In 1985 I published a book entitled, HEY! IS THAT YOU, GOD?  (See: Pasqual Sebastian Schievella Research Collection, Department of Philosophy, Stony Brook University) in which I listed many of the concepts, principles, verifiable facts, etc., I consider necessary to be agreed upon before rational argumentation can be pursued.
      I chose theism as its subject because, in my view, it is least prone to bore students.
      The language of theism presents the best paradigm of unverifiable claims, i.e., language.

The (hard cover) book is a two hundred page "argument with 'God'" examining many of the pros and cons of His reputed existence as they were presented over the millennia.
      These concepts, principles, and verifiable facts (See pages 181-186 under the title, EPILOGUE) can and should be applied to other subjects, such as science, mathematics, psychology, etc., as well.
Toward that end, then, and because I believe the content of these pages constitutes the basis of what clear, critical, and analytical thinking are and how they should be taught, I present it here in its (augmented) entirety.

HEY! IS THAT YOU, GOD? is a "dialogue" conceived upon fundamental facts of knowledge and principles of argumentation.
      It may be of interest to the reader to be informed of what this writer considers to be necessary points of agreement for rational argumentation pertaining to knowledge claims and to the concepts and data required for such claims to be warranted.
      So that the reader may better judge the merits of this "dialogue" in terms of its philosophic content, soundness, and validity, I've included, as an epilogue, the basis of my life-time concern with critical analysis for the non-philosopher.


Content of Your Mind:
      Your knowledge, your illusions of knowledge, your beliefs, your belief-oriented emotions, your thoughts, your history of experiences, all that is in your "mind" are the result of all the information that has been fed through your five sense faculties to your brain.
      It does not matter what it is that you think you know.
      It does not matter what it is that you believe.
      Everything -- your knowledge and your illusions of knowledge -- everything is fed and nurtured by the input of words, fears, promise of reward, all your emotions, pain, experiences -- name it -- that gets to your brain through your sense faculties.
If you had no eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or nervous system, you would receive none of that information.
Hence, if false information is fed into your sense faculties all your life, false information--the illusion of knowledge -- is all that will come out.
      Put another way, if nonsense is all you feed into your brain, nonsense is all that will come out of your mind.


If you are born without eyes, your mind will be devoid of sight-knowledge: colors, etc.
If you are born without an auditory system, you will be devoid of all knowledge of sound.
If you are born without any sense-faculty capacity, you will be a mental vegetable.
If you are nurtured in a religious, aesthetic, etc., culture like that in India, your system of beliefs will be founded on the informational input of that culture.
           Informational input of America will give you an American set of beliefs and orientation--aside from the foreign cultural localities that make up America.
In short, the probability is very high that if a person is born in India, he will be Hindu;
           in Iran, Moslem;
           in Ireland or in any of the Romance language countries, such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc., he'll probably be Catholic.
           If he is born, i.e., nurtured in England, he will be Protestant.
           In other words most of our beliefs are oriented to the country, i.e., geography and the century in which we were nurtured.
           Only input to our brains from other nations, cultures, etc., through books, TV., the internet, or other forms of communication and experience, will alter the nature of the content, quality, and the rational and intellectual capacity of our minds.


1. Learn to recognize your assumptions and the assumptions of others.
2. Learn which assumptions to question after considering the "level" of language being used.
      To question all assumptions shows one's ignorance as readily as does not questioning assumptions that need to be examined.
3. Learn that language and reality are not the same thing.
      To understand that the non-physical name ("pencil," "matita," "crayon," "Bleistift") is not the same thing as the object, is to recognize that names, i.e., linguistic symbols such as 'Pegasus,' 'unicorn,' 'God,' 'soul,' 'up,' 'down,' 'courage,' 'fear,' 'love,' 'numbers,' 'mathematical concepts,' and the like do not necessarily name anything verifiably real.
4. Learn that belief, faith, and psychological certainty are not truth.
5. Learn that ideas, thoughts, and concepts are not (substantive) reality.
6. Learn that perceptions and conceptions are not (substantive) reality.
7. Learn that that which CANNOT be verified or falsified is not epistemically significant, i.e., CANNOT qualify as truth or knowledge.
      Do not confuse cannot NOW with CANNOT.
      Do not confuse, "I cannot verify it" (It implies someone else can or you possibly can in the future.), with, "IT cannot be verified," which states "NEVER."
8. Learn that "truth" is a function of language.
     There must be language in order for there to be truth or falsity.
      If there is no language, then there is no truth or falsity.
      "The brief case is on the desk," is either true or false.
      But the brief case being or not being on the desk is reality -- not to be confused with the truth-value of the claim.
9. Learn that "knowledge" is warranted belief: probable, testable, verifiable -- and,
     according to available evidence, is not absolute.
      It is always dependent upon available evidence.
      It is open-ended.
      There are many misuses of the term, 'knowledge.'
10. Learn that each of us has a different experience, a different perception, of the world.
      This explains our disagreements about the same events that we claim to have experienced.
      Believe only "half of what you see and none of what you hear."


      Knowing that "the pencil is yellow" is an illusion of knowing.
      It only appears to be yellow (to a person with "normal" eyesight).


      The following is a non-exhaustive list of necessary basic PRINCIPLES, concepts, facts, etc., that must be agreed upon relating to claims about metaphysical, supernatural, artificial, or natural "existents."
      Without such agreement, it is not likely that rational argumentation will occur.
      See also "Ten Commandments" above.


1. A = A. There is no identity in fact.
      If two things are said to be absolutely identical, they are different at least spatio-temporally and according to the relativity theory this difference leads to even greater lack of identity.
      The term, 'identity,' is a metaphor.
      "Identical" twins are as different (not identical) as are their histories of experience.
2. A cannot = -A.  A claim or belief must not simultaneously be affirmed and denied.
3. A thing cannot both simultaneously be and not be.  (See no. 6 and 9 below.)
4. A word "means" only that meaning which society, a special group, or an individual gives to the word; i.e., no word has an inherent meaning.
.    Only a "mind" can give meaning to a word, i.e., a symbol.
     When we speak of a word as having meaning, we are referring to the meaning conventionally or technically attributed to it by a person, society, or by some special group of people.
     For example, Ms. Susan Filan, a legal analysist, was reported in Newsday, 6-13-05, to have said, relating to the Michael Jackson trial, "Ten people could sit through the same testimony and hear [read: "give meaning to the testimony"] 10 different things," i.e., interpretations.
  5. A "definition" of a word is functionally good for denotative communication only in proportion to its ability to distinguish one "thing" from another -- one idea from another.
      A word that "can mean" anything is functionally useless.
6. To use an undefined word or synonym to "define" a word is not to define it at all.
7. The existence of a "word" (here, a group of letters) does not necessarily require that that word names something "real" beyond the word itself or the idea or the concept that it engenders.
8. To speak of non-physical "things" like courage, mind, ideas, motion, God, soul, spirit, democracy, etc., as "existing" is not to be confused with physical (matter/energy) things existing.
      The words "exist" and "is" (all forms of the verb "to be") are ambiguously used and most of the time have nothing to do with the physical existence of some THING.
9. 'Nothingness' means the absence of everything.
      There is no nothingness.  Note K. C. Cole's  abuse of words: "What they were sensing was the absence of the rattling of trains. . . ," (implying they are hearing something), which clearly stated says, "They were not sensing, i.e., hearing, the rattling of trains." 
      All uses of the term are metaphorical.
      "Incorporeality" is the absence of matter/energy.
      To use terms like 'spirit' meaning incorporeal, or like 'point,' defined to be "without dimensions," is to use different words to say "NOTHING" while conveying the impression that they are naming some EXISTENT; e.g., God (an existent) is Spirit (Incorporeality, i.e., not matter, i.e., no dimensions as with the definition of "point," i.e., NOTHING); hence: "God is nothing," while giving the impression that it is saying "God is something," other than an idea.
      They are, in fact, giving names only to ideas which, like "mind," are but functions of the brain, i.e., no brain, no mind.
      But more of this later.
10. A word cannot be defined by using the word itself.
      To use the tautology, "A bird is a bird," in no way distinguishes a bird from a dog or anything else.

Assumption vs Inference vs etc.



           Hypotheses, supposition, and the like, no conclusions are required, not necessarily based on facts.
           Inference: conclusions; based on facts, assumptions, and/or premises.
           Knowledge: warranted states of mind (there are many other looser and improper uses of the term); see file 16 also.
           Belief: (unconditioned): warranted, but most often unwarranted states of mind that are susceptible to change by evidence, by a facile use of language, by events, or new experiences; see file 16 also.
           Faith: a physiologically conditioned state of the brain in which one cannot choose to think or believe otherwise.
           Not subject to change by presentation of (even conclusive) evidence.
           ALSO A LOOSER DEFINITION: trust, confidence in which choice can be altered by evidence.  (See 26 below)
           Truth: functions of language related to facts and/or knowledge and/or possibly premises.
           If there is no language, there cannot be any truth or falsity.
           Truth and falsity do not float somewhere around in the universe.
           Meaning: There are countless meanings of 'meaning,' usually whatever is intended (referent) by the use (and/or interpretation) of a symbol, term, phrase, clause, statement, etc.
           This is often extremely difficult to determine or to know--we usually assume we understand the intention.
           Moreover, one's meaning is directly related to his personal experience.
           See the 10th "Commandment" above.
           fact: (reality: physical or functional) an already existing condition of various multiple states of the universe or parts thereof.
           Event: a coming into existence that evolves into a fact.
           Since all things are in process, from the point of view of evolution, 'event' and 'fact' are metaphors.
           Reality: "physical" existents and their functions such as: action, belief, mind, etc., i.e., all the so-called "non-physical 'existents.'"
12. Language (the giving of meaning) is about our experiences of a necessarily assumed existence of a world beyond our perceptions, of instrumental probing of that assumed world, and our conceptions -- not about the world.
           We "communicate" with each other on different "levels" of language, sometimes, i.e., most often as if we are speaking about the presumed physical world.
13. Logical systems do not necessarily describe the world.
           Their premises sometimes purport to do so. (See 12 above).
           On that level of language on which a physical world, correlated with our experience of it, is accepted without question, logical systems may or may not describe the world.
14. When the subject and the predicate of a statement can be substituted for each other without changing the truth-value of the statement, (for example, 1 + 1 = 2 or 2 = 1 + 1) the statement is about ideas (concepts) only and is not about anything real (i.e., corporeal) in the universe.
15. Claims to knowledge do not constitute knowledge.
16. Knowledge requires evidential support (see 20 and 21 below).
17. Evidence must be public, recurrable, testable, and verifiable.
18. Psychological certainty is not evidential "certainty."
      The latter, according to available evidence, has, to date, not been ascertained.
19. "True for me" means no more than "I believe," or "It works for me," or "It is useful to me."
20. Absolute knowledge entails universal (i.e., past, present, and future) evidence.
           Hence, knowledge is only probable.
           The evidence for it can never be all in -- according to available evidence.
21. Man acquires all his information through one or more of his five senses.
           Were he born without any sense faculties, he would acquire no information -- unless other intelligences were to give him artificial sense faculties.
           See "Sources of Knowledge."
22. 'Public' means accessible directly or indirectly to the sense faculties.
23.Only a physical substance can have experience.
24.Only a physical substance (the brain, for instance) can have knowledge.
25. The human mind is what the human brain does.
          Physical and chemical, i.e., Neuronal, interactivity constitutes the "mind."
26. Faith is the absence of reason.
          Faith involves a lack of choice.
           While one has faith in something, he is unable not to have faith in it, i.e.; he is physically conditioned to believe.
           By 'faith' here I do not mean: trust, confidence, and the like.
           Such definitions do entail the possibility of choice, i.e., change of mind because they are based on evidence.
           See number 7 of the TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR CLEAR THINKING:
          Any claim which cannot NOW be verified or falsified, but which can be verified sometime or by somebody is a claim which appeals to public (that which is accessible to sense faculties, directly or indirectly), experience.
          Any claim which canNOT be verified or falsified, will NEVER be able to be verified or falsified because of its internal CONTRADICTIONS and/or its TRUTH BY DEFINITION hidden within the language of the claim.
           NO AMOUNT OF EXPERIENCE, now, in the past, or in the future, will help.
           Only a critical, in depth study of the LANGUAGE of the claim will reveal that the claim is epistemic (from the point of view of truth and knowledge) gobbledygook.


© 1997 by Pasqual S. Schievella