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Monday, May 09, 2011

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"I think you have the right idea, but you are putting it in the wrong way."

Thanks, Bill. This was almost exactly what I wanted to hear!

On the topic of "rival theology", perhaps it would make sense to contrast "essential" theology with "existential" theology? Theistic theologians believe in God's existence as well as essence, while atheistic theologians believe only in God's essence. Or am I just making up new terms where old ones will do just as well?

Perhaps there is some ambiguity about what, exactly, "theology" is. I consider talk about God's essense to be a kind of theology almost by definition, where it seems that you do not. Moreover, many atheists I encounter consider "theology" to be utterly trivial, something like learning the names of all the saints, not something that might be relevant to God's existence.

I suppose that part of my point with "every disbelief is a rival belief" was to do with the foundations of a belief as well as the belief itself. For instance, if I believe that there are no round squares, I am implicitly invoking my rival belief that the law of non-contradiction is true, as well as the belief that this law applies to round squares. I am not simply a "sceptic" when I doubt round squares, I am also a "believer". This seems inevitable.

Similarly, if I say that God does not exist, I am being sceptical of God, sure, but I am also proposing alternative beliefs, albeit very implicitly. These may include things like "no evidence" for God, certain epistemelogical policies regarding evidence, a supposedly accurate understanding of what "God" is, the failure of theology to establish God's existence, and countless others.

Essentially, you've convinced me that there are two "modes of belief" with regard to a proposition, and that not every disbelief it itself a rival belief. However, might every disbelief implicitly invoke rival beliefs to support itself?

I realize I'm getting somewhat off-topic, but this was a related issue I'm interested in.

Kenneth,

>>Theistic theologians believe in God's existence as well as essence, while atheistic theologians believe only in God's essence.<<

An intelligent atheist cannot admit that there is a divine essence, for if he admits that, then he is committed to the divine existence. In God, essence entails existence. If there is no God, then there is no divine existence or divine essence.

The word you must use is not 'essence' but 'concept.' Essences are extramental; concepts are mental. The atheist, unless he is a total fool, believes that there are concepts of God. His claim is that none of them are instantiated.

'Theistic theologian' is as pleonastic as 'atheistic theologian' is oxymoronic.

"An intelligent atheist cannot admit that there is a divine essence, for if he admits that, then he is committed to the divine existence. In God, essence entails existence."

Cripes, I think that's what I've been missing here. Good point. I suppose that explains the unwillingness of many atheists to look at theology. Thanks for clarifying my own ideas, Bill!

Bill, you say...

"Atheists deny the existence of God."

One problem is, many atheists I see go to great pains to deny this. They say that their atheism is not a denial of God's existence, but the mere lack of a belief. Or do you think this move leaves something to be desired? (Maybe you wrote about this before and I forget.)

Also, what about agnostics, or those who content themselves with giving low probability estimates of God? Or do you think that, at the end of the day, one is either denying God's existence or affirming it, and there's no middle-ground?

Dr. Vallicella,

An example of a man willing to admit a Divine Essence, but not its exemplification of existence, might be Edward N. Zalta. Then again, I might be misreading the paper, so I'll look over it to make sure.

any atheist who does not engage with a sophisticated conception of God is simply attacking a straw man and may be ignored for that very reason.

I don't know that this is true. What, precisely, is a "sophisticated" conception of God? Do I need to understand the conclusions, or need I merely examine the premises? As an analogy, suppose mathematicians, for some perverse reason, had spent many years building up an elaborate intellectual edifice based on Cantor's naive set theory. Would I need to understand the conclusions or could I merely point out that there's an inherent contradiction in the Cantor's naive definition of a "set"?

Similarly, how much of National Socialism must I understand to challenge the assumption that Jews are the cause of all the world's problems? (Not, of course, to compare religion to Nazism; I'm just using an obviously extreme example, a common philosophical trope.) Do I need to read and understand every word of Timecube to rationally believe that Gene Ray is a nutjob?

The main question is: are you using special pleading to set an especially high epistemic bar for religion and theology, a bar you might consider too high for other kinds of claims?

Supposing I do need to understand sophisticated theology?

How much of "sophisticated" theology do I need to understand? Do I need to understand all of it? Do I need to read and understand every book written by every theologian in order to challenge their fundamental premise that a God really does exist? If not all, then how much? As much as the most widely read theologian? As much as the least widely read Doctor of Divinity? As much as someone with a four-year college degree in theology? As much the most widely-read or least widely-read lay believer? If disbelief and argument against a proposition requires a certain level of education to be rational, should it not also require that same level of education for belief to be rational? Again, are your epistemic standards consistent?

What specifically do you mean by "theology"? Typically, I divide religious works into (arbitrarily labeled) "apologetics", which purport to somehow demonstrate that a God exists, and theology, which takes for granted the existence and particular attributes of God. I don't think it's bad per se to take propositions for granted, but but if some work takes propositions for granted that I consider at best to be controversial and at worst to be ludicrous, how deeply must I study it?

How much effort do proponents of "sophisticated" theologies need to put forth to make their theology accessible and coherent? I'm a reasonably intelligent and educated person; if some theologian's work sounds to me like pure baloney, at what point am I entitled to dismiss his or her work and move on? I see a lot of people refer generically to "sophisticated" theology, but I rarely see even specific works mentioned, much less actual arguments summarized and explained.

Atheism, especially Gnu Atheism, is primarily a social movement, not a philosophical movement. As such, it is directed at the kind of religious belief that most ordinary religious believers actually have, and which most popular clergy appeal to. What evidence can you present that most ordinary religious believers really do understand and conform to "sophisticated" theology? In my own experience (which is fairly extensive), most religious believers really do have something very close to an "invisible sky fairy" kind of religious belief, and justify that belief with really terrible arguments. I'm definitely open, however, to arguments and evidence to the contrary.

Suppose S disbelieves that p. (For example, Jones disbelieves that Osama is dead.) It does not follow that Jones believes that ~p. For it may be that S neither believes that p nor believes that ~p. If one neither accepts nor rejects the proposition that Osama is dead, then one could be said to disbelieve that Osama is dead without believing that he is alive. So there are two modes of disbelief with respect to a proposition p. Either one believes that ~p or one suspends judgment with respect to p.

Good as far as it goes, but you're missing some notable cases.

p might be vague. Suppose Jones disbelieves that Barack Obama is black. He might disbelieve because he considers the predicate to be poorly defined: Jones does not understand precisely what it means to say that any person is black.

p might be inherently contradictory. Suppose Jones disbelieves that The Spanish Barber is Barack Obama. This would not entail that Jones believes that someone else is the Spanish Barber. Or, perhaps Jones might disbelieve that Barack Obama is President of the United States and not President of the United States. The inverse (Barack Obama is not President of the United States or is President of the United States) is trivial and meaningless.

p might be semantically meaningless. Suppose Jones disbelieves that Barack Obama is sfousors; Jones obviously does not believe it is true that Barack Obama is definitely not sfousors.

p might be epistemically unavailable. Suppose Jones disbelieves that Barack Obama is secretly unhappy. It is impossible to know whether or not Barack Obama is secretly unhappy. (If we had evidence that he was unhappy, it wouldn't be a secret; if it's a secret, we have no way of knowing if it's true or false.)

Finally, p might be asymmetrically unavailable. Suppose Jones disbelieves that Barack Obama is a shape-shifting lizard person. We could have evidence that could rationally compel belief that Barack Obama really is a shape-shifting lizard person (e.g. we might actually see him change shape), but there is no direct evidence that would compel disbelief. While it might be the case that Jones really does believe that Obama really is not a shape-shifting lizard person, but because of the epistemic asymmetry, Jones might prefer, especially when Jones wants to be especially rigorous, to express his belief purely in the negative.

Sorry about the grammar, spelling and formatting errors.

hopefully, this will fix the italics

Joseph,

I did discuss the definition of 'atheism' is several posts. Go to the Atheism and Theism category and scroll down.

If atheism is mere lack of belief that God exists, then cabbages and spark plugs are atheists. For they lack that belief. See my posts for further details.

What's wrong with saying this:

Theists affirm the existence of God; atheists deny the existence of God; and there are those who do neither: they entertain the proposition but suspend judgment. You could call those in the third category 'agnostics' but perhaps a better term would be 'adoxics.'

Leo,

Without reading his paper, I'd guess that Zalta thinks of God as a Meinongian nonexistent object. But I would reject this approach since I reject Meinongianism.

Bill,

I agree with your estimation re: the 'lack of belief'. And I suppose that 'agnostics' would be a fair category.

So I'd ask: Can an agnostic be a theologian? Since you've said that an atheist cannot be a theologian since the atheist denies God's existence - but the agnostic isn't doing that. You gave the example where for a theist, theology has a subject matter - for an atheist, it does not. But for an agnostic, how should it be put?

Dr. Vallicella,

"Without reading his paper, I'd guess that Zalta thinks of God as a Meinongian nonexistent object. But I would reject this approach since I reject Meinongianism."

I am inclined to agree with you about Meinongianism, but I only brought up Zalta as a (potential) counterexample to your claim that "[a]n intelligent atheist cannot admit that there is a divine essence." Being a Meinongian does not preclude being an intelligent atheist, even if it precludes being right.

I suppose, though, that Zalta's position is a rather unusual one, and probably beyond the ken of Dawkins & Co.

By the way, I just had a chance to read your occasionalism article, and I thought it quite good. Comments will ensue.

Larry - I'm a bum, too, but shod.

I think we should take athesists just as seriously as they take theism, and if they take it at all seriously, they will not dismiss arguments they have not taken the time to understand. Of course, in coming to understand an argument, one might well find it unpersuasive, or even flat out wrong.

I am with the gnu atheists in rejecting "sky fairies," and I agree that's about as sophisticated as the mass of theists get. But the masses don't set the standard for knowledgable, critical discourse. This applies not only to theology but even to natural sciences. For example, the mass of those who profess belief in evolution by natural selection thoroughly misunderstand the relevant body of theory. But it's obvious that their mangled version(s) of evolutionary thought don't discredit serious theorizing in this domain.

Pots and kettles; stones and glass houses; geese and ganders; or, if you prefer, parity of reasoning.

I think we should take athesists just as seriously as they take theism, and if they take it at all seriously, they will not dismiss arguments they have not taken the time to understand.

I could be wrong, but I just don't see that happening. And there is a difference between a) dismissing arguments one has not understood, b) dismissing arguments that have not been made cogently or coherently, and c) dismissing arguments that a lot of people are indeed making and using, even if those arguments are different than arguments others are making.

For example, the mass of those who profess belief in evolution by natural selection thoroughly misunderstand the relevant body of theory.

I don't buy that. They might not understand every subtlety of the science, but I think most people who believe evolution understand the theory accurately in broad terms. Again, I could be wrong, and I lack the resources to make a detailed survey.

But it's obvious that their mangled version(s) of evolutionary thought don't discredit serious theorizing in this domain.

Agreed. And keep in mind that most Gnu Atheists are just as skeptical of bad science as we are of religion. We speak out just as damningly on pseudoscience — even evolutionary pseudoscience — as we do on religion. If a religious person wants to say that Social Darwinism or eugenics completely mangles accurate evolutionary biology, you will hear from the Gnus only a chorus of "Hear hear!"

However, we Gnu Atheists are making a subtly different case. We do not assert that bad arguments for the existence of God (or flawed theologies) prove (or show evidence) that God does not exist. The argument is, rather, that there's a lot of social privilege for religion, and that social privilege rests on bad apologetics and bad theology. I personally happen to be interested in them, but esoteric philosophical arguments for the existence of God are not really of common interest to most Gnus. I don't think it's at all intellectually disreputable to leave esoteric controversies to those with special expertise and/or interest. If there were ever a consensus of experts that some element of esoteric religious philosophy were rigorously proven, that would be a different case... but I think a consensus of philosophers on any question (except perhaps that A=A) seems unlikely.

To be more thorough, I see atheists definitely taking theism seriously, to the extent that we do indeed engage with what theists actually say about apologetics and theology, and we take them at their word.

As far as theology goes, in the sense of my earlier definition, we don't really engage with the edifice built on assumptions we consider implausible, but we do, I think, make an honest effort to examine the actual assumptions that theologians explicitly assume, and we do our best to determine any implicit, unspoken assumptions using as much charity as we can muster.

If atheism is mere lack of belief that God exists, then cabbages and spark plugs are atheists. For they lack that belief. See my posts for further details.

We could, of course, just add qualifications, perhaps ad hoc, but even taken to its logical conclusion, suppose cabbages and spark plugs really are atheists? What's wrong with that? Why can't cabbages and spark plugs be atheists? Should I object to sharing my atheism with cabbages and spark plugs any more than I object to sharing my status as objects with mass, net charge and extension in space and time with them?

Larry,

You make some good disinctions above, but don't forget the context. Dunlop seemed to me to be confusing two senses of 'disbelieve.' The purpose of my response was merely to combat that confusion. So I said only what I needed to for that purpose.

As for a proposition being meaningless, on my Fregean use of 'proposition' no proposition is meaningless. For a proposition is the sense of a declarative sentence, and no sense is meaningless.

The purpose of my response was merely to combat that confusion. So I said only what I needed to for that purpose.

Yes, of course. I understand completely. I'm not criticizing you; I'm asking follow-up questions.

As for a proposition being meaningless, on my Fregean use of 'proposition' no proposition is meaningless.
I understand. Consider my statement, then, to be that 'p' is not actually a proposition: Jones might well say that he does not believe p because p is not a proposition.

Larry,

"Why can't cabbages and spark plugs be atheists? Should I object to sharing my atheism with cabbages and spark plugs any more than I object to sharing my status as objects with mass, net charge and extension in space and time with them?"

Because that would be a fairly obvious "category mistake" of the highest order. The reason: Cabbages and spark plugs are simply not the sort of things that have beliefs, are able to reason, seek the truth, etc.

You (and every other human) indeed share certain properties such as 'being a (physical) object', 'having mass', 'net charge', and 'extension' with cabbages and spark plugs. From this it does not follow that you share all properties or even the ones pertinent for the present discussion; namely, the property of having beliefs, capable of reasoning and seeking the truth. Unless, of course, you are some sort of a materialist who holds that beliefs and the rest of the related cognitive paraphernalia are identical to physical states or that none of these things exist at all.

Because that would be a fairly obvious "category mistake" of the highest order. The reason: Cabbages and spark plugs are simply not the sort of things that have beliefs, are able to reason, seek the truth, etc.

Of course they aren't. But why should the negative definition of atheism, i.e. lacking a (propositional) belief, be considered dependent on having beliefs in general? Alternatively, why could we not then just add an ad hoc qualifier that an atheist is a being who has propositional beliefs in general, but lacks any propositional belief about the existence of God?

IOW, I'm not convinced that the rejection of negative atheism is useful. It seems plausible that, as you note in the OP, one can lack all sorts of propositional beliefs without that lack entailing belief in the inverse.

Unless, of course, you are some sort of a materialist

I'll take the Fifth on that question for now, because it's not immediately relevant. ;-) We can get into materialism another day.

Larry,

"I'll take the Fifth on that question for now,..."

Hahaha...cute! Granted!

I am not sure what 'negative atheism' is. I take atheism simply to be the view that a deity satisfying certain properties does not exist. An atheist, then, would be someone who has a belief the content of which may be stated as follows: a deity satisfying such-and-such properties does not exist.

An *agnostic* would then be someone who is (i) the sort of being that is capable of holding beliefs (the qualification); (ii) entertained the question of the existence of such a deity; and (iii) based upon such reflection concluded that he cannot hold the belief that a deity satisfying certain properties exists nor the belief that such a deity fails to exist.

What is wrong with these characterizations?

Larry -
You don't buy that "the mass of those who profess belief in evolution by natural selection thoroughly misunderstand the relevant body of theory," and suggest instead that they "understand the theory accurately in broad terms." Just my observation, but it seems to me that "understanding in broad terms" here amounts to little more than an acceptance of "descent with modification" (to borrow Darwin's apt phrase). Crucially, that doesn't extend to understanding the "mechanism" of natural selection. In fact, even among "experts" there is a great deal of debate about just what natural selection is, and how it might operate in different contexts (which accounts for my use of scare quotes around 'mechanism').

This seems similar to the situation with theism. The untutored masses understand in broad terms the notion that this world is the product of activity by some sort of supersensible entity which possesses some sort of "awareness" and expresses something like "will." But beyond that, what believers believe gets pretty murky. And if we turn to the experts (primarily, theologians and mystics), there's a great deal of debate about the nature of the aforementioned supersensible entity.

Hence my remark about parity of reasoning.

What is wrong with these characterizations?

What's wrong is that you're missing a crucial distinction. Dawkins characterizes the distinction as "temporary agnosticism in practice" (TAP) and "permanent agnosticism in principle" (PAP). I am temporarily agnostic in practice about, for example, the existence (or, more precisely the distribution) of extraterrestrial life. That's a proposition whose truth or falsity is knowable in principle. On the other hand, I have to be "permanently agnostic in principle" about the existence and distribution of ninjas hiding in my apartment. I cannot in principle ever know anything at all about the ninjas hiding in my bedroom. (If I actually discovered a ninja, he wouldn't be hiding, n'est pas?)

So if one believer were to define "God" as something unknowable in principle, and another believer were to define God as something knowable in principle but not actually known, I would have two very different kinds of attitudes towards the two beings. Since these are different attitudes, I think they deserve different names.

Keep in mind too that I maintain the atheist/agnostic distinction is, at least within the Gnu Atheist sphere, primarily a political distinction, rather than a substantive or philosophical distinction. Substantively, atheists and agnostics have (more-or-less) identical sorts of beliefs; the difference is how publicly and openly they want to say they're not buying the theistic line.

(More later. Duty calls.)

Larry -
I'm sympathetic to the notion that there is active discrimination against atheists, but it still behooves us to separate political and epistemic issues, if only to be in a favorable position to address the question of their interaction. In other words, it's a copout, epistemically speaking, treat the distinction between atheism and agnosticism as political rather than substantive.

it's a copout, epistemically speaking, [to] treat the distinction between atheism and agnosticism as political rather than substantive.

That's an opinion, not an argument.

Just out of curiosity, where are you going with the popular notions of evolution theme. Do you dispute my earlier assertion that the Gnu Atheists do not conclude the non-existence of God based on only popular arguments?

Larry -
It wasn't presented as an argument. But if you want one, just consider that agnosticism was presented initially and explicitly as an epistemic stance, not a political stance. So deflecting epistemic concerns by framing the issues in political terms is a copout, epistemically speaking.

As for the popular notions of evolution theme, it's related to my claim that "the masses don't set the standard for knowledgable, critical discourse." And that in its turn is related to the question of whether serious atheism needs to address conceptions of God that are more sophisticated than the sky fairy sort. So, no, I'm not disputing your claim, framed as it is in terms of arguments and a conclusion asserting non-existence. That said, just out of curiousity, why do you frame things in this way?

serious atheism needs to address conceptions of God that are more sophisticated than the sky fairy sort.

We need to, and we do. See Martin, Flew, Hume, Russell, Law, and any number of serious atheist philosophers. And if you want to present any here, I'll take my own swing as a fairly talented amateur. But many people also want to address the more common conceptions, since that's the heart of the political battle. (And politics is about a lot more than just resistance to oppression.)

That said, just out of curiousity, why do you frame things in this way?

Seemed like a good idea at the time. ;-)

Larry -
I notice that you haven't included any of the New/Gnu Atheists. I'll give Russell a break here, even though he did much to popularize the silly celestial teapot "argument." Imagine, if you will, how Aristotle might have responded to Russell -- arguments against orbiting teapots somehow fail to engage ideas about unmoved movers.

I'll grant that it's mainly people who subscribe to sky fairy concepts of god that threaten the political freedoms of outspoken athiests. As a student of politics, though, it seems to me that the appropriate response is a robust defense of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, not a pseudo-debate about the rationalilty or not of various beliefs.

Bob, I dunno. It's not particularly interesting that you consider Russell's argument "silly", or that it doesn't engage Aristotle's ideas about unmoved movers. It's also not really interesting what you consider to be "appropriate response" to much of anything. These are opinions. You are, of course, entitled to your own opinions, but opinions are not really issues we can debate or discuss in any sense. I'm not saying you have the wrong opinions; I'm just saying opinions are not the sort of thing we can have a discussion about. You can't please everyone, and I think the Gnus can live without your approval. If you have a substantive argument, I'm interested in hearing it.

Having examined some "sophisticated" theology, I suspect that the Gnus don't bother to engage it because it's adequately engaged by professional philosophers; it's largely irrelevant, accessible to only a very small audience of professional philosophers, theologians and the occasional interested amateur such as myself; and finally "sophisticated" theology is even worse than the "naive" version... or at least one interest amateur such as myself has come to that conclusion.

Like I said, lay some "sophisticated" theology on me; I certainly do not claim to have read every word of every theologian who has ever lived. I'll do my best to engage with it as you state it.

Larry -
I'm not at all clear about how you use the term 'opinion,' except that it appears to be a derogatory term for you. But the idea that opinions (in the ordinary sense) can't be debated or discussed is nonsense -- at least that's my opinion. Also, it's not clear what, in your opinion, would count as a substantive argument. My remarks about the similarities between naive theistic beliefs and naive beliefs about evolution by natural selection, and my remarks about parity of reasoning could easily enough be recast in standard argumentative form, but that shouldn't be necessary. Also, note that I have not (until just now) so much as mentioned arguments purporting to prove the existence of a god -- I've only spoken about concepts of god, and claimed that serious atheism can't be content with criticizing such unsophisticated concepts as "sky fairies." I mentioned Aristotle simply because his notion of an unmoved mover is a clear example of a rather sophisticated concept of god that isn't touched by arguments like Russell's -- from Aristotle's perspective, Russell's argument is, indeed, silly. There are other sophisticated concepts of god (Spinoza provides one obvious example) that are similarly untouched by such silliness.

So, if gnu atheists want to be taken seriously as atheists, rather than as political operatives, they have a bit more work to do. And if they want to be taken seriously as political operatives, well, then a "robust defense of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression" would be appropriate. But as you observe, that's just my opinion.

Finally, if you want to deal in substantive arguments, how about getting the ball rolling by providing one?

Larry,

I am not quite sure what exactly you are looking for. If you have in mind to discuss some topic, then just state the topic and let the discussion begin. Also I am not sure why you think it is Bob's burden to challenge you with some "sophisticated theology". I am referring to the following: "Like I said, lay some "sophisticated" theology on me;"

"I'm just saying opinions are not the sort of thing we can have a discussion about."

If opinions are "not the sort of thing" we can debate, then I wonder what sort of things you consider worthwhile debating? Perhaps, you could offer some examples of what sort of things you find valuable to discuss, since in your last response to Bob you dismissed quite a lot of examples that are worth discussing. So perhaps you take the burden of offering some examples *you* consider worthwhile and then we all get a sense what you have in mind.

I mentioned Aristotle simply because his notion of an unmoved mover is a clear example of a rather sophisticated concept of god...
Aristotle!? That argument's been dead for years.
Spinoza provides one obvious example
Spinoza!? Spinoza's an atheist.

That's it? That's your "sophisticated" theology? Any competent philosophy undergraduate can take Aristotle and Spinoza apart in an afternoon, and have time left for tea and crumpets.

Aristotle and Spinoza are fine for philosophers, who enjoy discussing the very fine technical distinctions of questions for millennia (and good for them), but the rest of us have moved on. Modern philosophy is, I suppose, a perfectly good academic subject, but it has very little relevance or applicability to real life: it's what's left when you take away science, engineering, art, literature, politics, and law.

Look, theists just don't have a case. That's fundamentally why the Gnus are taking a political rather than a philosophical approach. If you don't like that approach, that's fine. Take whatever approach you like. And if it pleases you to whine that the Gnus aren't addressing the zombie arguments you like, well, it's a free country. I'll call the WAAAAAAAAAAAmbulance for ya! ;-)

Larry,

"Aristotle and Spinoza are fine for philosophers, who enjoy discussing the very fine technical distinctions of questions for millennia (and good for them), but the rest of us have moved on."

Moved on to what?

"Modern philosophy is, I suppose, a perfectly good academic subject, but it has very little relevance or applicability to real life: it's what's left when you take away science, engineering, art, literature, politics, and law."

I suppose you mean that the "rest of you" (whoever the "rest" may be) moved on to a blind worship of "science, engineering, art, literature, politics, law." What you fail to realize is that while each of these activities is valuable, the question what is their value is a philosophical question that requires philosophical reflection and cannot be settled within the branches you listed. I wonder what the failure to see this shows?

"Look, theists just don't have a case."

Is this an *opinion*? I missed the argument for it. Or perhaps you suggests that we should simply take it as "self-evident". And while I myself am a kind of an atheist, I fail to see the self-evident character of the quoted statement.

I think I now see where you are coming from. You think that the case against theism has been already settled; hence, the only thing left to do for the army of atheists is the political "clean-up" job. I wonder what this "clean-up" job entials?

A very Marxist approach. The only problem: When was the case against theism settled? And who exactly accomplished this monumental achievement? Or should we take the answers to these questions also to be "self-evident"?

"Any competent philosophy undergraduate can take Aristotle and Spinoza apart in an afternoon, and have time left for tea and crumpets."

Really! Show me one? In fact, show me any undergraduate philosophy student who even understands either one? Or should we simply take your word for it? Only one who is ignorant of Aristotle and Spinoza can make such a statement (or one who pretends to be ignorant in order to win a point).

And, finally: Why you even bother to make comments in a philosophy forum, if you think philosophy has no value? Your actions of commenting on a primarily philosophy site seem to contradict the content of the "opinion" that philosophy has no "relevance" and, hence, much value to the "rest of you". Or, perhaps, what you are doing here is an instance of the political "clean-up" job. If so, then I for one is not interested to be "cleaned-up".

Larry,

"Aristotle!? That argument's been dead for years."

Well, with a refutation like that, how could I disagree? Incidentally, vaguely gesturing at a list of famous atheists does not constitute a refutation.

"Spinoza!? Spinoza's an atheist."

Wow! Who knew? So a philosopher can believe that God necessarily exists (Ethics, Bk. I: Prop. XI), is the first cause of all (Bk. I, Prop. XVI, Cor. III), is omniscient (Bk. II, Prop. III), loves Himself with an infinite love of the noblest kind (Bk. V, Prop. XXXV), and far more besides and still be an atheist?! You learn something new every day.

If you're interested in a sophisticated defence of theism, by the way, why not check out our host's excellent A Paradigm Theory of Existence? Unlike with Aristotle, St. Thomas, and Spinoza, you can request that its author clarify points you find obscure, ask him whether this or that argument succeeds, and the like.

Also, can you explain how "sophisticated" theology is worse than its "naïve" counterpart? That caught my interest.

Larry -
Early on I had the impression that you were failing to distinguish between a concept of god and an argument for god's existence -- and you've now provided ample empirical evidence that this is so.

Also, you seem to be laboring under the mistaken notion that when I say there are sophisticated concepts of god that are untouched by arguments against sky fairies I am thereby endorsing some form of theism. But as I said, that is a mistaken notion.

Also, regarding tone, the statement "And if it pleases you to whine that the Gnus aren't addressing the zombie arguments you like, well, it's a free country," is the clearest example of whining you will find anywhere in this thread.

I suspect that this is the fruit of taking "a political rather than a philosophical approach" to metaphysical and epistemological issues. When truth takes a back seat to power, the results are not pretty.

Bob, Peter, Leo,

I hate to see you gentlemen waste your time. So I will now close this thread.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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