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Old 13th January 2021, 03:54 AM   #315
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Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Warning: Enormous post coming up -- and I do mean enormous!!
It was! And I really appreciate the time and serious effort you put into this post, and for that matter, all your previous posts in this thread. It does me no end of good having ideas and beliefs challenged, and that is part of the reason I return to this board.

I think we are starting to repeat ourselves, which suggests that the natural ending of the discussion is close at hand. Apologies for cutting out some bits from your response. I'm happy to answer any final questions, or even continue discussion on any particular point you're interested in pursuing if you like, but it's probably time to wrap things up.

I just want to thank you for making this discussion both enjoyable and uncomfortable (in the best way!) Too often these types of discussions turn into snarky sarcasm fests. But I like that you are fair and serious. Even though you aren't hesitant in calling out what you see as nonsense, you also explain it so I know where you are coming from. I can't want better than that.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Like I’d said, a detailed “action plan” can follow, later on, but right at this point, right now, you do need a certain minimal clarity, if your decision itself is to be at all meaningful. Otherwise your decision can only be random, or at least unthinking (that is, based on implicit and unexamined assumptions).
I guess then it comes down to how much detail is required. For me, your description below of "not harming others unnecessarily, being generally kind to others, being capable of empathy to others" is enough detail.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Note one thing, though. I’d said earlier that you need to not only formulate your definition, but to defend it as well. Going back to our analogy of “investing wisely”: You do need to justify all of the definitions you’re providing, the brief description of what you’re referring to as wise investments.
It's actually a good question: how does one justify "living a good life"? I honestly don't know. But I think most people would agree with your description, despite the subjective nature of the question.

But while I agree with regards to the level of description needed in the "investing wisely" analogy, I don't think it is needed in the case of "living a good life". That's a point where the analogy fails. I think the definition you gave is enough detail.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
All of that is the first turtle. Without that much resolution of your first “turtle”, I’m afraid you’re only dealing in empty platitudes (and/or unexamined assumptions).
I believe that I am fairly clear in my own mind what makes for a good life, based on what I've learned and believe personally. Someone else may have a different view to mine, and that's fine. Personally I don't consider "Live a good life and you'll win regardless of whether there is a God or not" an empty platitude, though that's my opinion.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Originally Posted by GDon
This to me is one of those key points: whether or not there is an objective 'good'. It's consistent for atheists to hold that 'good' and 'evil' are subjective. It is consistent for theists to hold that 'good' and 'evil' are objective, grounded in an omnibenevolent and omniscient god.
I don't think it is very ...reasonable, to suggest, as you are implicitly suggesting, that either view is equally reasonable. If the theist claims that there is an objective "good", then he carries the burden to support his claim; else, while he is obviously free to believe that, his belief and his claim will not be reasonable.
I agree, it is my burden if I want to prove it to someone else. But I'll note that a lot of people, including atheist philosophers for what it's worth, have an interest in the implications of an objective vs subjective 'good'. There are lots of discussions and debates around the topic. At the end of the day though, for the theist it is a faith position.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Originally Posted by GDon
I'll define a 'good life' as 'acting selflessly', and 'good actions' as 'selfless actions that benefit others'.

(I'll also define 'love' in the same way. 1 Cor 13:13 is: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." The Greek word 'charity' is 'agape', which is also translated as 'love'. That is, 'love' is an action rather than an emotion.)
Ah, thank you, for that clear definition. Great!

Two (rather obvious) follow-on questions on this:

First, what makes you think your hypothetical God also defines "good" in these terms, and rewards people who act in this way?

And second, on what basis do you reject other definitions of "good life" -- e.g., a life spent upholding the biblical commandments, or a life upholding Godly commands relayed via some prophet, etc, etc, as far as the limited context of the wager?
(1) I can't say I know on what terms an omni-max God defines "good" or "good life", and on what terms it rewards people who act that way. I'm happy to hope that good intentions is a good starting place for both questions.

(2) I lack belief in other gods, so I guess I don't need to uphold their definitions for a good life.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
I don't see that it does. It could, hypothetically, be the case that all humans, psychotic outliers excepted, have evolved to similar basic ideas of "good", without that in any way implying a God at all.

In any case, aren't you putting the cart before the horse? Suppose an objective "good" did imply an omnibenevolent God, so what? If you're going to presume that there's an objective good, simply so that that can lead you to the conclusion of an omnibenevolent God, then that is simply wishful thinking!! (Which I guess takes us back to that earlier discussion of ours some weeks/months back, on a separate thread.)
I don't disagree, but I'd call it "a working hypothesis", and one that provides me with an objective grounding for 'good' as well as the existence of the universe. Can I prove it? No. Could I be wrong? Sure! But I'm willing to take that bet and work on the basis of my 'working hypothesis' until further information becomes available.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Originally Posted by GDon
If we go back to my original two premises for Pascal's Wager:

1. Reason can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God;
2. The only god is the RCC God (or in my case, "an omnibenevolent God")

To my mind, the existence of an objective 'good' implies an omnibenevolent God. So it is important for the turtle that leads to Pascal's Wager and the Atheist's Wager.
I'm sorry, the above seems entirely messed up to me!

(a) Neither premise is self-evident. Nor do I see them supported anywhere.
The first premise is a conclusion of a previous proposition: the Wager is for people who believe that reason can't prove nor disprove the existence of God. For those people who believe reason can prove either, the Wager isn't relevant.

The second premise is based on the idea that the following condition applies: either (1) an omnimax God exists or (2) there is no God or gods. I think that is reasonable, for reasons already given but let me summarize:

1. I can personally handwave away all gods, since I lack evidence for them and so lack belief in them. Still, the universe exists. It either exists because it was created by a god or gods or powerful beings, or it exists without a creator. Reason can't decide. (Maybe there are other possibilities, but it seems to me to be limited to those two.) Again: if reason can decide one way or the other, then the Wager isn't applicable.

2. God is defined as omni-max. I think the universe and goodness hints at this. Yes, I know you don't find that convincing, and neither do I. I'm the person from the First Premise. I have no idea if God exists. But I'm willing to take that risk, as a faith position, in that I believe I benefit from it in this life. There may be a group of omni-max gods, but I'd reason they'd all think the same anyway.

3. If the universe was created by gods or beings who are powerful but not benevolent, then we are probably screwed. Besides, I have no evidence for them and so lack belief in them. Even if you hand-wave them in (but if I can't hand-wave them out, I don't see why I should let you hand-wave them in!), without evidence there is no point adding them into the calculation. At least for my omni-max God, I think there are hints that one could exist. The "omni-max" part has to remain a 'working hypothesis' (a more scientifically sounding way to say 'faith position'!) If there is no 'benevolence' in there, then we're probably screwed anyway.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
If you start with a random set of premises, then even with correct reasoning you'll only end with conclusions that no reasonable person would take seriously. Garbage in, garbage out. (Analogy: If I started with the premise that it is Zeus who is the creator of the world and the one true God, then no matter how sound my reasoning, any conclusion will be entirely nonsensical, won't it?) For the umpteenth time, where is the justification for Pascal's premise? Or are you going to simply say it is subjective (in which case I'll freely grant you your right to your belief, I'll even respect your belief, but I'm afraid I simply won't take it at all seriously -- the "neither agree nor disagree but simply set aside unsupported subjective opinion" category).

(b) Once again, this -- "To my mind, the existence of an objective 'good' implies an omnibenevolent God. So it is important for the turtle that leads to Pascal's Wager and the Atheist's Wager." -- makes no sense at all! First, we don't know there is an objective "good". Second, an objective "good" does not necessarily imply a God, much less an omnibenevolent God. Third, even if an objective "good" did imply an omnibenevolent God, even then that does not lead us to anything, unless through pure and simple wishful thinking. And four, I don't see how any of this relates directly with the premise above.

Sorry, that part made zero sense, and as far as I can tell looks like confused thinking.
Fair enough. I've put my reasoning for it, so I appreciate your comments.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Fair enough, so that's your definition of a good life. But .... how? and why? and whence? All of that is so entirely random!

Look, I'm happy to discuss your personal subjective ideas of God, and your personal subjective ideas of goodness as well, if you'd like — and if you'll either start your own separate thread, or go back to the one I'd started — but how do you defend your idea of "good"? Why is "good" this, objectively and universally speaking, and none other? Why would God endorse this view, and reward it, and none other? Why would God want belief at all, as the Atheist's wager rightly asks? Why ...any of this?

Sorry, GDon, I don't mean to sound at all dismissive, but you're simply plucking random things and ideas out of thin air, literally anything at all that subjectively appeals to you, and then again attaching random causality claims (that such and such random acts will lead to such and such random rewards, by the agency of such and such random God), with not a shred of evidence or conclusive reasoning anywhere. All of which is fine as a purely subjective exercise, and as statement of one’s own subjective faith, but has little value beyond that. Or so it seems to me.
No doubt at its heart it is subjective.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Lots of harm can indeed befall you! If you're backing the wrong God, and the real God has other ideas, then you'll get fried and sent to hell. If there's no God you'll have wasted your time and money on pointless things, since you're doing this expressly to get those rewards.
It could be I'm backing the wrong God. But since I have no evidence for any other god, what should I do? I believe I have some hints, even if they are subjective, to consider an "omni-max" God. If someone believes I am backing the wrong God, all I can do is ask them for the evidence.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
....I don't know, this is all ...sorry, I have to say, entirely random, and entirely wholly unsupported, beginning to end, and trying to unravel this leads ...nowehere at all, beyond yet more random unsupported assertions at every step!
If I'm backing the wrong God, then I'm screwed. But I lack belief in the other gods, so I can only wager on the cards I have. And if there is no God, then I don't think I'm wasting my time, since being good isn't a bad use of time, as per the Atheist's Wager.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
If you’re going to go with the premise of individual Gods for every individual, then, instead of hundreds, you’ll end up with billions of them as your starting point. You will now need to put them all in the Pascal’s Wager matrix, or else you’ll need to sift through them, whittle them down to just one. I still don’t see a third way of doing this, doing this reasonably I mean to say.

And that general definition of God you’ve looked up? Sorry, but for the umpteenth time, even that is just one amongst so many others! Is that the one that the maximum number of people use? I don’t know, any such claim will need to be backed up. Even if does turn out that that is the most popular definition, so what? To claim that definition is true before more people believe it is simply an argumentum ad populum fallacy; and to simply go by the most popular definition on practical grounds would, apart from your needing to show that is indeed the most popular definition, also be pretty random. Just because, say, 1 billion people believe this, why are you rejecting other definitions that maybe 500 million believe? Again, this is all so random!
I just don't see the need to put them in the matrix, I'm afraid. I lack belief in all those gods. I'd need to see evidence to believe in them, just as you'd (rightly) need to see evidence to believe in mine. I agree with Pascal's first premise that reason alone can't decide whether gods exist or not. Some people might disagree on either side of that equation, and fair enough too. Pascal's Wager isn't for them.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Wait a minute, you seem to be using the words “you’re wagering this”, and “you’re wagering that” as simply a means of getting out substantiating any of the things you’re saying!
That's true. I'm not trying to substantiate anything. It's a punt based on what I see as potential hints.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Sorry, GDon, this is all over the place. You’d initially said that an objective “good” implies an omnibenevolent God. Now you’re saying an omnibenevolent God implies an objective “good”. Which is it?
'Good' implies an omnibenevolent God, in that it can be ontologically grounded in the nature of an omnibenevolent God. There may be other ways to ground it, but I don't know any others. It's not proof of anything, but it is enough to take a punt in my opinion. Others might have a different opinion, and fair enough too.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
No, for the Wager to work you don’t necessarily need to have an omni-max God. It could work for other Gods as well. As for Pascal’s words, I don’t see what the point of quoting that is. That isn’t a “premise”, that’s just random assertions. And besides, a minion to a diabolically malevolent God, that nevertheless rewards said minion for doing Its bidding, might well result in that minion being “faithful, and humble, and grateful, and generous and a sincere friend (to those that think like he does, and collaborates with him), as well as, I suppose, albeit that isn’t a given, truthful as well.

If you’re going to try to delve into what kind of God Pascal had in mind, well, we can be very sure that it wasn’t your generic God. I haven’t read his Pensees, beyond that short portion you pointed out to me earlier on, but dejudge seems to have, and he’s quoted portions of it here that suggest that Pascal was referring to the Christian God. (That had been my — entirely obvious — guess, as well, like I’d said upthread.)
It's almost certain that Pascal's Wager is based on the idea of an omni-max God, since that was the prevailing philosophical position of his time (and still is, for that matter). But outside of his Wager he uses additional points -- for example fullfilment of Biblical passages -- to choose the Christian God over, say, the Muslim God. But the Wager, as written, works for any benevolent God.

I'd find it an incredible claim that Pascal didn't have an omni-max God in mind when he wrote his Wager. Of course, for Pascal, that omni-max God is the Christian one. But he uses points outside of the Wager to try to establish that.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
I can easily formulate a Wager that uses a malevolent God. Easiest thing in the world!

But in any case you’re claiming that Pascal’s Wager is set up with a benevolent God in mind. First, you’ll need to show that, and you haven’t. Second, even if that is indeed how he set it up, even then it’s pointless, because you need to show that that premise is reasonable!

I can set up a Wager saying that the lottery jackpots will all be prime numbers, and then set out to form a strategy for playing the lottery on that basis: but that will avail me nothing, unless my premise (that only prime numbers will be drawn) has any basis in reality, if only a statistical basis.
I don't think the analogy is accurate, if by "only prime numbers will be drawn" mirrors "God exists". Remember, the Wager is "reason can't decide". But I also don't want to argue via analogy, since that confuses things so quickly!

For me, the two key points are:

1. If the premises are true, is the logic valid?

2. Are the premises true?

For (1), I'd say 'yes'. For (2), I'd say 'probably' (based on a benevolent God). But I agree that showing the proposition "benevolent God or nothing" is the key problem. Starting from an agnostic position -- a lack of belief in all gods but reason can't decide whether there is one or more -- takes me a long way there. For the people in Pascal's time who didn't believe in any other gods, then (2) would have been much stronger.

Of course, I take your point that we'd still have to know how to act in order to win those rewards. But I think that we have enough detailed information for that, as per the points near the top.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Likewise, how does it even matter if Pascal imagines God is omnibelevolent? Who cares for his unsupported and random guesses? Why would that impel me to play his Wager?
I don't think it should impel you to play his Wager. Keep in mind that the premise is "Reason can't decide whether God exists or not." So it is for agnostics who wonder if there may be a God after all. For those non-agnostics -- confirmed atheists or confirmed theists -- the Wager isn't applicable.

Remember, the Wager isn't there to prove that God exists. There is no "QED God exists".

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Sure, any time you like we can “agree to disagree”: but what are we disagreeing about, exactly? I’m saying Pascal’s assumption that God is omnibenevolent is random, and unsupported, and therefore unreasonable. Is that what you’re disagreeing with? On what basis? How do you even begin to justify that kind of random claim?

If you state all of this is your subjective take, and/or Pascal’s subjective take, then sure, we can agree to disagree. That is, I can respect your subjective faith, absolutely: but given that it is not based on reason and evidence, I can leave it well alone, and that is the end of that. But you set out to show us how Pascal’s Wager is “brilliant”, and reasonable, and not the kind of nonsensical raving that many of us have been saying it is. Don’t you want to do that any more?
Well, I gave it my best bet! I didn't find Pascal's Wager until after I converted to theism, but I found it reflected the path that I took. Thus I guess my thought process was "Wow, Pascal thought like me. He must have been a very intelligent and brilliant man!"

Apologies for cutting the rest, but I did read through it. Again, I truly appreciate you spending time to read through my points and responding to them. Many of your questions and points raised issues for me to think through. It's the reason I come back to this board. I wish there could be more such serious but fruitful interactions on this board like I've had with you. And I look forward to further ones with you! Thanks Chanakya!

Last edited by GDon; 13th January 2021 at 04:40 AM.
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