.. ng of the question, a few key concepts must first be established. What is meant by the term Empiricism? To an empiricist, the occurrence of consciousness is simply the product of experience. It is assumed that all human knowledge is acquired from experience and observation alone. It is believed that we are born with an empty slate; it is through sense perception that our knowledge begins to form and shape our mind. Empiricism is against the idea of spontaneous or a priori thought (knowledge that is independent of all particular experience).
They believe in a posteriori knowledge, which is derives from experience alone. The belief opposing Empiricism is that of Rationalism. In this philosophy, reason is used to obtain knowledge. One can be born with innate ideas. What is meant by the term God? There is not one simple definition that can describe God.
Different cultures have different conceptions of deity. One can be monotheistic, duo theistic, polytheistic or believe in the trinity. Others believe it merely a force or the world itself. For our purpose we will use a definition given from the Encarta world English Dictionary. “GOD, Supreme Being: the being believed in monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Islam, and Christianity to be the all-powerful all-knowing creator of the universe, worshiped as the only God.” The word exist must also be defined.
For the statement “God exists”, we must understand what it is to exist. Existence is to have real being whether material or spiritual. IT is the state or fact of being, entity. Now that a proper explanation is given of the terms for the argument “Why a genuine empiricist cannot believe in a supreme being”, can take its form. God is considered to be an innate idea by many religious on goers. God cannot be completely comprehended.
This is one of the greatest unknowns that faces mankind. If he cannot be perceived and no concept of him is present at birth then it would be extremely difficult to obtain knowledge of him. It is empiricism itself that criticizes the belief in miracles and visions. God cannot be perceived under normal circumstances. With a few exceptions he is inconceivable.
For a true empiricist the existence of God does not coincide with their own teachings. Experience is everything to empiricists. The main criticism that empiricist hold against rationalist is the their belief of innate ideas. To assume that some thoughts could come directly from the mind rather than being acquired by experience is thought to be obscure. An innate idea is a belief or idea present at birth in the soul of an individual. With no actual experience.
Ideas that are thought to be of an innate nature are those of substance, infinity, and God. There is no adequate empirical explanation for the origin of these ideas and they cannot be explained by observation or experience. If God is a priori (innate idea), then for an empiricist to believe in a Supreme Being it would be going against ones own teachings. David Hume (1711-1776), a radical Empiricist in his time, could give no rational explanation regarding these concepts. “Nothing can ever be present to the mind but an image or perception.” Hume held the belief in only a moral existence.
He did not try to argue the existence of a God, although he did not try to prove Gods existence. If the idea of God is not present at birth, then where might it have been obtained? There are countries worldwide that believe in some form of Deity. For such a universal belief, there must be some origin or cause. The idea of this God must have been present at birth as a priori or must have in some way been experienced, a posteriori. Going back to one of the basic arguments brought forth by empiricism that is for one to believe, one must use observation to form knowledge.
God is beyond the power of human conception. Let alone observation. How can one observe God? It is not possible to perceive him. If it is impossible to experience a Supreme Being how than can one be thought to be true? For an empiricist, the conception of God is not innate and there is no way that he could be perceived. God cannot be traced back to sense data (something that is perceived by one of the senses and then deciphered by the mind). God is an unknowable force. God by definition has absolute greatness. The power that is held is exceptionally greater than any human being.
If God exists, then his power would be infallible and infinite. We as humans do not hold the capacity to understand the concept of infinity. IF we are unable to assimilate this notion than we are unable to completely understand God. The idea of infinity is unanswerable according to Empiricists. There is no probable explanation.
It was George Berkeleys (1685-1753) concept of God that was found to be quite contradictory to his work. His main claim was esse is percipi (or to be is to be perceived). The major predicament with this claim is that he believed that one must me perceived to exist, and God by definition cannot be perceived. That would ultimately lead to the conclusion that according to his definition God does not exist. According to empiricists, the foundation of knowledge is not from reason but from observation. For an empiricist to believe in a superior being, this superior being would in some aspect, namely sense data, have to be experienced.
IT is recognize by all that God cannot be perceived. God is a belief. “For something to be a truly religious belief, it has to be just that. A belief, something that is not knowledge (SREN KIERKEGAARD 1813-1855).” Religion is itself a belief. It is based upon faith. The statement God exists could as easily be wrong, as it is right.
There is no method in which this could be proven to be false or truthful. The notion of god could never have been comprehended had it not been previously present. Mysticism is one valid explanation that an empiricist could use to give a valid claim on God. It is common to hear of occurrences where God has in some way been witnessed. There have been individuals that have claimed to have extraordinary personal experiences.
Visions and miracles are both ways in which in some opinions God existence has been proved through the senses. Therefore making it an empirical experience. If an individual has had a direct encounter with a higher being then the empiricists belief in God would be validated. The possibility that there are other forms that an empiricist may experience God would also be applicable. Visions and miracles are phenomenons that can be experienced by an individual or by a group of people.
They possess the capacity to alter previous dogmas that one may hold regarding the existence of a greater being. IT is difficult to trust visions, because they could be classified as hallucinations or a dream. There is no sound evidence that a vision has occurred. It is the seer that has actual proof. It is once again David Hume who criticizes the belief in miracles.
A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.” So, “There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event.” He also stated “nothing is esteemed a miracle if it ever happened in the common course of nature. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) made a similar statement regarding the same issue. In the affairs of life, therefore, it is impossible for us to count on miracles or to take them into consideration at all in our use of reason (and reason must be used in every incident of life). It was by the opposition to natural law that miracles where denied. Experiencing God was made virtually impossible.
IF miracles are not sound, and visions could be easily confused with hallucinations, there is no way that a knowledge of God can possible be obtained. The difficulty in believing in God while following empiricism is undeniable. As an empiricist it is impossible to be born with any innate ideas. Having no innate ideas of God it would only leave experience to shape the knowledge of a higher being. It is not possible to obtain knowledge of God through sense data, what is left is the existence of miracles or visions.
It is these that are exposed by large amounts of criticism by empiricist. IT is impossible for anyone to say who has the ability and right to believe in a God, because for an empiricist to believe they must have a logical argument as to how it is possible. IT is difficult to find evidence backing up the existence of God by individuals who do believe and when it is found there tends to be holes in the argument. There are many interpretations that can be observed differently. The concepts of God and Existence are both concepts open to interpretation.
. . Bibliography 1. David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed. C. W.
Hendel 2. Ibid, p.82. 3. Donald Palmer, Does The Center Hold, (An Introduction to Western Philosophy) Second edition.