Virtual Colloquium: Tomas Bogardus and Mallorie Urban, “How to Tell Whether Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God”
March 31, 2017 — 6:00

Author: Kenny Pearce  Category: Concept of God  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   Comments: 17

Today’s virtual colloquium paper is “How to Tell Whether Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God” by Tomas Bogardus and Mallorie Urban. Dr. Bogardus received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 and is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Pepperdine University. His papers on epistemology and the philosophy of religion have appeared in journals such as Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophical Studies, Ethics, Faith and Philosophy, and Philosophia. Mallorie Urban is an undergraduate philosophy major at Pepperdine.


How to Tell Whether Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God

Tomas Bogardus and Mallorie Urban

We start the paper by laying out three recent arguments for the “Same God” thesis, and offering objections. Francis Beckwith offers an argument from monotheism: Christians and Muslims both believe there can be only one God, so they must be worshiping the same God. We doubt that inference. After all, two baseball fans might agree that only one team can be the best, without thereby thinking the same team is the best. Michael Rea argues that if Christians and Muslims aren’t worshiping the same God, then “God” for one group is “absolutely meaningless,” or refers absurdly to a mere human being, an animal or plant, an inanimate object like a rock or a star. We again doubt that inference, since there’s a third option: “God” for one group is a meaningful but empty name, like “Zeus” is for Zeus-worshipers. Finally, Dale Tuggy argues that since Christians and Muslims are engaged in genuine theological disagreements, they must be talking about the same God. We’re skeptical again, since it’s possible for a name to shift reference over time or across groups, and for two people to disagree while using the same name without thereby referring to the same entity. In the paper, we use the example of how “Santa Claus” has shifted reference over time and across groups, in a way that could allow one child to use “Santa Claus” to refer to St. Nicholas, another to use that same name to refer to a jolly Nordic creature of fiction, and for these two children to disagree vociferously about the sentence “Santa Claus is dead.” (Or, if you insist that it’s part of the meaning of “genuine disagreement” that there’s co-reference, what this case shows is that something can look and sound just like a genuine disagreement—and even involve the same name—without really being a genuine disagreement. For all Tuggy says, this could be what’s going on with apparently genuine theological disagreements between Christians and Muslims.)

The case of “Santa Claus” also makes trouble for anyone who thinks a simple Kripkean causal picture of reference supports the “Same God” conclusion. On a common interpretation/extrapolation of Kripke’s causal picture—which Kripke himself was reluctant to endorse—a name acquires its referent at a baptism ceremony, and then is passed along from speaker to speaker who form, as it were, links on a chain. And as long as each link in that chain intends to use the name in the same way as the previous links, the name preserves its reference. So, one might think, since Mohammad acquired divine names from neighboring Jews and Christians, and intended to use the names as Jews and Christians do, he therefore referred to—and directed worship toward—the same God that Jews and Christians do. And similarly with subsequent Muslims.

But that’s not the way reference works. Kripke himself was aware of the troubling case of “Santa Claus,” and he says: “There may be a causal chain from our use of the term ‘Santa Claus’ to a certain historical saint, but still the children, when they use this, by this time probably do not refer to that saint.” Inspired by Gareth Evans’ theory of reference, we suggest that our conception of Santa Claus became so corrupted and distorted by myth-makers that at some point in the past—and it’s vague when this happened—the man St. Nicholas ceased to be the dominant source of information that we associate with the name “Santa Claus,” at which point the name ceased to refer to him.

We then develop Evans’ notion of dominance, exploring a few ways we might weight information in a name’s “dossier,” different types of information that we might elevate to dominance, i.e. to a sine-qua-non position in the name’s dossier. The details are in the paper, but the upshot is this: we can tell whether a name has shifted reference by asking certain hypothetical questions about the use of the name. For example, we know that “Santa Claus” shifted reference because, when we ask “What if there were no jolly Nordic elf who’s alive and delivers presents on Christmas, but there had been an ancient bishop of Myra who did such and such noble things, but is now dead? Might “Santa Claus” still refer?” all the children shout “NO!” In that contemporary use of “Santa Claus,” certain mythical information has been elevated to dominance, so that when children find out that nobody answers to that information, they conclude there is no Santa Claus and never was, that “Santa Claus” fails to refer. It has shifted reference from fact to fiction.

And now we can answer our “Same God?” question: If Islam were false and Christianity true, might “Allah” still refer? If YES, then, from a Christian perspective, Muslims’ modified conception of “Allah” has not shifted its reference. If NO, then it has. And: if Christianity were false and Islam were true, might “God” still refer? If YES, then, from a Muslim perspective, Christians’ modified conception of “God” has not shifted its reference. If NO, then it has.

Depending on your answers to those questions, it could be that you’ll think, from the perspective of each religion, that the other’s modified use of the divine name has not shifted its reference, like how early modifications of the use of “Santa Claus” didn’t yet shift its reference. In that case, you’ll probably be sympathetic to the “Same God” conclusion. Or it could be that you’ll think, from the perspective of each religion, the other has made such radical modifications that the divine name has shifted reference, as happened at some point in the fairly recent past with “Santa Claus.” In that case, you’ll likely deny the “Same God” conclusion. Another option is that it’s unclear whether, from the perspective of each religion, the other’s modifications to the use of the divine name were radical enough to shift reference, as it was for quite some time unclear whether the gradual modifications of the use of “Santa Claus” had made it cease to refer to St. Nicholas. And then you’ll likely think there’s simply no determinate fact of the matter on the “Same God?” question, or at least none we’re in a position to affirm.

We close with some speculations about what, in addition to co-reference, might be required for co-worship, and whether, from a Christian perspective, salvation turns on this issue.


The complete paper is here. Comments welcome below!

Comments:
  • Kelly James Clark

    Meant to add this: “Frankly, and this is the spiritual part, one should be grateful that one can worship God without getting one’s description of God just right. After all, given the plethora of beliefs about God, what are the chances that any of one of us has gotten God just right?”

    March 31, 2017 — 12:28
    • Thanks for the thoughts, Kelly. I read your piece, and it sort of sounds like you’re working with the common interpretation/extrapolation of Kripke that we discuss in the paper (which Kripke himself did not endorse). Especially when you say: “Muslims and Christians worship the same God if one or both are either directly acquainted with God (perhaps through a religious experience) or if both are part of a chain of testimony that traces back to someone who was directly acquainted with God.”

      The problem is that’s probably not true. My (properly educated!) daughter uses “Santa Claus” to refer to St. Nicholas. Many other kids use that very same name “Santa Claus” to refer to a creature of fiction. And this is so despite the fact that, as you say, ‘both are part of a chain of testimony that traces back to someone who was directly acquainted with’ St. Nicholas. Because names can shift their reference over time. And this *may* have happened with the generic divine names that Christians and Muslims use.

      March 31, 2017 — 12:58
      • Sam Lebens

        Hi guys. Thanks for writing such an interesting paper; even if – in the final analysis – I think it much easier to secure commonality of reference between Muslims, Christians and Jews, then you do.
        But on one point, I think that you’re quite clearly wrong. This regards your daughter’s use of ‘Santa Claus’ – I think her use does pick out St. Nicholas. I don’t think you’ve done enough to establish a reference shift. I think this to be especially striking when you think about non-fictional names that appear in fictional contexts more generally.
        Does ‘Baker Street’ in the Sherlock Holmes stories not refer to the real Baker Street in London – just because, in the fiction, it’s depicted as being longer than Baker Street actually is? Does it not refer to the real Baker Street, just because a reader not from London might not know that the street exists outside of the story?
        If fictions can’t refer to, and say things that are only fictionally true, of real world objects and peoples, then a whole load of historical fiction – for example – isn’t going to make sense, or have the import that it’s supposed to have.
        I’ve written a draft paper about non-fictional names in fictional contexts, where I argue some of this at length.
        ‘Santa Claus’ is just such a name – a non-fictional name of real person, ‘St. Nicholas’, used in a fictional story in which all sorts of falsehoods are fictionally true about St. Nicholas.
        How is this different to ‘Baker Street’?

        April 2, 2017 — 7:50
        • Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Sam. 🙂

          You were concerned about this:

          “But on one point, I think that you’re quite clearly wrong. This regards your daughter’s use of ‘Santa Claus’ – I think her use does pick out St. Nicholas. I don’t think you’ve done enough to establish a reference shift.”

          Well, in the case described in the paper, and as I put it to Kelly James Clark above, I agree that *my* daughter does indeed refer to St. Nicholas when she uses “Santa Claus.” That was the typical use of the name prior to 1800 or so. But we do think, and Kripke himself agrees, that the dominant usage of “Santa Claus” these days probably doesn’t refer to St. Nicholas. Most kids, when they use “Santa Claus,” do not refer to the saint.

          We thought that was a pretty clear case of a reference shift. (Not *maximally* clear, but pretty clear.) I’m hearing that you disagree on that. But do you think words *never* shift their reference over time? Do you think that’s *impossible*? I recall from our discussion on Facebook that you seemed fairly impressed with Evans’ case of “Madagascar.” Do you think “Madagascar” has shifted reference over time? (This is a fairly mundane phenomenon with words other than proper names. Just browse through a dictionary and look for uses of words marked “archaic.” There can be some really large discrepancies between archaic and modern uses! So too with proper names, we think.)

          But if it’s even *possible* for names to shift reference, then our project seems well-aimed. Our project is to determine whether this might have happened with Muslim and Christian use of the generic divine names.

          You also wonder:
          “Does ‘Baker Street’ in the Sherlock Holmes stories not refer to the real Baker Street in London – just because, in the fiction, it’s depicted as being longer than Baker Street actually is?”

          I’ll let Mallorie speak for herself, but personally I’d say “Baker Street” in the Holmes fiction does refer to the real Baker street. (I suspect Mallorie agrees.) But I’m not yet seeing any problem for an Evans-style view of reference. Adding some misinformation into the dossier of a name doesn’t automatically shift the name’s referent, and that could be so even if the dossier becomes *entirely* populated by that misinformation! As Evans (1982, 385) says: “Malicious rumours, or absurdly inflated claims, equally baseless, may circulate, and such misinformation may be all that ends up associated with the name in the minds of consumers [of the name]. Nevertheless, they have got hold of rumours and claims about a particular man.”

          In the case you describe, Arthur Conan Doyle said some false things about Baker Street. But they weren’t radically false, and by no means did the dossier for “Baker Street” come to be entirely populated by misinformation. (Probably the dossier for “Baker Street” wasn’t corrupted at all, since readers knew this was fiction, and regulated the dossier so as to exclude fiction.)

          But it was different with “Santa Claus.” In that case, the dossier did become radically corrupted, and eventually we stopped regulating it so as to exclude fiction. Early in the corruption process, we were adding misinformation about St. Nicholas into the dossier for “Santa Claus.” But eventually the corruption got radical, and additional information that radically misfits St. Nicholas came to “dominate” the dossier, i.e. it was given sine-qua-non weight. And that’s when St. Nicholas ceased to be the dominant source of information in the dossier, and indeed there ceased to be any dominant source of information. The dossier became dominated by source-less information, and so the name ceased to refer to St. Nicholas. It came to refer to nothing at all; it became an empty name.

          That *could* happen with “Baker Street,” or with any other name. (Meghan Sullivan, in the paper of hers we cite, argues that this is why religious believers have good reason to guard against blasphemy! So as to maintain linguistic contact with the divine, to prevent divine names from shifting to fiction.) But the Sherlock Holmes stories certainly didn’t cause that to happen with “Baker Street.”

          But suppose it was like this: Arthur Conan Doyle’s dog was named “Sherlock Holmes,” and Doyle thought it would be a hoot to invent a bunch of stories about his dog as a human detective, and that’s where the Sherlock Holmes stories came from. To borrow a phrase from Evans, if your notion of reference fixing is such that, in this case, those who say “Holmes was a brilliant detective” might be denoting a dog, it seems that it has little to commend it. That is, we couldn’t discover that Holmes was a real entity, but not at all a detective, didn’t live on Baker Street etc., and was actually a dog. What we’d say is “Well, there was no Sherlock Holmes (<–using here the name from the stories). But there was this dog who was named 'Sherlock Holmes'." In the scenario I'm describing, "Holmes" would have shifted reference from a dog to a creature of fiction. (Like how "Santa Claus" shifted from a man to a creature of fiction.) It would be like if we discovered that there was no Nazarene man named "Jesus Christ," but instead that name was used by the early Christian church to refer to a hallucinogenic mushroom. Here too I think we'd conclude "Well, there was no Jesus Christ (<–here using the name as contemporary Christians use it). But there was this mushroom that they called 'Jesus Christ'." We'd conclude that "Jesus Christ" had shifted reference from a mushroom to fiction.

          So I hope this quells some of your concerns about reference shifting. And I hope it helps vindicate our project of trying to help the reader discover whether the divine names have shifted due to the ways Christians and Muslims have used them. 🙂

          April 2, 2017 — 14:34
          • Sam Lebens

            Hi Tomas.
            I do accept that reference shift occurs. It can occur a great deal.
            I think Kripke is wrong to think it’s happened in the Santa Claus case.
            I was and am impressed by the Madagascar case of reference shift, but I’m concerned that it’s less germane.
            Sorry about the confusion regarding your daughter, I should have known that she would have known her history!!
            I don’t think that there’s an obvious contender for the reference of ‘Santa Claus’ to have shifted over to – which is one way in which the Madagascar case is different.
            You suggest that reference has shifted over to a fictional character – but it’s not clear to me that fictional characters can be created in this way – as the product of a reference-shift, that allows the name to have a referent post-shift.
            Furthermore, I think that authorial intent in fictions tends to be really central, even in cases where readers are unaware.
            Accordingly, if ‘David Lebens’, in a novel I wrote, is actually supposed to refer to the real David Lebens – my Dad – then it does, even if my readers don’t know that, and even if I say lots of things about him in the story that isn’t true of him in real life.
            I shouldn’t have said ‘clearly wrong’ – that level of certainty is always going to be ill advised in philosophy! Accordingly, I think your case of Sherlock the dog is really suggestive, and leaves me pause for thought (or should I say, paws for thought).
            But, notwithstanding, for the reasons I suggested above, and unless the details of the dossier are ravaged, to the extent that they are in your Sherlock example, I’m loathe to say that reference shift is a common phenomenon when a non-fictional character is involved in a fiction. Reference in such cases tends towards a certain robustness against reference-shift.
            If Christianity is true, then the Christian God is involved as a central character in a fiction in the Quran; and was used that way (wittingly or unwittingly) by the authors of the Quran. If Islam is true, then the Muslim God is involved as a central character in fiction (if not in the New Testament, then at least) in normative Christian theology; and was used that way (wittingly or unwittingly) by the Church fathers.
            And so, I’m loathe to say that reference shift is a likely option in either case.
            You’re right that Kripke should agree with you, given what he says about Santa Claus, but I don’t think he should have said what he said about Santa Claus!

            April 2, 2017 — 15:12
          • Thanks for the additional reply, Sam. I think it’s helped us reach the crux of the issue here, especially when you say:

            “for the reasons I suggested above, and unless the details of the dossier are ravaged, to the extent that they are in your Sherlock example, I’m loathe to say that reference shift is a common phenomenon when a non-fictional character is involved in a fiction. Reference in such cases tends towards a certain robustness against reference-shift.”

            I think we agree on that! Unless the dossier is “ravaged,” there won’t be a reference shift. That’s a nice way to put it. But if the dossier for a name were ravaged–e.g. as it would be in the Sherlock the dog case I sketched–we might indeed get a reference shift from fact to fiction (i.e. from a real entity to nothing at all).

            And so, if we want to figure out whether Christians and Muslims co-refer (and then proceed to figure out whether they co-worship), we need to figure out whether, from the perspective of each religion, members of the other religion have “ravaged” the dossiers of those generic divine names.

            People who focus on the quite substantial differences in Muslim conceptions of Allah and Christian conceptions of God will probably answer: YES, there has been some dossier-ravaging going on, sufficient to cause a reference shift. I take it that was Wheaton’s position in the Prof. Hawkins’ controversy.

            People who focus on the commonalities in the dossiers will probably answer: NO, no ravaging, though of course there’s been some shake-ups in the dossiers. So no reference shift. So, co-reference and likely co-worship. I take it that was Prof. Hawkins’ position in that Wheaton controversy.

            And then others will say: UNCLEAR. It’s a borderline case of dossier ravaging. As to whether Christians and Muslims co-refer and co-worship, there’s no determinate fact of the matter, or at least none we’re in a position to affirm. We’re in a transition period, as we were with “Santa Claus” in the early 1800s or so. Not clearly a reference shift yet, but also not clearly not a reference shift.

            For what it’s worth, I think I spend about four days per week in the third category. And today happens to be one of those days. (Of course, I can’t speak for Mallorie on this question.)

            April 3, 2017 — 15:55
          • Sam Lebens

            Hi Tomas,
            Now the question is whether we can lay down necessary and sufficient conditions for dossier ravagement (new word alert) so as to guarantee that the use of a name in a fiction has occasioned reference-shift.
            Does change of metaphysical kind ravage a dossier? Not necessarily. It’s not obvious to me that I couldn’t coherently write a story about you being a giraffe, and it still being a story about you, and enough people knowing that it was about you so as to prevent a gradual slide in reference away from you. So change of metaphysical kind isn’t even sufficient… and yet, in the case at hand, both the Christian and the Muslim think that God is a God – so, in one respect the God dossier is less ravaged, by the non-true religion, than is the ‘Tomas’ dossier in my story about you being a giraffe!
            So, even if I concentrate on the significant differences between the two dossiers, I think I resist the notion that there had been any reference shift.
            Sorry to be stubborn.

            April 3, 2017 — 16:26
          • Hi Sam,

            Thanks again for the comments, and no need to apologize! I’ll have to introspect a bit more to confirm this, but I think today might be one of those days I think there hasn’t been a reference shift. So we’re probably on the same page, at least for today. 🙂

            You said: “Now the question is whether we can lay down necessary and sufficient conditions for dossier ravagement (new word alert) so as to guarantee that the use of a name in a fiction has occasioned reference-shift.”

            Well, I suppose that would be nice, and I wouldn’t turn down such an analysis were it offered to me by a Philosophy of Language oracle. But I sort of doubt it’s necessary to have such an analysis for our purposes. We can already check for reference shift without having such an analysis, by asking those hypothetical questions mentioned in the original post and in the paper. And any such proposed analysis would be tested in light of our linguistic intuitions about cases like this, and not vice versa.

            You also said: “Does change of metaphysical kind ravage a dossier? Not necessarily. It’s not obvious to me that I couldn’t coherently write a story about you being a giraffe, and it still being a story about you, and enough people knowing that it was about you so as to prevent a gradual slide in reference away from you.”

            I agree that you could write a story about me as a giraffe (or, perhaps better, as a powerful silverback mountain gorilla), without my name thereby automatically shifting from me to fiction. But I think that’s because the dossier for my name wouldn’t really be corrupted at all in the case you describe. We wouldn’t add, to the dossier for my name, misinformation like “Tomas is a giraffe,” “Tomas eats leaves,” “Tomas has many giraffe adventures with his animal friends,” etc. That’s all MISinformation that would indeed corrupt the dossier, and could cause a reference shift if it came to ‘dominate’ the dossier. But, instead, in the case you describe, really we’d preface those little bits of the fiction with something like “One time Sam Lebens wrote a story about Tomas according to which…yadda yadda yadda, and the story never really caught on.” But that’s all true! So the dossier hasn’t been corrupted at all. And I think that’s what explains why there would be no reference shift.

            A more interesting case would be if you told your kids these stories, and their dossier for “Tomas” filled up with the unqualified, unprefaced bits of giraffe information. Then, later on, if they found out these giraffe stories were loosely based on your friend Tomas, I think they may well conclude “Ah, I see. There definitely was no Tomas the giraffe (<–here using the name as they theretofore had), but there was this other guy that my dad knew, named 'Tomas'." That is, I think that, for them, the name might well shift from reality to fiction. Because, for them, the fictive misinformation "caught on" and came to dominate their dossier. For them, the case would be more like the case where we all learn Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's dog was named "Sherlock Holmes," without therefore concluding that "Sherlock Holmes" refers to a dog. And more like the case of "Santa Claus" here in the US, where perhaps at one time the dossier had qualifications to set off the Santa Claus fiction from the St. Nicholas fact, but later on those qualifications got erased, and nearly all the true information about St. Nicholas got erased/forgotten.

            That's how reference shift happens in cases like that: radically different information "catches on" in the dossier for a name. It really gets "taken up" into the dossier, so corrupting it that the name ceases to refer as it did before. And *perhaps* something like that happened in the Christian use of "God," from the perspective of Islam, or in the Muslim use of "Allah," from the perspective of Christianity.

            April 6, 2017 — 11:41
          • Sam Lebens

            Hey Tomas, I think that that’s an excellent account of how reference shift can happen in cases like this – how sometimes qualifications save the dossier from corruption – your dossier fills up with qualified claims, like, ‘Sam wrote a story about Tomas such that yada yada yada’ – and this saves us from reference shift; and sometimes those qualifications are dropped, leading to misinformation corrupting the dossier, and subsequently to reference shift.
            But given that analysis, I think we should note how all along, Muslims were aware of how Christians use the name ‘God’, and Christians were aware of how Muslims use the name ‘God’. So the dossier for the Christian includes, ‘falsely believed by Muslims to have revealed himself to Mohammed’, and the dossier for the Muslim includes, ‘falsely believed by Christians to be triune’.
            Of course, at least one of these two dossiers is corrupted my misinformation. But I wonder if claims like these help to make sure that the two dossiers continue to co-refer, and act as a bolster against the sorts of reference shift from fact to fiction that you’ve described.

            April 6, 2017 — 14:06
  • Hi,

    I’ll have to give it further thought, but I have a quick question regarding the interpretation of the question:

    Is the assumption that at least one of them refers included implicitly?

    It seems to me that the claim that the central question is “what determines the reference of a name, and when and how do name-using practices shift their referents?” makes that assumption. Otherwise, other questions seem to be central, or also central.

    For example, if Ampelios and Anacletos live in Ancient Greece, both participated in the same religious rituals, and both worshiped Zeus, I would say they worshiped the same deity (or entity, person, etc., if “deity” is too vague for this context), even though the deity in question did not and does not exist. However, I wouldn’t say that those Ancient Greeks worshiped the same deity as, say, Thor worshipers in Northern Europe.

    March 31, 2017 — 13:14
    • Mallorie Urban

      Hi Angra,

      If I understand your question correctly, the answer is no. It could of course be the case that neither group successfully refers to an actual deity, as in your example from Ancient Greece. In the example you sketched, though, I would not say that Ampelios and Anacletos both worship the same deity, since–despite their intention– they actually refer to and worship no deity at all. On the view we sketch in our paper, it could be the case that no actual deity is the dominant source of the information in a name’s “dossier.” This does not mean, however, that the name is meaningless. As we mention on page 4, using a name with no referent does not render the name meaningless, but rather simply empty.

      Hopefully that addresses your question!

      March 31, 2017 — 19:01
      • Hi, Mallory

        Thanks for your reply, and yes, that answers my question.
        I agree that the name isn’t meaningless, and I understand your point about the dossier.
        What I was getting at is that using the words in an intuitive sense – i.e., in what I seems to me like their ordinary meaning -, I would be inclined to say that Ampelios worships Zeus, and Anacletos worships Zeus, and so they both worship the same deity – namely, Zeus. On the other hand, if say, Brunhilda worships Odin, she and Anacletos do not worship the same deity. The fact that they fail to refer does not seem to me to answer the question of whether they worship the same god.

        I thought you’d have the same linguistic intuition, but I see that that’s not so.

        March 31, 2017 — 20:12
  • Karl Young

    It sounds like a really interesting paper. It might even help clear up some of my confusion about why such a clear distinction between reference and description can always be made (I understand the “paradigm” cases like Hesperus and Phosphorus but I have a hard time seeing how all notions of description can be banished when referring – I know, I know I should go back and read Naming and Necessity among other things…).

    BTW there’s a beautifully done, very accessible podcast by philosopher Barry Lam on just this subject (including the role Jesus plays in that debate), and which includes a compelling story that drives the questions:

    https://hiphination.org/episodes/episode-4-the-name-of-god-feb-14-2017/

    March 31, 2017 — 13:25
  • As a Christian, as a mystic, I return to the point raised by Kelly James Clark, which did not appear in the essay here. And I will do this in the context of the Tomas Bogardus response,at this point:

    “‘Especially when you [Kelly James Clark] say: ‘Muslims and Christians worship the same God if one or both are either directly acquainted with God (perhaps through a religious experience) or if both are part of a chain of testimony that traces back to someone who was directly acquainted with God.’

    “The problem is that’s probably not true.”

    It is true, however. The response I have to anyone who has not had a mystical religious experience is prayer. If you have a spiritual relationship with God, Allah, Whateverthename, that includes going beyond being savvy to spirituality, then you are praying.

    This cancels the game of whispering ear to ear, and place the game into something more like the Newly Wed Game., or how well do you really know Whom you are in a relationship with?

    Philosophers, theologians, scripture, especially that written by honest and delving mystics, mystics in person, clerics, and so forth, all have great information and can be terrific guides, as so many have preceded us and are with us along the way. The spiritual journey, however, is a marriage between the worshiper or believer and God, no matter the religion either born into or taken up.

    April 6, 2017 — 0:46
    • Thanks for the comments, Rus! Here are a few thoughts by way of reply.

      So Kelly James Clark (KJC) originally said this:

      “Muslims and Christians worship the same God if one or both are either directly acquainted with God (perhaps through a religious experience) or if both are part of a chain of testimony that traces back to someone who was directly acquainted with God.”

      I said that’s probably not true. You say it *is* true. We’ve got a disagreement on our hands, and maybe I’m wrong! So let’s think about it a little more…

      I read KJC’s claim this way:

      That is, I read KJC as giving us two sufficient conditions for a “Same God” conclusion. Did you interpret it that way as well?

      I don’t think either one is sufficient. And here are some counterexamples to each one.

      Take the first one first. It says:

      I think this might have been a typo on KJC’s part, since it’s pretty obvious that if only *one* of those groups is directly acquainted with God, then it could easily be that the other group *isn’t*, and (so) the groups don’t worship the same God. Those who (try to) worship Zeus, for example, aren’t thereby directly acquainted with the true God. Even if I am directly acquainted with God, it hardly follows that the Zeus-fan and I are worshiping the same God. And the same could go with Christians and Muslims.

      So suppose KJC meant that:

      Well, here too I don’t think we’re being quite careful enough. It’s possible to be directly acquainted with someone, and yet not thereby refer to them, direct admiration or worship to them, etc. Consider, for example, when I took my daughter to Disneyland when she was younger. At Disneyland, some humans are paid to dress up like popular fictional Disney characters. On one occasion, a woman was dressed up like Snow White, one of my daughter’s favorite characters. Now, “Snow White” in my daughter’s mouth didn’t suddenly come to refer to this woman dressed up like Snow White (at least, not *every* use), and her admiration for Snow White was not admiration for *that* woman before her. She continued to refer to and admire a fictional character, even though she was directly acquainted with that human before her. And something similar *might* be happening with Christians or Muslims, even if both groups are directly acquainted with the true God. It *could* be that, for example, Muslims have so drastically altered the dossier for the generic divine names that those names have shifted from reality to fiction, and may continue to do so even if the real God showed up and got acquainted with them as that woman dressed up like Snow White did with my daughter.

      Now consider the second sufficient condition for the “Same God” conclusion that KJC offers:

      Above, I’ve already given a counterexample to that claim. It’s possible for names to shift reference over time and across groups. So it could easily happen that the same name used by two groups (at two different times perhaps) does not refer to the same thing. This happened with “Santa Claus,” for example, both over time and even now, across groups. 500 years ago, “Santa Claus” referred to St. Nicholas. These days, as it’s commonly used by children, “Santa Claus” refers to a creature of fiction, and not St. Nicholas. And this is so despite the fact that, in both cases, the name traces back to “someone who was directly acquainted” with St. Nicholas, as KJC would put it.

      I think KJC was relying on a common extrapolation of Saul Kripke’s famous causal “picture” of reference. I think that’s a common mistake, and we try to correct it in this paper.

      Thanks again for the comments. 🙂

      April 6, 2017 — 1:33
      • Brett

        I know I’m late to the party but a few comments.

        This might have been addressed already in the comments or elsewhere, but from what I remember of Kripke he offers the transmission idea as a sketch on how names can be passed down through history. I don’t think he wants to deny that it can shift reference. Again, if I recall correctly, he talks about intent in transmitting the name and using the name in the same way, so he wants to talk about there being the right sort of way of this transmission happening and a wrong sort of way. The difficult part, of course, is cashing out what is the right sort of way.

        So from what I can recall of Kripke, I’m not sure your Santa Claus example is a counter example to his sketch since one could suppose that along the way people fail to properly intend to use the name the same way. What exactly it means to fail to properly intend to use the name the same way is tough. Suppose you teach your daughter about Saint Nick and Santa Claus but she goes deaf whenever you talk about the historical Saint Nick but hears everything you say about Santa Claus. Then presumably she intends to use the name in the same way, but reference has shifted. Maybe Kripke could give a reply here, I’m not sure.

        None of this really affects your point though: it would just mean those who think they are using Kripke’s sketch have failed to do the prequesite work. And if we think we have a counterexample to the fuller sketch, then even the fuller sketch will not help. So these comments might not affect the major conclusions, but it might affect the details if you agree.

        A question to end it. Do you think one’s judgment on this question is ultimately a matter of intuition about whether they worship the same God and then finding a satisfactory theory of names or one of finding a satisfactory theory of names and then seeing whether they worship the same God? I know there is an interplay, but my own inclination is to think it’s more of the former (this isn’t to say the former position is correct, only that I think this is how most people who consider these questions will go about it).

        April 9, 2017 — 14:39
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