Thursday, March 15, 2012

“Reason Rally”: Doubleplusgood newspeak for groupthink!

There is a view of life which conceives that where the crowd is, there also is the truth, and that in truth itself there is need of having the crowd on its side.  There is another view of life which conceives that wherever there is a crowd there is untruth, so that (to consider for a moment the extreme case), even if every individual, each for himself in private, were to be in possession of the truth, yet in case they were all to get together in a crowd -- a crowd to which any sort of decisive significance is attributed, a voting, noisy, audible crowd -- untruth would at once be in evidence.

For a “crowd” is the untruth.

Søren Kierkegaard, “That Individual”

One of the symptoms of groupthink is the members’ persistence in conveying to each other the cliché and oversimplified images of political enemies embodied in long-standing ideological stereotypes…

When a group of people who respect each other’s opinions arrive at a unanimous view, each member is likely to feel that the belief must be true.  This reliance on consensual validation tends to replace individual critical thinking and reality-testing.

Irving Janis, Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes, Second edition

I have always hated mobs.  Thus I dislike mass demonstrations with their slogans and banners, marches and sit-ins, and all the rest of the obnoxious apparatus of modern protest.  Usually the cause is bad, and the participants are ignorant yahoos.  But I dislike such rallies even when the cause is good and the participants well-meaning.  They may sometimes be necessary, but they are always regrettable and to be avoided if possible.

The reason is that reason is impossible with a crowd.  Serious matters require calm reflection, sufficient background knowledge, careful distinctions, the give and take of objections and replies, and always the willingness to submit oneself to superior arguments and objective truth.  But the thinking of a crowd is, in the best circumstances, dumbed down, slipshod, and banal; and at its worst there is no madness or evil to which a crowd might not descend.  A crowd shouts, chants, emotes, and is always, always demanding this or that -- it is appetitive rather than cognitive.   In a crowd, the rational in rational animal is always in danger of giving way, leaving just the animal, indeed a herd of animals.  The individual, or a small group of friends, can dispute with Socrates about the good, the true, and the beautiful.  The crowd votes to execute him.  The individual, or a small group of disciples, can have their hearts moved by Christ.  The crowd shouts for His crucifixion.

How fitting, then, that the Counter-Religion that is the New Atheism has now decided to make of itself a mob.  Something called the “Reason Rally” is scheduled for March 24 at the National Mall in Washington, D. C. and the Counter-Prophet Richard Dawkins is headlining as chief rouser of the “rationalist” rabble.  The name alone exposes it for the farce that it is -- a “Reason Rally” being (for the reasons just given) somewhat akin to a “Chastity Orgy” or a “Temperance Kegger.”   As always, the New Atheist satirizes himself before you can do it for him.

The aim of this “movement-wide event,” we are told, is “to unify, energize, and embolden” the secularist faithful.  Naturally, this is not the reason of Socrates, but that of the “Religion of Reason,” of the French and Russian Revolutions, of Comte.  It is “Reason” as a slogan, something to stick on a banner and march behind, and in the name of which to promote an agenda and shout down critics.  Fortunately, the “movement” hasn’t yet reached the guillotine stage, and the mob will have to satisfy itself with “music, comedy, great speakers, and lots of fun” -- rather than, say, storming Vatican City and arresting the Pope, as Dawkins would no doubt prefer.   And it seems some advance footage of the fun has somehow already been made available.

OK, just kidding -- and in fact it has not yet been announced whether a Two Minutes Hate will be part of the proceedings.  But it would certainly be fitting given that it is the loathing of the perceived enemies of “reason,” rather than the love of truth and of rational argument, that will unite the communion of non-believers on the Mall come March 24.  That, in any event, is the conclusion to which one is unavoidably led when considering the work of Dawkins and fellow “Reason Rally” speakers like P. Z. Myers, whose modus operandi is to spew venom at critics while explicitly refusing, as a matter of general policy, to engage rationally with their criticisms.  

Thus, that Dawkins’ arguments are directed at ludicrous straw men has been demonstrated time and again (for example, here).  Yet he resolutely declines to answer those who have exposed the numerous errors and fallacies in his writings -- dismissing them as “fleas,” without explaining how exactly they have got his arguments wrong -- or, in general, to debate anyone with expertise in the philosophy of religion.  Meanwhile, the even more vitriolic P. Z. Myers’ main claim to New Atheist fame is his “Courtier’s reply” dodge, a shamelessly question-begging rationalization for remaining ignorant of what the other side actually says.  New Atheists will ridicule their opponents, but actually read only each others’ work.  Hence Christopher Hitchens derives his main arguments from Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss learns everything he needs to know from Hitchens, and Dawkins has his confidence in the atheist worldview bolstered from reading Krauss.  And now this mutual mental onanism will be expanded across the National Mall.  Somewhere Joycelyn Elders is smiling.

As Alex Rosenberg, without a trace of irony, assures the secularist reader of his Atheist’s Guide to Reality, “we won’t treat theism as a serious alternative that stills [sic] needs to be refuted.  [We] have moved past that point.  We know the truth.”  And that, dear reader, is what passes for the “reality-based” alternative to “faith-based” thinking -- just like black is white, ignorance is strength, war is peace, and a “Reason Rally” is somehow different from groupthink.  A purer specimen of the phenomenon described by Irving Janis in the passage quoted above cannot be imagined. 

177 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved it when Dawkins decreed that he is set on destroying Christianity. Such language has much more in common with the religious fundamentalists he detests than with faithful people such as you and other Christian philosophers. But he is far too thick to see this.
I believe that all of these New Atheists are one trick ponies. They do know quite a bit about biology and evolution, but so little of anything else. Hence, their disastrous forays into philosophy.
By the way, have you, Professor Feser, read Terry Eagleton's work "Reason, Faith, and Revolution?" I doubt you'd agree with his Marxist politics. I certainly didn't. But it was interesting and insightful nonetheless.

y said...

I don't know if someone's already answered this, but I don't understand what justification there is for assuming that secular humanism is true as a moral code? I mean, if evolution without supernatural intervention is correct, then isn't all moral rules just a an artifact of evolution? It's just our own moral intuitions, no empirical evidence. Anyone with ideas other than secular humanism died off, as they couldn't survive, and that's why we believe what we do today. Suppose the creatures who believed that murder is good survived instead, then what?

Eduardo said...

well the truth is that with random + luck sort of evolution... there is no choice but to admit that morals are non-existent, I mean whatever rows your survival boat goes.

Now I have seen atheists saying that evolution gave them their morals and that people with bad behavior have evolutionary problems.... I Mean .... REALLLY ???? they replaced any sort of Deity with Evolution and act akin to any theist XD ( errr minus the part were you will be judged somehow ... I mean there is no judgement in the atheist case )


I mean just think about, why is A right a B wrong if the same system created the morals of both ??? I mean that doesn't make any sense, there is no right and wrong just whatever evolution "pops" in the world.

___________________________________

Now I wonder why exactly one wants to end Christianity... Let me ask you folks this; Dooesn't matter what you belief in... Have you changed ever since you started debating religion or you stayed the same ???

I mean Web-atheists have really destroyed every bit of trust I had in atheists; I mean to me, before, a religious person was more prone to irrational behavior because of religion, and the atheists seem more gung-ho or easy-going with things. Until I met Dawkins... I mean seriously, not that only atheists act in stupid ways, theists do that too, but dunno, it feels like you can't really reach the Gnu's, you can't have anything CLOSE or REMOTELLY CLOSE to a sane civilized talk with them... either the conversation ends before it starts or it goes downhill from the very start.

So, I sincerely think that these feelings in me are related to insecurity and cowardness but I really don't get the Gnu's ...

machinephilosophy said...

Ed,

Well said and catalytic, as usual.

Nietzsche said madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it's the rule.

And once the self-cheerleading collectivist emo-fests begin, you know someone's still trying very hard to convince themselves of something. Not that most theists are any better, unfortunately. But philosophical theists are definitely a cut above in advocating a comprehensive laying out of the entire spectrum of arguments to the Nth degree of analytic meticulousness.

The Gnus sputter and blink about such things. Spew venom yet refuse to debate or even engage criticism, dismiss opposing arguments, etc. Where have we heard that before. Why from the Gnus themselves. That's the tell-tale blink here.

Since you have recommended it and covered it in such depth, I'm going to read Rosenberg's book. But looking into my philosophical crystal ball, I'll bet there's not even any *mention* of the criteria for determining what does or does not constitute a "serious alternative."

Anonymous said...

I agree about crowds. They're cultish and creepy. Even the March for Life.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty far left on most political issues, but I also agree about crowds and protest movements of any sort. Rarely do they appeal to me, even if I happen to agree with them, for the reasons you give. This is also true of most blog comment sections (no, I don't mean this one, from what I've seen) where one side dominates. Dissenters are shouted down, often with very bad arguments, and it's rare to find someone honest enough on the majority side who is willing to say "Hey, guys, I disagree with person X, but some of you are using very poor reasoning against him."

Donald

Crude said...

I always do this when this rally is brought up, but I'll simply point out that just because your cult has the word "reason" in the name doesn't mean it has much to do with reason.

Anonymous said...

Talking about group-think it seems to me that that is what you specialize in and promote, while pretending otherwise.

Plus in your own way you are always shouting down almost everyone that does not share your own essentially fundamentalist mind-set.

It is also interesting to note that some fundamentalist Christians are quite fond of promoting reason too, at least when it suits them. For example we have the Christian Let Us Reason, and Stand To Reason websites.

Plus fundamentalist Christians like Ravi Zacharias and Dinesh d'souza have both written books advocating reason and its supposed relation to Christianity. Rodney Stark has also written a book re the success of Christianity titled The Victory of Reason.

Brian said...

Just something to keep in mind: Dr. Feser, you and a few other Catholic authors seem to have natural theology represented rather well. But who's doing fundamental theology? Fundamental theology, as you know, is the bridge from merely natural religion to supernatural religion found in Christianity, and, specifically, the Catholic Church.

A fundamental theology that dusts the old arguments off, supplements them with new vim and vigor, and adds in new arguments (such as modern miracles not available to theologians past) would be awesome.



Anyway, I just heard about this rally. What tools.

Anonymous said...

"Plus in your own way you are always shouting down almost everyone that does not share your own essentially fundamentalist mind-set."


And what way is that, Anonymous? I have never seen Feser shout down anyone, and comparing him to Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers is beyond absurd.

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous at 6:38,

Haven't seen Eagleton's book yet, but I agree that it looks interesting.

Anonymous at 11:05,

Talking about group-think it seems to me that that is what you specialize in and promote, while pretending otherwise.

I really should ignore this childish "I know you are but what am I" stuff, but I'll take the bait. Really, Anonymous, think about it. Dawkins consistently refuses either to answer his critics or even to acknowledge that there are serious people on the other side. By contrast, I have responded in detail to the arguments of Dawkins and others in my books and elsewhere -- most recently in a detailed eight-part (so far) examination of Rosenberg's arguments -- and have acknowledged many times that there are atheists of good will with serious arguments (J.J.C. Smart, J.L. Mackie, Howard Sobel, Quentin Smith, et al.). To pretend that there is any parallel here is either woefully ill-informed or dishonest.

Brian,

I intend to get to such topics in due time. The praeambula fidei must be set out first, though, because without that, those matters will falsely seem to float free, and indeed will not even be understood.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser...just admit it. You are harboring a COLOSSAL man crush on Dawkins. You present it to the world as a hatred, of course, a hatred mixed with jokes and mockery, but we both know that hatred is the most common device employed by a self which is committed to protecting itself from the sleepy yet volatile passions of love. As such, this concealment always takes the form of denial. The world may see only the veil which you have draped over yourself. But I see under the veil. And what lies under the veil is LOVE. You may respond to this idea with prideful mockery, but just know that pride indicates a refusal to surrender, and thus your mockery is really a mask. It is the last line of defense for an embarrassed soul whose deep inner truths are being pried into and uncovered.

Edward Feser said...

Dammit, Anonymous, you've found me out. I think it began when I first saw this:

http://totallylookslike.icanhascheezburger.com/2008/10/14/dr-richard-dawkins-totally-looks-like-emma-watson/

Anonymous said...

Great post Dr Feser, this piece reminded me of a an interview I heard from the author Chris Hedges about his book: "I don't believe in atheist" in which he mentioned that these New Atheist type worshipping the "cult of science" and he cited their adherence of "Moral Evolution" as a case in point (Darwin of course never said anything like this, in fact it's the opposite). I think what you discussed here highlighted the "cult of reason" that these people blindly follow. From the outside, it has the look and feel of the real thing, but dig deeper, and one will find that it has nothing to do with the deep reflection and detailed thinking or real reason. I also can't help that this rally is something of a wierd resurrection ceremony design to rally a stagnant movement.

The first Anon also mentioed NA types mirroring Christian fundamentalists and it also reminded me of an interview with Conor Cunningham about his book: "Darwin's Pious Idea" in which he sees NA types as nothing more than closet creationists and ID supporters. Because the only way anyone could discuss religion with them is in their (creationist/ID) framework, otherwise the discussion is off.

Hence, I do find studying the NA types facinating. One can certainly do some "reducing of the reductionists" to pass time.

Anonymous said...

Like the innumerable religious rallies, revivals, etc. Not to mention weekly congregations. Crowds at the Vatican, anyone? Like thousands and thousands crowding the Vatican?

Once again, "certain" religious people demonstrate how they can consider even the most tentative and meager atheist remonstrations threatening.

If this isn't good reason to keep doing it, I ask you, what is?

Anonymous said...

"Dammit, Anonymous, you've found me out. I think it began when I first saw this:"

You're in love with photoshopped Emma Watson? Kinky.

Inky said...

Claiming that 'New Atheism' represents reason is a lot like saying that Hitler represents pacifism. It's a shame that intelligent relection and clear thinking is being hijacked by lunatics and crackpots.

Sir Jocelyn Chatworth, Esq., M.D. said...

It's a bit early to fulfill Godwin's Rule, don't you think?

The Deuce said...

As Alex Rosenberg, without a trace of irony, assures the secularist reader of his Atheist’s Guide to Reality, “we won’t treat theism as a serious alternative that stills [sic] needs to be refuted. [We] have moved past that point. We know the truth.”

It's doubly ironic, since the "truth" that Rosenberg thinks he knows includes the eliminativist "truth" that there are no such things as beliefs, knowledge, or truth.

Westcountryman said...

y and others,

Don't use the term 'secular Humanism'. The so called 'secular Humanists' were founded in 1930s by Dewey and his cohorts. They took the name specifically to undermine the much, much more insightful and, at the time, popular American or New Humanist movement of the likes of Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More.

Not only should they not get away with this tactic but they have also never been Humanist. Humanism is vague but it surely must , in the classical, renaissance and meaningful sense, belief in human dignity, imagination, individuality and free will, as well as the worth of certain things such as restrictive, personal morality and betterment and liberal education in the classical sense.

The American or New Humanists stood for all of these things, they are the paradigm of what one who had any knowledge of the history of the term before the 1930s would think a Humanist should be. The so called 'Secular Humanists' stand for very little of these things. They do not deserve the name Humanists.

The American Humanists by the way, particularly Babbitt and More are well worth reading.

Ray Ingles said...

machinephilosophy - And once the self-cheerleading collectivist emo-fests begin, you know someone's still trying very hard to convince themselves of something.

Dang straight.

Eduardo said...

I never heard of this distinction. After all what do secular humanists stand for?

And Dr Feser is not defending vatican reunions, at least not in this post. But I suppose the vaticans reunion could be considered similar to other rallies, however... the vatican is the place where catholics go to get in touch with the church leadership. I mean, sort of NASCAR races; is that a rally? Or is that a reunion which happens to get a lot of attention?

I mean, rallies are througly political moves, the idea is to get attention, intimidate and even gather more support to the cause... the nobs in the vatican are there to celebrate or participate on a church doctrine or something like that. Now not that there isn't religous rallies with obvious political intentions, but they are not like vatican rallies. And I suppose Dr Feser meant social/political rallies.

Untenured said...

This is in no way analogous to a religious revival or any other display of communal piety. New Atheism is a non-rational, resentment driven political movement which, for all of its rationalistic posturing, functions in a highly tribal and cult-like fashion. Their veneration of "reason" is secondary to their visceral hatred of traditional religious belief and believers. And if its exponents ever get their hands on real political power it will be an anarcho-tyrannical nightmare. Religious instruction outlawed, believers declared mentally ill and institutionalized, endless accusations of "hate speech" against "sexual minorities" with punitive legal measures and law-fare, mandatory abortions and euthanasia, animals declared persons. If you think I'm being paranoid, its because you aren't paying attention to what they are actually saying. Underneath the rationalistic posturing lurks a highly malignant social movement, and if you need further evidence just look what they've done to the U.K.

Anonymous said...

"And I suppose Dr Feser meant social/political rallies."

Perhaps true, I'll allow for that. It's important to be honest though. There are plenty of rallies, gatherings, etc. of all different stripes and causes, some for what we will consider our "in-groups" and some for the outs. I doubt intimidation is considered a top level motivator for many of them, although I don't doubt that one prime function of rallies is to get the troops motivated, to make news and notoriety, etc. These are just functions in our society. There's nothing too nefarious or ominous about unstructured groups of people. If you're the type of person who fears crowds because you're inherently distrustful of human nature, well, that's your particular hangup.

Anonymous said...

Untenured,

You narrowly missed seconding Godwin's, but to your credit, you fell short.

Some in the NA movement do say intemperate things. Often they have emerged from very painful religious upbringings and are resentful of that. But the way you've described them is a bit intemperate as well. The majority of atheists also embrace humanism and are a long way from wanting to enslave people. They do want to reduce the prominence of religion in society. Roughly speaking, if religion had the status of astrology, something you do for yourself, without bleeding into broader society, nobody would have a problem with your practice of it. They may still have a problem with it per se, but of course, that is their right.

Just keep asking yourself why there are no rallies against astrology. Eventually you'll get it.

Anonymous said...

Here,

Just take a look at this Nazi demagoguery:

http://www.reasonrally.org/about/

Eduardo said...

Anon, I think the mainpoint of the post is a critic of group thinking such as the Reason Rally. Now Dr Feser seems very unafraid and hateless, I mean compared to some things I see out there, Feser is a saint; but see, the major point of the post is: Group-thinking is irrational. You see is not that the people in the group are incapable or unwilling to use reason, the point is that within a mob you can't be rational because what counts is what the abstract "group" or the leaders thought

Is human relation 101. The perfect example is when Hitchens ( RIP ), was asked by his fellow knights. If he would kill the last theist in The world so it would be free of religious thought. Hitchens said NO! And dawkins couldn't believe what he heard; Hitchens say that dawkins had this most incredulous face on him. Now get the same scene but this time is Hitchens in a mob...

I mean people would have shunned Hitchens within seconds, and knowing his fighting skills, he would be dead within seconds too. Seeeee, the point is, you cant have a dissedent thought in a mob because the whole point of the mob is to defend a set of ideas in a particular way. So it is not finish religion as a social force but destroy it completely even to the point of killing people. And ifffff you happen to disagree with this.... you fucked.

Now needless to say this is not atheist only behavior, but surely is a common behavior within political and social mobs.

Anonymous said...

If you're the type of person who fears crowds because you're inherently distrustful of human nature, well, that's your particular hangup.

I don't "fear crowds" generally, but I certainly am not comfortable inside one - even assembled to support a "good cause".

But, of course, I am distrustful of human nature.
Being distrustful of human nature is the prerequisite for meaningfully and responsibly engaging with other men. Now by distrustful I don't mean negative and condemnatory, but realistic and constructive.

T.H.

Pattsce said...

I cannot understand why people are bringing up Catholic or religious gatherings as if they are some sort of GOTCHA to what Ed is saying here. He says very clearly in the post that he doesn't like Any type of rally---EVEN when the "cause is good and the participants well-meaning."

It's not like he's all "Yeah, stupid New Atheist rally people are dumb! But March for Life is tops!" Bringing up examples of religious groups or conservative political rallies completely misses the point. (And yes, even Vatican gatherings are often regrettable in my opinion. There should Not be people WOO!ing before the Vicar of Christ.)

Anyone who has ever seen any rally ever knows that they are awful. At least anyone with half a brain. I can usually evaluate the quality of the person by their desire or interest in wanting to be part of a rally. (I'll say this as nicely as possible: women and young people seem to just LOVE them.) Even though I consider abortion terribly immoral, I don't even like when people group up in front of abortion clinics and picket (or prayergroup, or whatever) to get the women to change their minds. Even in the case where the woman's mind is Actually changed and a good thing has happened, it's...weird and cheap and not great.

This is the reason democracy is often stupid. Those who rally get the most say. And those who rally are usually stupid. Or at least their rallies are stupid. And it's really all kind of an awful part about the modern world. The only way to get anything done at all today (at least on any culturally significant scale) is to rally up and push for a "cause." Never nuance, never philosophy, just numbers. Go, go, go.

BenYachov said...

At Catholic or religious gatherings(organized by the Church that is) we don't get together to complain about the beliefs of others or bash them.

During Christmas the Ethical Humanist Society put of a Holiday display at the State capital. It was a positive message wishing goodwill towards others.

Contrast that with THE FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION which put up a display bashing religion & calling believers superstitious.

Imagine a religious "Christian" group putting up a holiday display bashing Jews for not believing in Jesus?

Yeh that would go over well.

Let's face it Gnu'Atheists are socially inept reason challenged morons. Why? Because they are Atheists? No I would blame original sin. After all the Ethical Humanist Society are civilized non-believers. The brain dead Gnus could learn a lesson from them.

But as long as they have Dawkins in charge that is the moral equivalent & practical equivalent to the time when we Catholics had Pope Alexander VI running things.

Them's the breaks Gnus.

You paying attention Ray?

Susan said...

Re: Pattsce's: "At least anyone with half a brain. I can usually evaluate the quality of the person by their desire or interest in wanting to be part of a rally. (I'll say this as nicely as possible: women and young people seem to just LOVE them.)"

Funny you should bring that up because after reading Thomist blogs, I had just decided that women (who need to live in the real world mostly) are not cut out to be Thomists. And I had also noticed a lot of overt sexism in Thomasism. It's its very own kind of groupthink.

BeingItself said...

I'm going to the Reason Rally. I like hanging out with my friends. But I anticipate being annoyed by most of the speakers.

Ray Ingles said...

Sure, Ben.

Anonymous said...

Ray, it seems to me that the Nazis wanted (at least in places like Poland where they murdered millions of Catholics, priests and nuns) to get rid of God. I can't fault the Pope here.

BeingItself said...

"Let's face it Gnu'Atheists are socially inept reason challenged morons. Why? Because they are Atheists? No I would blame original sin."

I love you Ben.

nate said...

I wonder if the Westboro Baptist Church folks will show up. What a carnival of crazy that would make it! Two sides of the same coin yelling at each other. That's a Kodak moment.

Eduardo said...

Rally Vs Rally moments XD ought be fun... but I think the government would never allow two antagonistic groups to have rallies near each other...

Edward Feser said...

Yes, I thought I had made it pretty clear that (a) what I had in mind were rallies intended to promote some program or ideology and (b) that I dislike such rallies even when I am sympathetic to the cause.

Hence, I don't much like even e.g. pro-life rallies or Tea Party rallies, even though I despise abortion and big government as much as the next guy. I'm not saying that such rallies, or even all rallies of the left-wing sort, count as raving mobs -- of course they don't, and I never said they did. The point is that they are still rallies, and thus prone to a mild level of groupthink where one is moved by feeling and group identity rather than reason. And the reason why that matters is that the point of political rallies is to promote an end which should be primarily rationally- rather than emotionally-driven. Still, I also explicitly said that such rallies are sometimes necessary. They just rub me the wrong way.

At the same time, not all crowds count as rallies. For example, concerts, sporting events, funerals, and events whose aim is religious devotion (e.g. outdoor Masses or gatherings to receive a papal blessing) are not intended to promote an end of a political or quasi-political sort. These don't bother me at all, because they don't involve the paradoxical attempt to promote an ideology or program in an emotive rather than rational way.

One final point. It's silly to accuse Thomists or any other school of thought (including atheists) of "groupthink" merely because they share firmly held opinions. That's not what "groupthink" is. Groupthink is evidenced by things like being moved by the feelings prevailing in a mob rather than by reason (as at a rally) or by mostly reading only each other's work, and ridiculing and demonizing outsiders without even attempting to understand their views (as "New Atheists" do though other atheists -- e.g. Mackie, Smart, Smith, Sobel -- do not).

Are some conservatives and Christians guilty of groupthink? Sure. Are some left-wingers and secularists innocent of groupthink? Sure. But to accuse Thomists, of all people, of groupthink is quite ludicrous. The Thomist tradition has followed the example of Aquinas (who knew and even loved much of the thought of pagans, Jews, and Muslims) of rationally engaging all comers and acknowledging the best in what the other side has to say. You can reasonably disagree with this or that Thomistic claim, but to accuse the tradition of "groupthink" is either absurdly ill-informed or dishonest.

BenYachov said...

@Beingitself

>I love you Ben.

I love you too. See I'm right.

@Ray

I guess the British Humanist Association is stocked with Gnus.

So a bunch of anti-Catholics Gnus are in effect mad at the Pope because they equatet heir efforts to get rid of religion in society with what the Nazi did?

That's like John Paul II getting mad at a critique of Thomas Torquemada & equating his missionary work with the Grand Inquisitor?

I think there is a moral difference between Stalin vs Carl Sagan.

But any Gnu stupid enough to equate a criticism of Stalin with an attack on Sagan is just to dumb to tie his own shoes.

Why would you do this Ray?


Talk about a guilty conscious.

Ray Ingles said...

Ben - Stalin wasn't a Nazi. The Nazis were not an example of "the atheist extremism of the twentieth century".

Just, y'know, FYI and all.

Susan said...

Edward, this: "You can reasonably disagree with this or that Thomistic claim, but to accuse the tradition of "groupthink" is either absurdly ill-informed or dishonest."
demonstrates what I am talking about. Why do you need to insult me if I have a differing opinion? You add the 'dishonest' for no reason.

Arthur said...

So let me get this straight. A group of people who claim to love "reason" are going to gather together, listen to speakers who already agree with them, and hang out exlusively with more people who already agree with them. Sheesh.

The message couldn't be clearer. If you don't join all these self-proclaimed rationalists, you're not a Truly Rational Person. If you can't see what's wrong with that, you're not really rational at all.

I like to think of this in terms of Socratic Knowledge. Socrates didn't roam around Athens boasting about how "rational", or "free-thinking", or "sceptical" he was. He didn't have to.

Edward Feser said...

Susan,

First of all, my remarks were not directed at you alone. So if you think something I said doesn't apply to you personally, don't assume I intended it to.

Second, I added the "OR dishonest" (notice I did not say "AND dishonest") to cover what seem to me the possibilities. I can't know what's going on in every reader's head, and thus I cannot know whether this or that remark really reflected nothing more than confusion or ignorance, or was instead a cheap shot on the part of someone who should know better. Pick the one that applies and ignore the other.

Third, I don't see how insulting you would "demonstrate what you are talking about" in the first place. Insulting someone doesn't have any necessary connection with groupthink.

BeingItself said...

Feser said:

"Groupthink is evidenced by things like being moved by the feelings prevailing in a mob rather than by reason (as at a rally) or by mostly reading only each other's work, and ridiculing and demonizing outsiders without even attempting to understand their views"

I would not be surprised if this notion was articulated at the Rally.

And this is what keeps me coming back to this blog. Feser in many ways is a very good skeptic.

Edward Feser said...

Arthur,

Exactly. Imagine Socrates organizing an "Elenchus Rally," Aristotle organizing an "Analytics Rally," Descartes organizing a "Method Rally," or Gödel organizing a "Logistic Rally"!

To be sure, this would make for high comedy -- I'd go for that reason! -- but the last thing it would be is rational.

Susan said...

Confusion, ignorance, or a cheap shot? Those are my choices? Well, ok, then, you are not a bully at all (I was so wrong to think that). My sincere apologies. Now I see you are a kind man of the truth.

I'm sort of starstruck that you would even talk to me!

BenYachov said...

>Ben - Stalin wasn't a Nazi. The Nazis were not an example of "the atheist extremism of the twentieth century".

Rather both where godless.

Was the Pope really attacking Atheism or Godlessness?

An Atheist who threw no fault of his own fails to recognize God but following the Grace God gives him & lives a good life cannot be godless.

God is the Good in every good.

Theistic Satanists aren't Atheists. But they are godless.

Don't you get that?

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser...just admit it. You are harboring a COLOSSAL man crush on Dawkins. You present it to the world as a hatred, of course, a hatred mixed with jokes and mockery, but we both know that hatred is the most common device employed by a self which is committed to protecting itself from the sleepy yet volatile passions of love. As such, this concealment always takes the form of denial. The world may see only the veil which you have draped over yourself. But I see under the veil. And what lies under the veil is LOVE. You may respond to this idea with prideful mockery, but just know that pride indicates a refusal to surrender, and thus your mockery is really a mask. It is the last line of defense for an embarrassed soul whose deep inner truths are being pried into and uncovered.
March 15, 2012 11:47 PM "

Anonymous,

By your own standards you mock Feser, therefore you hate Feser, therefore you have a colossal man crush on Feser.

Which, in your case - your confidentially knowing tone and languidly creepy prose, rather than your overt reasoning being indicative - is might well be true.

DNW said...

Hey, edit out that "is" from my last sentence.

Well, touch a tar baby, as they say ...

Ray Ingles said...

Ah, Ben, I guess the Pope should hire you as a consultant for his speeches, help him avoid poor word choices. Like foolishly using the term "atheist" when he really means "godless". You could perform a real service there.

Still, it's not like he was, y'know, on the offensive or anything, like the Gnus.

DNW said...

"Now I wonder why exactly one wants to end Christianity... Let me ask you folks this ..."

Because as some see it, it stands in the way of a new morality; conceived of as a socially ever-evolving morality; which is itself predicated on the notion of a [generally progressive] evolutionary process as paradigmatic and conditioning for all anthropological interpretation and standard setting.

And, as it (Christianity) relates men to other men, and judges and values their acts through the prism of an ostensibly supernaturally based reference point, it - in much the same way as capitalism, as they see it - interferes with a direct and unmediated form of interpersonal relations.

Or so Marxists have claimed to me.

BenYachov said...

>Ah, Ben, I guess the Pope should hire you as a consultant for his speeches, help him avoid poor word choices.

Rather it would help if Gnus where thanks to the Dawkman not already gunning for him trying to play a game of gotcha.

It's not like the Pope ran around Italy calling for the Queen to arrest Dawkins for Stalin's or Hitler's crimes.

BenYachov said...

Dawkins would never want to arrest the Pope for the crimes of others.

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5415

Would he?

Eduardo said...

So that is it ??? they just wanna live their lives and force other people to live life the way THEY want O_O ????


U_U nowww I get it. No wonder is all about social pressure and intimidation with that sort of group.

u_u talking about marxism, that always brings me back to the little discution/debate had with my friend. I use to think I knew all about the Left and how stupid the Right was... wellllllllllll... I never saw more inept, more ignorant, more childish performance than the one I did with him XD. I mean, all I had was some militant left propaganda Kit in my head.

So is the Feeling of Evolving Society or Evolving Humanity * not necessarily related to Biological Evolution *, a problem ??? or a blessing/help to society ???

Pattsce said...

Susan,

It's not a "cheap shot" if a person actually is being dishonest. If you know the facts, ie, that Thomists revere reason and analysis, but say something clearly to the contrary, ie, that they just groupthink to their conclusions, you are being dishonest.

And calling a person ignorant, As A Factual Matter, with respect to a philosophical traditional isn't exactly the same as making fun of him just to be a bully.

You could probably have a group of ignorant Catholics who profess Thomism but know nothing about it. And they profess it Simply Because everyone else is professing it and they want to fit in or feel an emotional mob connection to the rest of the group. That would be a kind of Thomism groupthink.

I don't think anyone reasonable would deny that it would be, and such behavior is obviously not what anyone's defending here.

goddinpotty said...

Every belief system has similar collective rituals. Obviously religions do. I personally am not very attracted to the cult/club of reason, but if you are someone who goes to church or football games or academic conferences, I can't see that you have any basis for critiquing those who want to center their social lives around the idea of reason.

Ah, but you say (or so I imagine), reason is supposed to be more than just one out of many belief systems or causes. Maybe so, but people who feel that way seem to be elevating reason to an absurdly high plane, even more so than these ralliers are doing.

Arthur said...

I don't see anything "absurd" about elevating reason that way, Godinpotty. Do you?

Surely reason, if it exists at all, really is "more than just one out of many belief systems or causes". Reason isn't some equal-but-different alternative to unreason, after all.

Ray Ingles said...

No, Ben, just conspiracy to cover them up. Whole different animal.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

Susan needs to come off her high horse and stop getting so righteously offended.

Anonymous said...

I'm just imagining this rally... all the neck-beards and zits,slouching shoulders, oversized t-shirts with geeky messages, funky smell, that there 9:1 male-female ratio.

Hell must be some sort of huge IT department.

Westcountryman said...

After all what do secular humanists stand for?

If you are replying to me Eduardo I would say that Humanist is somewhat a vague word. However in its usual, classical and renaissance sense it surely means what the American Humanists personified. That is, it surely meant a belief in human individuality, dignity, free will, imagination and creativity as well as personal and restrictive morality and the importance of liberal education, the classics and so on.

So called 'Secular Humanism' rejects much of this. It is generally of a monistic materialist bent which would deny free will, much of human individuality and personhood. It tends to downplay the importance of individual, restrictive morality and personal responsibility in favour of expansive, sentimental morality and social morality, where things like temperance and self-control do not matter but sentiment and sympathy do, as well as supporting social crusades and social reform. Finally they certainly do not seem to place a premium on the sort of liberal education, classics and literature that are a hallmark of what Humanism has traditionally meant.

This is all illustrated in the reasons the Deweyites tried to undermine the American Humanists by stealing the term. They did this precisely because they thought the American Humanists were 'anti-science' in their consistent attacks on a monistic materialism and their advocating some sort of dualism between a largely deterministic natural world and a human soul that was unified, individual and capable of free choice and creativity.

The American Humanists were not exactly complete supporters of traditional religion, particularly of its more Predestinationist, puritanical and anti-humanist aspects, but they were not completely hostile to it either and took a definite stance against materialism and scientism.

The so called 'Secular Humanists' also took the name because they wished to replace the sort of conservative and, one would have thought, genuinely Humanist insistence of the American Humanists on things like restrictive, personal morality and personal responsibility, private property and definite standards for what it meant to be a good human being with all the expansive, sentimental and collectivist positions we have come to expect from liberal or progressive morality. Each reason for their stealing of the term seems to reveal a fresh reason why they are anti-Humanist in the traditional and general meaning of the term.

If you are interested in the American Humanists, who were a major influence on Russell Kirk, you should not only read them but check out the Imaginative Conservative blog.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, I thought I had made it pretty clear that (a) what I had in mind were rallies intended to promote some program or ideology and (b) that I dislike such rallies even when I am sympathetic to the cause."

Ok. Now, if you can just cite for me all the times you've spoken out on religious rallies, revivals, etc. Or perhaps it's just coincidence that it was the atheist rally that was the last straw?

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous,

Really, let's try to think, rather than just playing silly "gotcha" games of the sort people like to crap up comboxes with, shall we?

I have already explained why political rallies (including rallies by people whose causes I disagree with) are not all per se bad or unreasonable, even if the need for them is regrettable. Hence it is silly to pretend that consistency would require me to write up blog posts every time someone organizes a rally (again, even rallies for causes I disapprove of -- if someone organizes a peaceful pro-choice rally, the main problem I would have with it is not the "rally" part of it, but the "pro-choice" part).

I have also noted that the reason a "Reason Rally" is especially silly is that crowds and mass demonstrations, of any sort, are especially prone to emotion and groupthinking and thus not conducive to dispassionate rational thought. That is why this rally deserves special comment.

Compare the analogies I gave. A "Chastity rally" would not necessarily require comment; a "Chastity orgy" would, because it is an oxymoron. A "Temperance kegger" would also be oxymoronic in a way a "Temperance rally" would not. A "Reason Rally" is similarly oxymoronic, because a mass rally is not conducive to calm, independent thinking of the sort New Atheist types like the pretend is their specialty.

goddinpotty said...

Do you go to academic conferences? These too are gatherings of more-or-less like-minded people, devoted to reason, who go to one spot to hear each other speak in groups and individually. The only difference with this one is that it is for the general public, and not a small clique of academic specialists.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why such an event should get you so bent out of shape. There are hundreds of thousands of religious meetings every day. So the secularists want to have one as well. Why should this be either surprising or the subject of such withering scorn?

Arthur said...

Feser has explained this at least twice already. What's special about the "Reason Rally" isn't that it's a secular gathering, or that it's a gathering of people who broadly agree with each other. It's that there's a contradiction between "reason" and the sort of group-think and narrow thinking that a rally encourages. That's the difference. There are, of course, many other gatherings of "like-minded people", but none make that same boast of "reason" that the "Reason Rally" does. If any do, then they're committing the same mistake.

The message, though implicit, seems pretty clear. If you don't agree with everything these self-professed followers of "reason" think, then you're not being "rational", or "free-thinking", or "sceptical" enough. Anyone who is genuinely rational can see that this is simply a rhetorical tactic and not rational at all. The first step in a truly rational gathering is not to boast that it's a rational gathering.

If the event were simply called a "Secularism Rally" or "Atheism Rally" then we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Carneades Hume said...

Edward, what would you claim about what John Loftus claims at Debunking Christianity and in his books if you've read either?
His blog gets more hits than yours.
As a former leading apologist and now as a fellow atheologian, he knows both sides fairly well.
He does philosophy unlike others.
Others might answer.
y, Google covenant morality for humanity- the presumption of humanism to see how we humanists can claim a serious morality. Also Richard Carrier has a similar one in " Sense and Goodness without God: a Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism."
Google lamberth's naturalistic arguments about God to see the many naturalistic arguments our there.

Eduardo said...

What Y is asking is not if humanists can create a morality... even thugs can create morals, go to any jail and there will be moral codes there. His question or his point is: If Naturalistic or Materialistic evolution is true morals are worthless, doesn't matter what kind of morals you create. Andddd... well that is true.

Morals become simply pragmatic rules that is all.

-----------------------------------

By the way ... didn't in the past Loftus posted here???

Oh I just like the "His blog has more hits than yours."

U_U I should totally create bump stickers with that phrase

goddinpotty said...

Feser's explanation is extremely unconvincing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a group gathering in solidarity over the idea of reason, as I pointed out -- that's why we have schools, academic meetings, and other social arrangements for promoting thought, scholarship, and reason.

This notion that reason is something done exclusively by isolated individuals in their dusty chambers is really obsolete, and I'm surprised there are people who take it seriously.

Feser's real objection I think (and it's one I can at least partly sympathize with) is that these people are taking what to him at least is a very narrow and particular form of thinking and claiming that it constitutes the whole of reason. In some respects they are stealing the term.

But there's a long history of that -- the religious right seems to have appropriated "God" for their narrow vision, and the libertarian right appropriated their name from the left. So it goes, language is a political battlefield, you can't win if you don't play.

Brian said...

I think this is stupid not because I have any particular concern over crowds, but because "reason" and "new atheism" are incompatible. That is all.

FrankNorman said...

The way the New Atheist types uses words like "Reason" or "Rationality" is one unrelated to their real meaning. To an NA, being "rational" means to believe like they do, and has nothing to do with how the person arrived at those beliefs.

Westcountryman said...

Goddinpotty's argument relies entirely on the assumption than there is no important division in this area between the likes of study groups and conferences, and crowds and rallies. If this is incorrect, as it obviously is, his objection is.

Anonymous said...

"Hence it is silly to pretend that consistency would require me to write up blog posts every time someone organizes a rally (again, even rallies for causes I disapprove of"

Not "every time" but one or two places where you've conveyed your dislike for crowds might convince people that it's the crowd aspect and not the atheist aspect that is bothering you. If it's the atheist aspect, fine and dandy, it's free country, but it would be nice if you were honest about it up front so everyone knows where you're coming from.

"I have also noted that the reason a "Reason Rally" is especially silly is that crowds and mass demonstrations, of any sort, are especially prone to emotion and groupthinking and thus not conducive to dispassionate rational thought. That is why this rally deserves special comment. "

I think I can clear up the general problem you're having with "Reason Rally." Whether "reason" is apropos to describe the atheist movement is a different discussion, but they do self describe themselves that way, as a reason movement as opposed to a faith movement. Just as people don't generally play football at sports rallies, it's irrelevant that a rally venue is not conducive to reason; rallies have other purposes as I noted in a prior comment (I will try to choose a name later.) In other words, you're being way too literal. I think you know it. You're only feigning unawareness as an excuse to make an attack. The only way "reason rally" would make sense for you is to imagine a field full of people in "The Thinker" poses? That's "silly," to use your word.

So yes, let us think. Let us be honest as well.

Westcountryman said...

Anonymous, don't you think there is a supreme irony about you accusing Dr.Feser of being too literal-minded when you are willing to tediously argue the minutiae about exactly how one should express contempt of this rally?

If you want honesty why not express your undying love for Dickie Dawkins and move on.

Aquinas3000 said...

Um, did godinpotty actually read the post carefully?

"The individual, or a small group of friends, can dispute with Socrates about the good, the true, and the beautiful. The crowd votes to execute him. The individual, or a small group of disciples, can have their hearts moved by Christ. The crowd shouts for His crucifixion."

Conferences, academic meetings and schools are not rallies. Far out!

Maolsheachlann said...

I never understand this kind of thing. Why would anyone want to reduce the diversity of life? Even if rallies never achieve anything or are anti-rational, they are a unique sociological and dramatic situation and worthwhile for that reason. No less so than a Mennonite farm. Conservatives want to conserve, right?

It's a bit like my total bafflement at atheists who seriously wish organized religion would disappear. Even when I was an atheist, it seemed to me that the world was a richer and more interesting place for having churches and synagogues and believers.

My un-intellectual tuppenceworth...

Westcountryman said...

My view is I like the New Atheists.

They are so intellectually weak and silly that you can have a lot of fun with them. Indeed they basically just parrot the stock, popular anti-religious cliches like 'we should grow out of fairy tales' and transform them into book length diatribes with the addition of a lot of inane scientism. If Chesterton were still alive what fun he would have had.

The post-moderns on the other hand had an idiocy that was so tedious and inane that they were no fun at all.

Frank said...

Awa an bile yer heid.

Reason Rally sounds superking! Jumbo good time!

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, don't you think there is a supreme irony about you accusing Dr.Feser of being too literal-minded when you are willing to tediously argue the minutiae about exactly how one should express contempt of this rally?"

Feser stared it, which he'll probably say is childish. It's also true. While we're at it, why don't we drag out into the open the very annoying tendency on this blog to poison the well by implying that what others are saying is immature or "silly," when in fact they are simply arguing at the same level as you are. It's an extremely aggravating tactic. You might recognize it from CS Lewis. He was always prefacing one remark or another with stuff like "let us not do the very foolish thing..." etc. While not exactly question begging, it's kind of the poor man's question begging. If an argument is foolish, show that it's foolish, don't presuppose it and then make some half-baked remarks that don't convince.

Now, if Feser had opened by simply stating his contempt for atheism and how he's doubling down his contempt because it's a rally and he find the objectives of an atheist rally obnoxious--No problem! But please, don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.

Anonymous said...

"It's a bit like my total bafflement at atheists who seriously wish organized religion would disappear. Even when I was an atheist, it seemed to me that the world was a richer and more interesting place for having churches and synagogues and believers."

The atheists who say things like that are almost always those who have emerged from very bad religious experiences and they're still filled with animosity because of it. Even the likes of PZ Myers says that he only wants to clip the wings of religion, to make its status more along the lines of that of astrology. Yes, there is no doubt there are atheists who want to rid the world of religion and who would (or will) work actively to do it. There are probably more who would not view that in disfavor but who would not do so actively.

I know it's difficult to share the world with people who would prefer to see something you value die out. But that's just the way things are.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to bring some actual straw mannequins to the event, so Dawkins and Co. won't have to build them.

LouisKahn said...

When I was in public school in the early sixties, there was prayer in the assembly, to Jesus Christ.

When to assembly first time, I was no more than seven. I refused to bow down and pray when asked. A school official came over and pushed my head down and forced my hands together. My mother who is Jewish had a s@#t fit and threatened to sue the school in Federal Court for violating the recent Supreme Court Ruling against school officials leading prayer in the public schools.

The prayers stopped as did the harassment. And it was the Atheist mob that did this.

I am still pretty angry about this incident because we secular types have to keep on the warpath to make sure that the theocrats do not do take over. And no doubt, they would do to children and worse what they did to me if they could.

Recently, in Cranston RI, a school tried to pretend it was not proselytizing with a Prayer mural that the school had officially approved. The Federal courts would not drink that poison. The mural was taken down, ripped out of the wall and good riddance.

It was because one daring atheist, Jessica Ahlquist, stood up and protested, despite verbal abuse and physical threats, that religion was not imposed on her.

It was only because there was an obnoxious mob, called the ACLU, helping her that she prevailed.
Until people understand that the government has no freedom of speech, until people stop trying to force their religion on people through the law, I need obnoxious mobs such as the ACLU.

Sometimes atheist mobs do good things.

Anonymous said...

Feser, and others here, are probably more opposed to the physical mob than the figurative one, but your point is taken, by me anyway.

There isn't much in the spiritual realm that a small, modest and curtailed church can't do that a big and powerful church can. For those that are anti-big gov, the argument should sound familiar.

Red flags should always go up when any organization wants more power and influence, and I include atheist organizations as well (which are, by almost any measure, extremely meager and innocuous today).

Benyachov said...

>No, Ben, just conspiracy to cover them up. Whole different animal.

Because everyone knows Dawkins has hard evidence to back up his charges & isn't motivated by politics at all.

BTW speaking of cover ups why did Dawkins defend the man who molested him as a child & said he would not tolerate "persecution" of the fellow?

Richard Dawkins defender of pedophilia & all around Gnu'Atheist hypocrite!

Anonymous said...

@LuisKahn:

"I am still pretty angry about this incident because we secular types have to keep on the warpath to make sure that the theocrats do not do take over. And no doubt, they would do to children and worse what they did to me if they could."

I feel for you. I can relate because my relatives couldn't advance at all in their professions because they refused to effectively renounce their faith. I can relate to the institutionalised intolerance of atheists (answerable to Moscow) as you can probably relate to a zealous school teacher who acted in a rather anti-Christian way.
I'm not really angry about that but I am upset that the same crowd and their descendants/those who never experienced such abuse are now pushing their agenda in ex-Eastern Europe too. But such is life I supposed, we all should get over our issues.

Benyachov said...

>By the way ... didn't in the past Loftus posted here???

Twice & he ran with his tail between his legs. He doesn't have the intelligence or balls to argue here.

Heck he throws a cry baby diva fit whenever he loses an argument over at Victor's blog. He threatens to "unsubscribe" but he always comes back like a rash.

Poster boy for Gnus.

Eduardo said...

"I know it's difficult to share the world with people who would prefer to see something you value die out. But that's just the way things are."

***You see, Although I do not disagree with this remark, actually I agree with it very much, I think this type of rally, the ones which defend social CHANGE!!! You see imagine if I were to create a, "NO more ATHEISM rally"; Now let's just think this through, how the heck do I, stop atheism? Is not an object, is not a protocol, is not a law... It is an idea, or a set of believes or in this case a set os disbeliefs in a person's head/mind.

In other words... When I say "no more atheist", actually, is more like, "No more freedom of thought and expression to people that considered themselves atheists". See, how can I stop Atheism? By segregating atheists, ridiculing them, making them look bad in public, attacking everything that is atheism related... See if I can't change your mind about your atheism and YET I want my plans to work out... I have to harrass you as much as possible, I must destroy you socially and if necessary, physically. Not saying we will reach that point, because to reach THIS point you need people who can be consistent and completely nutz about their objectives, BUT, deep down the reason rally wants religous people to dissapear, or to pretend they are atheists in public and religous inside their houses. I mean you can't escape the fact that our beliefs are ours.***

-----------------------------------

***Now Louis comment, I agree what they did to you was wrong, and I don't think that your feelings are misguided, after all you have reached or acquired them through your experiences, but in the case of Jessica ... how the heck is religion imposed on someone through a piece of paper .... sticked to a wall??? I mean you do realize this is not someone imposing religion on you but simply your own hatred controlling your actions??? I mean think about it, have a paper with words written on it ever forced you to believe in it ??? or is it you who read and believe in it???

The atheist mobs destroying churches in Russia... yeah sometimes Atheist mobs do bad things, but even so... nothing to do with the post Louis...***


-----------------------------------

Eduardo said...

"Feser's explanation is extremely unconvincing. "

***Potty ... he was talking about Reason and mobs .... and Reason Rally ... I mean, seriously... he isn't say it is wrong to gather because of Reason, or Faith or whatever other thing you could think about.

And the point is not name stealing although it might be relevant to this case; but creating a mob to do rational endeavors.***

-----------------------------------

"Not "every time" but one or two places where you've conveyed your dislike for crowds might convince people that it's the crowd aspect and not the atheist aspect that is bothering you. "

***Anon, your post doesn't seem to be informed. I mean look, I understand what you mean, and perhaps if I was the one posting you might even be right sort of (I mean I dislike Dawkins); but in this case, in Feser case it makes no sense. just imagine:"I hate Atheists (even though I happened to be one at a younger age...) atheists are stupid (Even though I acknowledge ome of their arguments and writers), and this Rally shouldn't happen!!!!"

Dude it makes no sense... Dr Feser would have to ignore most of the things he says here and part of his life in order to make the critic the way you think it is Honest.***

-----------------------------------

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered why atheists think that atheism alone is "reason-based." Along with faith, there is plenty of reason underlying theism, and along with reason, there is plenty of faith underlying atheism (e.g., faith that unintelligent material causes account for everything in the universe, including the universe itself). Personally, I've never been able to muster enough faith to be an atheist.

Eduardo said...

Funny ... why is Ray ingles still here, isn't he a critic... and Potty ????

By thee way you got banned after more than a month posting XD.

U_U

goddinpotty said...

Since this is supposed to be a philosophy blog, maybe people here would be interested in some of Bruno Latour's recent writings where he dissects the supposed conflict between Reason and the demotic Mob, Right and Might, traced back to its origins in Socrates' arguments with the Sophists.

Benyachov said...

We need intelligent atheists not Gnus.

They exist & I've seen them & talked to them but more often then not it's the brain dead Gnus who suck up the oxygen.

Against Stupidity even the gods themselves contend in vain.

Colin P said...

Edward - just a heads up of an article by Roger Scruton in the British Spectator:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/7714533/brain-drain.thtml

Im new to the blog btw - absolutely fantastic!

Ray Ingles said...

Why should motivations matter? Either there's evidence or there isn't. The letters that came out urging non-cooperation with police on investigations seem, at least at first glance, to be evidence.

Pointing at motivations is a red herring - see C. S. Lewis on "Bulverism". I didn't dismiss your claims about the Pope's remarks on atheism by saying you hated atheists. I pointed out that you brought up Stalin when the Pope was specifically talking about Nazis, and you tried to redefine the Pope's use of the term "atheism" to mean "godless", which it turn meant "not good", not "without belief in God".

As to Dawkins - at what point did he say the words he "would not tolerate persecution" of his abuser? The actual passage can be read here: http://books.google.com/books?id=yq1xDpicghkC&pg=PA355&lpg=PA355&dq=dawkins+embarrassing+but+otherwise+harmless&source=bl&ots=1heEV1GaAT&sig=AS71jKzdm5a-kS4xL6ptj5nsz64&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8cBkT6-pFcazgweu6uHIAg&ved=0CEQQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false

He notes gradations of abuse...

BenYachov said...

>Why should motivations matter? Either there's evidence or there isn't. The letters that came out urging non-cooperation with police on investigations seem, at least at first glance, to be evidence.

Evidence requires investigation & clearly Dawkins did none when he launched wild accusations against the Pope.

But the people who where there report it differently. The letters do not command Catholics not to cooperate with legitimate criminal investigation.

http://carlosechevarria.blogspot.com/2010/03/in-defense-of-pope-benedict-xvi.html

>I didn't dismiss your claims about the Pope's remarks on atheism by saying you hated atheists. I pointed out that you brought up Stalin when the Pope was specifically talking about Nazis, and you tried to redefine the Pope's use of the term "atheism" to mean "godless", which it turn meant "not good", not "without belief in God".

Don't Gnu Atheists count Deists as Atheists? They are without belief in God. After all how can yoy believe in something that doesn't care about you?

But attacks on the Pope are motivated by hate. After all fair minded people would have looked at the facts before making wild accusations. Dawkins is not one of those people.

>As to Dawkins - at what point did he say the words he "would not tolerate persecution" of his abuser? The actual passage can be read here:

In 2006, Dawkins criticised ‘hysteria about paedophilia’ and said that, even though he was the victim of sexual abuse at boarding school, he would defend his abusive former teachers if ‘50 years on they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers’.

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/8526/

>He notes gradations of abuse..

Except for those of us who actually studied the Psychology of Sex offenders. Pedophiles might start off with "lesser" acts of abuse but over time they can become more bold. Why take the risk?

Dawkins is clearly a hypocrite. He only wants lawyers & hounding when Catholic clergy commit sex abuse.

The rest he clearly doesn't care.

Anonymous said...

Susan, if you're still reading this--

I'm probably in agreement with you on some of your criticisms of Thomism. I read the link Prof Feser made to a piece on Sophie's Choice and found it unconvincing.

But it's simply a fact that on that issue, if Feser is right, then I am either ignorant, confused or dishonest. If I'm right, then either he is ignorant, confused or dishonest. In this particular case I would rule out "dishonest" for both of us. For me "ignorant" or "confused" or both is plausible enough if I'm wrong. It could be both. If he's wrong I'd guess "confused" would explain it--he would presumably be making some sort of mistake in his reasoning.

Whenever one gets into an argument over an important issue and people come down on opposite sides, "ignorant, confused, or dishonest" probably covers most of the possibilities for why one or both are wrong.

Donald

some kant said...

Guys,
guys...
guys!

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Hope you're planning to go out and have a cold one.

Just sayin, mmmkay.

Now keep on e-arguing. Cheers bros.

Anonymous said...

I have some Mudslide in my Fridge that needs finishing off.

Anonymous said...

@LouisKahn
I am still pretty angry about this incident because we secular types have to keep on the warpath to make sure that the theocrats do not do take over. And no doubt, they would do to children and worse what they did to me if they could.

You poor little martyr you. The scars of the trauma will stay with you forever and it seems you are committed to not to let them go. Well, understandable - you need them to keep you on the warpath.
But wait, there is a possibility that the theocratic ogre was on his little warpath too. After all the “secular types” in Spanish civil war murdered almost 7000 priests, tortured and butchered hundreds and hundreds of nuns, burned thousands of churches and executed without trial persons who hid clergy - very much like the Nazi who executed people who were hiding Jews including thousands of Catholic priests.
As you must have heard, another “secular types” like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot Castro and Hitler murdered millions of priest, destroyed and desecrated thousands churches, synagogues and Buddhist shrines on their own warpath. So, you see, the theocratic official, being only human, probably had his own warpath to follow and exploded in murderous theist fury by pushing down you own little darling head.
OK, seriously now Kohn. You are welcome to make sure that the theocrats don’t “take over”, by all means. But why do you think that making a fool of yourself by presenting a laughably trivial incident as traumatic drama is the correct way?

Benyachov said...

The classic definition of Atheism isn't so much a denial of all gods but of any one particular God.

The Romans accused the ancient Jews and Christians alike of Atheism since they denied the existence of their particular gods.

Some Atheists today say in contrast with monotheists that they simply disbelieve in only one more God then they.

Susan said...

Hi, Donald,
Yes, I am still reading - who could stop? I just found out lately that this stuff (Thomism) existed in my church and I'm still in my initial "whoa!" moment - I will get used to it eventually and go back to quilting.

Re: "he would presumably be making some sort of mistake in his reasoning" - I appreciate your calm common sense (are you Jinda by any chance?), but I disagree.

Reasoning is great, but there is more to moral obligation than getting that correct. There could be absolutely no mistakes at all in his reasoning, and I would still think he is wrong.

But, that's just me - on my high horse and all. Ignorant, confused, dishonest, yes I am. But that doesn't change my opinion.

Edward Feser said...

Susan,

Please keep in mind that my remarks were directed specifically at the claim that you (and at least one other person) made to the effect that Thomists are engaged in "groupthink." It is that specific claim that I described as reflecting either confusion, ignorance, or dishonesty. Because whether or not Thomism is correct, that is not a fair accusation to level against it, given the actual practice of Thomists vis-a-vis engagement with outsiders. I did not say that you are in general confused, ignorant, or dishonest.

So, as someone else pointed out, you really shouldn't be so sensitive about this. (Especially given that accusing people of groupthink is hardly more polite than accusing them of confusion, etc. Glass houses and all that.)

And BTW, if you're going to accuse people of groupthink and they explain to you why this is not a fair accusation, then -- unless you have some reasoned response to their points -- you should indeed "change your opinion," no?

Edward Feser said...

Colin,

Thanks for the kind words, and the Scruton link -- I'm off to take a look.

Eric said...

"It was because one daring atheist, Jessica Ahlquist, stood up and protested, despite verbal abuse and physical threats, that religion was not imposed on her."

I'm from R.I.

Ahlquist, despite having been in the Cranston West High School's auditorium numerous times, had never even noticed the prayer banner. A friend, who knew that she was an atheist, pointed it out to her. And, Ahlquist wasn't even personally offended by the banner; she just thought that it was 'wrong' that the banner was there in the first place. So, she protested. After the story gained national exposure, she changed her tune, and began to say that the banner she didn't even notice for over a year spoke to her (a secular miracle?) saying, "You don't belong here." Now, I think I understand this, for here's what the banner said:

"Our Heavenly Father.
Grant us each day the desire to do our best.
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically.
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers.
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.
Teach us the value of true friendship.
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.
Amen."

Note the "To be honest with ourselves as well as with others" and "Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West" lines. If I were her, lines like that would make me feel as if I didn't belong either, for she certainly hasn't been honest with herself or with others, and she hasn't brought credit to the school with her actions.

Now all this is beside the legal point, so if you want to debate that, take it up with someone who actually raises it. I'm talking about her motivations and her constantly changing story. And sure, I get it: she's a kid, she wants attention, and the media is giving her plenty of it -- almost all of is positive (from mainstream outlets, anyway). And sure, the more the media portrays her as a brave, principled atheists fighting against the school that offended her sensibilities (as opposed to a clueless teenager seeking attention by raising an issue that didn't even offend her), the more, I'm sure, she began to see herself that way. But it doesn't change the facts.

Anyway, now the school has lost perhaps the only decent (or perhaps the only, period) public expression of moral virtues because it was prefaced with "Our Heavenly Father," and in its place it has the 'example' of Ahlquist, the brave, principled atheist warrior.

I'm reminded of something Peter Kreeft said: "Muslims call us 'The Great Satan.' Do you know what I call them? I call them 'right.'" (Hyperbolic, sure -- it is Kreeft, after all -- but not as far from the truth, I suspect, as many of us would like to think.)

Paul said...

"Feser started it, which he'll probably say is childish. It's also true. While we're at it, why don't we drag out into the open the very annoying tendency on this blog to poison the well by implying that what others are saying is immature or "silly," when in fact they are simply arguing at the same level as you are. It's an extremely aggravating tactic. You might recognize it from CS Lewis. He was always prefacing one remark or another with stuff like "let us not do the very foolish thing..." etc.

"While not exactly question begging, it's kind of the poor man's question begging. If an argument is foolish, show that it's foolish, don't presuppose it and then make some half-baked remarks that don't convince."

There is always an unresolvable mismatch between theists and atheists in their controversies, due to the very fundamental deficit of common sense on the part of the latter. As Chesterton put it, in the mouth of his fictional detective, Fr Brown: "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense."

In the Gnus, we see this already transparent truth writ large; they being a quite surreal personification of this folly. Yet to them, this would seem to be facile, vituperative point-scoring (however notional, the latter, in their eyes) of precisely the kind that is their stock-in-trade.

Yet, it is no more than the simple, evident truth. Indeed, That "the first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything," very akin to the first one of Chesterton's insights quoted above, has been more than amply vindicated by the multiversifiers and evamolutionists: there is no falsificatory discovery that cannot be accommodated by the evamolutionists within their grand "evolutionary" conspectus, which, in all truth, amounts to an infinitely comprehensive, conjectural mythology. Not even a description of the past in terms of natural history; even that, necessarily, excluding creation, which they are certain arose out of nothing, as a result of effectively infinite coincidences of I know not what.

The above truths are further confirmed by this poster's incomprehension at C S Lewis' ommitting to spell out basic truths, accusing him of 'begging the question.'

Eric said...

"Just as people don't generally play football at sports rallies, it's irrelevant that a rally venue is not conducive to reason"

The 'football rally' counterexample is an obvious dud: not everyone who goes to a football rally takes himself to be a football player, while I guarantee that everyone at the Reason Rally takes himself to be eminently reasonable. One reason for the Reason Rally is to promote the use of reason over faith, emotion, etc., but as Professor Feser has carefully and clearly explained, rallies themselves do not promote reason; quite the opposite. Hence, Professor Feser's criticism remains untouched.

Westcountryman said...

Feser stared it, which he'll probably say is childish. It's also true. While we're at it, why don't we drag out into the open the very annoying tendency on this blog to poison the well by implying that what others are saying is immature or "silly,"

Or in other words, like C.S Lewis (who in my opinion is worth more than any mainstream, irreligious 'philosopher' of the 20th century), you are whining because those around here do not suffer fools lightly. I do not blame them.

Eric said...

"While we're at it, why don't we drag out into the open the very annoying tendency on this blog to poison the well by implying that what others are saying is immature or "silly,""

Um, that's not poisoning the well, especially if you go on (as Professor Feser does) to explain in detail *why* something is 'silly' (or whatever). Feser would be poisoning the well if he said that so and so is [insert insult, claim, even fact, here] with the intention of negatively influencing your judgment of whatever so and so subsequently says (or, in some cases, has said). He's clearly doing nothing of the sort here.

Susan said...

Quickly chosen quotes to illustrate some groupthink going on in Thomism blogs:

Wikipedia says "Janis claimed to have found eight "main symptoms" of groupthink: "invulnerability," "rationale," "morality," "stereotypes," "pressure," "self-censorship," "unanimity," and "mindguards ( mindguard, according to groupthink theory, is a member of a group who serves as an informational filter, providing limited information to the group and, consciously or subconsciously, utilizing a variety of strategies to control dissent and to direct the decision-making process toward a specific, limited range of possibilities.)


invulnerability, "Sophie should have stood her ground against the Nazi with both of her children at her side, rather than watch her daughter be dragged off."

rationale, "I want to suggest that the correct moral judgment in that case (give the fact that any rational capacity could be mustered in that situation) would be to let both children be taken away by the Nazi! In order to figure out why, it is important to identify some relevant views held by an adherent to (at least an Aristotelian) virtue ethics:"

morality, "I believe that the moral choice would be to allow both children to die, as presented in the view of the virtue ethicist. For reasons presented above, it would bring about the greatest amount of happiness and remove oneself from the evil act in all ways"

stereotypes, "Really, let's try to think, rather than just playing silly "gotcha" games of the sort people like to crap up comboxes with, shall we?"

pressure, "The way to persuade (most) philosophers is to provide the best and most cogent argumentation you can. Exciting unnecessary and unhelpful emotional agitation poses an obstacle to a reasoned debate/discussion."

self-censorship,"I'd like to add that Aristotle's notion of virtue is not only compatible with selflessness, but rather demands it."

unanimity "Although this is a hard position to take, I think that a virtue ethicist, in order to be consistent and to make his/her position effectual, needs to avoid any moral decision that relies primarily on a consequential calculus. Rather, a consistent virtue ethics needs to be targeted squarely (and unflinchingly) at the horizon of what is uncompromisingly valuable, noble and perfect,"

mindguards "I can't know what's going on in every reader's head, and thus I cannot know whether this or that remark really reflected nothing more than confusion or ignorance, or was instead a cheap shot on the part of someone who should know better. Pick the one that applies and ignore the other."

Anonymous said...

"The 'football rally' counterexample is an obvious dud: not everyone who goes to a football rally takes himself to be a football player, while I guarantee that everyone at the Reason Rally takes himself to be eminently reasonable. One reason for the Reason Rally is to promote the use of reason over faith, emotion, etc., but as Professor Feser has carefully and clearly explained, rallies themselves do not promote reason; quite the opposite. Hence, Professor Feser's criticism remains untouched."

I agree, but you're just confirming my point, which is that "thing rally is about" isn't practiced at "rally." According to you, if everyone at a football rally happened to play football, they would spontaneously break into football matches. Face it, Feser goofed that one.

LouisKahn said...

Eduardo,

“…but in the case of Jessica ... how the heck is religion imposed on someone through a piece of paper .... sticked to a wall???”

Okay, I will try this once, but I am weary of this argument. You need to do the research yourself, read the relevant case law.

Private individuals and associations have the freedom of speech. The government does not have the freedom of speech. This means that individuals working for the government do not have the freedom to say anything they want, during their official duties, as agents of the government. So a person who is a teacher may not say things that violate the First or Fourteenth amendments.

Under the First Amendment, the government may not infringe upon or help establish the religious activities of private individuals and associations.

Under the fourteenth amendment, all religions are equal and through what is called the Incorporation Doctrine, the First Amendment is applied to the states.

Atheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Animism, Polytheism, Satanism, etc… ARE ALL EQUAL UNDER THE LAW.

This means that a school official may not say or do anything which infringes on the individual freedom of students, or treats religions differently.

Suppose one teacher is wearing a cross in class. A normal sized cross on a chain.

Suppose another teacher plasters religious stuff all over the classroom. They put a sign up that reads, “Jesus is my lord and savior. And he is yours too. And if you do not accept him you willed be condemned to Hell.” They try to convert Jews to Christians. They lead the class in prayers to Jesus.

The courts have ruled that the first teacher’s expression is okay, because they are not trying to proselytize. They are not trying to establish religion or treat religions unequally. The cross is considered speech that is underneath the constitutional radar.

The second teacher is obviously going over the line, trying to convince students to adopt a certain religious position. That is the second teacher is clearly trying to establish religion and is favoring one religion over the other.

Most cases are somewhere in between these two. In some environments a prayer mural would be considered innocuous. But in a school environment, it has been declared (and I think properly so) that one must be suspicious of any government speech that appears to be trying to influence children to be religious or non-religious. So public K to 12 schools are considered a special case.
There is a very sensitive threshold for these K to 12 cases which would not apply everywhere.

It is important to understand that when a private citizen uses the government to channel their speech through; that speech can become so entangled with the government that it is clearly the government that is speaking too.

For example, if a group of religious students decides to eat lunch together in the cafeteria and pray, they have the freedom to do so.

But suppose that the school decides to let this group read their prayers over the PA system. Or the principal shows up to pray with the students. This can be viewed as entangling the government so much in private speech that the it is the govenment tha is speaking.

Ask yourself the question, is a private citizen speaking? Fine.
Ask yourself the question, is government speaking? If the answer is yes, be suspicious.

The Cranston Mural was sponsored by the school by the way. So this was not even a grey area case. It was a classic case of trying to establish religion according to Vitale. Cranston’s attorneys must have known this. So one wonders why this case went ahead. 150,000 dollars down the drain. Ego? Lawyers fees? Testing the wall between church and state?

BenYachov said...

@Susan

So I take it you don't think (by your own loose definition) the followers of Emmanuel Swedenborg ever engage in Group Think?

Or do they?

People in glass houses.

Just saying....

Eric said...

"I agree, but you're just confirming my point, which is that "thing rally is about" isn't practiced at "rally." According to you, if everyone at a football rally happened to play football, they would spontaneously break into football matches. Face it, Feser goofed that one."

No, you missed the point: People who attend football rallies don't all play football there because football rallies are not composed of football players, or intended to draw a crowd of football players. The Reason Rally, on the other hand, is intended to draw the 'Brights' among us, and will be composed of Brights. And what will the Brights be doing? Why, listening to speeches by other Brights on how awesome it is to be a disciple of reason, discussing how awesome it is to be disciples of reason among one another, and networking with other awesome disciples of reason from around the nation. That is, they will be engaging in groupthink at a rally ostensibly organized to promote the awesomeness of reason. (Surely you don't expect Minchin or Dawkins or Randi or Ahlquist or any of the other speakers at the Reason Rally to engage seriously with any views opposed to their own -- i.e. to do something consistent with 'reason' -- do you? Well, if not, it's not really a reason rally, it's a a bunch of cheerleaders throwing red meat to the choir, if I can as badly mix up my metaphors as the Reason Rally speakers are guaranteed to mix up the actual positions of those who disagree with them). Feser's point is spot on, and rather easy to grasp; why it's still eluding you is beyond me.

LouisKahn said...

Eric,

The ACLU tried to negotiate with the school board to alter the mural by eliminating, “School Prayer,”, “Our Heavenly Father,” and “Amen”, leaving the rest of the mural intact. The school board rejected this solution.

The mural stripped of its religious content was never an issue.

Anonymous,

Government should not be in the position of advocating for or against religion. I am against government enforced atheism and theism.

When asked the question, “Does god exist?” governments answer should be, “I will take the Fifth on that one.”

Eric said...

"The mural stripped of its religious content was never an issue."

I never said that it was. Is the mural in its altered form hanging there now or not? It's not. Did Ahlquist repeatedly change her story as coverage of the case went national? Yes. Is a kid who never noticed the mural for over a year, and who claimed she wasn't offended by it when it was pointed out to her, now acting as if she's a crusading atheistic champion? She is.

Susan said...

Hi, Ben,
Swedenborg followers? Think? No. We don't have time after we've spent a gazillion hours reading his extra-long books.

Quilters groupthink, though. Some groupthinking is wonderful.

Aquinas groupthinking might be fine but it definitely exists on these blogs.

Edward Feser said...

Ah, now I finally get it. For Susan, "groupthink" means "stuff Susan disagrees with."

So, yes, Susan, you win. I admit it. There's lots of "groupthink" among Thomists. Happy now?

Susan said...

Yes. Makes my day.

Susan said...

Edward,
I do love the way you have of saying what you want to say without lying. I need to work on that.
Your blog is fun. Lively. And I came up with one thing I can say that is nice:
Formal logic is difficult for the rest of us to understand - and that's a blessing because I think my ignorance might be bliss.

LouisKahn said...

Eric,

“Is the mural in its altered form hanging there now or not?”

No, it is not. But that was because the school board rejected this solution. They said in effect we want the mural with its religious content or not at all, giving the courts no choice but to remove it.

I do not give a hoot as to the philosophical consistency of Ahlquist. She is 16 years old. And she has the right to not be proselytized to by the government.

Unfortunately, to bring a first amendment case to the courts, it must be demonstrated that one has been harmed. I think that this is a bunk requirement.

The constitution does not say that “congress shall make no law that is harmful.” It says that CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW. NO LAW MEANS NO LAW WHATSOEVER. That means no harmful laws, no neutral laws, no helpful laws, as far as I am concerned.

But the Supreme Court disagrees. So those wishing to bring such cases have to pretend that they have been harmed.

Eric said...

Louis, didn't I say in my first post that I wasn't saying anything about the legal issues that the case raised? I was clear, I think, that I was taking issue with what she has said and with how she is being portrayed (by the media, and by people like you: "It was because one daring atheist, Jessica Ahlquist, stood up and protested, despite verbal abuse and physical threats, that religion was not imposed on her." That's rubbish, and I suspect you know it).

LouisKahn said...

Eric,

“Louis, didn't I say in my first post that I wasn't saying anything about the legal issues that the case raised?”

Yes, you did, and I ignored that, because the legal issues are the important ones. Ahlquist’s media swan song is not of much interest except as they reveal that depth of ignorance as to what the substantive constitutional issues are.

It is not rubbish for me to insist that you attend to substance instead of trivia.

goddinpotty said...

@Aquinas3000 : Conferences, academic meetings and schools are not rallies. Far out!

No, but they are all instances of people meeting together to promote certain kinds of intellectual activities and interests.

Do you object, eg, to the annual meeting of the AAAS? I've been to some of those; and they are a mix of scholarship and promotion of various agendas relevant to the topic (the link has something about "the Beauty and Benefits of Science" as a theme) and some sessions geared to the general public as well as professionals.

Anonymous said...

"No, you missed the point: People who attend football rallies don't all play football there because football rallies are not composed of football players, or intended to draw a crowd of football players."

No, you missed the point: People who attend football rallies don't play football because you don't play football at football rallies. You don't practice politics at political rallies, and you don't necessarily reason at reason rallies. Therefore "reason rally" is not oxymoronic. Why you can't get this I do not know.

Aquinas3000 said...

"No, but they are all instances of people meeting together to promote certain kinds of intellectual activities and interests."

I know that... the point was Feser wasn't against people meeting together to do X, Y or Z. He was talking about rallies and clearly left open a place for these things. The fact you admit those things aren't rallies is the point...Whether one agrees or disagrees with him on that I didn't think you read what he said properly, that's all.

Anonymous said...

And, let's just call a spade a spade, the "Reason Rally" is a political event; it's objectives are purely political. Nobody has any illusions that it's going to make breakthroughs in "reason." If you, Prof. Feser, or anyone else here really thinks that (and hint: you don't), you're being naive.

No, you know damn well exactly what the RR's objectives are. So stop farting in the room and telling me it's perfume.

This is really a very foolish thing we should not do... :)

Eric said...

"No, you missed the point: People who attend football rallies don't play football because you don't play football at football rallies."

Okay, this is my last attempt: Is a football rally intended to attract fellow football players? No. Is attending a football rally by its very nature antithetical to football? No. Now pay attention: Is a reason rally intended to attract fellow Brights? Yes, so there's one point at which your supposes counterexample breaks down. And, is a reason rally by its very nature antithetical to reason? To the extent that rallies promote groupthink, *yes*, hence the problem. Think for a moment: you're whole point is tied up with the notion that reason ralliers won't be reasoning, *and Professor Feser agrees with this entirely* (though I suspect that most of the reason ralliers themselves will disagree with you). However -- and this is what you keep on missing for some reason -- he goes on to say that not only will they not be reasoning, they'll be engaging in an activity that's antithetical to reason as such. Now look, this is premised on the notion that rallies promote groupthink, and that groupthink is antithetical to reason. If you want to deny that premise, fine; at least there, you'll making a substantive point that shows some grasp of Professor Feser's argument. As it stands, however, you've yet to grasp just what saying here.

Anonymous said...

Eric,
Since the amusing pedantry has run its course, I'll surprise you with a bit of concession. The preceding comment above was also mine, the one about it being a political rally (I still have to choose a name). If you don't view this as a political rally, you're going to be totally confused about its object and intent. Those attending a political rally are not the leaders (team players) of their political cause, yet they have a vested interest in that cause. Can we at least agree on that comparison to the RR?

Also, and this is key, political rallies are time-limited exercises NOT aimed at actual politics, so while they might engage in temporary "group-think" I believe we can come to a consensus that it is usually innocuous. (Whereas group-think in general is not always so harmless.) The very definition of "rally" is what renders them comparatively harmless. If political rallies actually practiced politics, then you should worry. So you're pitting yourself against the definition of what a rally actually is.

That being said, I emphatically endorse the conclusion that things like the Nazi rallies at Nuremberg were decidedly not harmless.

The fact that "reason" and "rally" might be antithetical by their natures might be true, but irrelevant due to their categorical separation. You do not reason at a rally. You do not play football at a rally, and you do not practice politics at a rally.

So how much of that can you agree with?

Eduardo said...

Basically the argument is.... no rallies are meant to do the things they defend... Got you right ????


Still it doesn't change Feser's idea/argument that rallies are irrational...

vysota said...

Well, when you can't win the argument with logic, win it with sarcasm, right Feser?

Anonymous said...

Well, when you can't win the argument with logic, win it with sarcasm, right Feser?

Feser didn't even have to try to win. It was Susan who, all by herself, did the job of losing with her clumsy attempt at logics. Feser only had a little fun with the fact.

T.H.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

"Formal logic is difficult for the rest of us to understand"

Speak for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Susan said... Reasoning is great, but there is more to moral obligation than getting that correct.

Well, yes. After you reason what you are morally obligated to do, you still have to actually do it. But there is not less to moral obligation than reasoning. You cannot act morally if you do not rationally understand what it is that you should and should not do.

There could be absolutely no mistakes at all in his reasoning, and I would still think he is wrong.

I don't understand. If he was right, you would still think he was wrong? Or do you mean that he really is wrong despite not making any mistakes in this particular context, in which case, what do you mean by "not making mistakes"? To reach a wrong conclusion, one must have made a mistake somewhere, no matter how many other steps may be rationally valid.

Quickly chosen quotes to illustrate some groupthink going on in Thomism blogs:

I don't see how any of those excerpts shows anything about "groupthink". (Out of context I'm not sure they show much of anything at all.)
I gather that you disagree with certain conclusions drawn at the "Sophie's Choice" post, etc. Perhaps you are simply wrong, or perhaps they are wrong about something, or perhaps there is a failure of communication (if you're new to philosophy, there will be all sorts of jargon and context that you won't be familiar with). In all of these cases, the obvious reaction is to ask questions and explain one's position, i.e. to follow the path of reason. Alternatively, you could react emotionally and disagree simply because you don't "like" the position, without having any reasons for it, but that of course would be irrational. So what exactly are you trying to do?

Susan said...

What I'm trying to do is figure out (for myself) what's going on with Thomism. My blog is now full of all my "wisdom". It was a fun topic for me - you would not agree with me on much, but that's fine. I'm not trying to convince you.

Eric said...

"What I'm trying to do is figure out (for myself) what's going on with Thomism."

Susan, in all seriousness, I cannot recommend Professor Feser's books ('Aquinas' and 'The Last Superstition') highly enough if that's your goal. You might like 'Aquinas' better than 'The Last Superstition' if you're not very familiar with (or interested in) the New Atheists and their rhetoric, which Professor Feser answers in kind (though, unlike the New Atheists, he actually knows what he's talking about, so his rhetoric complements his erudition rather than acting as a substitute for it). But, even if that sort of rhetoric turns you off, I'd still recommend you read 'The Last Superstition' for its remarkably clear and persuasive substantive content.

Gail Finke said...

Susan: I haven't the faintest idea what you're trying to say. Thomism is sexist? Women live in the real world? People who agree about something necessarily do so because of groupthink? By your reckoning, the only things that can be good to think are thought by women who don't agree with each other. and whatever you don't like about logic and/or Thomism, you have not managed to express. You seem very pleased with yourself, though.

Malfoy said...

Susan: "I had just decided that women (who need to live in the real world mostly) are not cut out to be Thomists. And I had also noticed a lot of overt sexism in Thomasism. It's its very own kind of groupthink."

Elizabeth Anscombe: "lol"


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._E._M._Anscombe

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/10/thomistic-tradition-part-ii.html

Susan said...

Ok, Eric, I'll take your suggestion. I just ordered The Last Superstition. I'll read it.

My preconceived notion of it is "persuasive of what? I don't need persuading that atheism is not logical. And I don't think using logic against something unlogical is useful", but other than that, I'll keep an open mind.

LouisKahn said...

To All Fesserites,

This peripheral but central!

May I call your attention to one of the most dangerous and widespread forms of the Mob and Groupthink?

http://fauxphilnews.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/republicans-attack-obamacontent-as-socialized-meaning/

EXTERNALIZATION OF MEANING IN PHILOSOPHY!!! EXTERNALISM (Equals Materialism, Equals Marxism) has infected the Democratic Party (the New Communist Party I call it) like a virus.

It is good to know that the Republican Presidential Candidates, as revealed to FAUXPHILNEWS (The original Fair, Balanced and Absolutely true), are fighting the good fight, FOR INTERNALISM, FOR THE INDIVIDUAL, FOR AMERICA, AGAINST THE MOB THAT IS MODERN PHILOSOPHY.

E.H. Munro said...

Ray, it seems to me that the Nazis wanted (at least in places like Poland where they murdered millions of Catholics, priests and nuns) to get rid of God. I can't fault the Pope here.

As a matter of fact the Nazis own internal documents spelled out in detail how they intended to rid Europe of Christianity after the war, as they considered the religion too "womanish" for the Aryan race. Of course the Rays of the world will tell you that the vast documentation turned up at the Nuremberg tribunal was the result of a vast Catholic conspiracy to convince the world that the Nazis were areligious amoral psychotics when they were really run-of-the-mill bible believing Christians...

Anonymous said...

Every textbook I've ever read has listed Nazi anti-Christianity and Paganism as accepted fact. It's really just not controversial.

Richard said...

For those who are interested, even P.Z. Myers is starting to have second thoughts about the Reason Rally over at Freethought blogs.

The Deuce said...

It would appear that these people are bound and determined to be a parody unto themselves:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/culture/reason-rally-not-quite/

Arthur said...

Ooh, this quotation is just priceless:

We are not going to DC for ‘dialogue’ with people who believe ridiculous things – we are going to have fun with other like-minded people.

Hear that, guys? These free-thinking, open-minded, sceptical, rational people aren't going to the "Reason Rally" for dialogue. That says it all, doesn't it? Somewhere, Socrates is spinning in his grave.

Of course, I realize that debate was never the point; it's plainly a political event, despite the tendentious labelling. I just think that if you're going to arrange something you call a "Reason Rally", you should at least lie consistently about how irrational it is. These guys get 10/10 for sheer gall, at least.

BenYachov said...

I always thought the point of Atheism is you could sleep in Sunday morning.

I guess nature really does abhor a vacuum. You give up religion you make up a substitute to fill the void.

Just go to a Sci-Fi convention.

Infidel Alliance said...

What a loathsome, miserable little article, from which ressentiment oozes overflowingly, wherein on reading which, one can almost *see* the words, now in invisible ink, "If only my congregations were as voluntarily enthusiastic about death, as this one will be about life!".
I suppose every Sunday, nay, every day, when Catholic mobs the world over flock together for death and torture worship "untruth" rears its collective head? What, we must ask our illustrious author, would his church be without mobs, and their supposed, concommitant untruths?
And he ought to be careful as to who he elects to quote. Kierkegaard, that atheist, had no love for doctrine, and when he wrote of "truth" he had a special, existential meaning for that word, referring to what he called "subjective truth", meaning something more like authenticity for one's individuality, which of course gets undermined when it is handed over to "group think". A semantic trick on the priest's part. And really just an ad hominem disguised as wisdom, or shall we say an "en masse hominem"? Just another case of priests looking to otherwise enemies for allies in order to overthrow a greater enemy perceived. A greater enemy perceived? Appparently so! Behold, this Rally has the priests and the sacerdotal followers trembling even before it takes place.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Infidel Alliance, we're shaking in out boots because angst-ridden teenagers are throwing a party to celebrate their willful ignorance.

By the way, Kierkegaard was, in fact, a Christian. He was a fideist, however. Of course, none of that actually matters.

BeingItself said...

To label Kierkegaard an 'atheist' or a 'Christian' does violence to atheism, Christianity, and Kierkegaard.

Anonymous said...

BeingItself,

Kierkegaard was a Christian Fedist.

He believed in both God and Jesus and asserted dogmatically belief in either could not be proved rationally and he was justified in believing regardless.

It's a walking talking violation of the teaching of Vatican One but he wasn't Catholic so there ya go.

BeingItself said...

Anon, I am not going to get in a game of definitions with you. My point is that applying simplistic labels to someone like Kierkegaard is a mistake.

Susan said...

Thanks, Malfoy, for suggesting Feser's posts on Thomastic tradition - it was very informative. The different branches of Thomism and all. My vocabulary is getting a huge boost. I had just read a book by Wojytla and loved it and was then surprised to see him listed as Thomist. But after looking up what “phenomenological" means, I guess I can see it. It is like taking Thomism and letting it be about human consciousness and sense of person rather than about strenuous following of logic. Maybe it will turn out that there is a Thomism for me afterall!

Anonymous said...

"Anon, I am not going to get in a game of definitions with you. My point is that applying simplistic labels to someone like Kierkegaard is a mistake."


Can we, without error, call Kierkegaard a "human being," a "subject," an "entity," etc., or are those labels too simplistic?

Adam said...

Notice Dawkins borrows most of his arguements about the middle east and critique of specific religions from Sam Harris? WHen talking about islam or eastern religion vs abhrahamic, he parrots harris all the time.

Never stating his own opinion, despite the fact Harris basically follows new age religion, something dawkins mocks. Of course Dawkins believes harris in his back trackign claims of not believing in new age religion.

BeingItself said...

Anon,

We have enough evidence to conclude that Kierkegaard was probably human.

Where are you going with this?

Anonymous said...

BeingItself,

If you have no problem with SK being called a "human being," then you really should have no problem with him being called a "Christian." He contains the essential attributes of both, and therefore by logical necessity must fall under both of those categories. There is just nothing wrong with calling Kierkegaard a Christian.

But of course that doesn't exhaust who he was in either his mental world or physical world. When has anyone ever claimed that the sole label "Christian" fully characterizes a person?

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon, but the point is that Feser could've quoted Quentin Smith and he'd be no less hypocritical. The quote stands on its own.

Anonymous said...

That should read no *more* hypocritical.

Susan said...

Eric,
I just finished The Last Superstition per your suggestion. It was better than I expected. It's hard for me to conjure up enough anger towards atheists to actually agree with the thesis. But for those who can, it would be a really good book.

I in the choir, and so it was tedious. But I'll try to keep an open mind that the enemy just might really exist and I am blind to it.

machinephilosophy said...

"a former leading apologist"

LOL Time for a credential check, which produces flakiness that won't stick to the pan, even when cooked up by a shill.

DRM said...

At least Gold VIP seating is super-cheap,only a mere 5 g's:

http://www.reasonrallystore.org/vip-seating-1/

Anonymous said...

"When a group of people who respect each other’s opinions arrive at a unanimous view, each member is likely to feel that the belief must be true"
Sounds like church on Sunday morning!

Slow Learner said...

Well, I am glad I slogged through the bile of this comment thread - because eventually I got a link to Chris Hallquist's destruction of "The Last Superstition".

That puts this in context as the little temper tantrum it is, thrown by someone stranded in his backwater.

machinephilosophy said...

"Well, I am glad I slogged through the bile of this comment thread - because eventually I got a link to Chris Hallquist's destruction of "The Last Superstition".

That puts this in context as the little temper tantrum it is, thrown by someone stranded in his backwater."

I'm glad too, because it give you an excuse for not having to do any actual reasoning about your own unargued claims about others.

Now you can pick up your pom-poms and run off to your atheist cheerleading class for epistemic lepers with dignity, and that without even having argued a single claim you've made here.

Lucas said...

Mr. Feser, your rant only indicates how easily religionists feel threatened by every single thing atheists do. Why is it that a bunch of cultists that gather every Sunday are flipping their shit over a once-a-year event?

Btw, if Christians truly believed what they claim to believe, they wouldn't need to gather every week to proclaim in loud voice in front of each other. Just sayin'

machinephilosophy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
machinephilosophy said...

"Mr. Feser, your rant only indicates how easily religionists feel threatened by every single thing atheists do."

HOW does it indicate this? Or do YOU simply feel threatened and so resort to unargued claims?

"Why is it that a bunch of cultists that gather every Sunday are flipping their shit over a once-a-year event?"

I didn't know they are required to have reasons, in the same way that YOU are not providing any reasons for anything YOU say.

"Btw, if Christians truly believed what they claim to believe, they wouldn't need to gather every week to proclaim in loud voice in front of each other. Just sayin'"

Yeah, you're "Just sayin'" because you have no reasons for the conditional implication claim, just the typical bluffing Gnu atheist judgmentalism stated in dirtbag ghettospeak.

BeingItself said...

Traveling and hanging out with my friends was great, as I expected, but the speeches at the rally were weak, also as I expected.

Tim Minchin was great. Performed the "The Pope Song", which for me was the highlight of the event.

Also, ran into a bunch of moronic Christians with the typical question begging nonsense. Like a sign ordering us to study and obey the bible, because the bible says so.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd/files/2012/03/CAkissin.jpg

Lucas said...

Monkey, your little hate-filled rant is a perfect example of Catholic double standards and moral superiority.

-When your beliefs are so weak that someone else merely saying "this is not so" knots all your panties in a bunch, this is a clear sign that you feel threatened. Obviously, Mr. Feser wouldn't be such a crybaby about the Rally if he didn't feel threatened by it.

-If you don't think Catholics have to justify their cult gatherings, then atheists shouldn't either. You're so blind you can't see the irony of cult members who meet every week complaining that other group is meeting once a year.

FM said...

In the end it's true...

Dawkins did propose something like the 'two minutes hate' :)

He clearly stated that atheists should ridicule and show contempt towartds religous belief.

Thank God (lol) that the Reason Rally was there to 'celebrate reason'... but from the speeches I have read it was more a bigotry rally... not that it was unexpected.

BeingItself said...

Dawkins did advocate ridiculing specific ridiculous beliefs, such as transubstantiation and belief in flying horse.

Anonymous said...

>"When your beliefs are so weak that someone else merely saying "this is not so" knots all your panties in a bunch, this is a clear sign that you feel threatened. Obviously, Mr. Feser wouldn't be such a crybaby about the Rally if he didn't feel threatened by it."

So, harshly criticizing X implies that one is threatened by X? By your logic, then, you are threatened by both Feser and "Monkey," since you have gotten your "panties in a bunch" over their posts. Furthermore, even if Feser's post stemmed from fear, that says precisely nothing about the actual truth value of the actual propositional content of his post. Or did this oh so subtle point manage to slip past the inherently immaculate cognitive filters of a Gnu Atheist?

Lucas said...

"By your logic, then, you are threatened by both Feser and "Monkey," since you have gotten your "panties in a bunch" over their posts."

Do Catholics have anything to contest criticism with other than "tu quoque" fallacies? If you compare the time Feser dedicates to the Reason Rally and the time I dedicate to Feser, you'll realize your sorry excuse for an argument doesn't hold.

Anonymous said...

@ Lucas

"Mr. Feser, your rant only indicates how easily religionists feel threatened by every single thing atheists do. Why is it that a bunch of cultists that gather every Sunday are flipping their shit over a once-a-year event?

Btw, if Christians truly believed what they claim to believe, they wouldn't need to gather every week to proclaim in loud voice in front of each other. Just sayin'"


First of all as someone else stated above, when is criticizing something mean automatically being threatened by it? I think you should read what Feser writes and then use your brains a bit, before your fingers start typing.

You are the one tripping over fallacies Lucas, I am sorry.
Ironically most atheist like to enumerate fallacies and fail abysmally at spotting their own fallacies that are like gaping holes in their arguments.


ALSO it seems you have NO IDEA what Catholics believe and why they go to Church on Sunday or you would not ask such vague and moronic questions, which are in the end not real questions but pointless rhetoric aimed to ridicule other.

Well you fail, miserably, unless you are a troll… then you managed to troll people into replying to you.

Is this what you atheist call reason? Well let me give you a wake up call: it's not 'reason' but 'bigotry'.

Go back to Dawkins now so that he can pat your head you mindless drone!

PS: seems you atheists are the ones who are in fear and feel threatened, as you seem to behave like cornered animals.

Anonymous said...

@ Lucas (again)

PPS:

BTW, after Dawkins (and colleagues) made their venomous hate-speeches, rallying people to hate and attack religeous people... I think it would also not be unreasonable to fee threathened.


Dawkins and friensa are promoting hate and discrimination, which always lead, eventually, to violence.


Funny then how he claims that Religion causes violence and he is the first in line to promote it in the end.

Have a nice day! Haha

Kahn said...

Lucas,

Apparently you need things to be spelled out for you: Let's assume for the sake of argument that you're correct in asserting that Feser's post is the product of fear. Now, how much import does that fact have on the truth value of his post? Answer: None, since how a belief originates ultimately has nothing to do with whether that belief is true or false. To claim otherwise is to be guilty of the genetic fallacy.

Anonymous said...

What is a Church then if these people are speaking "untruths" for gathering in mass? The argument makes no sense. They are gathering for what they believe, which may not be what you believe, but belief is subjective enough that one person always seems wrong to someone else. I am a Christian but I believe that atheists have as much right as anyone else to function as a group with their own beliefs, and believers in God don't have much say in that if they want to uphold their own freedom of religion.

Paul Boire said...

A lot of those who do not find religion rational or appealing are in truth addressing a real phenomenon. They are unaware.. utterly uninformed about the immense , rich and satisfying intellectual tradition of Aristotle, Aquinas and the Scholastics. They do not, and unless they catch a glimmmer of light that engenders an honest and intelligent response, will not know about it. THey see right wing fundamentalists and 60% of US citizens supposedl denying good evolutionary science , preferring Christ. They honestly believe because of the ever so dull media, that these are their options. Dawkins proved he could not even recongize the brialliant arguments rooted in the great philosophers. He'll never be in that class of thinkers. We should be thankful these uberdummies like Dawkins have come to the fore and raised the issues to be aired. Sola Scriptura and literalist idiocies considering the revelation of Christ have had their dumb day, and not its time to rescue the fundamentalists on both sides with philophically informed ecucation. We should thank the mechanistic would be philosophers for bringing out their frankly silly view that the tiny, not-even-stupid itty bitty things are in charge and running the show. It's too funny. Time for the traditional western rational world view where purpose is possible to reclaim reality for the duped on both sides.