The Raving Theist

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Philosophically Speaking

October 17, 2006 | 30 Comments

Is atheism a philosophical belief? Professor Myers of Pharyngula says not exactly:

Atheism is not a philosophical belief. It is a consequence of a philosophical belief, I will grant you that: it is a philosophy that says evidence, observation, and a logical chain of reasoning are important, as is a healthy skepticism.

Myers also rejects at the “implied false equivalence of calling both atheism and religion “philosophies.”

What distinction Myers is making between a philosophical belief and a mere consequence thereof is not clear. Plainly what is contained in Michael Martin’s Atheism: A Philosophical Justification is philosophy. Discussions of the definition of the word “God”; of which definitions are meaningful, consistent or contradictory; of the merits of the teleological, ontological and cosmological and other alleged proofs constitute philosophy. And consequently, as one of Myer’s readers maintained, theism must be a philosophical position as well.

But this does not imply an equivalence of atheism of theism, anymore than claiming “atheism” and “theism” are equivalent because they are both words. That Myers considers theism to be false doesn’t strip it of its philosophical content. Solipsism may too be false, but the question of how an individual can know that there are other minds outside his own presents a significant philosophical, if not practical, difficulty. Relying solely on the truth-value of a statement to determine whether it falls within the ambit of philosophy is unphilosophical. Reaching a false conclusion with good reasons more resembles philosophy than asserting a true one with no reasons. Calling a proposition “philosophy” merely because one believes it is often little more than an attempt to cash in on the perceived cache of the word; whatever the merits of the statements made by “feminist philosophy” or “black philosophy” and other ethnic philosophies, their content is largely anthropological, sociological or political.

The problem may be with what Myers identifies as philosophy, i.e., something which values not only reason but evidence, observation, etc. I think he is really contending that the God-question is primarily a question of science rather than philosophy. Richard Dawkins (the original focus of Myers’ post) seems to be of that view. In discussing the ontological argument in The God Delusion, he expresses “an automatic, deep suspicion of any line of reasoning that reache[s] such a significant conclusion [God] without feeding in a single piece of data from the real world . . . perhaps that indicates no more than that I am a scientist rather than a philosopher.”

Myers may also be focussed on revealed theology (derived from scripture) rather than natural theology. I would agree that the latter is not philosophy (except to the extent the scriptures state philosophical propositions). But for the most part, that aspect of religion is taught as religion, not philosophy.

Comments

30 Responses to “Philosophically Speaking”

  1. Thorngod
    October 17th, 2006 @ 10:29 am

    There are philosophies that are atheistic; atheism in esse is simply a philosophical stance or attitude, a denial that a human mind can have knowledge of non-physical realms.

  2. Erik
    October 17th, 2006 @ 11:05 am

    To me, the question here is rather simple: which system of thought has led to greater understanding and predictable outcomes: religious thought or empiricism? It’s such a complete slam dunk for empiricism that it’s a wonder we are even talking about it. Call it a philosophical question if you want. Heck, call it “Ishmael” if you want. The result is the same.

  3. Holopupenko
    October 17th, 2006 @ 11:16 am

    Thorngod:
         You are imposing the philosophical worldview known as “physicalism” upon the discussion. Okay, fair enough. But… “the day after tomorrow” or “dignity” and the “scientific method” are completely inaccessible to any of the five primary senses, aren’t they? And what about “physicalism” or Erik’s “empiricism,” i.e., “where” are they? If you disagree, please “show” me the “physical” presence of any of these. If you cannot, then why do you use them in your every day affairs? Why do you “believe” in the efficacy of the “scientific method” if you cannot show me its direct physical accessibility?
         Here’s another example: Some people (like you, apparently) believe the word “brittleness” names a thing accessible to the five primary senses. So, I will ask you, “Where is the brittleness in this or that piece of glass?” Note: I’m not asking you to provide me a measurement (a “number”) but to point to the thing that renders that number. To possibly help clarify this question, here’s another one: does “brittleness” in glass exist in the same way that “dirt” in a rug exists? Or, does “meaning” in a word exist in the same way as “dirt” in a rug? “Brittle” means (roughly) “easy to break or shatter,” and “brittleness” is nothing more than the adjective turned into a noun. But surely you must admit that just because we can turn an adjective into a noun does not mean that there is some “thing” which the new noun names… or am I incorrect?
         So, per your own criterion in your own words, since you assert the only way things can exist or that we can have knowledge of them is that they be physical, i.e., accessible in some way to the five primary senses, then surely you should be able to “show” us all “where” these “things” are? Maybe you would like to call these things “concepts.” Okay, I’ll bite: show me the physical presence of a “concept.” Is a concept merely a complex pattern of electro-chemical signals crossing brain synapses? Well, if so, then “brittleness” isn’t anything at all except these complex electro-chemical signals. Does that honestly make sense to you?
         My recommendation: Stop. Think. Try again.

  4. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    October 17th, 2006 @ 11:52 am

    More philisophical mumbo-jumbo from the Raving Antiabortionist.

    My disbelief in god is no more a philosophy ….
    than my disbelief in Santa Clause.

    There isn’t one fraking shred of evidence for the existence of god — just a bunch of loonies who profess to know the guy (and thus want to shove him down our throats)!

  5. ocmpoma
    October 17th, 2006 @ 12:29 pm

    Comparing atheism and religion is a category error; it’s like comparing Ford and a Camaro T-top.

  6. andy holland
    October 17th, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

    Atheism is blindness through intellectual exaltation – just as polytheism was blindness through intellectual debasement.

    Check out the TV show “Exodus Decoded.”

    God works through nature’s laws because He invented them, and He reveals them to those whom He chooses, those who humble themselves to listen – like Moses who was so humble, God spoke to him face to face.

    Dr. GW Carver invented the most wonderful scientific things through a personal, ongoing prayer relationship with God. Yet you do not believe him, though you will happily use his inventions.

    andy holland
    sinner

  7. Snakefish
    October 17th, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

    Care to prove… any of that Andy?

  8. Forrest Cavalier
    October 17th, 2006 @ 1:08 pm

    Reaching a false conclusion with good reasons more resembles philosophy than asserting a true one with no reasons.

    Was that statement intended to be an attempt to undefine the meanings of ‘false’, ‘good’, ‘reasons’, and ‘true’?

    Is there some RA glossary I can consult to parse some meaning from it? Nevermind. Answering that question would require a mutual understanding of ‘meaning’. We don’t have that yet, as demonstrated by Godthorn and the other reductionists posting here.

    I think I hear Zeno laughing.

    And yet, we all believe we know, but cannot prove, what ‘good’ is, because we make choices. That’s faith.

    The drive to support and develop our understanding of ‘good’ is a universal human trait. That’s philosophy and/or religion.

    ‘Atheism’ is a description of a mere part of this drive, and is not, and does not claim to be, a description of the whole. (As ocmpoma in #5 points out.)

  9. Thorngod
    October 17th, 2006 @ 1:09 pm

    Holopupenko, “brittleness” is a word that serves as a symbol for a quality exhibited by certain material structures. It is not a physical thing in itself, but a convenient description that can be applied to a range of stress responses, even including a certain quality of sensitivity in a human personality. The other terms you offered are also designate either qualities or methodologies or techniques–except for “dirt,” which, as you know, is also term of some latitude, variously meaning an unhealthy detritus, or floor sweepings, or soil, or even the intrinsic stuff of human muddy-headedness.

  10. Holopupenko
    October 17th, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    Thorngod:
         Okay. I grant you your assertion that “ ‘brittleness’ is a word that serves as a symbol for a quality exhibited by certain material structures.” But, again, applying your own criterion: show me the physical presence of the “QUALITY” brittleness using only the five primary senses… and, of course, any scientific instrument you choose is permitted as well. Note: if you conduct measurements to show me, for example, “the brittleness of this piece of glass is XX units, and the brittleness of this piece of ceramic is YY units, and, etc., etc.” you will not have shown me the “QUALITY” brittleness—you’ve merely provided numbers expressing the magnitude of the brittleness… but not the “QUALITY” brittleness itself. To intentionally belabor the point by yet again referring to your existence criterion, show me the “QUALITY” brittleness… or, for that matter, show me a “QUALITY”… or a “meme”… or, etc., etc. Hint: you need to define what you mean by “quality,” and remember… words are not the only things that have definitions.

  11. Thorngod
    October 17th, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

    I understand what you’re demanding, H, I just don’t know why.
    Definitions of qualities are descriptions of physical things. They are not entities of some other, “non-physical” realm. It is no problem for me.

  12. Drusilla
    October 17th, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

    …which system of thought has led to greater understanding…

    “[G]reater understanding” of what?

  13. Holopupenko
    October 17th, 2006 @ 3:52 pm

    Thorngod:
         There is NO hidden agenda in my particular question to you. (Although subsequent questions will depend on your response here.) I am asking you to use the existence criterion of your “philosohpical attitude” (namely, the only way things can exist or that we can have knowledge of them is that they be physical, i.e., accessible in some way to the five primary senses) to point out to me “brittleness.” WHERE is the QUALITY brittleness that I can detect/observe with any of my five primary senses? Do “quality” or “brittleness” (or any of my examples) exist in the way meaning exists in words or in the way dirt exists in rugs? Put another way (again, to use your words): I’m not interested in “seeing” the description of the thing, I’m interested (per your existence criterion) to observe the thing itself.

  14. Choobus
    October 17th, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

    Theism is blindness through indiotic exaltation – just as polytheism was blindness through numerical debasement.

    Check out the TV show “McGyver”

    McGyver works through nature’s laws because he studied them, and he reveals them to those with whom he has become trapped or captured.

    Ron Jeremy has invented the most wonderful perverted things through a personal, ongoing porno relationship with Misty Peaks . Yet you do not get the horn for him, though you will happily jerk off to his movies.

    Choobus
    singer

  15. Godthorn
    October 17th, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

    Yes, H, “quality” and “brittleness” exist in the same way that meaning exists in words. They are, in fact, meanings of the words that signify them. And how many qualities and brittlenesses are there in the world? As many as we have need of, just as there are as many “ones” and “twos” and “hundreds” as we need to employ. You are on a futile quest. The fact that the terms we use to describe the apparent qualities of the various and differing entities in the world are not themselves physical things is no indication that there is some other realm from which they have leaked or been borrowed. They apply only to artifacts of the known physical universe. If you think you can tease some occult revelations from them that will prove the reality of some spiritual realm, feel free. I don’t want to waste my time on such a foolish project.

  16. Axolotl
    October 17th, 2006 @ 8:35 pm

    Theism is blindness (and deafness) through willful ignorance.

    Check out the TV show “The 700 Club”

    Sciense has done more to improve the lives of humans than all the prayers ever offered to all the gods ever invented.

    Axolotl
    cincher

  17. The Unbrainwashed
    October 17th, 2006 @ 9:08 pm

    BORING!!! MAKE A POINT! (I actually only read the first word or so of RA’s latest post, but due to his posts from the past three months or so, I can safely assume that my posting is valid.)

  18. Trudy
    October 17th, 2006 @ 10:28 pm

    “atheism in esse is simply a philosophical stance or attitude, a denial that a human mind can have knowledge of non-physical realms.”

    There we have the impregnable atheistic fortress.

    Any reasoning that leads to knowledge of “non-physical realms” is rejected as intrinsically impossible and therefor meaningless.

    Any direct experience of “non-physical realms” must be delusional.

    Any evidence of anything outside of the physical is neatly blocked, so our atheist is quite safe inside his fortress.

    The problem is that this fortress is remarkably barren.

    Even common human experiences like free will are denied, as the only reality that will be admitted is rather inhuman – we are slaves – but not to a supernatural entity that we could at least bargin with, but slaves to the physical world, with all our actions predetermined by blind physical reactions.

    What worth does such a philosophy have? What benefit is there in atheism if there is no true freedom? Where is the dignity and value for human lives? Or the life of anything else? Where is there a foundation for respect or peace?

    Through my Christian faith I experience love for others, sometimes even a quite surprising love for rather troublesome people. It is sometimes startling to see someone else as God does – you experience a love that is bigger than you are – we can not fully grasp how much God loves each one of us, and to experience even a little bit of this love is truly astounding.

    Isn’t it just silly to expect me to doubt my own life experiences just because your philosophy has no room for them?

    The only possible allure that I could see in atheism is freedom. If, however, atheism grounds itself in the physical sciences to the point that all that exists are physical reactions, what good is it to anyone? How can we be human without free will? How can we have law and justice if we are not able to choose our actions? On what is democracy or modern free market economics based if not on our freedom to choose as it seems good to us?

    If we believe that all our actions are caused by physical processes beyond our control, we will end up under political dictatorship, for how can we strive for a freedom in which we do not believe?

    It seems to me that a philosophy so firmly chained to the physical isn’t good for much.

    Trudy

  19. Godthorn
    October 17th, 2006 @ 11:28 pm

    The fight for human freedoms,dear lady, has been led largely by atheists, skeptics and freethinkers, and many of it’s champions paid dearly at the hands of the priests. Study your history.

    And if you cannot experience love for others except through your faith, then you are less human than I suspect. You misinterpret the origin of your animal feelings.

  20. "Q" the Enchanter
    October 17th, 2006 @ 11:45 pm

    As with most of these sorts of essentialist questions, I don’t think there’s any one answer. Clearly, atheism isn’t a “philosphy” in the sense that Christianity is: Christianity offers a synoptic vision of human life; atheism concerns an ontological postulate presupposed by that vision. A better analogy might be to see monotheism playing the role in Christianity that atheism plays in something like secular humanism.

    I have to say (in reference to Trudy’s comment) that the notion that atheism is “barren” is a strange objection to bring to a question about a matter of fact. If you live in a desert, you might very well prefer to live in an oasis; but pretending it’s an oasis doesn’t do you much good. A much better approach is to study the actual properties of the soil, pay close attention to the weather, and then figure out what plants will grow. And who’s to say desert landscapes can’t be quite beautiful?

  21. "Q" the Enchanter
    October 17th, 2006 @ 11:45 pm

    As with most of these sorts of essentialist questions, I don’t think there’s any one answer. Clearly, atheism isn’t a “philosphy” in the sense that Christianity is: Christianity offers a synoptic vision of human life; atheism concerns an ontological postulate presupposed by that vision. A better analogy might be to see monotheism playing the role in Christianity that atheism plays in something like secular humanism.

    I have to say (in reference to Trudy’s comment) that the notion that atheism is “barren” is a strange objection to bring to a question about a matter of fact. If you live in a desert, you might very well prefer to live in an oasis; but pretending it’s an oasis doesn’t do you much good. A much better approach is to study the actual properties of the soil, pay close attention to the weather, and then figure out what plants will grow. And who’s to say desert landscapes can’t be quite beautiful?

  22. "Q" the Enchanter
    October 17th, 2006 @ 11:45 pm

    As with most of these sorts of essentialist questions, I don’t think there’s any one answer. Clearly, atheism isn’t a “philosphy” in the sense that Christianity is: Christianity offers a synoptic vision of human life; atheism concerns an ontological postulate presupposed by that vision. A better analogy might be to see monotheism playing the role in Christianity that atheism plays in something like secular humanism.

    I have to say (in reference to Trudy’s comment) that the notion that atheism is “barren” is a strange objection to bring to a question about a matter of fact. If you live in a desert, you might very well prefer to live in an oasis; but pretending it’s an oasis doesn’t do you much good. A much better approach is to study the actual properties of the soil, pay close attention to the weather, and then figure out what plants will grow. And who’s to say desert landscapes can’t be quite beautiful?

  23. HappyNat
    October 18th, 2006 @ 7:43 am

    Trudy you are a boob. Just because you have empathy for your fellow man and attribute it to god doesn’t mean he is really there.

  24. a different tim
    October 18th, 2006 @ 10:36 am

    Trudy’s argument, in full:
    “I think atheism is nasty, therefore God exists”.

  25. choobus
    October 18th, 2006 @ 11:02 am

    argument from the ass

    “I think anal is nasty, therefore god exists”

  26. scrotum
    October 18th, 2006 @ 12:39 pm

    argument from anal:

    “I think choobus is gay, therefore he enjoys anal.”

  27. Viole
    October 18th, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

    Perhaps you haven’t notice, RA, but the quality of comments at your formerly somewhat esteemed establishment have significantly diminished since your conversion.

    It isn’t too late to salvage what remains of your dignity. Please; it should be obvious that we care about you. There can be no other explanation for why we keep coming back. We’re hoping that our continued mockery will eventually force you to recognize how pathetic you sound.

    Actually, we should probably just give up. I’m sure your new theist friends are practicing their mindless sycophantry on you. Well, have fun.

  28. severalspeciesof
    October 18th, 2006 @ 7:43 pm

    Viole,

    Shhh! We mustn’t let RA in on the secret.

  29. atheist
    October 18th, 2006 @ 10:31 pm

    Atheism is not a philosophy, though I agree it can arise from philosophical views (and philosophies may even arise from it). Atheism is simply a disbelief in god(s). It’s no more a philosophy than disbelief in Santa, fairies, the Loch Ness monster, or Britney Spears’ alleged talent constitute philosophies.

    Atheism is a disbelief in god(s), and this disbelief can be arrived at from various paths. To call the destination by the name of a roads which can lead to it emphasizes that road while obscuring the destination.

  30. Brian Macker
    October 18th, 2006 @ 11:25 pm

    I think it can run either way for both atheism and theism. Atheism can be a biproduct of a philosophy to honestly search for the truth or it can be a dogmatic assumption as part of a larger philosophy. Likewise theism can be part of a dogmatically assumption of a larger philosophy, or it can be due to hearing a voice in ones head and improperly attributing it to a god. In the latter case believing in the god is not due to a philosophy but is instead a simple error. I’m thinking right now that RA is suffering from the latter. Either that or he has himself a crush on a hot Christian lady.

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