(This is the second part of selections from a Facebook debate. Part 1 is here.)
The key to my disagreement with the theist hinges on the question of “Can we know God?” or “Can have knowledge of the supernatural?” The theist says yes, we use both experience and the “sensus divinitatus” to acquire knowledge of God. I disagree – I believe that knowledge of reality can only be obtained through reason, and the supernatural is by its very definition opposed to reason. Furthermore, the “divine sense” the theist refers to is just emotionalism. In this post, I will focus on the essence of our disagreement by examining in detail the nature of this supposed divine sense and reveal it to be pure emotionalism.
To recap three key points from my last note:
- I reviewed valid and invalid means of acquiring knowledge and concluded that truth can only be reached by perceiving it and integrating sensory data – e.g. reason.
- Emotions are a kind of thinking that tells us about our mental state.
- We can learn from others, but ultimately new knowledge is formed by integrating new evidence into our own experience of reality.
Introduction: Faith is emotionalism
My key criticism of the theistic argument for faith is: it is emotionalism. But emotions are not evidence of reality, only of one’s mental state. Neither revelation nor any other evidence for the supernatural is possible. I believe this argument is sufficient to disprove all religious convictions, as all other (i.e. “historical”) arguments for the supernatural are revealed to be absurd once a proper epistemology (e.g. reliance on the senses) is assumed.
The Nature of the Senses
Let’s begin with the senses we agree on: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. This much has been known since Aristotle. What is the exact nature and method of these senses?