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Friday, October 31, 2014


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Strictly speaking, even on court, not always side making positive claim bear BOF. Sometimes sides can sue each other for unfulfilled some obligation, contract or something similar. Maybe it is better to say that BOF rest on side which want to persuade third, neutral party. For example, in Peter van Inwagen book on problem of evil he hold that arguments should motivate or compel ideal agnostic to change his mind about particular subject.

I agree with you, Bill. I’d prefer to keep BOP considerations out of philosophy if possible. Ideally, philosophical dialogue is between friendly truth-seekers who follow the logic where it leads; it’s not between the “disputatious and quarrelsome kind”, and it’s not undertaken “with the clepsydra driving him on”.

I agree with your reasoning. Given that this is an intensely existential/practical question, if there is a BOP for this question, then prudence suggests that the BOP is upon the atheist. If a country has reason to believe that an enemy is preparing a major attack against its homeland, then that country is wise to anticipate the attack and need not shoulder the BOP before taking precautions. If it were to shoulder the BOP first, it might be destroyed before becoming capable of meeting its probative burden. Of course, it could prepare and at the same time gather intelligence to prove the case.

Here’s a question: Is it reasonable to hold that the atheist is actually making the positive claim? After all, he’s positing a claim that most people in all places at all times have denied. Moreover, he’s positing a claim that denies what is plausibly the best explanation for the existence of the physical universe, of its fine-tuning, intelligibility and uniformity, of objective morality, of consciousness, of logic itself, and of an objective meaning for human life.

I am happy that we agree, Elliot. What goes on in a genuine philosophical dialog has very little in common with what goes on in courts of law and in formal debates.

And no real philosopher submits to the discipline of the clypsedra or any kind of clock. (Please remind me of the reference in Plato) The real philosopher has time and takes his time. Brentano: *Wer eilt bewegt sich nicht auf dem Boden der Wissenschaft.*

It is also probably a waste of time to try to figure out who is making the positive claim and who the negative.

"Reality is such that there is no God." Is that positive or negative?

"God is an unconscious anthropomorphic projection" (Feuerbach) Is that positive or negative?

I agree. There are more important matters at hand than to examine what is and is not a positive claim. It's hard enough to evaluate the truth of a proposition. Taking time to determine whether or not a proposition is positive could distract from bigger questions. Philosophers have leisure time, but not to waste!

I apologize for omitting the Plato reference. I was shooting for brevity and probably missed. The reference is from Theaetetus 172 e. The Jowett translation uses "lawyer" and "clepsydra". The Cornford translation uses "orator" and "clock". Both refer to the importance of "leisure" and "seeking truth".

The "disputatious and quarrelsome kind" reference is from Meno 75 d (Guthrie translation). It's a short but interesting suggestion that Socrates/Plato may have preferred to avoid the BOP as well.

We are on the same page! Thanks for the reference. But there was no need to apologize.

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