An important distinction for better dialogue

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An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Sun Sep 09, 2012 12:13 am

Is there a difference between the two following statements:

1) "I lack a belief that X is Y"

And

2) "X is not Y"
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby sepia » Sun Sep 09, 2012 11:15 am

I think there are 2 important differences:

1) Includes a statement about one's belief. 2) doesn't (but of course we can conclude, that the person claiming it beliefs that X is not Y).

1) Means that X might be Y or isn't Y at all. 2) means just, that X isn't Y.
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby eimerian » Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:25 am

1) is a statement about what is known (epistemology).
2) is a statement about what is the case (ontology).
In every-day language this might not be a big difference, but if you want to construct an argument, you want to be as precise and unambigious as possible and should draw this distinction.

In an old AE episode when a theist caller insisted that "I don't believe in God" means "There is no God.", Matt gave this example to prove him wrong within seconds:
Matt: I flip a coin and catch it in my hand. Do you believe it's heads?
Caller: No.
Matt: Do you believe it's tails?
Caller: No.
Matt: There you go.
Jesus saves.
Do not remove memory card, controller, or reset/switch off the console.
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Eimerian Said:

In an old AE episode when a theist caller insisted that "I don't believe in God" means "There is no God.", Matt gave this example to prove him wrong within seconds...

Thank you, first of all, for your input. I am wondering if you could offer some clarification:

Matt: I flip a coin and catch it in my hand. Do you believe it's heads?
Caller: No.
Matt: Do you believe it's tails?
Caller: No.
Matt: There you go.


In the above analogy, I understand that concept. When applied to a god's existence, there is no positive assertion of either the truth or the falsehood of the claim. If this is the position of those who say, "I do not believe in a god" (in epistemological language), it would seem to me that is the same as saying, "I do not know if a god exists or not".

In other words, a person who says, "I do not believe in a god" is not making an ontological claim. Would you say this is an accurate understanding?
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby sepia » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:48 am

GrammarOfAssent wrote:If this is the position of those who say, "I do not believe in a god" (in epistemological language), it would seem to me that is the same as saying, "I do not know if a god exists or not".

No, there are differences:

1) Someone who beliefs to know, that there is no god, would'nt claim "I do not know if a god exists or not.", but can claim "I do not believe in a god." Because if you belief, something doesn't exist, you don't belief in it's existence. And if you don't belief in the existence of something, this doesn't mean, that you belief it doesn't exist, but it doesn't contradict it.

2) (maybe?) You can belief something and be aware that you don't know it. Then you also can belief in a god, but claim "I do not know if a god exists or not."

GrammarOfAssent wrote:In other words, a person who says, "I do not believe in a god" is not making an ontological claim. Would you say this is an accurate understanding?


I'm not sure if claims about one's own belief are ontological or not, but a person saying this doesn't make a claim about things existing intependent from him/her.
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:19 pm

sepia Said:

Someone who beliefs to know, that there is no god, would'nt claim "I do not know if a god exists or not.", but can claim "I do not believe in a god."

So, it seems, a person who says, "I do not believe in a god" could mean at least two different things. Either they mean:

1) "It is FALSE that a (i.e. any god) exists"

or

2) "I do not know if a (i.e. any) god exists or doesn't exist"

Using the terminology on IronChariotsWiki, a "weak atheist" would use the second meaning. A "strong atheist", the first (I welcome any correction to that understanding as put forth by the editors of IronChariotsWiki). However, both could rightly say, "I don't believe in a god".

I see a problem with this. This equivocation of the phrase, "I don't believe in a god" will breed misunderstanding (indeed, it already has). I agree that both a "strong atheist" and a "weak atheist" can rightly use the phrase to describe (in some way) their position. However, I suggest that in answer to certain questions or in certain contexts, it is not a good response to convey its intended meaning, and another should be used. Otherwise it becomes either an equivocation or an amphibole.

To use TAE coin flip analogy:

A person could rightly say, "I don't believe the coin is facing heads up". This could either mean:

1) "It is FALSE that the coin is facing heads up"

or

2) "I don't know which way the coin is facing"

Now, suppose Matt Dillahunty flips a coin and asks a caller on the show, "Which face of the coin is up?"

And, suppose you heard the caller respond, "I don't believe the coin is facing heads up."

If the caller meant (as in #2), "I don't know one way or the other", then "I don't believe the coin is facing heads up" is a rather odd and misleading way to answer Matt's question (especially when there is a perfectly good an clear way of expressing your meaning: "I don't know").

If he meant, "It is FALSE that the coin is facing heads up", while "I don't believe the coin is facing heads up" is still an accurate description of his position, there is a much simpler way to say it: "I believe it is tails."

Thoughts?
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby Lausten » Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:34 pm

GofA wrote:If he meant, "It is FALSE that the coin is facing heads up", while "I don't believe the coin is facing heads up" is still an accurate description of his position, there is a much simpler way to say it: "I believe it is tails."

You're missing the reasoning behind coin flip analogy. There is no reason to say "I believe it is tails". That may be someone's position, so they can they say it if they want, but they have no reason for believing it. By changing the question to "Which face of the coin is up?", you broke the analogy to "Do you believe God exists?" You're now asking them to make a choice, heads or tails, without sufficient evidence.

Saying "I don't believe God exists" means, or at a minimum implies, I don't have sufficient evidence to make a claim about God. I agree misunderstanding about this exists. That can be explained. If someone is accepting that explanation, they probably have an agenda. I suspect you have an agenda. You pointed out the problem but you didn't offer an alternative.
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby sepia » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:14 pm

GrammarOfAssent wrote:And, suppose you heard the caller respond, "I don't believe the coin is facing heads up."

It would be an inefficient answer, that a caller only talks about not beliefing in the coin facing heads up, but nothing more.

Because if the callers position is, that he/she doesn't know, which side is up, the better answer would be: "I don't know."

And if the callers position is, that the coin isn't facing heads up, he/she should say: "I belief it is facing number."

So in both cases its not a clear statement and there are better answers. Therefor I would only answer it, if Matt asks me "Do you belief, it is facing heads up?", or If I have to think about the right answer and the detail with the coin is the only fact I know. But in the case of the coin-analogy there isn't much to think.

For atheism this means, that it isn't a good way to describe people. I don't belief in the aliens of Mars Attacks too, but I'm not describe myself as a Mars Attacks Sceptic. Nevertheless, I see one good thing about the term atheism: If we differ people into groups beliefing in the same kind of god, atheists are the group of people beliefing in no god. And in cases, where religion is important, atheism is important too.
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Wed Sep 12, 2012 5:52 pm

Lausten wrote:

You pointed out the problem but you didn't offer an alternative.

I did not think it was my place to offer to someone else how to phrase their own position without asking me to do so. Also, if you read my post, I think you will find what I might suggest as an alternative.

I suspect you have an agenda.

Indeed, I DO have an agenda. My "agenda" is to understand the position of a person who differs from me. In order to do that, I am attempting to clear up ambiguities and equivocations. It is almost as if I am trying to identify "an important distinction" so that there might be "better dialogue" =).

As for some "hidden" agenda, you would be wasting energy trying to uncover a thing that does not exist.

Saying "I don't believe God exists" means, or at a minimum implies, I don't have sufficient evidence to make a claim about God.

"I don't have sufficient evidence..." is certainly a reason to say, "I don't believe God exists".

It is not, I maintain, what "I don't believe God exists" means.

If it IS what you mean when you say "I don't believe God exists", then there is a less ambiguous and clearer way to express the underlying meaning. In fact, half of your reason IS precisely that less ambiguous and clear way: "I don't...make a claim about God". Why not just say that?

You're missing the reasoning behind coin flip analogy.

Nope, I understand it just fine, thanks.

That may be someone's position, so they can they say it if they want...

Precisely.

...but they have no reason for believing it.

2 Things:

1) Having no reasoning behind your position says very little about the TRUTH of the position. For example, a person could guess "heads" for no reason at all, and be correct (or incorrect).

2) The reasons you give for your position are good and necessary for argumentation, but not for expressing the meaning of the position itself.

By changing the question to "Which face of the coin is up?", you broke the analogy to "Do you believe God exists?"

It seems as if it is you who are "missing the reasoning behind the coin flip analogy". By changing the question to, "Which face of the coin is up?" (A question that can only have 3 independently clear and unambiguous answers: Heads, Tails, and I don't know/I am not convinced), I "broke the analogy" to the question, "Does a god exist?" (A question that can have only 3 independently clear and unambiguous answers: Yes, no, and I don't know/I am not convinced).

You're now asking them to make a choice, heads or tails, without sufficient evidence.

Well, if I were asking them to do that, I would be creating a false dichotomy. I don't remember any coercion involved with the question, so the hearer of the question is under no obligation to answer the question at all. The choice I am asking them to make is indeed between heads or tails, but just like any other question a human being is not prepared to answer, that human being can simply say, "I don't know", "I am not sure", "I am not convinced", and any number of ways that expresses a lack of propositional judgment. I am perfectly fine with that. If you think it would help remove the pressure of the perceived dichotomy, I have no problem with adding, "...or are you not yet convinced?".

Now, if you are of the opinion that there are gradations of valid positions between "God exists" and "God does not exist" (as Richard Dawkins does), then that is a different discussion altogether.
Last edited by GrammarOfAssent on Wed Sep 12, 2012 7:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:10 pm

sepia wrote:

Because if the callers position is, that he/she doesn't know, which side is up, the better answer would be: "I don't know...And if the callers position is, that the coin isn't facing heads up, he/she should say: "I belief it is facing number.""

I wholeheartedly agree.

If we differ people into groups beliefing in the same kind of god, atheists are the group of people beliefing in no god.

That is fine. Group them as you wish.
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby Lausten » Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:42 am

GofA wrote: Having no reasoning behind your position says very little about the TRUTH of the position

This is where your problem is. You're right, guessing at something doesn't make it true or not true. It is either true or not true. However we can verify the truth of the coin flip result. We just look at the coin. Let's not play around with who looked at it, or witnesses to it, or double sided coins. It's a coin, it was flipped, we can all see it. We can't do that with God. It's not just that I don't have sufficient evidence for God, no one does. That's the whole point. When talking about this particular truth claim and REASONS for believing one way or another, this has to be kept in mind.
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:37 am

Lausten wrote:

This is where your problem is. You're right, guessing at something doesn't make it true or not true. It is either true or not true.

So is it a problem that I am right =)? Joking of course...

However we can verify the truth of the coin flip result.

Ah yes, we certainly can. However, I haven't exactly asked you to verify or prove your position, have I? All I have asked you so far is what your position is. If your position includes your reasons for holding that position...it is a bad position, and will not be able to escape the fallacy of "begging the question". It is plainly obvious that your position is that you don't have a position regarding the truth or falsehood of God's existence.

We just look at the coin...We can't do that with God.

I couldn't agree more. Has anything I have said yet led you to believe I thought we could do that with God? Or is this part of my hidden agenda?

It's not just that I don't have sufficient evidence for God, no one does. That's the whole point.

Whose point? Yours? Richard Dawkins's?

When talking about this particular truth claim and REASONS for believing one way or another, this has to be kept in mind.

So would you agree that there is, in fact, a true answer to the question, "Does a god exist?" (i.e. either Yes or No), only, it is not possible to come to a knowledge of that answer at the present time?
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby Lausten » Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:28 pm

If your position includes your reasons for holding that position...it is a bad position, and will not be able to escape the fallacy of "begging the question".
Including reasons is not “begging the question” and definitely does not make it a bad position.

Whose point? Yours? Richard Dawkins's?

The point of having a position about the existence of God. The point that you brought up.

So would you agree that there is, in fact, a true answer to the question, "Does a god exist?"
No. I don’t agree with that at all. I don’t understand what it is that you don’t understand. There could be a true answer to the question, but we have no way to verify it, so believing it is true or not is an untenable position. I don’t recommend believing things and acting on those believes when it is something so irrational and unreasonable.

come to a knowledge of that answer
Do what? You continuously use words like “truth” without defining them. Now you are using some sort of incoherent version of English. When you spit up phrases like this one, it is usually a good indicator that you have not thought through what you are trying to say.
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:09 pm

Lausten wrote:

Including reasons is not “begging the question” and definitely does not make it a bad position.

In fact, including your reason for your conclusion in the conclusion itself, is the DEFINITION of "begging the question". Here is an example:

Your words:
"I don't believe God exists" means, or at a minimum implies, I don't have sufficient evidence to make a claim about God.

Conclusion: "There is not sufficient evidence to make a claim about God."

Person 1: "What is your argument in favor of that conclusion?"

Person 2: "Because there is not sufficient evidence." (Your words: "It's not just that I don't have sufficient evidence for God, no one does. That's the whole point.")

Your reasoning/argument/premise is included in your conclusion. That doesn't mean your reasoning is wrong. It just means that it needs to be removed from your conclusion.

The point of having a position about the existence of God. The point that you brought up.

So no one should take a position on the existence of God? The only position a person can rationally hold about God's existence is "I don't/can't have one"? Am I understanding you right?

No. I don’t agree with that at all. I don’t understand what it is that you don’t understand. There could be a true answer to the question, but we have no way to verify it, so believing it is true or not is an untenable position.

That is not what I meant with my question. I am not asking whether or not a person actually HAS the answer, or if a person has the ABILITY to find the answer. I am asking:

IS there an answer to be found at all?

By analogy:

In the year 1917, despite the lack of human knowledge, black holes existed in reality.

(Assume Person 1 and 2 know what is MEANT by the term, "black hole")

Person 1 asks the question: "Does a 'black hole' exist?"

In 1917, there was enough evidence to ask the question, but not enough evidence to answer it.

Person 2: "I don't know"

Now,put yourself in the role of Person 2 (who hears the question).

Person 1: "Does my question have an answer?"

Person 2: ?????

Now you are using some sort of incoherent version of English. When you spit up phrases like this one, it is usually a good indicator that you have not thought through what you are trying to say.

Certainly your superior intellect was able to ascertain the meaning of this awkwardly formed phrase: "come to a knowledge of that answer". If not, here are a few suggestions: "Come to know the answer", "arrive at the answer", "learn the answer", "know the answer", etc.

It is one thing to say, "In every possible way of understanding the term, "answer", there exists no answer to that question."

It is quite another thing to say, "The existing answer is unknown"

See the difference?
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Re: An important distinction for better dialogue

Postby Lausten » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:56 pm

G wrote:Am I understanding you right?

No, and you are not even trying. You are deliberately obfuscating the entire discussion. You are making up terms and definitions and refusing to accept any feedback. You are using scientific examples of things that have been proven and saying that somehow applies to your God question. It doesn't.

1902
The Wright Brothers: We can fly
Person 1: Ha, ha, ha
1903
Person 1: oh

2013
Grammar of Assent: Is it possible to find an answer to the question of the existence of God? At this point I'm not too concerned about what the answer is, it might be 42, but I don't really care, I just want to play word games.
Person 1: Ha, ha, ha
3013
Person 2: Ha, ha, ha, ha
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