What about the proposition "Totalitarian states are unjust"? or "All men are by nature equal"?
That I love my wife is a factual statement. I can't demonstrate it, but I also can't demonstrate that I have a headache. Both are subjective experiences that I have privately
If you tell me that you feel sad because your grandmother just died, how do I know what "sad" means? How do I know what a "grandmother" is? What correlation is there between the death of one and your emotional state? …
All of the above examples you give are, it is undeniable, meaningful. What I deny is that they are all factual. In order to be a factual claim a statement, in principle, be discernable by reference to the world. A factual proposition takes a truth value, and this value then corresponds to the world and ultimately is set by it. Just to be clear I am not saying that correspondence is a requirement for meaning (as you correctly identified “all the world’s a stage” garners meaning without correspondence), but I do maintain that it is a requirement of factual propositions. I struggle to really understand how we could mean anything else by fact. Here’s the really important point Truth and Falsehood only apply to factual statements; a non-factual statement may be meaningful or meaningless, may be honest or dishonest, powerful or impotent; but it cannot be true or false; your first two examples “Totalitarian states are unjust" & "All men are by nature equal” are just such statements.
Most of the time on this forum I've ended up engaging in "Philosophical Theology". I've made arguments about cat's and needles, attempted to demonstrate that "god" can only be spoken about in the negative, tried to explain the difference between a claim and a posit, but in the end, I'm just giving examples of the reasonability behind something that can't really be described or argued for outside of the subjective experience and culture of the people who believe it. When I get to the crux of my position, though I think it's sound, it's also depressingly vague and depressingly tentative. It's like working really really hard in the kitchen and laboring over a stove for hours to make vanilla pudding. I did a great job! I made the best vanilla pudding ever! But it's still just vanilla pudding! /cry :*(
THIS... The point you made above.... This is where I lick my chops and salivate in anticipation of a warm juicy stake and exclaim, Ladies and Gentlemen, here comes the philosophy!!!!
The questions and points you made above have been made and argued by philosophers for centuries. I assure
you, we will reach no eureka moment here in our conversation, but these questions and the answers we give are the real fundamentals of our existence.
Oboy oboy oboy! here we go!
I wanted to demonstrate this briefly by picking up on a few of the examples you gave: “I love my wife”, “I have a headache”, and “I feel sad”. You claim (at least for the first, and I assume for the others) that they are counter-examples to my theory of what makes a statement factual, in that these statements can be true or false, but given their private nature are not open to the kind of verification process which I seem to require for factual statements.
And they don't need it. they are based on our common experience, they are apparent to us merely by virtue of the fact that we are both human beings and both, at the moment, awake. If they didn't correspond to anything in the world, how could they possibly have meaning for us, let alone the same
meaning? Same enough to where I merely say the word and you are not at all confused as to what I'm talking about?
For an utterance like “I love my wife” to be factual it must correspond to something in the world. This correspondence is what makes the statement true or false. So it is worth asking what does “I love my wife” correspond to? At a behavioural level it corresponds to a set of behaviours (up to an including neurological/hormonal patterns in the CNS); to this extent, and only this extent, “I love my wife”, “I have a headache”, “I am in pain” are factual, in that by observing the expected associated behaviours we can find reasons to believe/disbelieve them. However this kind of behaviourist analysis misses the ‘private’ aspect of these experiences which you are interested in.
Yet, even if you and I never studied neurology, biology, sociology, or any other ology, you would not need to ask me what I mean when I say "I love my wife". You require no specialized observation in order to understand it or even to affirm it your self.
Wittgenstein deals with this problem far more neatly that I can, so I will be lazy and quote him:
I knew Wittgenstein had to come into this sooner or later!
"If I say of myself that it is only from my own case that I know what the word "pain" means—must I not say the same of other people too? And how can I generalize the one case so irresponsibly? Now someone tells me that he knows what pain is only from his own case!——Suppose everyone had a box with something in it: we call it a "beetle". No one can look into anyone else's box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle.—Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in his box. One might even imagine such a thing constantly changing.—But suppose the word "beetle" had a use in these people's language?—If so it would not be used as the name of a thing. The thing in the box has no place in the language-game at all; not even as a something: for the box might even be empty.—No, one can 'divide through' by the thing in the box; it cancels out, whatever it is. That is to say: if we construe the grammar of the expression of sensation on the model of 'object and designation' the object drops out of consideration as irrelevant." -Wittgenstein
Say you come over to my house for dinner. I prepare boiled dog and garnish it with fried grasshoppers. You recoil in horror at the ghastly meal I've prepared and politely tell me that it appears unappetizing to you.
I reply, "Me too! the Dog is so juicy and the grasshoppers are so fresh that they practically wiggle on the way down!"
Was there a miscommunication here? Well, according to Wittgenstein there couldn't have been. I understood you perfectly, Boiled Dog is one of your favorite foods and it looks delicious to you!
If our subjective experiences are not held in common, but are like a beetle in a box that very from person to person: IE: Everyone has one but they're all different, and we assign a name for this morphs thing that differs from person to person, then I couldn't possibly have misunderstood you.
But I did
misunderstand you, and I misrepresented what you said when you recoiled.
how is any of this possible if our subjective experiences don't correlate with anything outside of our minds and differ from person to person?
Let me give you another example: Say you come to my house to visit and you tell me that watching a movie in the dark gives you a migraine. How do I know to keep the lights on while the movie is playing in order to prevent your having a migraine? I
don't get migraines when I watch movies in the dark. that isn't what I
mean when I say "Cause of a migraine". How can I possibly understand you well enough to keep the lights on during the movie when your "beetle" is different from my "beetle" and I can't look into your box?
Wittgenstein’s point, and I think he is exactly right, is that when we use words like “pain” or “love” we are not, as you claim, referring to a private experience at all – there is no ‘object’ of correspondence and so such utterances are not factual. This however does not imply they lack usefulness or meaning.
How could it have any meaning at all if there was no object to which we referred and we had no experience of it?
Forgive me, I may not have been clear. I am not arguing materialism at all; my point is purely epistemological, I am making no ontological claims, moreover, I deny the feasibility of making such claims.
Oh thank god, that makes things MUCH simpler! lol.
I am not a Materialist; to my mind materialism is just as much a metaphysics as idealism.
Interesting, I'm tempted to have you describe your position about the observable world, but without digressing into a new thread altogether.
You are correct in pointing out that I am not really talking about atheism vs theism; it is entirely possible that there are atheists who allow for metaphysical a priori reasons for belief. I would contend such atheism is a minority sport however I should not have conflated my own position with all atheism, it was sloppy.
I find that most Atheists today make that mistake, not by accident as you did; I think that most of them (in my experience anyway) don't know what an epistemological or an ontological position is
, and that scares me. I think it represents a decline in education. In most cases, I would MUCH rather they reject the proposition that there is a God for the reasons that you do.
My objection to your OP was simply this: when you use the word ‘reason’ to believe that ‘God exists’ you are using the word ‘reason’ in the following sense: a motive for asserting the truth or falsehood of a belief. My claim is that only factual statements can be meaningfully found to be true or false.
I think the crux of our difference here is how we use the word "factual", and I think it's not just a semantic difference.
and the only possible ‘reasons’ for this are a posteriori. I then observed that no a posteriori reason can, itself, point towards the truth of falsehood of a metaphysical proposition (precisely because no correspondence could ever be established).
Give me an example. I whole heartedly agree that nature doesn't admit of "non-nature" in and of its self. Let "A" stand for "the Natural" and "Non-A" stand for everything that is not "The Natural"
Because A can not be Non-A, it is impossible to infer "Non-A" from
"A" there would have to be some quality of "A" that contains "Non-A" which is a logical impossibility (This is why creationism, ID and all other forms of "natural theology" fall on their face before they even get out of the gate by the way). We can say that "If A requires a cause and A can not be the cause of A, then "Non-A" must be the cause, which is one reason that I am not a materialist. (But that's a LOT different from saying "A must have come from somewhere and so Yahweh did it, now go to church and read the bible. But I digress")...
Thus metaphysical propositions, by definition, cannot be factual, and so are not things which can be true or false. In conclusion you cannot have ‘reasons’ (in the ordinary sense of the word) to assert the truth or falsehood of the statement “God exists”.
Here again, I don't think I have a clear understanding of what you mean when you say "factual", does it refer to "true and false", or does it refer to the means by which it can be tested? Does it refer to weather or not it corresponds to something in matter? All of the above?
I don't think I can proceed until I understand your meaning better.
What is the criteria by which we can say that the following three statements are factual or not factual:
1. My father was Abraham Lincoln
2. My father was not Abraham Lincoln
3. My father liked to wear his hair short
4. Abraham Lincoln liked to wear his hair long
*EDIT: FOUR, there are FOUR
Statements, how do I know? That's the subject we're currently debating. *Insert smug giggling over how clever I am here*