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April 18, 2023


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Brian mentions here “The drive to be social, which is still very much with us, required trust” I agree: social interaction, governs our inclination to believe someone seems to be very much ingrained into us. What’s also caught my interest re social interactions over the years has also made me aware of how relative such interactions are toward understanding the ongoing ‘who am I’ inquiry.

When it comes to such ‘self’ study, the idea that my ‘self’ is a permanent, almost soul-like entity soon falls away. As Brian Lowery comments on in his book ‘Selfless’: - “Selves don’t emanate from some ineffable light within people. Instead, selves are created in relationships.” And: - “The concept of self is not static, but rather constantly evolving through social interactions and the ongoing construction of our identity.”

The societies and cultures we are brought up in tell us much about ourselves and, if we are interested in discovering who and what we are, it is a field of useful information. Whether it’s beliefs, trust, behaviour, how we perceive the world around us and the reality it projects must be one of the initial areas of life to enquire as to who we are.

Hi All!
Thought I'd check up on COC, and found the recent articles very interesting:

ChatGPT says: "Ultimately, each individual must determine their own spiritual path and the guidance that is most helpful to them. "
Gladwell says: "That drive to be social, which is still very much with us, required trust. "

and Hines says: "People can't define God any way they like"

I agree with ChatGPT..and to a lesser degree, Gladwell. ...we believe what we choose to believe that seems most helpful to us, however we define all the parameters involved.

And disagree with Hines: Not only can we define God anyway we like, that is in fact how we define God. There is no other way, unless the social milieu influences us, and still, we make the final choices.

We are judge, jury and executioner on all matters. We are our own government of 1, each of us, electing to believe and do as we please, cherry-picking and adjusting information to fit our pre-conceived notions. Confronted with annoying contradictions we explain them away, until our wife or husband or family refuses to go along...then we adapt.

Objectivity always passes through our own personal subjective filter. And that filter often filters things out, so we think we never saw or heard things we in fact did see and year...It doesn't just invent, it deletes.

And there is a shared social filter as well, the basic "facts" we accept as such commonly...or within our chosen group.

The logic we use is hopelessly subject to the premises we select, which is entirely subject to the dictates of selective memory.

So, believe what you wish, find the information you like to support it, just do no harm to others. Be nice.

Ah hah, Spence, how nice to see you back here. Been a while! Hope you're doing well, every which way.

...Not to get into a detailed thing over this, but I'm kind of surprised to see you, of all people, fall into that elementary subjective-objective trap.

Anyone can define anything at all as anything at all. I can call my computer a coffee mug, sure; and I can call my coffee mug a phone; and I can call my phone God, why not?

But such obvious technicalities aside, words do carry particular meanings. Both in order to communicate effectively, and, more importantly, in order to think coherently. You can't really inject into words whatever random sense you want. Or at least, if you do, then it becomes that much more difficult to keep it all together, to keep it coherent --- entirely unnecessarily difficult, unless for some specific reason, in which case you'd need to be extra careful about continuing to make sense despite that flipflop over words. Aquinas's motte-and-bailey is textbook example of how cavalier disregard for meaning can lead one astray. (Of course, it's a neat trick, though, that one might employ in order to fool people. Again, Aquinas serves as textbook example of that, given how in the past so many took him seriously, and given how some do even now. If the intention is misdirection rather than clarity and coherence, then sure, semantic misdirection can be a pretty effective trick.)

...Haha, not to dance on any further over this thing. Kind of been done to death. But it's cool to see you here again, Spence! Just like old times! 👍

(Except, what's with these completely weird things you've taken to thinking and saying? I much prefer the old Spence, whose critical thinking it was a pleasure to examine one's own thoughts against, even when on some matters we differed. ...You were just kidding, and said those contrary things just for laughs, I hope?)

Nice to hear back from you! Hope you are well!

You wrote
"Anyone can define anything at all as anything at all."

Precisely. But you do select how to interpret words and beliefs. That is just part of how the human brain works. And in that process the mind can filter and interject all sorts of things.

So it isn't just the apparently random and non-sensical things others claim that is at issue. It is also the determination that these things are indeed random and non-sensical. That judgment takes place within us. And in making it, we are each subject to the things our mind adds and deletes from our conscious thinking without our conscious knowledge. We are subjective beings trying to understand things more objectively. But at the end of the day, we remain, in these bodies, subjective beings.

Setting rules on definitions is easier where things are testable. Even so, the scientist makes a decision about which data to accept and which to reject. And further, how to interpret the data.

The result is that there may be several schools of thought.

The most recent data from the James Webb telescope is a useful example. New data is confounding some of the truths people had accepted about the big bang. The universe is filled with far more galexies than we knew, and far older galexies than the lifespan of the galexy, as previously calculated in the big bang theory. And these galexies are moving at speeds that don't make any sense in light of what we thought we knew.

Is the data non-sensical? It's open to verification, open to confirmation. And that is why there are now multiple hypotheses being generated.

If you couldn't get past the hypothesis-making stage you would be stuck with multiple explanations.

When it comes to definitions of God, the most one can say is whether one definition claimed to be from a specific school us indeed so. Or your criteria might be whether the definition you select meets your personal needs, as you perceive them. You can argue scripture if you like. But who or what God actually is is not testable, except against your own subjective criteria.

For many mystics, just the active relationship with God, in all its mystery, is more than enough. They don't try to go beyond what their experience defines, and that changes as that experience deepens over time.

When dealing with things that can't be tested, like notions of God, we tend to fill in the dots with what makes sense to us. That's the product of our subjective thinking and experience, which is individual. Hence multiple definitions of God would be a reasonable expectation.

That's fine. When it comes to things that can't be tested, that are systems of belief, whatever works for you is your truth.

If we could really escape our subjectivity then we might have a chance at objectivity. But when God is a personal God, the understanding and definition is going to be personal. And subjective.

You wrote "Both in order to communicate effectively, and, more importantly, in order to think coherently. You can't really inject into words whatever random sense you want."

Both verbal communication and thinking are not actually part of the mystic experience. Direct perception is another animal. We all have it, but it is developed at different stages and forms in each of us.

It may just be how you or I see it.

Like the five blind men and the elephant.

And that changes as our perception and understanding develops. So it is generally a work in progress.

Gladwell writes: "As someone learns more about their chosen religion, likely they won't believe everything about the faith that they've embraced. But as Gladwell noted, those doubts aren't going to make someone become an unbeliever in their religion, since they don't have enough doubts to do that. "

This is true of any belief, any opinion. It's human behavior. We don't change unless the internal pressure, the internal evidence that we are in the wrong, or that there is a much better way, drives us to change our behavior.

When working with Healthcare executives, their perception of what is going on in their own hospital or health system occasionally is self-congratulatory and hateful to those who disagree with them or whose performance is clearly, undeniably weak. They are hateful to the notion that working with their managers is part of their job and angry at the idea of having to spend time working with the people below them. The whole belief system that "It's your job to run your department" is actually the biggest contributor to a very toxic environment that doesn't encourage learning and discourages teamwork. And sadly, harms patients.

Such executives, physician leaders and department heads form their opinion based on the level of complaints they receive, or the absence of it. Unfortunately, performance can vary substantially from appearances. But we have learned this is very normal, and accepting this as human behavior, we have learned how to be helpful.

We have a consulting process to help balance this a little. It's called the "Daily Dose of Reality."

Often, confronted with a conclusive study / analysis showing a problem in their area of responsibility, executives, physicians, managers and associates can react defensively. In exact contradiction to Gladwell's claims, more hard data isn't often the answer to changing someone's opinion, and can just lead to more excuses, more defensiveness, more organized effort to kill the messenger.

The stronger the data, the more conclusive the result, the greater their defensiveness. They have an emotional reaction, fear, that immediately translates to anger, and that to blame. "I don't care how accurate you think this is, it is wrong. It must be wrong! You are wrong! Your consultants are wrong." And they may find colleagues who join with them in this effort to react to Truth as if it is a cancer and must be eliminated.

They reject it, avoid it, find a way to dismiss it. It goes against their current beliefs. And it demands, if true, their own behavior change.

There won't be any real logic to their rejection. The meeting will end early, they will simply become unavailable to meet with, and no change will happen.

Instead, we have learned to break the process down, especially for highly successful execs, physicians and care-givers grounded in their current status quo. We break inconvenient reality down into smaller doses. We have our consultants living in the departments doing observation studies, and we take additional data analyses demonstrating systematic problems with clinical practice, quality, communication, etc and retrofit them to a draft level...

We may have done a month's worth of direct observation data and a full year's worth of data analysis...but we only bring one, two or three days' results into the meeting...

"Here is what we observed last Tuesday at three pm.."

" Here is a draft of three days of data we analyzed, and our draft calculation."

Their defensive reaction often starts with "that can't be....that only happened on that day / those three days!" But we partner with them by saying "Maybe you are right...we'll go and take another sample..." And then they may say "And while you are at it can you look at this...look at it this other way?"

"Yes, we will do that too."

After three or four rounds of this, the Executive and Physician leader is ready...enough points of fact have been placed on the scale to tip it to the truth. But that is only the first phase of helping to move their thinking forward, past their defenses: "OK, I get it...but it can't be solved! It must be done this way!"

They may still be grounded in defending the status quo. Their whole identity is connected to that. Their pride is connected to the status quo. So we start small: ...We say "Every great problem was solved by reaching a critical point where the answers we thought would work don't. Where we run out of answers. That's as true for us consultants as for our clients. We will reach a place on this project where we have no idea what to do next...And you know what? That is when the real creative work will begin..the real art of management starts only then..."

"I don't have an answer"...Not the same as "there is no answer."

"I've never heard of that solution." Fine...And we add another week of observation data, until, at some point, the internal dynamic tension pushes the executive, from within, to say "We can't have this happening. We must do something, and now..."

Encouraged by the fact that they don't need to know the answers up front, but can discover them, and that all true leaders proceed as a journey of discovery, of testing, of learning...we proceed together. We learn together, we support each other through the mystery together.

And that is when we invite them to attend team meetings with front-line nurses, techs and providers...the executive doesn't have to solve it. They don't need to accept our great solutions. And they are armed with their own recent experience to deal constructively with the same defensiveness from their colleagues at all levels. They just need to be willing, motivated, to spend time with their front-line folks for an hour a week...and help review proposals, help encourage pilot testing, help acknowledge real progress as it is built, and provide amnesty for whatever happened in the past, amnesty for current conditions, forgiveness for all good efforts that run aground, and heaping praise on every incremental step forward, hard won.

This is how the human mind functions...facts we don't like can be ignored, but they never actually disappear. They are buried, but there, having their influence. We are burdened by them until we open the windows and acknowledge them. And when real and undeniable, hard data is presented, gradually, the door of the mind opens to possibility.

At some point change happens from internal pressure, internal awareness, as it develops. That is the only way to real progress, sustained progress, both for a hospital and for an individual.

"Both verbal communication and thinking are not actually part of the mystic experience. Direct perception is another animal."

Fair enough, Spence, as far as the quoted. But that kind of misses the point. Because your comment in disagreement with what Brian had said, had to do, via another commenter's series of comments (and my responses to him), ultimately with Aquinas's (in-)famous First Mover (il-)logic. And that's squarely in the territory of thought, and of verbal communication. And it is a textbook example of confused thinking and illogic (or else, as it might have been, of deliberate obfuscation and misdirection). And that confusion and/or misdirection is squarely predicated on playing fast and loose with definitions of words (God, in this case).


Even in the more general sense, and in context of the parable of the elephant and the blind men that you bring up, I'm not sure I agree that definitions per se are necessarily subjective --- even as one's own understanding of things and issues can and does evolve, obviously. But that's a more involved and more complex discussion, although no doubt an interesting one. But as far as Aquinas and the First Mover business, which was the context of the discussions on that thread, and of Brian's remark that you commented on, the issue's fairly cut and dried.

Clicked through to and (re-)read your 2008 blog post with your "initiation story", Brian. Made for interesting reading. Agreed, those predisposed to seeing patterns and deeper meanings in these things, might well be led to see in how you'd ended up getting through to Charan Singh and RSSB in far-away Beas, some profound design and destiny. One often does find such patterns and designs in all kinds of things, not just religious, including how one meets one's romantic partner/s, or some serendipitous career opportunity, and so on. And you're right, factually speaking there's clearly no deeper design behind any of this, although it is tempting (and often comforting) to imagine there is.

I appreciate the beauty of whatThomas Acquinas wrote, without having to understand all of it, or even address whether it is a defensible argument.

Acquinas, in keeping with the case for religious apology, presumed that one could defend their belief in God and the supernatural. But all this is hopelessly caught up in one's subjective experience. And that changes for each human being.

The apology argument, for example, is pretty circular. God is the first and perfect, hence uncreated and beyond assessment by our limited minds. That seems, subjectively, to make sense. But objectively, how could anyone know that? If we are created by a perfect creator shouldn't we be perfect? But Acquinas writes that being creatures, ie, created, we are imperfect, so how could we understand perfect truth?

These are all fairly circular arguments. Except, subjectively, the notion that being separate from perfection makes us imperfect makes a kind of sense. It is in separation, limited in our understanding, that we become and remain hopelessly and permanently imperfect.

But by the same premeses the argument that being a particle of perfection from God, we have the potential to expand our understanding and return to the perfect, has equal footing.

The catch is that this can only happen finding that perfection within ourselves and developing it. We must already have a connection in order to have something to expand our connection into perfection, the whole. The One.

So, you see there is a theology here, one that I find appealing. But there isn't any real logic to it. It's not a deductive, inductive or reductive argument. It is at best a corollary, an explanation, a metaphor, an argument by simile only. It is out of context to try to squeeze this into common logic argument.

That doesn't make it wrong. That just means it's an untestable statement. Unless you have an experience of the divine. Then this may appeal to you, seem both wonderful and familiar. But that is just one's own subjective interpretation. And so, yes, we end up defining God individually, subjectively, based on our own limited understanding and experience. Therefore we do define God each a little differently, when we attempt to do so honestly.

If Acquinas was attempting to reflect upon his experience, that is no more illogical than anyone else's experience. It may be illogical within your context, but entirely logical within Acquinas ' subjective context.

...drinking coffee reading the blog the answer came to me that ... everything is perfectly, imperfect.

You wrote
"Even in the more general sense, and in context of the parable of the elephant and the blind men that you bring up, I'm not sure I agree that definitions per se are necessarily subjective -"

Ah yes, the belief that ideas can be separated from the people who promote them, from the times they are created in, from the biases of their authors. It's part of the whole attractive argument for objective truth.

Even gravity may not be a" law". The Idea of physical laws that are universal emerged from the Renaissance.

Just like the concept of property and ownership. They seem objective and tangible. They are human inventions.

Our observations are always filtered through our subjective conditioning.

Is there objective truth? Can we own a definition? We can have common agreement, though that is a very human, malleable truth.

Spence, I've unpublished two of your preachy "Sant Mat is wonderful" comments. For one time only, I copied them into the most recent Open Thread, which you can find by clicking on the Open Thread category in the right sidebar.


You're welcome to leave comments after your absence from this blog. But you won't be allowed to dominate it with comments praising the glory of your chosen religion, Radha Soami Satsang Beas. Those will be deleted from now on.

Be respectful to other commenters. Engage with them in comment conversations. Don't ignore questions about your beliefs and opinions, as you were prone to do in the past. Admit when you lose an argument. Admit that you may be wrong about your faith, while holding onto it at the present moment. Remember that this is a Church of the Churchless blog, not Church of the Churched.

You can add a lot to this blog through appropriate comments. However, I wanted to warn you that proselytizing and preachiness won't be allowed in your comments, which you were frequently guilty of in the past.

Spence, Aquinas's attempted defense was an infantile piece of illogic, and completely totally wrong. But I won't go into a detailed dissection of Aquinas here.

I don't know if you've followed the discussion in that thread, but the part that is relevant to the definitions part of it, is where Aquinas posits God merely as First Mover, and then, in as much as this was intended as a defense of the Christian God, surreptitiously sneaks in all of the rest of the attributes of God without explicitly defending them.

He fails, spectacularly, even in making his case for the First Mover. But let's not go down that route now, because that would be a digression, and a lengthy one.

The point is, even should he have succeeded in making the case for the First Mover, that wouldn't have actually proved God. What Aquinas does is shamelessly and dishonestly (or else ignorantly and stupidly) resort to the semantic legerdemain of calling that First Mover God, and by means of that cheap semantic trick pretending he was talking of the Christian God ---- Who is, apart from being Creator and First Mover, also conscious, also intelligent, also omnipotent, also omniscient, also omnibenevolent.

It was this motte-and-bailey, effected via dishonest semantic misdirection (or else, it may be, stupid semantic confusion), that was the context for the discussion about definitions.

Thank you Brian Ji.
I did want to put those into an open thread but didn't see the open thread in the recent posts list and probably should have asked you about that. Or searched for Open Thread... Forgot about that.
But instead I just proceded ahead.. Guilty as charged.

Yes, they belong there. Or maybe nowhere. I'm good with you editing or deleting to make sure the conversation flows and is interesting. That is your art. I'm just a contributer and expect, and could use, regular editorial assistance.

You can proceed ahead and just know I consider it good editorial practice.


You wrote
"What Aquinas does is shamelessly and dishonestly (or else ignorantly and stupidly) resort to the semantic legerdemain of calling that First Mover God, and by means of that Cheap semantic trick pretending he was talking of the Christian God ----"

He could just define whatever came first as God. There is no end to the circularity of spiritual argument, except that this isn't a logical argument. It's an argument by analogy, where you can label any premise any way you like.

Also, among some mystics there is the belief that Christ was around from the beginning, not just when he walked the earth as Jesus of Nazareth.

That includes St. Paul.
" For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ."
1 Corinthians 10: 1-4

Therefore Aquinas may have also believed it.

Here is what the ancient Jewish scholar Philo wrote about the flawed foundation of all reasoning:

'For we must neglect anger and desire, and, in short, all the passions, and indeed the whole company of reasonings, which are mounted upon each of the passions as upon horses, even if they believe that they can exert irresistible strength. "
On Husbandry, Philo XVII: 78

By claiming that reasoning itself is built on passion, anger and desire, Philo then goes on to promote his own brand of spirituality as a way to Truth, and the natural destination of the soul.

It's not a matter of proving he is wrong. How can you disapprove or prove his claims?

It is a matter of whether these statements resonate or not with oneself.

"He is wrong" is just as unprovable as "He is right". Both may be true, depending upon one's viewpoint.

But whether these statements are right or wrong for an individual is an individual matter based on the context they have come to accept, or reject.

Therefore one may, as Gladwell claims, adhere to beliefs yet unproven in the absence of adequate disproof. But I suggest people may cling to their beliefs because they either have personal subjective verification, or because the effort to disprove is itself flawed and with no actual alternative truth to offer.

You're missing the point completely, Spence.

Let me make this as clear as I know how. Aquinas presented a putative proof for a First Mover. And through semantic sleight of hand pretended that putative proof was in respect of a Prime Mover that is also conscious, and intelligent, and all-powerful, etc.

It's like showing that a creature with two legs committed the murder; then randomly labeling that creature Mr Smith; and via that semantic legerdemain saying that this proves that some actual Mr Smith has committed the crime.

Not that that proof itself works, but the point is, even if it did, it's not even a (putative) proof for God, but for something else altogether.

...Anyway, not to beat this to death. I just wanted to clearly explain to you, since you seem not to have followed that thread, the context why that discussion about definitions in the first place, and why it is important to be particular about definitions.

Trying to understand.
You wrote
"Aquinas presented a putative proof for a First Mover. And through semantic sleight of hand pretended that putative proof was in respect of a Prime Mover that is also conscious, and intelligent, and all-powerful, etc."

I don't see that in what Acquinas wrote... You will see he openly tells the reader that what he describes he is labeling 'God' as it is commonly understood to be so... As I wrote earlier, a premise entirely dependent upon the community and times in which he lived.

"Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in
motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God."
Summa Theologica, Aquinas, THIRD ARTICLE [I, Q. 2, Art. 3]

"Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God."

"Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God."

"Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God."

"The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God."

There is no slight of hand here. He simply chooses to label his construction 'God' as that is the common practice, as he says.

The proof is just an analogy, using common observations about movement, cause and effect to claim this applies to the entire creation, as a means of defining God. It's not even a logical argument.

Add one more premise and it falls apart: time. Time moving forward is just one single perspective. Time doesn't actually work that way. We perceive it works from past to future. But that is only true from a single one-dimensional point and entirely associated within a very local arrangement of matter.

So his argument is entirely subjective, based on a shared context. His writing is eloquent, sensible, brilliant. But it proves nothing. It is just a way of explaining and labeling. not a logical argument. However, it isn't dishonest or stupid. It's a subjective perspective.

Haha, do you still not get it?

You're going off into tangents here, by getting into those other arguments of his.

One last try to make you see this. If this doesn't work, then let it go, I guess.

Argument 1: Aquinas proves that there's a Prime Mover. (He doesn't, as a matter of fact. He completely fails to come even close to doing that. But let's assume, for now, that he does.) So let's call this prime mover God.

Argument 2: He proves there's an omnibenevolent being. (Again, he doesn't actually prove that, not even close. But again, let's assume he does, and see where this goes.) What he does is, calls his omnibenevolent being God.

So now we have a being that is the Prime Mover, and that is omnibenevolent. Right?

No, wrong. Because you've got a prime mover. And you've got an omnibenevolent being. But the only thing that links those two, is the fact that Aquinas has applied the same label to both.


Like I said, prove that the killer's a creature with two legs. Label the killer Mr Smith. Then pounce on an actual Mr Smith as the killer.


Simply a case of semantic misdirection.

(And of completely faulty logic as well, as far as each individual argument, but that I'll not get into now. It's involved, and in any case it's tangential to what we're discussing, which is this semantic sleight of hand.)


If you still don't get it, then no issues, just let it go.

@ AR /spence

If I look outside the window or go for a walk in the nearby small forest of an estate, I see only the workings of cause an effect ..starting with something falling in the ground that i had in my hands.

In such an universe, world environment even the abstract replica in terms of culture, everything is a matter of cause and effect.

For that simple observation, common sense, there is no way out but to develop language that is usefull and reflects that perceived causal universe and to think about the origin of that universe other than a matter of cause an effect, is not possible

How in the end, one wants to define, conceptualize such an cause is irrelevant at least to me.

It is also evident to me that there is no way to prove such an cause, with the means that humans have at hand ... the ut most for all ways of thought be it scientific or religious is to state that there is a cause.

And in the end, to drink coffee there is no need to believe in a god let alone prove anything about a cause and the realization that taking any stand in this matter makes a huge impact in how people live as individuals and as a group. So much so that those that have not enough self confidence, leave the safety of their "home'go in the streets of the world argue with others and in the end are willing to kill and be killed for their choice.

One of the biggest canards of world history is that Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, or was "fooled" by Hitler. It's a falsehood that's been repeated so many times, like the falsehood repeated ad infinitum on this blog that religion is somehow intrinsically harmful.

That religion is harmful is a charge that's hard for me to take seriously. Firstly, because the person making the charge never bothers to back up his claim with evidence. And second, this same person has stated he's for children choosing sexual mutilation surgery and chemical castration, and anyone who disagrees with a child's right to such life-ruining violence is "cruel." I can't take anyone holding that opinion seriously.

But back to Neville. Just how did the actual history get turned on its head, and a British Prime Minister getting the blame for the start of WWII? The answer, in a word, is "politics." Some will know precisely what I'm talking about here, others will need an explanation, but now's not the time for that. In any case, in like manner, politics is blindly influencing a great many people today in mindlessly taking whatever position The Daily Kos or Trump tells them is the truth.

And now back to religion. RSSB was brought up. I look at RSSB's history, and I see an inexplicably orderly and, to use the most impartial adjective, benign organization that is arguable free of controversy for the last 100 years. RSSB's dera is clean, it's green, its free of crime, and it's a hive of selfless service to the needy. Yes, inexplicable, for gosh, how can something that, we are constantly told, was built on total BS have resulted in one of the most harmonious societies this world has ever seen?

Then there's Portland Oregon, or any U.S. city run by wise, atheistic progressives. There I see filth, drugs, theft, ruin. in a word, hell.

See the contrast? Oh, but don't believe your lying eyes. The progressive utopia will surely arrive any day now, maybe when the prisons are fully emptied. Until then, best to continue living in your mostly white neighborhood.

Hey, um.

Agreed, everything's cause and effect. Except, that is, for stuff that's random.

Also agreed, you don't need abstractions for your everyday life. Except if temperamentally you're inclined that way, and unless your particular situation demands it. But in general, agreed, we can function well enough without these oh so profound abstractions. At the individual level, at any rate. (If collectively we eschewed abstractions, we wouldn't have these computers to work with, for instance. Still, as individuals, and provided we're so inclined by temperament, agreed.)

Also, as far as theological disagreements sometimes getting acrimonious, agreed fully.

Not sure how this ties in with Aquinas, though, or with whether freewheeling idiosyncratic go-as-you-like definitions make any sense. If you're implying that most people, at the individual level, can get by without bothering about these things, then I agree. With some qualifications, that we needn't detour into now, but broadly I agree.

@ AR [ Like I said, prove that the killer's a creature with two legs. Label the killer Mr Smith. Then pounce on an actual Mr Smith as the killer. ]

Right, kinda like SantMat64's well-stated ridicule of N.Chamberlain's action as
the casus belli of WW2. But the semantic misdirection afflicts more reasonable,
nuanced arguments too.

The real sleight-of-hand is fractured, subjective consciousness, adrift in unseen
images, subtle judgments, and tossed about 24x7 in a maelstrom of distractive
thoughts, boldly touting its own "logic" and debunking others'. IMO, the mystic
discipline to mindfully look within ultimately bypassing logic for what can be
perceived directly is the optimum approach.

When Acquinas calls the prime mover, prime necessity, prime cause and prime designer God he says this is the label he believes, or that "all men understand to be God."

This is relevant to Gladwell's claim because disproof, or lack thereof, ie, reductionism, may not be the basis for leaving, or staying in, a system of belief. It could be what we discover in ourselves while practicing that belief. When Acquinas came up with his elegant and sensible notions of a prime mover, that was a treasure he found, steeped in his beliefs. Those beliefs motivated more careful observation and thinking about the world around him.

These descriptions Acquinas provides, and which I have quoted in my prior post, are what he has conjectured, observing how things all move and develop from point a to point b. They are conjectures of something that can't be proven, and he offers them up only as apriori definitions, not scientific proof.

If you will read more of Acquinas, particularly what precedes, he discusses science and evidence in great detail, and the absence of evdence for God, which is why he must offer his own apriori definitions.

That's not slight of hand. It's a construction, a proposition, an explanation, a statement of unprovable belief; an apriori premise that is bound to his time, thinking and the people around him. But he never claims there is scientific evidence. Indeed he tells you earlier that there isn't and by definition cannot be. If you will read the passages in Acquinas preceding his five prime mover definitions, he acknowledges there isn't scientific proof, because he is postulating things that happened prior to this creation. So there can be no evidence and therefore no proof. There can only be reasoned conjecture. Very elegant and actually appropriate.

He defines common observations of cause and effect, suggests they must begin somewhere, and labels that God saying that's what he and others typically call God. . That isn't a proof. It's apriori. If you accept his definitions and labels you can then use those terms and premeses to prove other things.

He offers no proof and no slight of hand. There is nothing dishonest here. He offers definitions and labels without proof from what he understands and what he believes others around him believe. .. You can accept them or reject them, or create your own. You can indeed define God as you please, just as Acquinas has done. He has put a lot of effort into trying to create definitions that make sense to him, his most accurate statements of belief.

They are culture bound conclusions from his time, that is all.

If he can conjecture there is a God, you can conjecture there is only random events.

We do create our own beliefs, at the end of the day. When we choose what to believe, we are choosing our own understanding of that. And there are varying degrees of accuracy as far as describing the world around us. Different artists choose to emphasize different things, based on what they see, based on their own conditioning.

There can be two distinct and contradictory beliefs that are each valid subjective observations for the people who hold them.

When you and I chose what we each believe Acquinas wrote, and judge that, it is different precisely because each of us processes what we see a little differently, from a different context.

At best you and I can try to understand what the other has written, and see if we see the evidence for it.

But it is no surprise we see things differently. It is part of what makes the world a more diverse place with different perspectives. It's a survival trait for the human race that we have different points of view to contribute.

And that is why it doesn't matter if there is or isn't one God. It only matters if you can find lasting truth within yourself, and other qualities, other treasures there, whatever that turns out to be. Right or wrong in terms of things that can't be proven is a matter of faith based upon some belief.

Acquinas had the pleasure to both discover and create. Those are beautiful attributes to be found in each of us.

Hi SantMat64
You wrote
"Yes, inexplicable, for gosh, how can something that, we are constantly told, was built on total BS have resulted in one of the most harmonious societies this world has ever seen?"

It is based on commonly held belief, trust and faith. While those values may be taught, they don't last unless they are, one day, discovered within. Those are found within. The easiest way to build a foundation of goodwill, and a society that is harmonious and effective is a foundation that already exists within each of us.

When Gladwell suggests faith is sustained be lack of adequate disproof, that may be the basis for some. But I suggest that discovering some positive treasure within is the gift that sustains. And that may be the fruit of meditation practice or prayer, for those who stay with their beliefs.

Hi Um
You wrote
"So much so that those that have not enough self confidence, leave the safety of their "home'go in the streets of the world argue with others and in the end are willing to kill and be killed for their choice."

Self-Confidence is an internal treasure.

If walking in the woods gives you peace, then that is wonderful.

We should all go there every day. It changes our perspective instantly.

We see that nothing else is needed.
And seeing that we have no problem doing our part.

@ AR

If somebody visiting me, asks something, I will tell them, where to find it in the house.
That persons has to believe me first and then act upon his believe. If he or she is unable to find it,based upon my directions the question arises whether what was to be found was there or not, say an apple. After all I could have forgotten to have eaten the last one. It is also possible that my directions were not sufficient or that they were misunderstood and/or mishandled.

In this case there was a desire in the guest. A desire that made him/her ask and seek. But their are also instances where I unasked for might suggest a guest, why do you not have an apple. In that scenario everything is different. Or some other guest that hears about the interaction about the apple and that did arise a desire in him, to have it too [ One neighbor has a green car and soon the whole street drives green cars ... hahah]

If it seems a good idea to the guest, well, in that case there is no problem, he will act upon my directions as to where to find the apple.

But if that suggestion hits a person with a mental make up that is adverse to this or that ... could be the apple, could be the suggestion, then all sorts of scenarios are possible ... hahaha

[1] Those that speak of the apple as something INSIDE, they, without exception, cannot but just INVITE others to have a look inside the house.

[2] Those that have heard of the apple OUTSIDE without exception, are forced to USE what they have heard in the outside world for their own outside interests.

What to do with what is heard, how to interpret it what was heard, is always and exclusive related to that world .. and .. a source of trouble as history books will tell one.

It is the discrimination between the two that is all that matters

Hi Spence so good to see you back.

Hi Spence is back!

Thanks! ;)

You said, "So much so that those who lack self-confidence leave the security of their "home" and venture out into the world's streets where they argue with others and ultimately are willing to kill and be killed for their choice."

Self-assurance is a gift that lies within.

It's nice if going for a walk in the woods makes you feel peaceful.

We should all visit there frequently. Our perception is immediately altered.

It is clear that nothing else is required. https://geometry-dash.io/

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