Bruno, list,

I've looked over Bruno's recent replies and, though I don't understand much 
about Bruno's work or modal logic, etc., I wish to attempt a few general 

If Bruno is, as he puts it, "[searching for] a general name for a field which 
studies fundamental type of faith, hope, fear, bets, etc.," then there are set 
of Ancient Greek words like _pistis_ (faith, belief, confidence), _pistos_ 
(confident, faithful), _pisteuticos_ (deserving of faith or belief), etc. So he 
could call it Pistics (sounds awful in English, though, because of that to 
which it sound similar) or Pisteutics, etc. Or maybe there's some form of this 
word with a prefix which would make it sound less like, well, um, "piss" plus a 
suffix, and, having considered it, I do think that that's an issue. Ancient 
Greek is too unfamiliar to me, otherwise I'd try to come up with such a word 
myself, keeping in mind the next paragraph:

What kind of belief? The focus in religion and theology on faith, belief, etc., 
seems (e.g., in "Credo quia absurdum") to arise from a stubbornness in the 
belief despite resultant seemingly contradictory or inadequate interpretations 
and understandings, and despite seemingly contradictory or inadequate 
confirmations, corroborations, knowledge ("knowledge" in the everyday sense). 
This is a special kind of belief, not the most general kind, and we tend to 
distinguish it in English by calling it "faith" though "faith" does have other 
meanings. It tends to be motivated by valuations not pertaining primarily to 
investigating and establishing the character of the world. For Bruno, the 
question is, does he mean a kind of belief which, howsoever motivated, is 
stubborn? (in the face of resultant contradictory or inadequate understandings 
and in the face of contradictory "knowledge" or inadequate knwledge). For what 
it's worth, I think that the name most suitable will have the meaning!
  of this kind of belief.

Are religion and theism just about belief? Maybe I'm wrong, because there's a 
lot of background here on the everything-list threads that I don't understand, 
so maybe I'm interpreting things in the wrong light, but there seems to be a 
tendency here to regard religion as if it were fundamentally a cognitive 
discipline -- as if it consisted in a set of cognitive beliefs about facts. 
Religion has been many things and in some societies has taken many forms in 
being involved in every aspect of life. But the core toward which it seems 
sometimes to retrench, seems to be affectivity and valuing with regard to 
decision-making, power, submission, governance and self-governance -- including 
valuing with regard to the greatest powers in one's life and in the universe. 

(All the same, I fully admit that religion can get involved quite widely, in 
valuings with regard to competence and work, and with regard to feelings and 
gratifications, and with regard to cognition and knowledge -- and, also, it can 
get involved in a variety of cognitively based disciplines with regard to those 
just-listed subjects, so as to influence, e.g., education and community 
planning, productive arts, affective arts {painting, literature, music, drama, 
cinema, etc., etc.} and, among the maths and sciences, cosmology, as well; and 
religion can get involved in the arenas -- political, economic, cultural, 
discussional, and in non-conflictual practices of corresponding kinds.) 

Why do we associate religion especially with stubborn beliefs and certain 
disputed issues of fact? At the core of most of those things which we'd call 
religion in the strict sense, the sense in which the word "religion" is usually 
meant when the context is vague, are claims of miracles, miraculous powers in 
impassioned settings. Civilization tends to ask of religion that it renounce 
compulsion, tampering and interference, and provocation, but has tended in some 
cases to leave the improbable unsupported claims about facts more or less 
alone. For one thing, many of us who are not religious tend to recognize that 
we really don't know much about religion and society, we really don't know that 
much about how religion may be needed in society -- we look at all the bloody 
religious history and at all the civilizing influence which major religions 
have exerted as well and don't know quite what to make of it all. Those of us 
who live far from academic communities are well aware that !
 religion has roles in filling gaps in in the everyday lives of many around us. 
That's us non-religious types. Most people in civilization are more or less 
religious. Anyway, this variously hesitant, ambivalent, and belligerent 
confrontation with religion's ill supported claims about facts may tend to 
create the impression among some that this is what religion is about -- those 
cognitive beliefs standing unconquered by, and outside of and sometimes opposed 
to, science. But it's not at all everything that religion, or theism, 
monotheism, polytheism, etc. are about. (There is a kind of philosophical 
"panpsychism" which tends to be more cognitive in aim, but that's the 
exception). And in fact the secularist-religious conflicts ongoing today are 
about all that further stuff, and not just about the particular factual issues 
which sometimes are made their arena.

So, again, I think that Bruno needs a name that carries the meaning of a kind 
of belief, and not one that just says "God."

One added note: "Agnosticism" originally meant holding that it can't be known 
whether God exists -- "un-knowledge-ism". It is still used, I think, by some in 
that sense. Anyway, earlier in philosophical and theological traditions it was 
used in that sense. Many also use it to mean that one is simply unsure -- I 
don't know whether God exists, but maybe you do, etc. There one simultanously 
suspects and doubts that God exists, i.e., neither believes nor disbelieves, 
but has some awareness of the question and treats it as suitable for 

Best, Ben Udell

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bruno Marchal" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: "Stathis Papaioannou" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Cc: <>
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 10:50 AM
Subject: Re: Paper+Exercises+Naming Issue

Le 05-janv.-06, à 06:06, Stathis Papaioannou a écrit :

> It is worth repeating that "machine theology" would be a bad choice of 
> words quite aside from the debate that has been generated on this 
> thread about the meaning of atheism etc.

OK, this is another point.

> This is because of the negative reaction the term "theology" would 
> inspire in the (English-speaking, at least) scientific and 
> philosophical community. I think even the savvier crackpots would 
> avoid that word! It may not be fair, but that's the way it is.

I must think about that. I am not entirely convinced because it could 
be that the bad reaction is due to ... some basic theological error.

It is very nice that all of you try to convince me that the term 
"theology" should be avoided, although I am not yet sure that I can 
avoid it, and remaining at the same time a little bit honest if not 
just consistent.
Also, the fact that using "theology" makes you (all of you(*)) so 
nervous means perhaps that it is perhaps *urgent* we use it together 
with more serious connotations so that with some luck we will be able 
to finish the 3d millenium with the needed modesty to proceed.

Have you heard about Godel's proof of the existence of God? Godel did 
take the definition of God given by St-Anselm and formalised it in the 
S5 modal logic (actually the one proposed by Tom Caylor in its recent 
I don't take this, personally as  a proof of the existence of God. This 
is because I don't believe in St-Anselm definition of God (nor even 
that God is definable), nor do I "believe" in the S5 modal logic. But I 
*do* believe that Godel did prove that theology can be done in the 
scientific way, with definitions and proofs, etc.
See a sketch here:


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