Saturday, February 13, 2010

Speaking from ignorance

This would explain why many philosophers who do not specialize in philosophy of religion manifestly don’t know what they’re talking about when they open up their mouths on the subject (as we have seen here, here, and here). If you “don’t take the subject seriously” enough to study it, then naturally all you are going to “know” about it are the simple-minded clich├ęs you and your secularist colleagues smugly bounce around your echo chamber. HT: Prosblogion.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you click the last word of Luke's post, it will take you to another post where he concludes with this:

"Philosophy of religion consists of arguments and speculations about magical beings."

As difficult as it may be to realize, many philosophers consider religion on par with astrology.

Would you take philosophy of astrology seriously? If not, why not?

Anonymous said...

I read that second article by Luke and was disappointed that it ended on a cheeky note. I'm not sure in what sense he means to use the word "magical." According to dictionary.com, "magical" literally means "mysteriously enchanting." If by "magical" he implies that the concept of God is mysterious and everything else (say, in the physical world) is not, I can have a modicum of sympathy for that view and the rhetorical shape in which it's expressed, even though it's still at fault: Do such people still not realize that existence itself, and hence everything in it, is deeply mysterious and enigmatic at the most fundamental level? But if by "magical" he wants to imply something like "incoherent, deceptive conjuring," one need only point out the "magical" nature of the position he is left with, namely metaphysical naturalism.

But yes, it does seem true that many philosophers smugly and naively assume that God is dead and that there is no longer any need to worry about philosophy of religion. Found this comment over at Prosblogion:

"Some discussions make me tired all over. I'm glad I get to do philosophy because I get to avoid these conversations. There's just not much to say about the election. We all know that any minimally decent, rational person is going to vote Obama/Biden. I want to hang out with philosophers because we're clever enough to have long ago settled the question about who to vote for and can talk about something interesting instead. I know some colleagues of mine feel that way about religion. They'd just as soon hear a new argument for what they take to be a dead hypothesis they have to listen to their relatives chatter about every holiday as I'd like to hear some clever argument for thinking I ought to be grateful that McCain wants to tax my health insurance. If you come by my office to give me that argument, you're crapping in my punch bowl. I know full well that if I drop by their offices to talk philosophy of religion, I'm doing the same to their punch bowls."


I can only regard such indifference as insane. Doesn't this most important question of all--whether when we die we will pass forever into nothingness or find ourselves face-to-face with God Himself--deserve more attention from the brightest among us? Like it or not, this is the condition we humans presently find ourselves in, and our condition ought to impel us to seek to discover with all our might whether there is a God or not. How philosophers can turn their backs in some kind of dreary nonchalance and leave it up to the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, and Co. to handle this infinitely important question with conceptual care is totally beyond me.

Anonymous said...

"Doesn't this most important question of all--whether when we die we will pass forever into nothingness or find ourselves face-to-face with God Himself"

This is a false dichotomy. There are thousands of religions, all with different views about what happens after death. The Hindu philosopher would be quite amused.

Regardless, I recommend Luke's podcast interview with philosopher of religion Matt McCormick. It's a fair overview the current state of philosophy of religion. McCormick agrees with the overwhelming majority of philosophers, including Plantinga, that natural theology is a dismal failure. Maybe Dr Feser will contact Luke for an interview to argue otherwise.

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=6461

Crude said...

Of all the people for Feser to discuss things with, why would he choose Luke - who is, frankly, a wannabe Leiter (though a student, last I heard), who in turn is a wannabe Dawkins? There are bigger and better fleas to spend time on, if one deigned to do so.

As for the "magical beings" schtick, frankly, atheists and atheists philosophers are just as open to such rhetoric. Nor am I all that impressed about what the "overwhelming majority" of philosophers do or don't believe. I think Ed himself has given some good explanations of why we shouldn't be too concerned of such before.

Crude said...

Re: the OP, I do think it goes without saying that the moment someone admits that they don't take subject X seriously enough to study it, they've admitted that their opinion on subject X doesn't have much value.

Anonymous said...

Completely off topic, but I thought Dr. Feser would be interested in or might even get a few good laughs out of this saucy grad student's attempt to thoroughly refute TLS by claiming that Aristotelian morality and metaphysics are absurd:

http://www.uncrediblehallq.net/2009/02/25/review-of-edward-fesers-the-last-superstition-part-i-morality/

http://www.uncrediblehallq.net/2009/03/10/the-last-superstition-part-ii-ditching-aristotles-metaphysics/

Hype Man said...

Oh wow!
Anon, you gotta get Chris Hallquist to come over here and PWN Feser on his own book.
I used to go to Hallquist's older site, but it looks like it was taken down a year or two ago.

Feser, no offense to you, I'm sure you're a knowledgeable guy. But Hallquist is something else. Take in his criticisms and be considerate with them.
I will warn this, if you get too testy with him you won't be the first PhD Philosopher who was sent home packing after trying to debate with the guy.
Also, he studied at UW-Madison. Which is one of the biggest and best college campuses out there. You don't just "get in" to their program. It's about as complicated as cracking the genoam (before it was cracked of course).

Crude said...

Actually, if I were to think of anyone who I'd like to see Ed discuss a point of dispute with, it would be Michael Sullivan. Only because Sullivan seems to have a critical view of Aquinas, and he seems tremendously knowledgeable of Duns Scotus (who I keep seeing referred to as an intellectual giant who no one nowadays knows the name of.)

May as well deal with people who are not only polite, but seemingly damn knowledgeable about philosophy of religion.

O.C. said...

Anon @5:07,

Wow. That is the most absurd, ignorant, and completely uncomprehending book "review" I have ever read. It makes most of the one-star reviews on Amazon look like fonts of wisdom and clarity. The fact that Proudfootz makes an appearance in the combox section is just (sour) frosting on the (rancid) cake.

And seeing how the topic of this post is "Speaking from ignorance", that review couldn't be any more on topic.

Crude is right, potential trolls like that need to be kept far away from this blog, lest they waste valuable combox space with their pointless (and invariably long-winded) rants.

Edward Feser said...

"Hype Man" has got to be a gag. I am embarrassed to say that I once started writing up a reply to Hallquist. Must have been a slow blogging week. I got so bored with it I gave up. Where to begin? You first have to explain to the poor fellow how he has, on issue after issue, completely missed the point, and then go on to show how when what I wrote in TLS is properly understood his "objections" fail miserably. In other words, one essentially has to re-type the book and then add to it a detailed explanatory commentary for the reading impaired. Which will, of course, only be met with further uncomprehending snark. What's the point? Having to respond to Dawkins is bad enough. Dawkins Jr.? Forget it.

(Maybe "Hype Man" will next recommend a public debate with the Amazon reviewer who gave TLS a one star review beginning with "I haven't read the book and don't intend to, but...")

Eric said...

Having previously read Hallquist's reviews of TLS, I too concludeed that Hype Man must be joking (though I must add that I generally like Hallquist, though I disagree with just about everything he says).

Eric said...

"Maybe "Hype Man" will next recommend a public debate with the Amazon reviewer who gave TLS a one star review beginning with "I haven't read the book and don't intend to, but..."

Alas, I actually wasted some time on a thread on the Dawkins website defending the (apparently) controversial position that book reviews by reviewers who haven't read the book they're discussing aren't worth much. I didn't get very far.

Hype Man said...

I know Chris Hallquist... his pops is a dentist. And Chris is a schmuck.
He's from the Oshkosh, WI area originally.

I wasn't being serious at all. If you read the comments of posts on his forum that's pretty much how they speak.

Also, "Hype Man" is just that. A guy in a group who "hypes" up someone else.

Maolsheachlann said...

Well, personally I feel grateful to Hallquist. I first heard about The Last Superstition from his blog, (which I stumbled upon while reading about the Platinga/Dennett debate).

Anonymous said...

That Amazon review is quite possibly the funniest thing I've read all month. Here it is for anyone interested:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R3TVAAOADW4QIR/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1587314517&nodeID=#wasThisHelpful

Bobcat said...

Just for the record, Luke has changed his mind on Jesus being magical:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=5213

In my dealings with him he seems like a very open-minded guy.

Eric said...

Bobcat, I agree with you about Luke.

Anonymous said...

Bobcat,

Frankly, I doubt it. Luke "changed his mind" in the most legalistic and technical sense, after behaving so poorly in an arranged discussion (which he never ceases to run around trying to set up, for PR reasons) that most of the onlookers thought he was being a snarky pud.

It's as convincing as Obama deciding Jerimiah Wright was a poor choice of a preacher to follow, right when it turned out to be an embarrassment for him.

The Deuce said...

If you click the last word of Luke's post, it will take you to another post where he concludes with this:

"Philosophy of religion consists of arguments and speculations about magical beings."


Unfortunately, that sort of thing is par for the course with Luke. He's always trying to "open dialogue" with theists, makes a big show of how he isn't nasty and close-minded like other atheists and thinks that many theists are rational people, extends a friendly and charitable hand... and then, if you give him enough time, he always ends up torpedoing the whole thing with extremely loaded assertions disguised as questions (along the lines of "So, how do you square having a room temperature IQ with believing in fairytale magic entities on a similar epistemic plane with unicorns? I just want you to think about that.") and various other New Atheist-inspired boilerplate.

Still, he is a lot more likable and tolerable on a personal level than a Leiter or a Dawkins or a Hallq, simply by virtue of not oozing unmerited haught out of every pore.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

Luke has potential but you have to challenge him to think. He is an ex-fundamentalist Christian & in some ways he still thinks like one.

But personally I think it's nothing that couldn't be cured by a rigorous appeal to Classic Theism over & against the Theistic Personal-ism of his former Evangelicalism.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

>if you give him enough time, he always ends up torpedoing the whole thing with extremely loaded assertions disguised as questions...

I reply: I guess he panics when he is confronted with some intelligent plausible responses to his queries. It's natural I do it too.

The problem with fundamentalism is it trains people to have unrealistic expectations of certainty. These ex-Christian evangelicals often trade their hyper-certainty for certain secondary views on Christianity for an equally unrealistic certainty that the popular New Atheists know what they are talking about & have the goods to back it up.

Of course this is not often the case.