Got an unsolicited email from a fundy atheist the other day (under false pretenses too; actually, I know him and he has a history of emailing Christians and talking bad about their wives, families, etc., so there was some harshness). There's a lot of ways to approach the below and tons that could be said if one had the time. I took one approach. Here's a slightly edited version:
1.A term without a positive ontology is useless in the Universe of Discourse
2.Immaterial and Supernatural are eliminatively negative, and denote an empty set. Ie, they are negations. Both tell us what something is not, without anything left over for them to refer to, or simply be.
3. Immateriality is defined as neither matter nor energy.
4. Supernatural is defined as not nature.
5. Since there's nothing left over for these terms to refer to, and ultimately nothing left over for them to be.
6. The terms are therefore incomprehensible, incoherent, and meaningless
7. The supernatural, defined contra-nature, is beyond limits, ergo no term with ontological status can be applied to it by definition
8. Therefore, the two terms Immaterial and Supernatural are broken because they are defined solely according to what they are not, without any universe of discourse.
Most logic text books allow for definition by negation. Is the word "bachelor" then "useless" on your theory? How about the word 'bald?' Would that make your head meaningless? :-) Why does it have to be negative? Is saying that God is a pure sui generous being distinct from creation negative? Why is saying that God has no body meaningless? Makes perfect sense to me. Why is saying that he is a timeless mind meaningless? Makes sense to me. Some terms by their very nature mean not being something (see above). I see no problem here.
I should add that just like with those terms I listed above, there God has both positive and negative properties. Some negative properties logically imply positive ones. An ultimate being is self-sufficient, this looks to be a positive property. God is an omnipresent Spirit. Omnipresence is a positive property though. Being unlimited also implies being able to do whatever you will, and know all truths, and both omnipotence and omniscience are positive properties.
A bachelor is a man who is not married. That's hardly eliminatively empty, and man "has" positive content. There is something left over for the bald bachelor to be. If I say, this man is without a wife, or that he is without hair; we are telling you what this man is without, but indeed we know that the man is the being capable of having a wife and having hair. So, still nothing trivial about the object "man" and it's potential attributes, or the characteristics man can take on… But the terms, "hair" "wife", and "man", are all natural terms. A better example of your attempted analogy would be if you said, he is a "non" physical being.
Without a spatial location? Times less? Pure being? Exactly my point Paul, there is no"thing" there then. Pure what? Like pure water? Pure energy? Pure chocolate? "Pure being" that is distinct from matter and energy is still empty.
Where do you get the idea that God is *just* "immaterial?" Indeed, I sent you an email offering plenty of positives. I was meeting you term for term. You said the *term* "immaterial" was meaningless because negative; therefore, according to your argument, the *term* "bald" is meaningless because negative. That's called a test for validity by counterexample. So, try again.
God is capable of having a body. Ever heard of Jesus when you were a Christian?
> Immateriality is defined as neither matter nor energy.
So? Beliefs are immaterial. Minds are immaterial. Propositions are immaterial. Laws of logic are immaterial. Moral principles are immaterial. Numbers are immaterial. Etc.
> Nature is matter and energy. Then, according to you, that makes God
> from matter and energy, then you have nothing left over for God to be. Feel
> free to define/describe God with something left over for it to be…
In my last email I gave you plenty of positives. I'm not going to repeat myself.
Also, if you believe that if something is not matter and energy then it is not meaningful, then this means that you believe that things like beliefs are matter and energy. How's that one go?
> Without a spatial location? Times less? Pure being? Exactly my point Paul,
> there is no"thing" there then. Pure what? Like pure water? Pure energy?
> chocolate? "Pure being" that is distinct from matter and energy is still
Yeah, a timeless mind. An omnipotent and omniscient person without a body. Pure *being*. Did I say pure chocolate? A sui generous one at that. I'm sorry, were you under the impression that repeating my words with question marks behind them counted as a substantive refutation?
Just a quicky. Tomorrow ill send the main response, plus the response to your other email. My argument was that a term that is defined as a complete negation inwhich there is nothing positively left over, is equal to saying "nothing". Ie, incomprehensible, unintelligable and therefore meaningless. Such a term, if one is mentioned, fails to work in the domain of discourse. Bald is defined as the lack of skin. In your case. What is left Paul? The skin. The head of a physical body. Bald deosnt eliminate the body, just the hair. You exist, though you're bald. Can your God be bald? No? Why not?
> My argument was that a term that is defined as
> a complete negation inwhich there is nothing positively left over, is
> equal to saying "nothing". Ie, incomprehensible, unintelligable and
> therefore meaningless.
Well, I know what you're *saying*, but it's nothing other than
ignorance to think you've *argued* for this.
> Such a term, if one is mentioned, fails to
> work in the domain of discourse. Bald is defined as the lack of skin.
Bald is defined as the lack of "skin"? That's funny.
> In your case. What is left Paul? The skin. The head of a physical
> body. Bald deosnt eliminate the body, just the hair. You exist,
> though you're bald. Can your God be bald? No? Why not?
Let's not forget this statement is true: God has a body. God *can* be
bald, in so far as God gave Jesus that gene.
Anyway, God is essentially immaterial, you can't take it away. But God
is *more than* just immaterial, just like you are more than just bald.
I'll also go one further, take your bald head, fake-n-bake tan,
puny arms, and the rest of your body away and, guess what, you still
have you, the mind, person, soul. But you would be immaterial. An
immaterial thinking substance. And guess what, some know-nothing
benighted New Atheist wouldn't be able to prove your non-existence
with the stupid claim that since the bodiless you was immaterial,
then that's a "broken term" and so he doesn't exist. You'd still exist
along with all your other negative characteristics, e.g.,
Or, what about particles that are invisible to humans. Invisible is
negative. And, you can't take that property away otherwise they
wouldn't be the same. or, you could create new humans with different
powers of vision. But, as it is, on your view, some particles are
Anyway, God is a person. A mind. That's positive. An omnipresent
Spirit who is omnipotent and omniscient. The law-giver. God is
necessary. He is a sui generous being. In that class he is Being. He's
the creator. Those are positive. Yeah, God is immaterial too.
He's immutable. Timeless. But he's simple too, which is positive.
Look, what it boils down to is that you object because you don't think
you can be a person or a mind without a body. You think all is
physical. But if you prove physicalism, you wouldn't *need* your
convoluted argument about negative "broken" terms. If you could prove
the physicalism on which your argument logically rests, then you’d
disprove God. But you can't prove physicalism, as even you admit you
can't explain consciousness. So, since you can't demonstrate your
physicalism, it looks like you reject God for faith-based reasons.
hey, I'm not going to begrudge you your faith. I'm sure it helps you
get through life. Get through the day. As long as it helps and it
isn't harming anyone, why, by all means, continue "believing."
I know that God is defined as immaterial, that's the fundamental problem with the universe of discourse, anything described as such becomes useless. The burden is on you to demonstrate that the "more" is there. And what the "more" is…
> I'll also go one further, take your bald head, fake-n-bake tan,
> puny arms, and the rest of your body away and, guess what, you still
> have yourself, the mind, person, soul.
How arrogant! Pretending to know again… Prove it.
> But you would be immaterial. An
> immaterial thinking substance. And guess what, some know-nothing
> benighted New Atheist wouldn't be able to prove your non-existence
> with the stupid claim that since the bodiless you was immaterial,
> then that's a "broken term" and so he doesn't exist. You'd still exist
> along with all your other negative characteristics, e.g.,
> Or, what about particles that are invisible to humans. Invisible is
> negative. And, you can't take that property away otherwise they
> wouldn't be the same. or, you could create new humans with different
> powers of vision. But, as it is, on your view, some particles are
No, you have misconstrued it. Particles are visible. They are intelligible and therefore not meaningless. Plus, you mentioning them presupposes their positive distinguishment.
> Anyway, God is a person.
> A mind.
So you want to debate on the nature of minds? Here's a great starting point.
> That's positive. An omnipresent
> Spirit who is omnipotent and omniscient.
> The law-giver. God is
> necessary. He is a sui generous being. In that class he is Being. He's
> the creator. Those are positive. Yeah, God is immaterial too.
> He's immutable. Timeless. But he's simple too, which is positive.
All naked assertions stemmed in conjectured nonsense.
Look, I have no choice but to start with the physical because I have nothing else to start from, until shown otherwise. I don't have faith in the physical, you have faith in the non physical. Faith is not a means to knowledge of nonphysical beings. It's theological wishful thinking, as you have proven by showing me that your descriptions are incoherent. The failure to recognize this demonstrates the great length you go to finagle your god into reality.
I have a non cognitive apriori base regarding anything beyond the physical. If there is more, please show me how you know anything, or make any claims about the "more", without illustrating the veracity of the natural. So, the burden is the one who says there is more. You say that there is more than material and the natural, fine. Prove it. Untill you do, the descriptive attributes of your "God" amount to an incoherent absurdity. That simply demonstrates that your faith is non contingent. You maintain of a Christian belief in the face of negating evidence, as I have shown throughout.. To confuse faith for a reasoned assumption or proof is simply ridiculous.
> In the midst of this exchange, which I, for the most part, find
> constructive, you have really surprised me with some of your insults. Id >appreciate
>it if you could drop the insults.
Quit acting like there are normative ethical rules that govern discourse.
> >Well, I know what you're *saying*, but it's nothing other than
>> ignorance to think you've *argued* for this.
> How have I not argued this? I showed how your concepts descriptions self
> defeat it's intelligibility. The descriptions, supernatural and immaterial,
> are both incoherent and defined by what they cannot be. And if they cannot
> "be", then they are ontologically non existent.
No, you didn't show it. You keep *telling* me that they are. Neither
I, nor *billions* of other people seem to have a problem with
intelligibility. Your view is certainly not obvious, then. You need a
better story than just *telling* me that "a negative term is
meaningless." Indeed, I proved that they aren't, viz., bald,
invisible, unintelligent, bachelor, etc. Those are *terms* and they
are meaningful yet they are defined negatively.
> >Let's not forget this statement is true: God has a body. God *can* be
> >bald, in so far as God gave Jesus that gene.
> That's a true proposition? Paul, this could be a whole new rabbit trail. Im
> surely willing to debate that one.
It's certainly true in Christian theology. So, I'm pointing out that
you have *presupposed* the falsity of Christianity. Well, if you're
gonna presuppose *that* why bother with your convoluted argument? If
you have an argument that the incarnation is false, then you don't
need your dumb argument about terms. Is any of this getting through
yet? Your grand argument rests upon the assumption that Christianity
is false. Wow. If Christianity is false, then it's false. I'll alert
> I know that God is defined as immaterial, that's the fundamental problem
> with the universe of discourse, anything described as such becomes useless.
What's the problem with having both negative and positive attributes?
Even your bald, unintelligent self has those attributes, and positive
> The burden is on you to demonstrate that the "more" is there. And what the
> "more" *is*…
No it's not. Your argument has been defeated and you can't
even see it. You made the positive claim that God is meaningless
because he's immaterial. I said that there is more to God than this. I
then gave you a list of some of those positive things. Now you say I
have to prove all of that. Notice the subtle shift. You've dropped
your stupid non-cognitive argument and have been forced to make a new
argument, viz., theists can't prove that their God exists. Okay,
that's interesting and worthy of debate, but it's not the argument you
started with. I beat that argument and now you're running to a new
>> I'll also go one further, take your bald head, fake-n-bake tan,
>> puny arms, and the rest of his body away and, guess what, you still
>> have you, the mind, person, soul.
> How arrogant! Pretending to know again… Prove it.
Not quite. Your argument *presupposes* that man does not have a soul
or irreducible, non-reductive immaterial mind, or is a simple
substance. So, how arrogant indeed! Can you prove these grandiose claims.
So, you need to prove all these things that your argument implies.
From my end, it seems to me that the mind has qualities that no
physical thing has, e.g., intentionality, qualia, subjectivity,
irreducible normative actions like choices.
I am convinced by many of these arguments. So, to show ME that your
argument works I would have to deny all of these OTHER arguments I
accept and for strong reasons, thus I'd need some good reasons from
YOU to reject them. In other words, you've not presented ME with any
reason to accept your argument. Now, YOU may like your argument, but
that's because it depends on physicalism. But, as I said, if you think
physicalism is true, then you don't need your non-cog argument.
Physicalism is enough. Thus, even for you, your non-cog argument is
> No, you have misconstrued it. Particles are visible. They are intelligible
> and therefore not meaningless. Plus, you mentioning them presupposes their
> positive distinguishment.
Well, many aren't. Their *effects* in things like cloud chambers may
be, but *they* aren't. Anyway, to make it easier for your bald head to
wrap around, try: "invisible to the naked human eye." So, take this
away and we have a messed up world with the smallest bonding particles
being visible to the naked human eye!
>> Anyway, God is a person.
> Prove it.
See, you lost. You do see this, don't you? I am telling you
God's positive properties. Let's do it this way:
Fundy Atheist: Immaterial is negative so it is meaningless.
Paul: Bald is negative, so it's meaningless, so your head is meaningless.
Fundy Atheist: No, there are positive properties to me, like, I'm a man with a body.
Paul: No, there are positive properties to God, like he's a omnipresent Spirit.
Fundy Atheist: [leaves original argument] Prove it!
Paul: Ummm, you left your original argument. If you don't think any
one can prove that there exists a God and so that is reason to not
believe in him, even though this is a bad argument, it still makes
your original argument superfluous. Oh, BTW, "prove" that you're a
"man" with a "body." Maybe you're a robot? Maybe you're a brain in a
vat? Maybe you're a disembodied soul that is being tricked by a
Cartesian demon to think he has a body?
>> A mind.
> So you want to debate on the nature of minds? Here's a great starting
You've been forced to flee your argument. I simply gave you
>> That's positive. An omnipresent
>> Spirit who is omnipotent and omniscient.
> Ie, nothing.
So that's what your argument has been reduced to. I give you positive
properties and you say, "i.e., nothing." How sad to see such a
towering intellect fall.
>> The law-giver. God is
>> necessary. He is a sui generous being. In that class he is Being. He's
>> the creator. Those are positive. Yeah, God is immaterial too.
>> He's immutable. Timeless. But he's simple too, which is positive.
> All naked assertions stemmed in conjectured nonsense.
You're claim that you are a man with a physical body are naked
assertions in conjectured nonsense.
You're forgetting your argument. You said God was meaningless because
he is only defined negatively. I gave you other standard ways God has
been understood for millennia. That is, I pointed out the special
pleading of your argument. Indeed, if you think saying "All naked
assertions stemmed in conjectured nonsense" counts as a refutation,
then why not say that when people say God is immaterial? Just tell
them, "All naked assertions stemmed in conjectured nonsense," and you
don't even need your stupid non-cog argument. I believe that God
exists. I have arguments for this. It is warranted. Etc. So, I am
warranted in saying God is those things. Therefore I would need actual
arguments from you to overturn my belief. In other words, you've not
given me any reason to deny God. I answered your dumb non-cog argument
and your case has now been reduced to school yard, "prove it" stuff.
You're reaching. You can't defend your ORIGINAL argument anymore and
so you're playing the old "prove it" game. But, I think you're a
waste of time and I'm not going to spend my time doing that. You
refuse to accept any of the proofs. The real issue here is does your
non-cog argument give a theist any reason to reject God. I've proved
that it doesn't. I've also proved that what your non-cog argument
presupposes is, were it true, all you would need to reject theism.
Your non-cog argument, even for you, is therefore superfluous.
> Look, I have no choice but to start with the physical because I have
> else to start from, until shown otherwise.
Well, I don't accept physicalism and so your argument has no force for me.
Also, I start with the truth of the Christian worldview and have seen
nothing better to start from, until shown otherwise.
>I don't have faith in the
> physical, you have faith in the non physical.
Keep telling yourself that.
> I have a non cognitive apriori base regarding anything beyond the physical.
Right, so drop laws of logic, beliefs, propositions, possible worlds,
numbers, ethics, universals, norms, etc. A worldview that must deny
such things isn't attractive to me. I guess it is to you. It would be
funny if not so sad.
> If there is more, please show me how you know anything, or make any claims
> about the "more", without illustrating the veracity of the natural.
No, you need to show me that the term God is meaningless, remember.
> burden is the one who says there is more. You say that there is more than
> material and the natural, fine. Prove it.
You say there is not more than material and natural, fine. Prove it.
> Untill you do, the descriptive
> attributes of your "God" amount to an incoherent absurdity.
Ooooo, the "Fundyatheistsaidit" argument.
>> as even you admit you
>> can't explain consciousness.
> My not explaining it deson't conclude it's immaterial. Im just temporally
> limited intellectually. Maybe in 100 years they figure it out. So, I don't
> pretend to know, like you. So I guess your tangent here about my
> limitations is moot.
Ooooo, faith appeals. I like that. Maybe in 100 years... ;-)
Um, I can conceive of existing without my body. It thus looks possible
that I could. I would be an immaterial mind, and I wouldn't be
I can conceive of waking of in your body, yet I would still be the
same person. So, the person doesn't seem identical to their body.
My mind appears to have qualities that no material thing has (see
above), so it wouldn't, a la Leibniz's law of identity, be material.
> Since "supernatural" and" immaterial" are incoherent and incomprehensible
> terms, I reject the descriptions of "God" by default.
Me and billions of other people, atheist and theist alike, seem to
have no problem believe that immaterial entities exist, I guess we'd
need to see an actual argument for the above. Seems we all use those
terms quite well and think they're meaningful, we need more your repeated assertions to get us to change our mind.