For the purpose of this post, I will assume the following quote from @jobermark (here) to be true and will ask a question on the consequences of such truth

[W]e really can only talk about the concept of God, and never productively argue either side of the existence debate.

Consequences of the claim

When facing a question for which argumentation is impossible (such as the existence of God), it sounds like a sound philosopher shall accept the impossibility of ever arguing for one side or the other. It therefore seems that for the question of the existence of God, any sound philosopher should then consider herself / himself as agnostic.

Yet, despite the fact that the problem is unsolvable, most people (incl. some trained philosophers I talked to) do have an opinion on that matter and consider themselves as either theist or atheist.


  • Can we only be theist or atheist by failure of recognizing one cannot argue for one side or the other?
  • Can one consider himself/herself theist or atheist only if their emotions take advantage over a logical reasoning?
  • When I meet a philosopher (trained as such or not) who declare being theist or atheist, can I assume (s)he lack ability for clear reasoning and have gone to conclusion based on what they would like the world to be like (always assuming the above claim is true)?
  • I am not sure if you meant to link to my comment or to jobermark's answer. But we face the impossibility of purely logical (deductive) argumentation everywhere outside of mathematics and formal side of science. We can still argue higher plausibility, better fit, better theoretic unification, more elegance, and other intellectual but vague and not exactly "logical" virtues. And yes, emotional attachments, moral values, cultural identity, philosophical tradition, etc., are also appealed to, especially when it comes to social, economic, cultural and religious issues.
    – Conifold
    Nov 7, 2016 at 22:02
  • For approach to argumentation that is not modeled on mathematical and formal deductions see Is there (or does something exist that is close to) a theory of arguments?
    – Conifold
    Nov 7, 2016 at 22:03
  • @Conifold I meant to link to jobermark's answer. I corrected the link now. Thanks! Your other post seem very helpful. I'll reread that tonight with a fresh mind! Thank you
    – Remi.b
    Nov 7, 2016 at 22:05
  • 1
    Consider ignosticism
    – MmmHmm
    Nov 7, 2016 at 22:18
  • To #3: There exist people that hold beliefs not based upon logic (or solely on logic). These beliefs may not be illogical, but may be simply extralogical. To say that they "lack the ability for clear reasoning" may not be accurate, given that they realize the extralogical nature of their belief. When asked why they believe as they do, their answer may be wholly outside the realm of logical argumentation, and necessarily so, depending on the nature of the belief. So, they both reason clearly and align as either theistic or atheistic, thus being a problem with #3's assumption.
    – elmer007
    Nov 7, 2016 at 22:45

5 Answers 5


No, agnosticism is still a position. And a final answer to something that has no answer is not logical.

There is a difference between an unsolvable problem and one that has been rendered independent of the domain. No position is obligatory on something logically independent of your domain.

To go for a math analogy, the existence of God is to philosophy something like the Axiom of Choice or the Continuum Hypothesis are to logic. Sometimes the common form is meaningful, and sometimes starting from its exact opposite (The Axiom of Determinacy/Intermediate Cardinals) clarifies the path better.

But in the end, the axiom itself has to fall out of your proof as temporary scaffolding, or you are doing mathematics that ultimately doesn't make sense to half the world. Though, really, you probably don't care, as most investigation in this direction has as its whole point the fascinating interactions those principles have with the rest of the subject.

But for another philosophical motivation, consider the example I gave as a parallel -- Mathematical Fictionalism.

Fictionalism does not obligate one to never act like a Platonist, it does not even prevent you from being a hard-core Platonist in every way that matters. It only prevents you from deducing things from the potential fact of Platonism when that framing is not the accepted context.

People who work in the field of large cardinals have to maintain a certain kind of fictionalism to prevent their field from imploding. They (once 'we') go ahead and make statements about all ordinals, in a very Platonic way. But we know from the fundamentals of set theory that there is no Platonism-compatible collection of all ordinals, because such a collection would be larger than anything that exists. There are trans-infinitely many of them by design.

That does not mean that those mathematicians think the intuitions they are building on might fall apart at any moment because they are being inconsistent relative to the Platonic realm of mathematics. They have confidence that their words hold meaning.

Similarly, holding that God is ineffable does not keep you from treating God as either existing or not existing. In the context of discussing the concept of God, we can still look for consistency or meaning. But we cannot force the notion of God on anyone, and we should not automatically reject arguments that deny the possibility of God. We can adopt either position at will.


There is a very large difference between "cannot productively argue" and "refuse to believe." It is absolutely reasonable to state that an individual can believe in something and be unable to argue it conclusively. In fact, one might even argue that its good to be able to do so in many fields. As an arbitrary mathematical example, many assert the Riemann hypothesis to be true. At this time there is no proof that it is true, and there's not even a conclusive argument to suggest that such a proof can even be created. And yet, the mere act of asserting this hypothesis has spurred countless mathematicians into exploring related problems and furthering mathematics in general. If they were to wait for the conjecture to be proven before asserting it, where would they go?

Just because one cannot argue a point does not mean there's not value in holding it. Arguments are only important when there is conflict. In many cases, individuals can "get along," despite their differences in assertions. In such cases, everyone benefits from the ability to assert the unarguable.

A concept I find helpful for exploring logic in such situations is modal logic. Modal logic is capable of capturing unknowns far better than other more classical logic approaches can, and I believe it renders questions such as "Can one consider himself/herself theist or atheist only if their emotions take advantage over a logical reasoning?" much less meaningful. If ones logical side is willing to embrace the unknown, it is not unreasonable for emotions to be able to play their part without "taking advantage over a logical reasoning."


All three of your questions make the implicit assumption that those positions which can be argued using logic and reasoning are arrived at by this method. Most Cognitive scientists and a good proportion of social psychology experiments would indicate that this is unlikely to be the case for most people (see any of the Dual-Process models of cognition, particularly Walker's and Kahneman's). Most people's beliefs are arrived at by conformity to a social group, if any of them can be justified logically, that's just a convenient afterthought. FRMI studies such as here have consistently demonstrated that decisions in which belief bias effects can be detected (those where a socially constructed belief pre-exists) take place in a different part of the brain to decisions which have no prior belief (such as simple logic puzzles). With questions of philosophy, therefore, whether there can be logical reasoning to justify a position or not is unlikely to affect the actual position held.

Consider why this issue always arises with a discussion about the existence of God, never Fairies, Dragons, Thor, or a teapot in space between here and Mars (after Russell). God is a popular social belief, fairies are not. If you think any of the answers about how reasonable it is to consider the existence of God using Modal Logic (or whatever other pseudo-justification technique) are true, try talking to these philosophers about a belief in Fairies or a fantasy world that exists in miniature on your fingertip and see how "intellectually" you are treated. I suspect an invitation to the psychiatrist would be the more likely response.

Q1 - We can obviously be whatever we want, I presume you mean can we justify such a position logically. The answer is yes, there are logical positions which use uncertainty, but as mentioned above, it would be a mistake to presume that such a belief was derived from these arguments simply because they exist.

Q2 - Yes, but as mentioned above it is most likely that all beliefs are derived this way. Some can simply be justified after the fact, some can't.

Q3 - Yes, the evidence from neuroscience and social psychology so far would seem to indicate that your presumption would be accurate, but it would be equally accurate of almost any belief outside of the realms of pure logic or clearly demonstrable empirical facts, regardless of how much reasoning could be involved in supporting it.


There isn't a problem applying your assertion to a hypothetical situation in which your context is objectively true, but trying to filter people's actions in the the real world against it is problematic (since your assertion ISN'T objectively true here).

Nevertheless, were you to have certain knowledge that a particular argument was fruitless, that does not mean everyone else has that same knowledge (or has evaluated that knowledge as completely true).

Q1. One could claim atheism/theism based on subjective experience, and still also believe that there is no logical/philosophical argument to backup their position. I personally do not have a complete logistic/philosophical proof of gravity, but I can still argue that it'll be around when I wake up tomorrow based solely on my own subjective experience.

Q2. Emotions may play a role, but there is also room for simple lack of compelling evidence to the contrary of your own personal experience. If you have had an out-of-body experience caused by trauma, where you spoke to DIETY you'd be justified in requiring at least some evidence to override your personal experience.

Q3. No. Assuming a set of character qualities based on the answer to a single question, without further investigation/discussion, would be a logical failure on your part. Incredibly intelligent/knowledgeable/reasonable people believe dumb things sometimes, and I'd rate being atheist/theist in your hypothetical situation far from dumb.


Identity politics regarding what one considers themselves aside, the agnotic position lacks knowledge regarding deity. The virtue of obtaining knowledge (read: philosophy; trans "love of wisdom") demonstrates that we are not without knowledge of deity. For example, deity is an incoherent, non-falsifiable, unverifiable and imponderable abstraction and abstract ideas do not exist, they are only to be found in language. Where is the love of wisdom in claiming a lack of knowledge regarding imponderables when it is empirically verifiable that imponderables are just that: imponderale.

Furthermore, lacking belief in deity and believing in deity are moods - temporary states of mind. If an atheist bemoans sincerely, "why god, why?!?" they might not necessarily believe in something which will answer their cries, but the use of term is meaningul even if undirected. Lastly, atheism and theism are only two beliefs regarding deity, see also igtheism, apatheism, pantheism, etc. To consider them the only two options is to consider a false dichotomy.

  • Are you're saying that Christian martyrs laid down their lives because they were in the mood to do so? Of course, that couldn't have been the case. They were able to do so because they did, in fact, know God. I think your concept of deity needs some serious revision.
    – user3017
    Nov 8, 2016 at 10:15
  • @PédeLeão So, what is it they knew?
    – MmmHmm
    Nov 8, 2016 at 16:46
  • They knew the Lord God Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. You know the air you breath, the Earth you walk on and the body with which you walk. God is the Creator of all those things. You also know your conscience which bears witness to the fact that we have to answer for our conduct. God is the Creator of our consciences and the Righteous Judge to whom we must answer.
    – user3017
    Nov 8, 2016 at 18:22
  • @PédeLeão, um, the what exactly? So far what you've posted there is incoherent, imponderable, unverifiable, non-falsifiable and literal non-sense. Thanks tho for demonstrating the accuracy of my claim.
    – MmmHmm
    Nov 8, 2016 at 18:54
  • When did this confusion set in? When I mentioned the air or the Earth? Do you find either of those concepts incoherent?
    – user3017
    Nov 8, 2016 at 19:07

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