Philosophy

The “Atheists Are More Moral” Argument

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I’ve often heard the argument that atheists are more moral; indeed the only ones who are truly moral. Why you make ask? Well, because religious believers only do good deeds for the sake of heaven or from fear of hell, or otherwise to get something from God, rather than doing good for goodness sake. Continue Reading

Is Theistic Evolution Compatible With Islam? An Analysis of the Philosophical Issues

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Recent controversy has emerged after Dr. Shadee Elmasry criticized Dr. Mohamed Ghilan’s “leanings” towards the theory of evolution regarding the creation of Nabi Adam (as). Dr. Ghilan, however, views evolution as a process which Allah swt started and guides. Continue Reading

A Conversation With Connor – Part 3

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The following is a conversation I had with a convert friend of mine in April, 2016. I thought it would be of general benefit to my readers. I have done some very light editing but otherwise left the conversation as it is. My friend’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity. See Part 1 and Part 2. Continue Reading

A Conversation With Connor – Part 2

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The following is a conversation I had with a convert friend of mine in April, 2016. I thought it would be of general benefit to my readers. I have done some very light editing but otherwise left the conversation as it is. My friend’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity. See Part 1 here. Continue Reading

A Conversation with Connor – Part 1

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The following is a conversation I had with a convert friend of mine in April, 2016. I thought it would be of general benefit to my readers. I have done some very light editing but otherwise left the conversation as it is. My friend’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity.
Continue Reading

The Logic You Need to Understand a Deductive Proof of God’s Existence – Definitions (Proof for the Existence of God Part 4)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

With God’s help, I have been in the process of writing a proof for the existence of God – one that hopes to be very thorough, inshaAllah. It addresses every single objection that I personally have thought of or encountered. However, in the process of this laborious undertaking, I realized that in order for a general audience to follow some parts of the argument, it required an occasional foray into logic. This is not to say the logic is overly complicated, but it does help to work through the reasoning explicitly. Unfortunately, this resulted in a lengthy and somewhat messy article, whereas my original intent was to make the proof as clear and concise as possible without compromising on content. I have therefore decided, with God’s grace, to first go over some basic “not completely obvious” logic that will be used in the proof, and that I can refer readers back to in the course of the argument. I will not be explaining things like the principle of non-contradiction, which everyone is familiar with, but I will instead be explaining what a proof by cases is and other such matters. Here, we begin with the idea of definitions. Continue Reading

Scientist Responds to “The Difference Between Proof and Evidence” – Part 2

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I previously posted a discussion I was having with a physicist friend of mine. You can catch up here. What follows is the continuation of that discussion.

Muhammad:

If the premise includes the conclusion already then the question becomes how do we know that the premise is true? This requires unfolding the deductive proof and making the premise of the last argument the conclusion of an earlier one and thus finding new premises for the old later premise (now conclusion). This requires you to go back to the first premise, the one upon which everything else rests. The question becomes, what is that premise? What is the proof that it is true?

TMT:

Yes, exactly. That’s what I said in the article this is an old problem in philosophy. The first principles are those that are known not by demonstration but by presence (i.e. Ilm hudhoori )

Muhammad:

When logicians talk about the first premise being true they require it to fulfill couple conditions:

1. Mirrors the external reality in an exact form

2. It is true and will forever be so.

What proof do you have that our first principles match any of these? Yeah ilm hudhoori and presence are nonsense answers for the most part. Every time they get stuck they resort to that answer. And when you ask them about the evidence for the truth of the presence, they reply is always “it is obvious,” ilm badihi (first principles), or the common experience of the people. It is quite ironic because they take you on a long ride through their deduction to finally tell you that the whole thing rests on the consensus of the majority i.e ijmaa’ (which ironically is probabilistic). That’s when philosophers become fiqh scholars … when stuck resort to ijmaa’. That’s the reason why I brought up the electron argument. Prior to quantum mechanics, people’s common sense or obvious understanding of the physical reality was that an object exists only in one place certainly. QM thus has corrected our understanding of nature by evolving our “obvious” and “common sense”. One can thus say that our common sense is ever changing and is refined by induction (through new experiments and observations).

One more thing. The last paragraph regarding “physicists” not being able to ever refute any of the laws of metaphysics. The argument really boils down to what is the evidence for the truth of knowledge (the first principles of metaphysics). What is classically done (repeated here as well), is that first principles are assumed to be certainly true otherwise everything else falls down (math, science etc ). Or they will resort to the Ilm Hudori argument. But what if I don’t have that presence or Ilm hudhoori of the first principles? The reply will obviously be that I am insane. But ironically the side that doesn’t have that ilm hudhori will think that you are insane and now how do we resolve who is actually correct. If we say that the rest of the knowledge rests on it and thus must be correct, I would say that this is not good evidence since the rest of human knowledge is admittedly probabilistic. Thus despite human knowledge like science and math using the same “first principles” as metaphysical knowledge,  it is only presumed to be correct until proven otherwise – we do not assert that they are certainly true or always will be. Once again human beings lack this kind of evidence. Lastly, if we rely on the common experience or what all people understand to tabulate the truth of first principles then 1. You are really using induction here to prove the first principles of deduction 2. Examining ALL the population in the closed set would be impossible here since they set has elements that no one has access to (the newborns and the deceased) so we are left with studying a sample of the population which is once again a probabilistic conclusion, not a certain one (logical certainty). As for the constant reference to mathematics, I will comment on that too. Metaphysics and Math are very different from each other and to equate these two to each other is way too simplistic of an approach and inaccurate.

TMT:

I think my dear brother, you are misunderstanding the thesis of the article. The thesis of the article is that science has certain foundations let’s call it the set of x. Metaphysics also has certain foundations, which are a subset of x, let’s call it y. One cannot therefore affirm science and metaphysics in principle by attacking y, because y is a subset of x. If one accepts science, one must accept metaphysics; alternatively, one could accept metaphysics and reject science (on the basis that within set x, things that are not y are unreliable), or one could reject the whole of x, essentially claiming that neither science nor metaphysics will get you knowledge.

I am not saying knowledge is exclusively deductive, only that the deductive element is more primary, which is evident when you consider that the probability calculus itself relies on deduction, non-contradiction and the other laws of logic. I don’t have to give an account for what the foundations of all knowledge are in order to show that science and metaphysics have shared foundations. You seem to be thinking I was offering a complete defense of an Aristotelian epistemology (which I suspect you think characterizes the whole of philosophy), when all I am doing is attacking what one might call naive scientism, which you appear to sympathize with. If you want to offer a defense, you should focus on the arguments made showing the shared foundations of metaphysics and science, rather than attacking what you have supposed I am proposing as an alternative. Even if you were right, all you would be doing is showing that in fact neither science nor metaphysics give knowledge, because as I said science relies on shared foundations that you are attacking.

To make this more concrete: I gave like 7 reasons why quantum mechanics does not only not show the law of excluded middle to be false, but could not even in principle, only for you to repeat that quantum mechanics shows our “common sense notions” are wrong, without addressing anything I said.

Second, you are confusing Aristotle’s theory of ilm badihi with ilm hudhoori, though there is some overlap. Ilm badihi pertains to the foundations upon which ilm husooli (acquired knowledge) is built – Aristotle actually thought that perception was ilm badihi (this is why it appears that science can rewrite philosophical conclusions, because some of our perceptions turn out to be wrong or more complicated than Aristotle thought. Though, most of Aristotle’s metaphysics are based on abstractions from perception which actually remain unaffected and in principle cannot even be affected by what science discovers because they are so general/abstract that they cover all possible worlds which science could discover). Ilm hudhoori is a different kind of knowledge; it is knowledge by presence – those things that are directly experienced in consciousness and cannot be doubted even in principle. For example, you cannot doubt your own consciousness, or experiences as they appear in your consciousness – though it is possible to doubt whether some of your experiences correlate to an external reality. If I experience pain and it feels like my hand has been chopped off, I cannot doubt the “I” that is experiencing, nor the experience of pain itself; I can doubt whether or not my hand has actually been chopped off, but not the pain I’m feeling. If you were insane, as you posited my dear brother, then you would still have some ilm hudhoori – as long as you are a conscious being you are aware of your own consciousness and your immediate experiences; what you would lack is the ability to understand when your experiences correlate with an external reality and when they do not and that is precisely what would make you insane. No philosopher has ever used “ijmaa'” as a justification for his epistemology, despite the facetious comments alluding to that. The justification for knowledge must begin with consciousness itself because that is what the knowing subject has access to. If one cannot perceive the necessity of the law of non-contradiction and why a syllogism must be true, as you were suggesting, then no husooli knowledge is possible for that person. Again – we have people like this, we call them insane. If someone who is not insane claims they don’t have this knowledge then really they are just making a claim (and lying) which anyone can do. I can also claim that I have no experience of consciousness right now, or that I can’t understand English. It doesn’t mean anything. If someone is speaking a coherent sentence in any language, even to say “I do not perceive the necessity of the law of non-contradiction”, then their very formulation of the sentence belies their claim, because non-contradiction is necessary to even form a sentence for reasons I mentioned in the last reply (see the example of the chair.)

In this regard, here’s what I said to a commenter [shout out Atheist Messiah!] who brought up a similar concern about foundations being determined by induction:

This is a confusion between two different meanings of “foundations.” The absolute foundation of deduction is consciousness itself; knowledge by presence. “A” cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same regard; consciousness perceives this truth directly. Everything that we experience directly within our own consciousness is not open to doubt precisely because we cannot doubt that we are experiencing, nor the “I” that experiences. That there is existence, even it is limited to ourselves, or even bundles of thoughts or whatever it may be, cannot be doubted. Most of metaphysics is built off abstracting these foundational experiences and then applying deductive logic (the laws of which are also known by presence) to them, and thus metaphysics constitute the most secure form of knowledge after the experiences themselves. Metaphysics usually gives an account of what must be the case for all possible worlds; thus it does not matter what the details of the science turn out to be because the broad lines of what must be true about any conception of reality has already been drawn out. This will start to make sense after the next post where, God Willing, I offer a deductive proof for the existence of God (I look forward to your take on that.)

That being said, sometimes we have what we might call relative foundations – which means things that may be established by induction and observation which everyone takes for granted or that no one seriously doubts, and then we may proceed to deduce on that basis. A small subset of these relative foundations are not open for revision by science because science presumes them (for example, the idea that there is an external reality outside the mind), but the vast majority of these “foundations” are open to revision by science, and have been frequently overturned. These are things like earth being at the centre of the universe, or Newton’s laws of motion applying universally. I believe every example of “common sense” being challenged is essentially one of these latter cases of relative foundations. However, if someone makes a sound deductive (metaphysical) argument on the basis of something science necessarily presumes itself, something that science could not possible revise (e.g. causation), then the metaphysical argument is going to be at least as strong as the most certain inferences science has ever made. Thus we can have a metaphysical argument in which you might ask “well how do we know the foundational assumptions are correct”, but if those foundational assumptions are shared by science, then one must either doubt everything or accept both. One cannot both deny the metaphysics and accept the science if they share foundational assumptions. That last line is really the purpose of this post. Continue Reading

Scientist Responds to “The Difference Between Proof and Evidence”

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

A friend of mine sent my third post in the proof for the existence of God series to a mutual friend who is a PhD student in physics. Let’s call him Muhammad. He made a comment in response:

Muhammad:

An electron is here and not here at the same time

The cat is dead and alive simultaneously in Schrodinger’s thought experiment

Funny how the new knowledge is embedded already in the first premise. Have you really deduced anything new that you haven’t already known in this process? Continue Reading

Sense Perception Alone Cannot Lead You to God (Or Virtually Any Other Knowledge) – Existence of God Part 2

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

As we stated earlier, before we can answer the question “how can I know that God exists?” we must first ask the question “how do I know anything at all.” There are multiple ways that the intellect comes to know, and these modalities (or ways) of knowing are arranged hierarchically. I will go from the lowest form of knowledge to the highest – though this may seem unintuitive to the modern mind, which has been conditioned to see certainty as ordered in precisely the opposite direction. I will sort out these modern confusions as we proceed upon each level, inshaAllah.

The lowest form of knowing, and the least certain is that of sense perception. “Huh? But I thought you had to see it to believe it?” you may ask.

Ah, but you see sense perception deceives us all the time. We readily admit that. Sometimes we see things that aren’t really there, and sometimes what we see does not reflect reality. For instance, we perceive the earth as being flat, the sun as setting upon the horizon, the stars as being small, and if I were to put my finger in a glass of water it would appear to break due to the refraction of light.

Take a look at this clip around 12:30 where Dawkins himself says that if he were to see a direct sign of God – the heavens opening up and seeing the angels – he would still disbelieve in God. Instead, he would find it more probable that he were hallucinating, that David Blaine or some magician were playing a trick on him, or that aliens with some advanced technology could manipulate reality to make him think he were seeing what he were seeing.

You can hear his own words here:

Nor is Dawkins alone in this sentiment. Here is a thread where hordes of atheists claim that they would find some other explanation even if they witnessed a grand miracle before their eyes.

Some examples:

Read Michael Vogel's answer to Many atheists say if they saw God, they'd believe in him. Wouldn't treatment for hallucinations be a more rational course of action? on Quora

Read Barry Hampe's answer to Many atheists say if they saw God, they'd believe in him. Wouldn't treatment for hallucinations be a more rational course of action? on Quora

Read Roberto Vilar's answer to Many atheists say if they saw God, they'd believe in him. Wouldn't treatment for hallucinations be a more rational course of action? on Quora
You get the point.

The Quran portrays such ardent disbelief:

وَلَوْ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَابًا مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ فَظَلُّوا فِيهِ يَعْرُجُونَ  لَقَالُوا إِنَّمَا سُكِّرَتْ أَبْصَارُنَا بَلْ نَحْنُ قَوْمٌ مَّسْحُورُونَ – 15:14-15 Continue Reading

“You” Are Not Your Rational Mind

In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Especially Compassionate,

Previously, I had explained why the best translation for the Arabic term aql is consciousness. I also detailed the change in the meaning of the Latin term intellectus to its modern English connotation of being solely related to the rational mind. I am assuming you understand this and I will be using the words consciousness, aql, and intellect (in it’s Latin sense) interchangeably throughout all my future posts..

Today the topic I’d like to discuss is the different means through which our consciousness gains knowledge and in doing so, explain exactly what knowledge is. I had slightly touched upon this in my earlier piece, but I would like to delve further. Due to the length of this topic, I have broken it into a series. This can be considered the second, with the post on the aql being considered the first.

The Modalities of Knowing

There are different ways in which your consciousness ascertains knowledge of reality. Generally this happens through the a certain “organ” which God has created for a certain kind of knowledge that we are privy to.  Not all of these methods are equal. For the less important methods, I will just offer just a brief sketch.

The senses

This is pretty obvious, but you gain knowledge of things that you can see, hear, touch, taste, etc. This mode of knowing is sometimes given to error, and must be corrected by the rational mind.

The Body

Ever have a gut feeling? The body allows us to gain knowledge not just of other people, but also of ourselves. The body allows us to feel lust, physical pain, and various other emotions. These emotions are themselves a kind of direct knowledge of the self that intrudes into our consciousness (i.e. that I am in pain, or that I desire so and so), but also gives us knowledge about the world by inference (i.e. that this object is dangerous, or that that person is attractive.)

You may notice that there are Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist meditative techniques which allow one to get in touch with their body. These consist of things like breathing techniques, techniques allow one to relax certain body parts, to move energy (chi) around the body, and more. To my knowledge, not much emphasis has been placed on this in Islam, probably because it is extrinsic to true happiness and spirituality. Once one is able to focus the Divine Reality within the heart, things like “breathing meditation” become superfluous because inner peace has been found.

The Rational Mind

Our General Experience of It

Most people tend to think of their rational mind as themselves, rather than as an organ that their consciousness uses. This is because the rational mind by its nature produces a torrent of thoughts that directly affect our consciousness on a nonstop basis and to which we are constantly focused on. It is not unlike the shadows in the Plato’s cave – our consciousness is so focused on our own thoughts that we often forget that our conscious experience consists of more than just thoughts. The solution is to learn how to separate our deeper selves from the torrent of thoughts intruding into our consciousness.

The previous organ explored, namely the body, should at least help this make sense, albeit only partially. Even if you are not in touch with your heart yet (which is when you’ll really be able to dissociate from the mind), you’ve no doubt experienced moments where your consciousness was so totally focused on your body, that your mind – for a moment at least – fell silent. This kind of “meta” experience should help you realize that your consciousness is deeper than the constant and random thoughts which occur in your mind.

Another reason we attach ourselves to the rational mind is not only because are focused on it, but also because it has been chattering for as long as we can remember. An example I can give to help illustrate this is; suppose throughout your entire life you felt a numb pain. Chances are, you wouldn’t even realize that you’re not supposed to be feeling that – you would just assume that this is a normal part of conscious experience. Likewise, if all your life the sun never went down, you would not know darkness. Because the rational mind is always speaking, we think that it is us, when it is only an organ like our eyes, ears, or heart. You see through your eyes, but “you” are not your eyes. Likewise, you think through your rational mind, but you are not your rational mind. Your rational mind is on the surface of your being, “you” are actually deeper than that.

I will detail in future posts exactly how this (mis)identification with the rational mind damages your happiness level, inshaAllah. For now, however, suffice it to say that the rational mind is able to connect to a concept of God, but unable to connect to the reality of God; He who is closer to us than our jugular veins and Who’s Mercy encompasses all things. The reality of God can only be seen with the heart. God being the source of all good, joy, being, beauty, truth, and happiness directly emanates these things into the whole of our beings, through our hearts, once our hearts remember Him. This is known as dhikr, and it is the most important aspect of all of Islamic spirituality.

Here is a diagram to illustrate the basic idea I have detailed here. The heart is faded out because it will be discussed in a future post.

 

Here are some verses and hadith to back up the claims I’ve made here:

Know thyself

من عرف نفسه فقد عرف ربه

 The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) said: “Whoever knows himself [alt. his self] knows his Lord.”

Everyone knows their rational mind, therefore the deeper self must not be the mind only otherwise this hadith would be banal; yet it is regarded as one of the most important hadiths in the entire Islamic canon.

Furthermore, there have been many great atheist philosophers who knew the human mind better than 99.99% of believers (just see David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding). Yet these atheistic philosophers had no understanding of their Lord precisely because they lacked knowledge of the self, the heart, and consciousness as a whole as understood apart from the rational mind. If the self was the rational mind only, then these atheistic philosophers would have recognized their Lord. Because they knew the rational mind, but not their Lord, we can conclude that the rational mind is not the meaning of “self” being referred to in this hadith.

The Lies we tell ourselves

بَلِ الْإِنسَانُ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ بَصِيرَةٌ وَلَوْ أَلْقَىٰ مَعَاذِيرَهُ  Continue Reading