" is legitimate and deserves a meaningful response, whether or not Christianity is true. If you are unable to come up with such tests, then Christianity is in a weaker position epistemologically.

    But Christianity can be subjected to such tests. For example, the belief in the inspiration of Scripture can be examined by a close reading of the text of the Bible. If it turns out that the Bible is full of internal contradictions, contains errors in science, or is historically inaccurate, then it cannot be the work of an omniscient God. As it stands, Biblical scholarship by and large can operate well without the assumption of inspiration, and oftentimes does reveal details that go against that hypothesis. Thus Christianity is not only falsifiable, but it has already by and large been falsified.

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  5. Sorry, the first sentence should say: "While is it true that truth cannot be falsifiable, human beliefs about the truth - whether they be scientific theories or theological claims - should be conceivable falsifiable."

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  6. Steve_Jackson2/14/2008 6:34 PM

    The Orthodox church is very tolerant of liberal, Greek-"American politicians and apparatchiks like Michael Dukakis, John Podesta, Art Agnos, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Tsongas, Paul Sarbanes, and John Sarbanes. Why were none of these men ever excommunicated for their social views? Clearly, Christian ethics is a dead letter in Orthodoxy."

    Well, this might be a tad unfair. I don't think Bill Clinton or Al Gore were kicked out of the Southern Baptist church. My guess is that Orthodox seminaries don't have the likes of Charles Curran teaching there either, but I could be wrong.

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  7. holy ghostbusters2/14/2008 7:37 PM

    Steve, aren't you worried about falling into Crabtree's Bludgeon? If the hypothetical experiment worked to support the atheist theory, you'd probably say "God is under no obligation to regenerate or reprobate the corresponding clones.".
    Don't you see this is the danger of positing a *conscious* entity, whose decretive will you cannot ever have knowledge of (apart from special revelation) but that affects things in the world? You will always be tempted to bludgeon away the simple, direct explanation in favor of the 'secret will of God' to preserve your beliefs. Since a conscious entity can act arbitrarily, religious people are specially prone to this error.

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  8. It may be a serious hypothetical in the sense that it might, if successful, expose the limits of proof and disproof. That doesn’t mean we should take it seriously as a live possibility.

    For one thing, I don’t know why a solipsist would be asking *someone else* to disprove solipsism.

    You’re also fudging a bit to make your hypothetical resistant to disproof. If solipsism were true, then it wouldn’t be like a holodeck which you can preprogram. For nothing would have an extramental existence. Nothing would pose an impermeable barrier to your freedom of thought.

    Hence, if the external world is just a mental projection, then why can’t I drive a Duesenberg, have a private harem, and live in the Breakers, the Getty Villa, or the Hearst Castle?

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  9. lyosha07 said...

    “In other words, human beings have to allow for the possibility that their beliefs can be disproven.”

    No, I don’t have to allow that for everything I believe. For one thing, there’s a difference between rational and irrational doubt. Doubting for the sake of doubting because we can pose the abstract possibility of error is not a rational basis for doubting. That’s an abuse of our imagination. There needs to be a reason to doubt something beyond the circular appeal that something is doubtful because I can postulate a hypothetical defeater. I don’t subscribe to the tail-eating scepticism wherein doubt is allowed to feed on itself.

    Moreover, there’s a difference between really doubting something and pretending to treat everything as doubtful under the faddish and disingenuous posture that we have an epistemic duty to affect a state of uncertainly over many things we cannot bring ourselves to disbelieve.

    Furthermore, you can only doubt something because it conflicts with something else that you don’t doubt. Everything cannot be dubious, for we judge the veracity or credibility of a claim in light of something else we take to be true.

    “Merely asserting that Christianity is unfalsifiable because it is true is granting a premise that others would not accept.”

    I didn’t bother to make a case for Christianity here and now because I’ve done that on so many other occasions.

    “Thus Christian belief, if it is true, can and should be subjected to the test of falsifiability.”

    Why should a true belief be subjected to the test of falsifiability?

    “Thus, Holy Ghostbuster's question, ‘What would it take to falsify your theory?’ is legitimate and deserves a meaningful response, whether or not Christianity is true. If you are unable to come up with such tests, then Christianity is in a weaker position epistemologically.”

    Except that you’re cheating. Everything can’t be testable. For, if you’re going to test something, then you’re assuming that you have access to an answer key. How do you test your answer key? Or is your answer key untestable? Unless you already know which answers are right, you’re in no position to say which answers are wrong. So your scepticism is an empty pose.

    “If it turns out that the Bible is full of internal contradictions, contains errors in science, or is historically inaccurate, then it cannot be the work of an omniscient God.”

    Once again, you’re cheating. You’re using “science” and “history” as the answer key. So is science testable or untestable? If everything has to be subjected to the test of falsifiability, then nothing can falsify anything else.

    Likewise, your allegation of internal contradiction is only as good as your interpretation of the Biblical data. How do you test your interpretation? How do you avoid an infinite regress if everything is subject to doubt?

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  10. holy ghostbusters said...

    “Steve, aren't you worried about falling into Crabtree's Bludgeon?”

    Why don’t you give me a moment while I ask myself if that worries me.

    Steve: Steve, this is Steve speaking. I’d like to ask myself a question.

    Steve: Fire way.

    Steve: Do I worry that I’ll fall into Crabtree’s Bludgeon?

    Steve: Let me think about that for a moment and get back to you as soon as I can.

    After checking with myself, the answer came back that I’ve never had any anxieties about falling into Crabtree’s Bludgeon. Does that answer my question?

    Steve: Yes. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

    Continuing:

    “If the hypothetical experiment worked to support the atheist theory, you'd probably say ‘God is under no obligation to regenerate or reprobate the corresponding clones’."

    No, I’d simply say that a hypothetical experiment is hypothetically workable, which doesn’t budge it one inch out of the hypothetical cocoon and into the real world. Hypothetical clones don’t interact with the world I live in. I’ve never even had a formal introduction—much less a pen-pal correspondence with a hypothetical clone. Do you have the contact info? Do I have to set up a hypothetical email account to get in touch with a hypothetical clone? What’s the hypothetical exchange rate?

    “Don't you see this is the danger of positing a *conscious* entity, whose decretive will you cannot ever have knowledge of (apart from special revelation) but that affects things in the world?”

    Since I’m not operating apart from special revelation, so what?

    “You will always be tempted to bludgeon away the simple, direct explanation in favor of the 'secret will of God' to preserve your beliefs.”

    I don’t appeal to God’s secret will. I appeal to his revealed will. In Reformed theology, the contrast is not between God’s decretive will and his revealed will, but between his decretive will and his preceptive will. Try to master that elementary distinction for future reference. That God has a decretive will is, itself, a revealed truth.

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  11. Steve: I am not a solipsist. I'm just asking.

    Anyway, what if it is your subconscious that is creating this reality you're experiencing? It is not extramental. It's just that it is your subconsciousness that is at work. Again, just like in a dream. Most of the time (unless you're in a lucid dream), you are not aware that everything in your dream is just your own concoction/imagination. You never doubt that the reality you're experiencing in your dream is true. You think that the people and the things in your dream actually have an external existence. Of course they do not really exist. They are only a manifestation of your subconscious self.

    What if this reality you're experiencing is just a mirage formed by your subconscious self?

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  12. solip said:
    Steve: I am not a solipsist. I'm just asking.

    Anyway, what if it is your subconscious that is creating this reality you're experiencing? It is not extramental. It's just that it is your subconsciousness that is at work. Again, just like in a dream. Most of the time (unless you're in a lucid dream), you are not aware that everything in your dream is just your own concoction/imagination. You never doubt that the reality you're experiencing in your dream is true. You think that the people and the things in your dream actually have an external existence. Of course they do not really exist. They are only a manifestation of your subconscious self.

    What if this reality you're experiencing is just a mirage formed by your subconscious self?

    ******************************************

    1.I’m aware of the fact that you’re not a solipsist. But I’m drawing attention to a tension within solipsism. If a solipsist were to challenge a second party to disprove solipsism, his challenge would already concede the falsity of solipsism.

    2.You’re evoking distinctions that you’re not entitled to invoke if solipsism were true. Distinctions between illusion and reality or consciousness and subconsciousness are distinctions that you have drawn on the basis of a contrast in your own experience between a waking states or sensory perception over against optical illusions or altered states of consciousness. Since solipsism denies this objective/subjective duality in the first place, it forfeits the right to draw these dichotomies in defense of solipsism.

    3.By the same token, it’s cheating to invoke the analogy with dreams inasmuch as we only identify a dream as a dream in contrast to something that is not a dream. A solipsist has no right to use a dream as a paradigm-case of an illusory experience, for the value-judgment that a certain type of experience is illusory assumes an objective frame of reference which solipsism denies.

    4.It’s cheating to use the dream analogy in yet another respect. Our dreams import a lot of raw material from our waking state. The people and places we dream about are generally people and places we know from the waking world. The language we speak is a language we learned in the waking world.

    And if you try to modify the dream analogy with a lot of ad hoc qualifications to make it less vulnerable to these objections, then you undermine the degree of analogy and thereby weaken the argument from analogy.

    5.But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that solipsism is logically coherent or internally consistent. What does that mean, exactly? Coherence or consistency is a logical category. But the laws of logic supply the standard by which we distinguish between sound and unsound reasoning. If, however, existence is limited to the shifting mental states of the solipsist, then modus ponens or the law of identity loses its logical necessity.

    6.There’s also an equivocation of terms when we contrast a dream to the real world. As a matter of convention, we use certain terms to distinguish a dream state from a waking state. If I’m shot in my dream, I don’t wake up with a gunshot wound. So this leads us to say that even though I’m shot in my dream, I wasn’t shot in the real world.

    But the dream is still a part of the real world. The dream doesn’t exist apart from the real world. The dream is embedded in the real world, for the dreamer is embedded in the real world. Dreams are real, in their own way.

    7.It’s also misleading to say that the dreamer is deluded. That he believes the dream is real. That assumes the dreamer is rendering a conscious value-judgment regarding the veridicality of the dream. But, apart from a lucid dream, the dreamer hasn’t objectified his relation to the dream. The dreamer doesn’t stop and say to himself, “These people have an extramental existence!”

    It’s only a lucid dreamer who has that degree of objectivity, and once he achieves that state of detachment he judges the dream to be just that—only a dream. Ordinarily, a dreamer doesn’t offer a metaphysical interpretation of his subjective experience.

    8.It’s also cheating for a solipsist to introduce the distinction between a lucid dream and an ordinary dream. That involves a level of awareness which the solipsist trying to deny. He can’t very well oscillate between appeals to lucid dream states and appeals to the subconscious mental states to defend solipsism, for these are incompatible states of consciousness. What is lucid is not subconscious and vice versa.

    9.I’d add that various theistic proofs undermine solipsism. For solipsism only pushes the question back a step.

    10.Finally, the onus is not on me to disprove the hypothesis that blue-nosed fairies on the far side of Mercury are bombarding my brain with telepathic disinformation to make me think I’m a homo sapient when I’m really a sentient kumquat. We can entangle ourselves in knotty thought-experiments all day long, but that doesn’t mean we should take them seriously as anything other than what they are: ingenious thought-experiments.

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  13. Steve: Thank you for your detailed answer. I have a few objections though (the number corresponds to the point I am objecting). Again, I'm no solipsist (I am utterly sure that I exist, as in I am conscious just as you think you are). I'm just playing the devil's advocate:

    2. A solipsist might say that he is merely imagining the seemingly objective duality of altered states of consciousness he is experiencing.

    5. What do you mean when you say that modus ponens or the law of identity lose their logical necessity if solipsism were true? And so what if they lose their logical necessity?

    6. Why exactly can't you tell during your dream that you are merely making up the conversations you have with dream people? Say you meet with a man and that man talks to you in your dream. In that particular moment you have: your dream self and the self of the man talking to you. The man who is talking to you say things that you did not consciously bring up. I'm sure you've experienced dreams wherein you get surprised as to what other people say to you and you react to them using your "dream self."

    To be fair, I can object to my objection above by saying that I actually undergo this certain dialogue in my head even when I am awake. I did this often when I was a child (role-playing). I have a self and another self which I assume for the sake of role-playing to be another person. I have a sort of suspension of disbelief: that there is me and then there is the king, a separate entitiy from me. Perhaps this is what causes the seemingly realistic dialogue we have in our dreams.

    7. The exact question is that: Why don't we object to the reality of our dream when we dream? Why do we lose our sense of objectivity? Can't I also say that we lose our sense of objectivity in the waking world?

    I mean, what if in the waking world, our objectivity is also impaired? That means to say, we won't realize that this is pure imagination unless we've been sucked back to the actual reality to render a "more" objective comparison?

    9. I could also say that solipsism actually undermines theistic beliefs. One question I have raised before is what if it is a logical impossibility/logically incoherent to create "two or more existent minds"? What if, it is logically impossible that two or more minds exist just as it is logically impossible that a triangle has 4 sides? What if it is a part of the definition of the "self" that it cannot be divisible thus rendering the multiplicity of minds an incoherent concept?

    Again this scenario seems to be fitting if the above were true: You are the sole self existing who just invented this highly realistic imagination just so you can get away with the boredom of being the solitary self. What I am trying to say is: Since you, being the sole existent thing has no logical way of creating other minds, what you did was to create an elaborate delusion of creating other imaginary people which only "seem" to possess minds. Then after doing so, you sort of intentionally forgot that you actually created everything so that you can live as if you are not alone?

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  14. SOLIP SAID:

    “A solipsist might say that he is merely imagining the seemingly objective duality of altered states of consciousness he is experiencing.”

    i) The solipsist has no evidence for that claim, and the prima facie evidence runs to the contrary.

    ii) If a solipsist were to say that, then he wouldn’t be self-deluded. One can only be self-deluded if one is taken in by the illusion. You’ve just made him aware of the “merely imaginary objectivity” of the duality he seems to experience.

    iii) We can’t be deceived out our self-presenting mental states. An illusion assumes the possibility of a gap between appearance and reality. But we enjoy immediate access to our mental states. It’s not like perceiving an extramental object, where there may be a discrepancy between what it seems like and what it really is. In the case of knowing our own mental states, esse is percipi.

    “What do you mean when you say that modus ponens or the law of identity lose their logical necessity if solipsism were true?”

    If the mind of the solipsist is the sole reality, then the laws of logic are merely descriptive of his mental states, rather than normative.

    “And so what if they lose their logical necessity?”

    Because you yourself made logical coherence a criterion by which to judge the claims of solipsism. If, however, solipsism undermines the laws of logic, then it’s self-refuting by your own yardstick.

    “Why exactly can't you tell during your dream that you are merely making up the conversations you have with dream people?”

    How is this responsive to what I said under #6?

    “The exact question is that: Why don't we object to the reality of our dream when we dream?”

    But you’re backing down from your original claim. This is a weaker position than the claim that a dreamer is deceived by the dream. That he believes it’s real.

    “I mean, what if in the waking world, our objectivity is also impaired?”

    As in what? If you pop a psychedelic pill? A hallucination?

    “That means to say, we won't realize that this is pure imagination unless we've been sucked back to the actual reality to render a ‘more’ objective comparison?”

    How does this reality check function as a supporting argument for solipsism? You’re drawing a contrast between an imaginary world and the real world. Solipsism denies that very duality.

    “I could also say that solipsism actually undermines theistic beliefs.”

    One must still account for the existence of the solipsist. The origin of the solipsist. The teleology of his thought process. Other theistic arguments like the ontological argument for the alethic argument are applicable. One could go down the line.

    “Then after doing so, you sort of intentionally forgot that you actually created everything so that you can live as if you are not alone?”

    How does a thinker intentionally forget something? Wouldn’t the conscious effort to forget something simply remind you of what you’re trying to forget?

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  15. I do think your answers make sense. Like in the example of a thinker who intentionally forgets: One cannot intentionally forget something. But if one did intend to create an extramental apparatus to sort of induce forgetfulness on the solipsist (unconsciously), that apparatus then becomes extramental hence solipsism is refuted.

    But you left one question hanging: One question I have raised before is what if it is a logical impossibility/logically incoherent to create "two or more existent minds"? What if, it is logically impossible that two or more minds exist just as it is logically impossible that a triangle has 4 sides? What if it is a part of the definition of the "self" that it cannot be divisible thus rendering the multiplicity of minds an incoherent concept?

    What exactly is the stand of the theist when it comes to the multiplicity of self? How does your god create other minds? Is it "logically coherent" even to create other minds?

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  16. SOLIP SAID:

    But you left one question hanging: One question I have raised before is what if it is a logical impossibility/logically incoherent to create "two or more existent minds"? What if, it is logically impossible that two or more minds exist just as it is logically impossible that a triangle has 4 sides? What if it is a part of the definition of the "self" that it cannot be divisible thus rendering the multiplicity of minds an incoherent concept? __What exactly is the stand of the theist when it comes to the multiplicity of self? How does your god create other minds? Is it "logically coherent" even to create other minds?

    *************************************

    i) I’d do a Moore shift. Instead of beginning with the alleged impossibility, I’d begin with the actuality.

    We believe in other minds. We also believe that it’s possible for some agents to create other minds. On the face of it, human procreation results in the creation of other minds. And if we can do it, why not God?

    It isn’t necessary to explain how something is possible to know that it’s possible. For if something is actual, then it’s possible. Since other minds do, in fact, exist, then other minds are possible.

    ii) I’d add that I don’t see even the apparent incoherence in the coexistence to two or more minds.

    iii) And I don’t know why you cast the issue in terms of the divisibility of one mind into many, viz “to detach from yourself a particular consciousness so that it can live independently.”

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  17. "It isn’t necessary to explain how something is possible to know that it’s possible. For if something is actual, then it’s possible. Since other minds do, in fact, exist, then other minds are possible."

    Agreed.

    "iii) And I don’t know why you cast the issue in terms of the divisibility of one mind into many, viz “to detach from yourself a particular consciousness so that it can live independently."

    Then how do you think God creates other minds? The self is inescapable. Even your god cannot escape his own selfhood. So how does he create other conscious beings then?

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  18. solip said:

    "Then how do you think God creates other minds? The self is inescapable. Even your god cannot escape his own selfhood. So how does he create other conscious beings then?"

    Depends on what you mean by "how." He creates other minds by instantiating his idea of other minds. By objectifying his idea in space and time.

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  19. I am asking for the logical pathway to creating another mind. It does not suffice an explanation to say that god's mind just thinks about it and whatever it is already materializes in space-time. I also have a mind but I cannot do that now. Does that mean that god has a different kind of mind?

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  20. solip said:

    “I am asking for the logical pathway to creating another mind.”

    What makes you think that’s a reasonable demand? We don’t know *how* the physical process of human procreation eventually yields another consciousness. We know *that* such a process has such a result, but consciousness has mental properties that belong to a different domain than the physical properties of sexual reproduction. There’s no apparently logical pathway by which we can trace the one to the other.

    There are other, well-documented paranormal phenomena which we can’t explain by a transparent logical pathway (e.g. telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis).

    “It does not suffice an explanation to say that god's mind just thinks about it and whatever it is already materializes in space-time. I also have a mind but I cannot do that now.”

    That’s because you’re not God. You’re a creature.

    However, there are analogies in human experience. You should read some of Stephen Braude’s books in which he cites well-documented examples of materialization. Unlike divine artifacts, these are very ephemeral, but they still occur.

    We'd expect analogies as well as disanalogies between divine and human (or demonic) creativity. And that's what we find.

    “Does that mean that god has a different kind of mind?”

    Of course! God has a timeless, infinite mind.

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  21. Telepathy and psychokenesis? Well-documented? So you believe in these things?

    Also, what if materialists use your reasoning to defend their worldview. "Hey, we do not know how consciousness arises from matter but we know this happens in our brain." Sounds like circular reasoning to me.

    Could you also cite an example of this materialization process you're talking about?

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  22. SOLIP SAID:

    “Telepathy and psychokenesis? Well-documented? So you believe in these things?”

    Based on the evidence…yes.

    “Also, what if materialists use your reasoning to defend their worldview. ‘Hey, we do not know how consciousness arises from matter but we know this happens in our brain.’ Sounds like circular reasoning to me.”

    There’s an extensive literature on philosophy of mind that deals with these stock objections, as well as philosophers who blog on the subject, like Victor Reppert, Bill Vallicella, and David Chalmers. Answers are just a mouse-click away.

    “Could you also cite an example of this materialization process you're talking about?”

    You can do your own research. A good place to start is with some of Stephen Braude’s books, such as The Golden Leaf Lady, ESP & Psychokinesis (rev. ed), & The Limits of Influence.

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