Saturday, June 26, 2010

God and Allah

I came across an internet discussion where they were earnestly discussing whether 'God' and 'Allah' have the same reference. There are three positions that a Christian - who believes that the name 'God' has a reference, and that it refers to the supernatural and all-powerful being who is mentioned in both the Old and New Testament - could take on this.

1. 'Allah' is an empty name, referring to nothing. If you are a Christian description theorist, you believe that all propositions containing 'Allah' have an implicit existence claim, and so are all false. If you are a (direct) referentialist Christian, you hold that all such propositions are senseless, since they cannot have truth-value.

2. 'Allah' refers to a supernatural and powerful (though not all powerful) being who is not identical with God. Thus all the claims of Islam implying an identity with God, such as this passage where Allah speaks to Adam and Eve, are false. Others may be true.

3. God and Allah are identical, but Islam says many things about God that are not true. The only true things are the those relating to the Old Testament. For example, Allah expels Adam and Eve from Eden: God did do this, and Allah is identical with God, ergo etc.

What if 'God' and 'Allah' are both empty names? Can we make sense of such claims to identity or difference? I favour a 'haecceity predicate' theory of proper names. Being the very individual that you are cannot be a property of you. Otherwise, as Bill Vallicella has pointed out, all sorts of absurdities follow. How could the the 'thisness' of an individual exist even if the individual whose thisness it is does not exist?

But if proper names are not descriptions, haecceity is clearly a predicate, since we can make a predicate from any proper name thus: '-- is identical to Socrates' (or 'God' or 'Allah'). That is the only way we can make sense of narratives like the Koran and the Old Testament, which mention the same supernatural being as the same being throughout.

1 comment:

Moulton said...

"God" (like "King") is a title that defines a role that a figure plays in a given culture or belief system.

The deity of the Old Testament had a name, as revealed to Moses in the well-known Burning Bush Story in Exodus.

Since Exodus was written in the Hebrew language, one has to turn to the original text to learn the name that the deity of the Old Testament reveals to Moses.

In the Hebrew it's eheyah asher eheyah which literally translates into English as "will be who/what will be." (Note that in Hebrew, a verb can be used without explicitly including the subject of the sentence; the subject is to be understood or inferred from context.)

In the first English translation (the King James Bible), the above phrase was rendered as "I am that I am" (rather than the future tense of "to be").

A better translation would simply be the gerund, "Becoming."

So, in the New Testament, Yeshua (Jesus) is said to be the "Son of God" which simply means that he instantiates the Next Generation of Becoming.

Whether one belongs to an organized religion or not, we can all consider ourselves to be engaged in the current Process of Becoming.

It's not really a strictly religious point of view. It's just stating the obvious -- that whether we appreciate it or not, we are all ineluctably engaged (for better or for worse) in the Process of Becoming.

I rather like the Italian version of the Name: Que Sera, Sera (whatever will be, will be).