Can there be a coherent nontheistic metaphysics?

Ficciones

Member
The problems theists throw at atheists are often metaphysical in nature - broadly, the two categories are:
  • why is there something rather than nothing?
  • why is there order rather than disorder?
The first point is self explanatory. Why is there a universe, or indeed anything at all, rather than absolute nothingness - not even timespace?

The second point subsumes arguments from logic, mathematics, epistemology and causality (and by extension, induction).

I'm wondering if nontheists have good responses to these questions. Is there a coherent nontheistic metaphysics that accounts for being and order? And if there is, what are the implications for theism?
 

Torin

Member
Regarding the first question, a couple of options are to say it's a brute fact or to say "I don't know."

Regarding the second question, a couple of options are to say it is not possible for a universe to be disorderly (after all, what would that look like?) or to say "I don't know."

Interesting thread.
 

Whatsisface

Active member
The problems theists throw at atheists are often metaphysical in nature - broadly, the two categories are:
  • why is there something rather than nothing?
  • why is there order rather than disorder?
The first point is self explanatory. Why is there a universe, or indeed anything at all, rather than absolute nothingness - not even timespace?

The second point subsumes arguments from logic, mathematics, epistemology and causality (and by extension, induction).

I'm wondering if nontheists have good responses to these questions. Is there a coherent nontheistic metaphysics that accounts for being and order? And if there is, what are the implications for theism?
I don't know why there is something rather than nothing, no one does. Thing is, the universe is turning out to be a strange place that often goes against our common sense intuitions. Because of this there is a possibility that the explanation will be something totally beyond our current understanding. It's also why I view arguments like the Kalam as simplistic, because there is still so much we haven't discovered that might well make it irrelevant.

Again, i don't know why there is order rather than disorder. Could a disordered universe be possible? I think not, because a disordered universe probably couldn't get started in the first place. Can an ordered universe be a good argument for a creator? I think it can be such an argument, but not one you should put too much store in, again considering how much we don't know.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
The problems theists throw at atheists are often metaphysical in nature - broadly, the two categories are:
  • why is there something rather than nothing?
  • why is there order rather than disorder?
The first point is self explanatory. Why is there a universe, or indeed anything at all, rather than absolute nothingness - not even timespace?

The second point subsumes arguments from logic, mathematics, epistemology and causality (and by extension, induction).

I'm wondering if nontheists have good responses to these questions. Is there a coherent nontheistic metaphysics that accounts for being and order? And if there is, what are the implications for theism?
I have a novel idea.....

Where did your faculty for reasoning this come from, in its original form?
 

Ficciones

Member
Regarding the first question, a couple of options are to say it's a brute fact or to say "I don't know."

Regarding the second question, a couple of options are to say it is not possible for a universe to be disorderly (after all, what would that look like?) or to say "I don't know."

Interesting thread.

I think nontheists should offer something stronger, if they want to debate and discuss. IMO Spinoza points in one tantalizing direction, the naturalization of metaphysics.
 

Ficciones

Member
I don't know why there is something rather than nothing, no one does. Thing is, the universe is turning out to be a strange place that often goes against our common sense intuitions. Because of this there is a possibility that the explanation will be something totally beyond our current understanding. It's also why I view arguments like the Kalam as simplistic, because there is still so much we haven't discovered that might well make it irrelevant.

Again, i don't know why there is order rather than disorder. Could a disordered universe be possible? I think not, because a disordered universe probably couldn't get started in the first place. Can an ordered universe be a good argument for a creator? I think it can be such an argument, but not one you should put too much store in, again considering how much we don't know.
I think you're on to something by asking if disorder, in a certain ultimate sense, is even possible. What if order has the character of necessity?
 

Ficciones

Member
I have a novel idea.....

Where did your faculty for reasoning this come from, in its original form?
Not so novel since it falls into the second category I've outlined - arguments from order.

I find it interesting that you presuppose that my "faculty for reasoning" is unitary, that it has a single origin, and that it has an original form. Could you expand on that?
 

Gus Bovona

Member
The problems theists throw at atheists are often metaphysical in nature - broadly, the two categories are:
  • why is there something rather than nothing?
  • why is there order rather than disorder?
The first point is self explanatory. Why is there a universe, or indeed anything at all, rather than absolute nothingness - not even timespace?

The second point subsumes arguments from logic, mathematics, epistemology and causality (and by extension, induction).

I'm wondering if nontheists have good responses to these questions. Is there a coherent nontheistic metaphysics that accounts for being and order? And if there is, what are the implications for theism?
If there isn't a coherent non theistic metaphysics like you describe, I don't see that we conclude anything else but "We currently don't have one, let's keep workin." As someone else mentioned, non theistic answers to your two questions could be, hypothetically, completely beyond our capacity to understand. That doesn't require use to adopt a theistic metaphysics.
 

Nouveau

Active member
The problems theists throw at atheists are often metaphysical in nature - broadly, the two categories are:
  • why is there something rather than nothing?
  • why is there order rather than disorder?
The first point is self explanatory. Why is there a universe, or indeed anything at all, rather than absolute nothingness - not even timespace?

The second point subsumes arguments from logic, mathematics, epistemology and causality (and by extension, induction).

I'm wondering if nontheists have good responses to these questions. Is there a coherent nontheistic metaphysics that accounts for being and order? And if there is, what are the implications for theism?
What mystifies me is how theists can think that theism is capable of answering either of these questions. In both cases, positing God is to start with an unexplained and orderly something, i.e. God's mind. So atheism is no worse off than theism in these matters.

On the first question in particular, I think it is easy to see that this has to be a brute fact. The reasons for this are laid out in my 'Explaining Explanation' thread. Explanation is either conceptual or causal - the former can't explain why there is something rather than nothing because I don't think nothing rather than something is conceptually impossible, and if it were then there could be no such thing as contingency (which seems implausible); and the latter cannot explain it either, as any cause it posits will be part of that which it needs to explain.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Not so novel since it falls into the second category I've outlined - arguments from order.

I find it interesting that you presuppose that my "faculty for reasoning" is unitary, that it has a single origin, and that it has an original form. Could you expand on that?
It's pretty basic.....
evolution assumes that everything came from 2 atoms, which accidentally collided at some point, in some unknown past, and then experienced a dramatic explosion, which resulted in all we see.
No order, just random interactions, which presents us with today.
So..... where did reason come from?
I think CS Lewis described it well.....

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”​

 

Nouveau

Active member
It's pretty basic..... evolution assumes that everything came from 2 atoms, which accidentally collided at some point, in some unknown past, and then experienced a dramatic explosion, which resulted in all we see.
I thought you claimed to have studied physics?

So..... where did reason come from?
Do you think you can legitimately answer that question by starting with a mind capable of reason (i.e. God's mind)?
 

Ficciones

Member
evolution assumes that everything came from 2 atoms, which accidentally collided at some point, in some unknown past, and then experienced a dramatic explosion, which resulted in all we see.

Is this satire? Are there Christian homeschool textbooks that teach this?

Anyhow, on to CS Lewis. The excerpt you posted is a good example of the type of argument I'm talking about. To explain order in the universe, including its comprehensibility to us, Lewis imagines God, who uses intelligence and agency to create order. But for that creation to be possible, there must already be order. And if there is, then what use have we for an intelligent agent to create it?
 

Ficciones

Member
If there isn't a coherent non theistic metaphysics like you describe, I don't see that we conclude anything else but "We currently don't have one, let's keep workin." As someone else mentioned, non theistic answers to your two questions could be, hypothetically, completely beyond our capacity to understand. That doesn't require use to adopt a theistic metaphysics.

Certainly, we can always keep the ball in play. But wouldn't it be nicer to have a strong positive position to argue from? Wouldn't that undercut a lot of the silly arguments that get deployed against nontheism?
 

Harry Leggs

Member
The problems theists throw at atheists are often metaphysical in nature - broadly, the two categories are:
  • why is there something rather than nothing?
  • why is there order rather than disorder?
Most atheists adhere to a counter history involving abio and common descent. Basically secular supernatural events one time in nature like life from exclusive nonlife. That is a miracle. Earth as our creator is Gaia worship without all the ritual.
I'm wondering if nontheists have good responses to these questions. Is there a coherent nontheistic metaphysics that accounts for being and order? And if there is, what are the implications for theism?
Theism has been around since man has been here and we are still here. Better yet, it was not the church which gave us atomic bombs so what are the implications of atomic bombs for the rest of humanity and how long will we survive our own weapons of mass destruction? North Korea has them and Iran is just around the corner. Which will use them first and against who? Iran or NK? What is the real threat here?

The Bible says it all involves Israel which came back into existence in 1948 and ceased back in AD70. Good ole Bible prophecy. How can there be an end absent the existence of Israel?
 

Whatsisface

Active member
Most atheists adhere to a counter history involving abio and common descent. Basically secular supernatural events one time in nature like life from exclusive nonlife. That is a miracle. Earth as our creator is Gaia worship without all the ritual.
It seems you cannot see the way others see the world out of your own perspective. Consider this, if you take away non life from life, such as the element iron, then life ceases. This is in accordance with life being non miraculous but due to the natural.
 

Gus Bovona

Member
Certainly, we can always keep the ball in play. But wouldn't it be nicer to have a strong positive position to argue from? Wouldn't that undercut a lot of the silly arguments that get deployed against nontheism?
Sure would be nice. I'd love to hear 'em. But the lack of them doesn't undercut non theism (= atheism), either.
 

Nouveau

Active member
Most atheists adhere to a counter history involving abio and common descent. Basically secular supernatural events one time in nature like life from exclusive nonlife. That is a miracle. Earth as our creator is Gaia worship without all the ritual.
I don't know where you get the idea that abiogenesis is either supernatural or a one-off event. It may have happened millions of times across the universe for all we know. And it may have happened more than once here - we'd never know as its subsequent products would have been eaten or outcompeted by existing life.
 

Gus Bovona

Member
Most atheists adhere to a counter history involving abio and common descent. Basically secular supernatural events one time in nature like life from exclusive nonlife. That is a miracle.

It's no more a miracle than saying a flame comes from things that are previously not aflame. Life doesn't have to be some metaphysical essence, it's perfectly explainable by observing just chemicals doing what chemicals do when arranged in a particular fashion.
 

Harry Leggs

Member
It's no more a miracle than saying a flame comes from things that are previously not aflame.
All Life here from exclusive nonlife is more a miracle than bodily resurrection and requires far more faith. So all this stuff about rejecting Christianity because of supernatural events is just more atheist BS.
Life doesn't have to be some metaphysical essence, it's perfectly explainable by observing just chemicals doing what chemicals do when arranged in a particular fashion.
Not really. But you can't falsify blind faith.
 
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