Math but not Spirits (2)

We assume that asking whether God exists is relevantly similar to asking whether dark matter or black holes exist, but what if it’s more like asking whether a mathematical entity exists, like Euclidean or Riemannian quantities or complex numbers? IOW, to exist is to be defined and to not exist is to be contradictory.

Things are either possible or impossible, and either exist in fact or don’t. Verbally, this gives us four quadrants of description:

                Exist in fact          Don’t exist in fact.
Possible                        2                       1
Not-possible                         3                       4

Things in quadrant 3 can be disregarded, since they are only a verbal and not a logical possibility. But only material (or at least contingent) things can exist in quadrant 1. Anything necessary, like abstract entities or spirits* can only be 2 or 4.

The tendentious calls for “evidence” that God exists (as though evidence could only mean one thing) are simply demands for a material god who could “make a difference to the universe” by either existing or not. The interaction problem amounts to the same thing.

The Dionysian commonplace that “God is not an existent but outside existence” is true, but it can be said just as much of complex numbers too. All its means is that there are different criteria and methods for establishing existence,** which we shouldn’t forget is admitted by any Naturalist.


*I say “spirits” and not just God or the absolutely necessary. True, a finite spirit is somehow contingent, but he is no less contingent than a mathematical quantity, and we have no problem with inferring the existence of these from their possibility.

**At least of positive existence. There are evils and vices too, but this is a different there are or est than in there are complex numbers or Deus est.

2 Comments

  1. November 25, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Calling for evidence of God is no more tendentious than calling for evidence of the Riemann hypothesis, to use your own comparison. And just because the Riemann hypothesis is mathematical does not mean that there cannot be evidence for and against it; it is a hypothesis precisely because there is relevant evidence, despite the fact that there is not (currently) any demonstrative proof for or against.

  2. November 25, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    It seems to me that the “Dionysian commonplace,” that “God is not an existent but outside existence,” is pretty much a tautology. But it also seems to me that both “God is not an existent” and “God is outside existence” imply “It is not the case that God exists.” That should be worrisome for a theist.

    It further seems to me that, if it is or were true that “God is not an existent but outside existence,” “no criteria and methods for establishing existence,” no matter how different, could establish the existence of God.

    Turning in a bit of a different direction, and I’m not sure if you are speaking for yourself when you say it, but the statement, “IOW, to exist is to be defined and to not exist is to be contradictory”,” strikes me as being problematic. The “IOW, to exist is to be defined …” part of it seems to make existence relative to a knower defining the existent. And, if the contradictory is impossible, the “IOW, … to not exist is to be contradictory,” it follows that “to not exist is to be impossible.” While I can imagine myself saying that all impossible beings are non-existent beings, I cannot imagine myself saying that all non-existent beings are impossible beings. Doesn’t that entail that all possible beings are existent beings?


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