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A Buddhist Critique of God ( Ziporyn version)

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 56yrs • M •
Golem is new to Captain Cynic and has less than 15 posts. New members have certain restrictions and must fill in CAPTCHAs to use various parts of the site.
A Buddhist Critique of God ( Ziporyn version)
Critique of God

We are a group of aspiring comparative philosophers who have organized a small informal reading group of intriguing, difficult and seminal modern philosophical texts. Right now we're reading Brook Ziporyn's Being and Ambiguity. We are tentatively planning to take up Hofstadter's Godol Escher Bach next, but we are open to suggestions. I am posting these dispatches as summaries of our discussions, in an attempt to open up the conversation to others who have perhaps broader or otherwise oriented philosophical expertise or experiences. Comments are thus very welcome, whether or not you have read Ziporyn's book.

This time we took up Ziporyn's critique of God, specifically the monotheistic concepts of God. It is what might be called a 'spiritual critique' in that it sees God as detrimental to the spiritual life of mankind. In this sense Spinoza and Nietzsche are obvious antecedents. But his approach is cognitively rigorous in a sense that is perhaps closer to Hume. That is, God is both intellectually implausible and pragmatically disastrous.

First, there is what is almost an 'ontological proof' of the *impossibility* of God's existence. This is unique, as far as I know. Critiques of God generally assume that the burden of proof is on the side of those who assert the empirically questionable belief in God's existence. Ziporyn goes further. His proof assumes only one premise: causality. Since this premise is also assumed by most attempts to prove God's existence (first cause argument, etc.), it should be uncontroversial. But Ziporyn's exploration of Causality, based on Buddhist resources, stipulates that causality cannot be understood as a single cause creating a single effect, nor a single cause creating multiple effects, nor multiple causes creating a single effect: in every case, by definition, causality must be multiple causes creating multiple effects. (Multiplicity is the centerpiece of both the logical and the pragmatic critiques of God. Ziporyn's book is in one sense an extended critique of oneness in any form.) The critique of God is just one consequence of the critique of 'a single cause producing effects.' Empirically, this is unproblematic: no case of single-cause effectivity has ever been observed, and we have no reason to infer or extrapolate causality in this form from the empirical world: our concept of causality derives solely from observed multiple-cause effects (although the secondary causes are often ignored, because they are relatively constant or more long-lasting than the primary cause.)

But there is also a logical proof: if a single cause could create an effect, there is no reason why it would not have always been creating that effect. There would be no reason for the effect to arise at moment M rather than any other moment. If it is eternally present in or with the cause, then the effect is not a second entity, but just a constant aspect of that cause, and in the final analysis none other than that cause itself; no causality of one entity by another has taken place. The fact that causality 'takes place' as a temporal event at a specific moment in time means that there was at least one more condition besides the existence of cause C that brings about that effect: at the very least, 'the passage of a certain amount of time.' Even if C creates the effect 'spontaneously' after being left to itself for awhile, this 'awhile' constitutes another cause. It is something heterogeneous to the original cause, the combining of causes and conditions. E.g., two causes are necessary to produce effect E: Cause C + the passage of X amount of time.

Possible theistic objection: Does causality apply internally to the monotheist God? He's supposed to be 'free,' isn't he? Does that mean free from causal constraints? The Ziporyn point would be, assuming that God exists, there is no reason why He would create a world at one time rather than another; the second condition for world-creation would be God's act of will, his decision to create. But why does this willing arise at one time rather than another? We have an infinite regress, which has to take refuge either in the idea of continuous creation (which already undermines somewhat the usual anthromorphic God of tradition), of timelessness before God created Time (we hear St, Augustine puzzling over it, finally concluding with a threat and an appeal to authority), or God's freedom as exempt from causality internally, although capable of exercising causality externally, e.g., in creating a world. Or the usual theistic refuge: it is beyond human understanding, requires faith, etc. This is perhaps equivalent to the assertion of acausal freedom: it simply means unintelligibility, it means that no questions can be asked or answered, because, as Kant showed, causality in some sense is synonymous with explanation, with undertstanding. To say, 'He does it freely, not because of any cause' is just another way of saying 'I don't know anything about it.' Hence it is devoid of meaning, and equivalent to giving no answer at all.
The theological question would be: is God's being different from God's will? If different, how does his being generate his will? Again we have to imagine some sort of causal relation, and the same question applies. If not different (as Maimonides, Aquinas and Spinoza all assert, I think), there can be no event of creation. But isn't continuous creation (not of this or that, but of the entire world, ex nihilo) a bit of an oxymoron? Creation is by definition an event, a passing from non-being into being; if it's always happening, no event occurs.
In any event, the use of God as an explanation of the world fails. If we are willing to admit inexplicability for God, we might as well admit it for the world and save ourselves this detour. In fact, this is just where Ziporyn is heading with his doctrine of global incoherence. Our concepts of causality and so on are inadequate not only for God, but for any event, or for the world itself, for which no single account can be given: it is in this sense beyond words and thought, but in a way that makes it still describable in terms of local coherences, and allows the orderliness and predictability of the world as local coherences. But here we start to get to the spiritual critique of God: the draining of all the mysteriousness into the God side leaves the world despiritualized, a thoroughly knowable and controllable machine, which can be given a single meaning and purpose-and ourselves as well. We become substances with a finite set of predictable qualities, or else we ourselves are bifurcated into a free soul and a mechanical body, constitutively at war with ourselves. Rather, Ziporyn claims, all possible entities without exception are locally knowable but globally mysterious. (So we really are at war with ourselves in a way? Yes, but he goes on: global incoherence is local coherence!)
This is the first part of the logical critique of God, God as cause. The next concerns a demolition of the concept of 'Natural Law,' which attacks God as philosophical principle of unity or guarantor of the consistency or orderliness of the world. Next there is the critique of God as omniscient observer, which is part of the critique of the concept of God's spiritual effects on man. I will post further summaries of our discussions in the coming weeks.

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 34yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Zato is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Another excellent place to post your discussion would be
It is an excellent site like this one.

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"Anything is Possible when you think illogically."
 33yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Jacker_Jones is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
That's too long to bother reading.

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"I love to see people struggling for their purpose in life..."
 37yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that wholly is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
could you summarize the main points of that discussion in a few sentences?

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"dont got one"
 56yrs • M •
Golem is new to Captain Cynic and has less than 15 posts. New members have certain restrictions and must fill in CAPTCHAs to use various parts of the site.
The basic idea is that God as creator is impossible because no effect can ever arise from a single cause. All causality, empirically observed or logically intelligible, presupposes multiplicity, the combination of causes and conditions. Wherever we think we see "oneness" of any kind, we are simply neglecting other heterogeneous factors that makes this one seeem to be what seems. This distorts our minds, habituating us to chronic focal atrophy of awareness. See details above. The implications are that the whole concept of a single, unambiguous, fully constituted entity--God, this table, my "self"--is untenable, and we need a new ontology to replace it. "A" thing is an erroneous abstraction. The new ontology is given by Ziporyn as "Local Coherence is synonymous with Global incoherence...." More on that later. The implications are pretty immense...!

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 36yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Conway is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.

You are useing empiracal logic to explain God. It is simply said that God is supernaturael. This means he is out of the "bounds for effect and cause. He has no laws of coherence and incoherence. He is not human.

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""So this is where im supposed to wright something snazy and truthfull?"-impossible."
A Buddhist Critique of God ( Ziporyn version)
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