Wednesday, November 30, 2011

TLS in TMR

The MontrĂ©al Review kindly runs a prĂ©cis of The Last Superstition in their latest edition.  While you’re over there, do browse through TMR’s website -- lots of interesting pieces on philosophy, religion, politics, history, science, literature, you name it.

11 comments:

DNW said...

They are correct about the qualities of the book's writing, if it is up to the standards of the precis.


On another topic I took a few seconds to scan a text passage for presentation. It exemplifies what has come on your boards to be called a "move".

Although the parallel is not perfect, nor would its *form* form more than a small portion of your English buddy's Evil God argument, it's interesting to see how certain patterns of argument repeat themselves.


"I believe that Wittgenstein is wrong also to object to people's saying that they know that they are in pain. His reason is that it would make no sense to say 'I know that I am in pain' unless it also made sense to say 'I don't know whether I am in pain' and that this second condition is not satisfied." A.J. Ayer "Wittgenstein" P 49


I don't know that there is a name for that argument itself, though it could be reduced to a modus tollens. That still would not represent however the underlying assumptions and sense

The theme it embodies seems to repeat the positivist assumption; though Ayer is commenting on some paragraphs taken from the Philosophical Investigations.

Small wonder you enjoy the puzzles in your work.

Anonymous said...

Edward, how would you respond if someone where to say "atheism is a non-belief. The actions of Stalin and Mao were not influenced by their atheism because atheism is not a positive belief, it is the absence of belief".

Anonymous said...

Atheism is a negative belief, not a non belief.

I don't believe that there's a swarm of bees in my garage would certainly influence my behavior regarding going into the garage or not.
Negative beliefs still influence behavior.

Anonymous said...

Anon said: "The actions of Stalin and Mao were not influenced by their atheism because atheism is not a positive belief, it is the absence of belief"."

Why only Stalin and Mao? Why not start with Marx? Why not mention tens of thousands of East Bloc functionaries? As for the belief, why can't disbelief in the causal link between bacteria and disease, not make one a different sort of physician?

Tom Esteban said...

The old "Atheism is a lack of a belief, that's all"? That tactic gets them out of a lot of tough questions and it effectively takes responsibility out of their hands as if they're not really doing anything at all. I've yet to find a good response to it, though I've argued many with different atheists. The only response I have falls into real-world rather than theoretical principles - that is, "Ok, so I am meant to buy that you only lack belief.. yet here you are telling me I'm an idiot for believing in God? Hmmm."

I can imagine some good theoretical responses but haven't the brain power to elucidate them.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

Edward, how would you respond if someone where to say "atheism is a non-belief. The actions of Stalin and Mao were not influenced by their atheism because atheism is not a positive belief, it is the absence of belief".


Among other things he just might tell someone to read Anne Applebaum's history "Gulag", in order to get a feel for what lengths non-believers go to once they take political power, in order to enforce their belief in the social importance of non-belief, on others.

Non-believers clearly believe in a certain kind of world, and not no world at all. What they do not believe, is that they need to take a Universal Law Giver, or a Creator, or Intrinsic Meaning into account, as they go about manipulating others in pursuit of satisfying their felt urges.

The Deuce said...

Edward, how would you respond if someone where to say "atheism is a non-belief. The actions of Stalin and Mao were not influenced by their atheism because atheism is not a positive belief, it is the absence of belief".

I'd point out that they're confusing "The proposition that God doesn't exist, considered by itself in isolation, does not logically imply a moral obligation to kill lots of people" with "Atheism as a worldview held by actual people couldn't possibly make anyone more likely to kill lots of people".

Whether or not real-world atheistic belief leads to mass murder is an empirical question, which can't be escaped by retreating to definitions. As Ed points out in TLS, it's rather interesting that the "empiricist" Christopher Hitchens won't allow even one of the 100 million corpses produced by Communism to count against the moral claims of pop atheism.

I'd also point out that they're being grossly inconsistent, because most of them will turn around and tell you that atheism leads to moral good (take Dawkins' claim that a world without religion would result in a near "Paradise on earth"). And, of course, the world's major religions (especially Christianity) don't contain moral imperatives to kill lots of people either, even if some (like Islam) occasionally permit it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ December 4, 2011 9:24 PM

Tell such an atheist that his atheism is absolutely useless towards creating a better, constructive humanity. Tell him that in that case atheism hasn't contributed to one thing, good or bad, in the history of humanity. Tell him it is like not collecting cards, utterly useless and idiotic and that no thinking person that is constructive and intelligent would hold such a useless view.

Then sit back and watch the poor sod try to rationalize how atheism has contributed towards doing good things. Then point out his hypocrisy.

Very fun to watch.

Felix said...

Tom said: "The old "Atheism is a lack of a belief, that's all"? That tactic gets them out of a lot of tough questions and it effectively takes responsibility out of their hands as if they're not really doing anything at all"

It is a co-out. Because they are setting the definition of "belief" and forcing the theist to argue on the ground that they picked. What the athiest really means is this: "Go away, you don't have the (scientific) evidence, hence the burden of proof is on you, end of conversation"

Now seeing that the debate is philsophical rather than scientific in nature, this argument simply doesn't work, because everyone, whether theist or atheists embrace certian philsophical positions that no amount of evidence can prove or disprove and can only bridge the gap using faith. (For a definition of faith, read Dr Feser's earlier post titled "Original sin and modern biology part II"

Now this doesn't mean that everyone closes their eyes real tight and will themselves into taking various philospophical positions (It doesn't have to be theism vs atheism, any philospohical position will do). Rather, this is more like my take on this or that event through a certain vantiage point. Of course, I might or might not be right, but I'll stick to my point of view because I BELIEVE that it makes more sense to see it that way instead of any other way.

But now, if that is the case, how do I affirm that Chrristianity is correct above atheism and also all other religions? To me, I go with one of the callers from Dr Feser's interview who came on towards the end, in which he said because "Christ is risen" (And indeed He is).

But between deconstructing atheism to proofs of God, to eventually, the irrefutatble prove of the Resurrection, there are a lot of things that needs to be covered, and your smug atheist loudmouth is unlikely to stand for such explainations. Not so much the explainations themselves, but rather the implicit message that all this time, they have missed the whole point about religion.

Matteo said...

When an atheist tells you that atheism is just a non-belief, just ask him if he also has the non-belief that God doesn't exist.

If yes, then why in the hell is he so militant about his atheism, since he doesn't have a belief either way? If no, then why the disingenuity?

Alexander Gieg said...

Slightly off-topic, but I notice there's no ebook version of TLS at Amazon. I live in Brazil, where having anything physically shipped from the USA can be quite expensive, easily doubling or tripling the cost of a book. So, could you perchance ask your publisher on the possibility of offering TLS in ebook format?

Some times it isn't that a book isn't available in ebook format, but that the sale of the ebook version is geographically restricted. As a result, the Kindle version simply doesn't appear for someone accessing Amazon from an "unauthorized" country. Maybe that's the case? If so, could you instead ask them to allow worldwide ebook sales?

In any case, it would greatly help, as the alternative is weighting the purchase of a single book versus the prospect of purchasing three other books.

Thanks!