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Atheistic Fundamentalism

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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Gurdur
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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#21 Post by Gurdur » January 11th, 2008, 9:27 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Ask Maria if she remembers Goliath, Vorkosigan or above all Yahzi from IIDB.

And then of course there is the self-appointed Messiah Of Correct Atheism, ELGS (a.k.a. Stopper, EverLastingGodStopper).

I admin a nontheist-only board, and I am well-known as an atheist; but on other boards, Goliath for example repeatedly sends me messages wishing I was dead (no exaggeration), apparently because I'm not atheist enough for him.

That being said, Nick was largely right about the Archbishop and his terrible exaggerations. The Archbishop was wrong, and to describe why would take a longer post, so I will leave that for another day; but there are fundy atheists out there, with vocality out of all proportion to their actual small percentage of atheists in general.

Dan
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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#22 Post by Dan » January 11th, 2008, 10:06 pm

So now we know you don't know what you're talking about.

"Atheism & Philosophy" is a reissue with a new introduction of "Philosophy & Atheism" (1985).

You'll notice that among the "Contemporary analytical discussions of atheism", nothing appears that was published after 1982.

Recall, though, that I was disputing the notion that there is much interest in the taxonomy of atheism in the academic literature, not that there was no academic literature on atheism generally.

Let's look in more detail at the list you claim he "finds taxonomies [of atheism] in".

First of all, it's interesting that exactly the same list of books appears in this Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article, by JJC Smart: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/. So I think you must have made a mistake in attributing it to Nielsen, unless Nielsen merely reprinted Smart's bibliography in the new edition of his book?

Just to emphasise, that bibliography is absolutely not a list of works exploring the taxonomy of atheism. It's not even, it seems, by Nielsen.

I've read several of the works in that list, I can tell you that most of them don't discuss the taxonomy of atheism at all. For example:

AJ Ayer's "Language Truth and Logic" only mentions atheism in passing in a footnote in order to dismiss it as allegedly falling foul of the same verification principle as other metaphysical assertions.

Samuel Butler's "Erewhon" is, of course, a novel.

Clifford's "The Ethics of Belief" doesn't mention atheism (see http://www.infidels.org/library/histori ... elief.html.

And that's just for starters. It would take a bit more research to dispose of the rest of them, but just looking down the list I think only a couple explicitly discuss different forms of atheism.

The "in his own bibliography" list includes Paul Edward's article on atheism in the 1967 Encyclopedia of Atheism. This does indeed attempt to develop a taxonomy of different kinds of atheism. It's one of the rare few examples. Nielsen distinguishes between atheisms too in various of his works. But most of the rest don't. D'Holbach doesn't, Bradlaugh really doesn't, Nietzsche doesn't, Marx and Engels don't, Feuerbach doesn't...

Dan
whitecraw wrote:The most recent review of the literature I’ve seen is Kai Nielsen’s Atheism & Philosophy (2005). He finds taxonomies in:

Alexander, Samuel, 1927, Space, Time and Deity, London: Macmillan.Ayer,
• A.J., 1936, 2nd ed. 1946: Language, Truth and Logic, London: Gollancz.
• Bradley, M.C., 2001, ‘The Fine-Tuning Argument’, Religious Studies, 37: 451-66.
• Bradley, M.C., 2002, ‘The Fine-Tuning Argument: The Bayesian Version’, Religious Studies, 38: 375-404.
• Broad, C.D., 1923, Scientific Thought, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
• Butler, Samuel, 1932, Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited, London: J.M. Dent.
• Clifford, W.K., 1999, ‘The Ethics of Belief (1877)’, in The Ethics of Belief and other Essays , Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
• Findlay, J.N., 1955, ‘Can God's Existence be Disproved?’ In Flew and MacIntyre 1955, with replies by G.E. Hughes and A.C.A. Rainer and final comment by Findlay.
• Flew, A. and MacIntyre, A. (eds.), 1955, New Essays in Philosophical Theology, London: S.C.M. Press.
• Frege, G., 1980, Foundations of Arithmetic, J.L. Austin (trans.), Oxford: Blackwell.
• Gettier, E.L., 1963, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?’ Analysis, 23: 121-3.
• Grice, H.P., 1989, Studies in the Way of Words, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
• Huxley, T.H., 1895, Collected Essays: Volume 5, London: Macmillan.
• Leslie, John, 1979, Value and Existence, Oxford: Blackwell.
• Leslie, John, 1989, Universes, London: Routledge.
• Levine, Michael P., 1994, Pantheism: A Non-Theistic Concept of Deity, London: Routledge.
• Manson, Neil A. (ed.), 2003, God and Design, London: Routledge.
• Musgrave, Alan, 1974, ‘The Objectivism of Popper's Epistemology’ with Popper's Reply, in Schilpp (ed.) 1974, Volume 2.
• Ryle, G., 1935, ‘Taking Sides In Philosophy’, Philosophy, 12: 317-32.
• Schilpp, P.A. (ed.), 1974, The Philosophy of Karl Popper, La Salle, IL: Open Court.
• Smart, J.J.C. and Haldane, John, 2003, Atheism and Theism, 2nd Edn, Oxford: Blackwell.
• Smart, J.J.C., 1981, ‘Physicalism and Emergence’, Neuroscience, 6: 109-13.
• Whitehead, A.N., 1929, Process and Reality, London: Cambridge University Press.
In his own bibliography, he cites in addition the following work:
The article "Atheism" in The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, vol. 1, pp. 174-189 (1967, reissued 1972), and the article "Agnoticism" in the Dictionary of the History of Ideas, vol. 1, pp. 17-27 (1968), give sophisticated conceptual elucidations of the concept of atheism. See also Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 2, pp. 173-190 (1922); Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, vol. 1, cols. 866-870 (1950); Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3rd ed., vol. 1, cols. 670-678 (1957); GEORGE KLAUS and MANFRED BUHR (eds.), Philosophisches Wörterbuch, 6th rev. and enl. ed., vol. 1, pp. 125-129 (1969); Enciclopedia filosofica, 2nd ed., vol. 1, col. 557-562 (1968); and KAI NIELSEN, Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (1982). A classic extended history of atheism is FRITZ MAUTHNER, Der Atheismus und seine Geschichte im Abendland, 4 vol. (1920-23, reissued 1963). See also JACOB PRESSER, Das Buch "De tribus impostoribus" (1926); JOHN MACKINNON ROBERTSON, A Short History of Freethought, Ancient and Modern (1957, reissued 1972); HENRI BUSSON, Le Rationalisme dans la littérature française de la Renaissance (1533-1601), new ed., rev. and augmented (1971); and CORNELIO FABRO, God in Exile: Modern Atheism (1968; orginally published in Italian, 1961). Modern atheism is treated in CHARLES BRADLAUGH, Champion of Liberty: Charles Bradlaugh (1933); BARON D'HOLBACH, The System of Nature (1756-96, reissued 1970; originally published in French, 1770), and Common Sense (1795, reissued 1972; originally published in French, 1772); ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, Complete Essays of Schopenhauer, trans. by T. BAILEY SAUNDERS (1896); LUDWIG FEUERBACH, The Essence of Christianity (1854, reissued 1972, trans. of 2nd German ed.; originally published in German, 1841); FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Thus Spake Zarathustra (1896; originally issued in German, 1883-92); KARL MARX and FRIEDRICH ENGELS, On Religion (1955); THOMAS H. HUXLEY, Collected Essays, vol. 5 (1894); and LESLIE STEPHEN, An Agnostic's Apology, and Other Essays (1893), and History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, 3rd ed., 2 vol., (1902, reissued 1963). Powerful contemporary defenses of atheism, together with some religious responses, are given in NORBERT O. SCHEDLER (ed.), Philosophy of Religion (1794).

Contemporary analytical discussions of atheism include MICHAEL SCRIVEN, Primary Philosophy (1966); RICHARD ROBINSON, An Atheist's Values (1964, reissued 1975); BERTRAND RUSSELL, Why I Am Not a Christian, and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (1957); KAI NIELSEN, Skepticism (1973), and Reason and Practice (1971); SIDNEY HOOK, The Quest for Being, and Other Studies in Naturalism and Humanism (1961, reprinted 1971); and RONALD W. HEPBURN, Christianity and Paradox (1958, reissued 1968). Two anthologies that give the core debate between belief and unbelief are MALCOLM L. DIAMOND and THOMAS V. LITZENBURG, JR. (eds.), The Logic of God (1975); and ANTONY FLEW and ALASDAIR MacINTYRE and PAUL ROCOEUR, The Religious Significance of Atheism (1969); and MOSTAFA FAGHFOURY (ed.), Analytical Philosophy of Religion in Canada (1982).
It's not a great deal, I admit.

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#23 Post by whitecraw » January 12th, 2008, 8:27 pm

The ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ names didn’t come into common usage until the early 1990s, but the concepts they represent have been in use for some time. In earlier philosophical publications, the terms ‘negative atheism’ and ‘positive atheism’ were more common; these terms were used by Antony Flew in 1972, although Jacques Maritain used the phrases in a similar context as early as 1949.

Within negative or weak atheism, the philosopher Anthony Kenny distinguishes between agnostics, who find the claims ‘God exists’ and ‘God doesn’t exist’ to be uncertain in their truth, and theological noncognitivists (like myself) who consider all God-talk to be literally meaningless.

So we could augment Nielsen’s meagre list with:

Kenny, Anthony (2006). "Worshipping an Unknown God". Ratio 19 (4): 442.
Maritain, Jacques (July 1949). "On the Meaning of Contemporary Atheism" in The Review of Politics 11 (3): 267-280.
Flew, Antony (1984). The Presumption of Atheism
Plantinga, Alvin (1964) God and Other Minds
Ward, Keith (2006) Is Religion Dangerous?

But… whatever. The taxonomy I outlined is extant. You don’t have to accept it if it doesn’t suit. Others are possible. It makes no difference whatsoever to my contention that there are atheists who exhibit the characteristics by which fundamentalists are identified.

But, of course, the taxonomy of fundamentalism on which this contention depends is equally arbitrary and can be accepted or discounted according to how useful you find it. There are various ways of looking at these things, as Humpty Dumpty pointed out. And as I said: you pays your money, you makes your choice.

Addendum: here's another, albeit less academic/more tongue-in-cheek taxonomy I found the other day:
One. Those rationalists who believe in science, rationality, and truth, and who abhor relativism and nihilism, and who have very firm moral principles grounded in reason itself — but who see no evidence for the existence of God, neither for the theism of the ancient Greeks and Romans nor the personal God of Judaism and Christianity. They might wish that they could believe in God, but their intellectual conscience will not allow them to.

Two. Those relativists and nihilists who do believe, as Nietzsche warned, that the “death of God” has also meant the death of trust in reason and science and objective rules of morality. Such atheists, therefore, may for arbitrary reasons choose to live for their own pleasure, or for the joy of exercising brute power and will. This is the kind of moral nihilism that communist and fascist regimes depended upon, to justify the brutal use of power. It appears, also, to be the kind of atheism that Ayn Rand commended.

Three. Those who do not believe in the personal God who heeds prayers, and is concerned about the moral lives of individual human beings — the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Instead, some who call themselves atheists actually do recognize a principle of intelligent order and even awe-inspiring beauty in the natural world. They also believe in a kind of primordial energy or dynamic power, which pushes along, for example, evolution and the potentiality of human progress. They are at about the same stage in thinking about morality and metaphysics as the ancient Greeks.

Four. The “Methodist atheists” — those who maintain all the qualities of niceness and good moral habits and gentle feelings associated with the followers of Wesley down the generations, but do so without believing in God. In other words, they remain indebted to inherited Christian moral sentiments, even while they seldom or never darken church doors. They have come to think that believing in God is a little like believing in Santa Claus. They have outgrown the metaphysics, but not the ethics.

Five. The merely practical atheists — that is, those who by habit remain members of a religious faith, and who share a certain pietas regarding their family gods, and continue going to church according to the old routines, but whose daily behavior and speech show that they actually live as if God does not exist. Their religiousness is formal, routine, empty — or very nearly so. Indignantly, they may insist that they are not atheists, a term they probably associate with #2 above.

Six. Those like Friedrich von Hayek, who wished he could be religious but confessed that he seemed to have no “ear” for it, just as some people have no ear for music. He felt he was an atheist by defect.

Lord Muck oGentry
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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#24 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » January 13th, 2008, 12:56 am

whitecraw,

I take it this is the article from which you are quoting:
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MT ... iNmQ=#more
What we can't say, we can't say and we can't whistle it either. — Frank Ramsey

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#25 Post by Dan » January 13th, 2008, 1:22 pm

Whitecraw nicked most of his last edit from Wikipedia, all the Jacques Maritain stuff etc. This is ironic, since I was the one who added that information to Wikipedia!

There are taxonomies of atheism, but it is untrue to claim that they are widely used or referred to in the academic literature, or that they are particularly widely accepted beyond that (weak/strong and positive/negative barely register in the academic literature, for example, though they are popular elsewhere, particularly on the web thanks to the influence of the alt.atheism mailing list since the early 1990s).

It's a small point, really.

Dan


{A couple of posts about plagiarism have been split off to a new thread here - admin.}

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#26 Post by clayto » January 13th, 2008, 6:56 pm

I find it odd how little reference has been made to agnosticism so far, especially as some of the 'types' of 'atheism' identified,
such as 'weak', 'negative' 'soft' are commonly labelled as forms of agnosticism --- from Darwin and Huxley onwards. As a 'hard agnostic myself' I distinguish it from soft agnosticism --- as I believe that not only do we not know now whether god exists, it is highly improbable that we will ever know (one thing over which I disagree with Dawkins). Bertrand Russell defined an agnostic as one who "thinks that it is impossible to know the truth in matters such as God and a future life with which the Christian religion and other religions are concerned." See "The Agnostic Reader" edited by S. T Joshi for lots of material on agnosticism from such writers as Huxley, Fawcet, Darrow, Russell, Strauss, Ingersoll, Einstein, Asimov, Foote and others.

Some Humanists / secularists get uptight about references to 'fundamentalist atheism'. Some try to claim fundamentalism can only correctly refer to religion so I am interested to see the 'academic' work mention suggesting otherwise; some of the 'five characteristic marks of fundamentalism' can clearly be found among atheists I have encountered! However, putting aside such treatment I would like to suggest a rationale for the use of 'fundamentalist atheist' by 'moderate, liberal, pluralist, open society' humanists ----- a good proportion (but not all) of whom will be agnostic rather than atheist. Some of us fear that the 'mind set' of some 'new atheist' humanists is rather like a mirror image of fundamentalist religion, as dogmatic in their certainty of the non-existence of god and the evil of all religion as religionists are of god's existence and the goodness of their own religion (though not necessarily anybody else's). More than one recent article in The New Humanist has expressed this concern.

It is not that atheism is fundamentalist but that some atheists are (or appear to be) in the extremism, dogmatism, intolerance, exaggeration they use to express themselves, so that they appear to others not unlike the religionists they condemn.

Chris
clayto

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#27 Post by xman » January 13th, 2008, 7:19 pm

Imagine the real world, a natural world governed by natural laws and completely definable in scientific terms.
Now imagine that somewhere in this world is a box. It is a richly ornate box encrusted with jewels stolen from the four corners of the earth.
Inside the box are all the mystical ideas, false assumptions and unprovable religions of men and women including.
The ideas yell at the world outside the box insisting on inclusion and they fight with each other inside the box as well, but they can't leave the box and enter the rational world if they are irrational ideas.

Think outside the box.

X

PS If you close the box you can read the owner's name on the lid .. Pandora
Always remember, it's your right to have a SUPER day.
If you're wrong, call me ... I'll have one for you!

Critical Thinking - http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/ctlessons.html

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#28 Post by Dan » January 14th, 2008, 10:28 am

clayto wrote:I believe that not only do we not know now whether god exists, it is highly improbable that we will ever know (one thing over which I disagree with Dawkins).
Before "agnosticism" was coined, what was meant by many agnostics was comfortably regarded as within the scope of atheism.

The question, however, is on what grounds you think it improbable. Seems to me that agnosticism is often basically dogmatic (fundamentalist?) on the epistemology involved.
Some of us fear that the 'mind set' of some 'new atheist' humanists is rather like a mirror image of fundamentalist religion, as dogmatic in their certainty of the non-existence of god and the evil of all religion as religionists are of god's existence and the goodness of their own religion (though not necessarily anybody else's). More than one recent article in The New Humanist has expressed this concern.
But what is this fear based on? Dawkins, for example, does not claim "certainty of the non-existence of God".

Dan

clayto
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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#29 Post by clayto » January 14th, 2008, 12:09 pm

A few responses to Dan:

Quote "Before "agnosticism" was coined, what was meant by many agnostics was comfortably regarded as within the scope of atheism."

But agnosticism was coined, a long time ago, and is a better word than atheism to label the beliefs to which it applies (the use of 'atheism' often causes unnecessary misunderstanding) so it should be used!

Quote "Seems to me that agnosticism is often basically dogmatic (fundamentalist?) on the epistemology involved."

I would not go out of my way to try to deny that some agnostics might be 'dogmatic / fundamentalist' though as suggested in my previous posting it is the 'ics' rather than the 'isms' to which fundamentalism may apply; and I am inclined to think that agnostics are likely to be less prone to either fundamentalism or dogmatism (related but not the same thing) than most (all? --- note the ?) than other viewpoints.

Quote "But what is this fear based on? Dawkins, for example, does not claim "certainty of the non-existence of God"."

The fear is based on a great many things, Dawkins himself being one of the least. I say 'himself' because much of the fear is caused by misquoting, misinterpretation and even deliberate misrepresentation of what he says by both his opponents and his supporters. Like for example, the confusion over 'The Root Of All Evil?' with the question mark being either accidentally or even deliberately left out. The fear (justified or not) may be based more on Harris and Hitchins (who I know less about than Dawkins) and even the gentlemanly Grayling ----- but in particular much lesser figures such as a recent frequent contributor to the BHA Forum who insists she will not even try to approach the issue in a balanced way as "I don’t think religion has anything good over and above the good and bad actions of people religious or not". Some Pele will see responses on this website to the New Humanist article 'Holy Communion' by Richard Norman as providing plenty of grounds for fears of an 'atheist fundamentalist tendency'.

Finally, for clarification not because it is a major issue, while Dawkins does not claim 'certainty of the none-existence of God' he does claim to believe that science will eventually be able to 'prove' God does not (or does) exist. I do not share that level of confidence in the capacity of science or human understanding generally. I lean towards the view that modern science reinforces belief that 'certainty is absurd.'

Chris

We should try to see ourselves as others see us.
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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#30 Post by clayto » January 14th, 2008, 12:13 pm

Towards the end of my posting a sentence should begin with 'Some people --' not as shown.

Chris
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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#31 Post by whitecraw » January 14th, 2008, 1:34 pm

It’s difficult to see how an agnostic could meaningfully be said to be dogmatic, when agnosticism is a particular instance of fallibilism (a recognition of the deep fallibility of human beings and the unattainability of absolute certainty). Unless, of course, the agnostic was dogmatic in his or her fallibilism, which would be a cuddly wee instance of the classical reflexive paradox.

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#32 Post by clayto » January 14th, 2008, 4:02 pm

I suppose some people might think an agnostic to be dogmatic who insists one cannot know something which others think there is ample evidence / supportive reasoning for? If for example I insisted we cannot be certain the world is round? This should not be confused with the idea that absolutely nothing is certain, not even our own existence, in the way this may be viewed in Idealism, Buddhism, Descarte and now Quantum Physics. I have always inclined to the view that we may in some sense create the universe by perceiving it, something which philosophers and scientists are taking seriously again.

Chris
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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#33 Post by Dan » January 14th, 2008, 5:07 pm

whitecraw wrote:It’s difficult to see how an agnostic could meaningfully be said to be dogmatic, when agnosticism.. blah
I said what I meant.

An agnostic might dogmatically assert that it is impossible to know whether or not god exists. In fact, this often is a dogmatic assertion. Agnosticism means lots of things, and one of the things it might mean is uncertainty on the existence of god. But it doesn't have to mean that: if it means the view that the question of the existence of God can never be settled, then it can certainly be dogmatic.

Dan

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#34 Post by Dan » January 14th, 2008, 5:19 pm

clayto wrote:I suppose some people might think an agnostic to be dogmatic who insists one cannot know something which others think there is ample evidence / supportive reasoning for? If for example I insisted we cannot be certain the world is round? This should not be confused with the idea that absolutely nothing is certain, not even our own existence, in the way this may be viewed in Idealism, Buddhism, Descarte and now Quantum Physics. I have always inclined to the view that we may in some sense create the universe by perceiving it, something which philosophers and scientists are taking seriously again.

Chris
Agnostics are often using the label agnostic in reaction to what they take to be the dogmatism of atheism. They are, of course, wrong about what atheists need to claim in terms of certainty, but let that go for a moment. The result, regardless, is that agnostics tend to be on the less certain end of the spectrum.

No, my comment about dogmatic agnosticism was directed towards those forms of agnosticism which make a specific epistemological claim: ie. that nobody can ever know whether or not there is a god. I say that this is often a simply dogmatic assertion, since it is not clear what evidence can be offered in support of such a position.

Not all agnostics would say that, though. Agnosticism has means lots of things.

Dan

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#35 Post by whitecraw » January 14th, 2008, 11:21 pm

I see what you mean, Dan. You're referring to folk who are agnostic in their theology but not in their epistemology, and so may consequently claim certainty in relation only to their beliefs concerning their ability to have knowledge of such theological matters as the existence or non-existence of God. Such folk, who admit only a partial or selective fallibilism, might indeed be dogmatic. Like partial sceptics, I suppose.

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#36 Post by whitecraw » January 15th, 2008, 12:29 am

Thing is, Chris: what an agnostic, as a fallibilist, must never say is that it is certain that absolutely nothing is certain. For then s/he’d sound even more absurd than Socrates, who notoriously laid claim to the knowledge that knew nothing. But, of course, as Dan reminded me this doesn't apply to those who are only agnostic in relation to theological matters.
I have always inclined to the view that we may in some sense create the universe by perceiving it, something which philosophers and scientists are taking seriously again.
The kind of humanism represented by this view has never really gone out of fashion. Marx expressed it in his claim that man is a self-creative being who develops the capacities peculiar to his species as he lives and works with his fellows and who, in this process, acquires his ideas of the world and of himself. And, of course, Sartre also insisted that ‘Without the world there is no selfhood, no person; without the person, there is no world.’

The thinking behind this kind of humanism is thus:

Although we talk about ‘the world’, the expression has many meanings, some of which are far from clear. It is tempting to say with Wittgenstein that the world is everything that is the case; the sum total of facts. But there is a difficulty with this. No one knows the extent or the content of all that exists; so how is it possible to say anything meaningful about ‘the world’? It would seem that when anyone talks about ‘the world’, s/he could meaningfully mean at most everything of which s/he is aware of of which s/he can form some idea; but s/he could never claim to be saying anything meaningful about everything that exists.

The expression ‘world’, then, would seem always to include the point of view of the person who is talking about the world. It does not stand (except in our imaginations) for something altogether independent of those who talk about it, but rather for their total environment as they are aware of it. It is senseless to pronounce about ‘everything that exists’ as if the world was some transendent ‘given’.

The other side of the coin, however, is that it is not just everything that exists, but is everything that forms a person’s environment and provides the setting in which that person’s life has to be lived, which includes that person’s culture as well as his or her psychology. The very word ‘world’ is derived from the compound ‘weor-old’ or ‘man-time’, so that taken etymologically ‘world’ is one’s personal ‘epoch’.

Strictly speaking then, there is no world apart from the person whose environment it is (unless, of course, we presume God or some correlative value (e.g. the ‘ideal observer’ of morality and science) which transcends the world and is not thereby ‘enworlded’. This is the basic premise of humanism. This is not to be taken in the sense of some kind of subjective idealism, in which the material world depends for its existence on the minds that perceive it. If there were no humans, there might still be galaxies, trees, rocks and so on; but the sum total of these things could not constitute a world, for we have already seen how any talk of ‘everything that is the case’ is meaningless. The humanist premise is not a metaphysical pronouncement on the mind-dependent character of material things, anymore than it could be a metaphysical pronouncement on the matter-dependent character of mental things. This kind of humanism doesn’t do metaphysics. It simply makes the linguistic point that whenever we talk about ‘the world’ we are also revealing something about ourselves and our ‘epoch’, on the grounds that the expression ‘world’ implies a standpoint from which everything is experienced as environment.

We each organise a world. We may not ‘make’ the world in the sense that a carpenter makes a table, but we make it a ‘world’. Even to speak of ‘world’ is to imply some kind of organisation. The world is not just a chaos of ‘one damned thing after another’; it exhibits an order. Thus the Greeks called the world ‘kosmos’. We organise our experience into a world. Theists will tell you that this is only possible because the world already has a pre-existent order which we discover in the nature of things themselves and to which our minds will ‘agree’ to the extent that our ideas are ‘true’. Humanists reply that the extent to which we never succeed in wholly unifying our world, that there are always loose ends and periodic paradigm shifts, puzzles and mysteries, is indicative that there is no pre-existent order given to the world and just waiting to be discovered. Science is forever unfinished business, an ongoing quest for knowledge that never quite achieves its goal. If the Truth was out there waiting to be discovered, rather than something which is continually being made and remade again by subsequent historical ‘epochs’, we’d already have discovered it by now.

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#37 Post by clayto » January 16th, 2008, 4:25 pm

I never do say "that it is certain that absolutely nothing is certain", that would be a contradiction of my agnostic position (an oxymoron?). What I say is (a) it is very probable that nothing is certain and (b) specifically with regard to existence of god (and afterlife) it is very probable that we will never know with certainty. (I find it quite odd the number of people who tell me they think they will know after they die ---- I do not see any basis for this even in the unlikely event of there being an afterlife as there is nothing to suggest it would bring such knowledge). I do tend to be a bit 'dogmatic', or I would prefer 'forceful', in my objection to people claiming to be certain about things which we probably 'cannot' be certain about, their certainty seems to me to be just a state of mind (as is my uncertainty) and tells us nothing about reality, only the way they perceive it.

With regard to (a) rather than the humanist and Marxist ideas you explain I am thinking more on the lines of the Buddhist (I used to be a Buddhist) approach to reality along with current work on quantum physics / cosmology etc which includes propositions that we create or at least modify the physical world by perceiving it, even to the extent of 'backwards causality' which I discovered recently, bringing about a cause (even in the long distant past) by perceiving something in the present. This is discussed in Paul Davis, The Goldilocks Enigma. I am currently reading Marcus Chown Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You and will then read the Dali Lama's The Universe in a Single Atom. Such books have many 'counter intuitive' ideas for which there is substantial and increasing scientific evidence and which seem likely to transform our notions of reality ---- and for me reinforce the rationale of uncertainty.

The more we know the more we know there is more to know.

Chris
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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#38 Post by Dan » January 22nd, 2008, 4:28 pm

clayto wrote:I never do say "that it is certain that absolutely nothing is certain", that would be a contradiction of my agnostic position (an oxymoron?). What I say is (a) it is very probable that nothing is certain and (b) specifically with regard to existence of god (and afterlife) it is very probable that we will never know with certainty.
None of which is necessarily in conflict with an atheist position, of course. Dawkins, for example, talks only about the (im)probability of the existence of God, and disclaims the idea that the existence of God can be scientifically proven or disproven.

What's odd is that atheism is associated with "certainty".
current work on quantum physics / cosmology etc which includes propositions that we create or at least modify the physical world by perceiving it, even to the extent of 'backwards causality' which I discovered recently, bringing about a cause (even in the long distant past) by perceiving something in the present. This is discussed in Paul Davis, The Goldilocks Enigma.
John Gray would tell you that you were being dreadfully anthropocentric in saying that humans "create... the physical world".

What we're talking about is quantum particles, and that fact that we can't look at them without changing them. Quantum physics, interestingly for those who use it to back up esoteric theories, is an extraordinarily precise science. "Perception" at the quantum level, of course, involves hitting one type of particle with another type of particle, so you can't look at what is going on without changing what is going on.

The same does not appear to hold true at macro levels.

Dan

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#39 Post by xman » January 22nd, 2008, 5:40 pm

Dan wrote:What's odd is that atheism is associated with "certainty".
And why shouldn't it be. I have a very deep conviction that all those supernatural imaginings don't inhabit the real world. The difference between my convictions and the theists which is dogmatically based on scripture, is that mine are based on evidence. Given sufficiently contradictory evidence, I'm prepared to question my own convictions. Is the theist prepared to doubt his belief? That's heresy isn't it?

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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#40 Post by clayto » January 22nd, 2008, 5:52 pm

Dan, some of what you say appears very 'questionable' to say the least, such as

Quote:" Dawkins, for example, talks only about the (im)probability of the existence of God, and disclaims the idea that the existence of God can be scientifically proven or disproven."

On page 50 he says "God's existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice." Elsewhere I recall him expressing even stronger confidence in the ability of science to eventually (not now) prove God's existence / non-existence (I will find where in due course). You seem to me to be wrong when you say he disclaims the idea can be scientifically proven or disproven. Personally I very much doubt the likelihood of science ever discovering with certainty the existence / non-existence of God, hence I disagree with Dawkins on this.

Quote: "Quantum physics, interestingly for those who use it to back up esoteric theories, is an extraordinarily precise science."

You seem to be saying exactly the reverse of what all the books I am currently reading on QP are saying, they emphasise uncertainty, possibilities and probabilities only ----- and a great deal of 'quantum weirdness' clearly indicating that reality is not what we think it is. From Heisenberg's 'uncertainty principal' onwards. You seem to be giving a desperately over-simplified gloss on Quantum Physics /Mechanics/ Cosmology, the understanding of which is admitted to be beyond the scientists currently engaged in it.

Quote: "anthropocentric in saying that humans "create... the physical world". In the participatory universe model it is consciousness that either creates or takes part in creating 'the physical world.' Physicist John Wheeler "claimed that only a universe containing observer-participators could exist ..." Paul Davis. The idea along with a great deal of Quantum Physics may be counter-intuitive now but so was the idea of the world being round, with people below us hanging upside-down.

Chris
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Re: Atheistic Fundamentalism

#41 Post by Alan C. » January 22nd, 2008, 6:42 pm

The Christians have made a two minute advert for TV, it touches on Atheist fundamentalism and stars Dawkins and Harris.
I'm told it's being aired on a couple of sky religious channels and on US TV.
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