Friday Roundup

Another atheist I can agree with on so much:

“Another consequence of fetishizing the often ill-defined might of “logic and reason” and a narrow comprehension of science is scientism…When I use the word scientism, I’m referring to mindsets that either underappreciate, discount, or even denigrate the contributions of philosophy, the context of lived experiences, and the significance of social sciences. Thus, scientism in this context describes attitudes that view natural science as the only meaningful interpretation of life…
An over-commitment to a limited realm of science that disregards philosophy is how we get epistemological distortions by some declaring “I have no beliefs,”…This is also how we get those who overlook the import of fields like cognitive science, psychology, sociology, and anthropology and conclude the only way people could be religious is because they suffer from mental defect or mental illness…
As covered in Why You Sound Ridiculous Claiming Religiosity is a Mental Defect, this belief isn’t only ableist but it underscores a refusal to acknowledge the limitations of the scientific method.
Those who embrace scientism have a habit of erasing the value of sociocultural issues. They’ll also attempt to explain physical, social, cultural, or psychological phenomena through a single scope that exalts the methods of natural sciences above all other forms of human inquiry…”

And then there are other atheists (David Cross) who have no idea what they are talking about…

Milbank nails it:
“[Stephen] Law is inexplicably stuck, like so many ‘philosophers of religion’ who are simply behind the curve, in a long-ago exploded (by Sellars, Quine, Davidson, Rorty, McDowell, Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault etc) philosophical world view for which truth can be neatly divided between truths of fact and truth of logic, between the lab and the armchair. Equally between both and claims of value, which therefore must be airily subjective and surely the masks of power as Nietzsche taught. One is here so disappointed with the lily-livered character of recent Anglo-Saxon atheists, who will not boldly and bracingly embrace, like the Alpine philosopher, the collapse of all ethics that must follow in the wake of the death of God. For nihilism is worthy of respect but not humanism – the ultimate result of Protestant middle-class and middle-brow culture, despicable to all peasants and nobility alike!”
The above is so clear from the comments to my last post regarding power and ethics.  They are the responses of those who, aware or unawares, are simply mimicking that which was bequeathed to them from a “Protestant middle-class and middle-brow culture, despicable to all peasants and nobility alike!”
Nietzsche is still the only atheist worthy of our respect—God that there were more like him today.  Instead we have the “lily-livered” impostors who want a Judeo-Christian ethic and sensibility of decency and “richness” in our culture but are clueless as to what that requires.

Is modern unbelief rooted in Christianity?  Absolutely it is.  Even the unbelief of modernity isn’t something the agnostic or atheist could generate themselves.  It is derivative of the space opened up by theological moves, not secular ones.

He really should delete his social mediaaccounts…wow.
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11 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Hi Darrell

    “One is here so disappointed with the lily-livered character of recent Anglo-Saxon atheists, who will not boldly and bracingly embrace, like the Alpine philosopher, the collapse of all ethics that must follow in the wake of the death of God.”

    I'd just make the broad point that the type pf rhetoric quoted approvingly here, does create an unnecessary opportunity for conflict. Maybe the atheists in question are lily-livered, but I'm sure we all understand the possibility that they are simply disagreeing with Nietzsche's line of reasoning (and they'd hardly be the first to do so). As soon as we preclude the possibility that those we disagree with might have a valid point, and it's worth teasing out how they construct their case, our understanding of the world is diminished.

    Nietzsche thought that if we couldn't ground ethics in God, there was nowhere it could be grounded. Others argue that this depends upon what we mean by ethics in the first place. In other words, Nietzsche's problem may simply have been a deficit of imagination. If we re-imagine ethics as simply describing a set of behavioural norms ascribed by a society, in its attempt to negotiate the inevitable trade-off between individual freedom and the desire of the individual to be afforded the protections and opportunities the social group provides, then we have a socially negotiated referent for ethics, and no collapse is necessary. Or so would argue many atheists. Now, rather than call them out as cowards, a better first step is to start by explaining why a set of socially negotiated rules can not become the referent for ethical statements.

    Bernard

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  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    I think we just had this conversation in my last post, so no need to do that here as well. Milbank’s choice of words could have been better, but I completely agree with the over-all sentiment. The “new” atheists simply are not serious nor have they thought very deeply about any of this—none of them have gone as deep or been as serious as Nietzsche as to the implications for morality if God does not exist. I think he saw what it truly would mean. I think most new atheists are whistling past the grave yard at night. Nietzsche actually stopped, went in, and sat down among the tombstones.

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  3. Burk says:

    “.. the collapse of all ethics that must follow in the wake of the death of God”

    I know you are attached to this view, but it really boggles the mind. You don't even know that god exists- you just believe it by a sort of well-trained faith. So whether it is dead or not is equally a subject of utter (objective) ignorance, not to mention its properties and ethics. So the expression that it has died is as always, a social statement of the fall of particular tradition and power structure, not an objective claim either way. So where does that leave an objective morality, or its supposed consequences in ethics? Nowhere, really.

    It is hilarious, this pining for Nietzsche, who conceeded far more than required, and who had a heavy theological strain of his own in his pronouncements. Such crocodile tears, all because the atheist community has moved on, out of penumbra of Christian propaganda.

    At any rate, I appreciated your first link. I hope that I follow his advice on recognizing many other social and artistic threads to our culture, while using reason as appropriate in its critical and progressive capacities. As for the proposition that religion depends on some kind of mental defect, it is obviously not a defect in the can-not-operate-in-reality sense. But on the other hand, there is something odd about faith, as observed by William James onward, which can make normal people do and especially think quite abnormal and externally unwarranted things. So it is reasonable to ask what about us makes us susceptible to that, which in your frame of reference would be all the religions that are incorrect, from Mormonism to Hinduism, etc. (Even atheism, insofar as it asserts something so utterly and obviously false?) Some are surely flagrantly incorrect, yet are believed in with a sort of sincere faith. Why? There must be psychological and evolutionary explanations. We have many other mental defects or proclivities that are non-optimal, yet shared by everyone. It is in that context that these studies and perusals take place.

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  4. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “.. the collapse of all ethics that must follow in the wake of the death of God”

    “You don't even know that god exists- you just believe it by a sort of well-trained faith.”

    Just as you do not know God doesn’t exist—just as your atheism is also the result of a trained faith.

    “…So the expression that it has died is as always, a social statement of the fall of particular tradition and power structure, not an objective claim either way.”

    To assume it is only a social statement regarding the fall of a tradition or social structure begs the question of God’s existence. Nietzsche’s point is one cannot have the morality, without the referent. Otherwise, religion or an appeal to an objective morality is simply a mask for power (which it is, without truly believing the referent exists). So it leaves the question of whether morality is objective in referent or not as very consequential and is why it is still an open and debated question in philosophy.

    “At any rate, I appreciated your first link. I hope that I follow his advice on recognizing many other social and artistic threads to our culture, while using reason as appropriate in its critical and progressive capacities.”

    I am certainly happy you appreciated the link, but in my own view after years of reading your comments, I don’t think you follow his advice at all and are guilty most times of the very things he is critiquing.

    “As for the proposition that religion depends on some kind of mental defect, it is obviously not a defect in the can-not-operate-in-reality sense. But on the other hand, there is something odd about faith, as observed by William James onward, which can make normal people do and especially think quite abnormal and externally unwarranted things.”

    What is “normal” for a relativist/subjectivist? Who gets to say? Putting that aside, there is nothing more odd about the faith of the religious person than there is about the faith of the atheist.

    “So it is reasonable to ask what about us makes us susceptible to that…”

    Yes, what does make an atheist susceptible to that sort of faith, a faith rarely held in history or even now?

    “Some are surely flagrantly incorrect, yet are believed in with a sort of sincere faith.”

    Like atheism? Agreed.

    “Why? There must be psychological and evolutionary explanations.”

    Indeed, why? I’m sure there are psychological and evolutionary explanations for atheism, but I think them insulting as they simply assume atheism to be based in psychology or evolution and nothing more than such, which is really to just assume atheism to be false.

    “We have many other mental defects or proclivities that are non-optimal, yet shared by everyone.”

    You mean like atheism, right? Or, are you actually asserting, unlike the author, that religious belief is a mental defect?

    Your ability Burk to think these critiques as only meant for these “others” is exactly the sensibility the author was holding up as the problem.

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  5. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    As usual, evidence is an important element in all this. Let me ask you a question- what do you make of the Mormon system- the angel Moroni, the golden tablets, the reformed Egyptian? I doubt that you believe a word of it. Yet it is far better attested, in time and in space, than the Jesus story. There is no comparison, yet you are unwilling to give credence to the one that you give to the other. I regard that as a very peculiar, though not uncommon, reading of the evidence, determined by cultural factors entirely outside the evidence at hand.

    So why do some people take the Mormon story as gospel? Ask yourself that. Is it due to reason and dispassionate reading of the evidence, whether supernatural, or terrestrial? No- there is something else going on. What is that?

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  6. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “As usual, evidence is an important element in all this.”

    The writer, nor I, has ever said otherwise. But all evidence is interpreted evidence. To think we can simply appeal to evidence is to make the very mistake the writer notes about scientism. To think you are the only one who cares about or takes into consideration the evidence is insulting. To think that reason and a dispassionate “reading” of the evidence is all that’s going on with your atheism, or one's views of religion, is the very mistake the writer is calling scientism.

    You miss the point. We all disagree with other narratives—that is not the point. The point is you always try and step outside and act as if these critiques do not apply to your atheism/philosophical naturalism. They do.

    You need to ask yourself why you take YOUR story as gospel. And simply resorting to an evidential appeal is entirely unhelpful for reasons I’ve pointed out ad nauseam.

    The writer noted in the link is speaking to you.

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  7. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell

    “And simply resorting to an evidential appeal is entirely unhelpful for reasons…”

    Well, it seems the reasonable place to start.

    Also, one of these narratives may be true, and the others false. Or all false. What would be a philosophically valid way to determine that? The typical path is one of indoctrination, since overwhelmingly, people take on the narrative they were raised in. That seems, prima facie, invalid to me, not to mention pointing to the psychological (if not epistemological) issues I raised previously.

    So, what is that path by which one reaches truth? Or do you think there can be no such path, and in the postmodern way, that there is no truth?

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  8. Burk says:

    Indeed, here is a link you may enjoy.

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  9. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “Also, one of these narratives may be true, and the others false. Or all false. What would be a philosophically valid way to determine that?”

    We’ve been through this a thousand times—I have written many, many posts on this. Agree or disagree, you know how I have addressed these questions.

    I notice you don’t want to address my points, nor the writer’s. You say you appreciate his writing. Do you appreciate he is writing to you? Do you appreciate he is critiquing the very line of questions, assumptions, and thought you are displaying in this comment thread?

    Why not address the quotes I pull out of the link? Why not address the main points here?

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  10. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Nope, you are barking up the wrong tree. I was invoking philosophy, not disparaging it. Your writer only emphasizes that there is such a thing as philosophy and humanities, and facets of humanity other than science. Fine. That does not wave away, as you do, the ability, indeed duty, to bring a critical and rational appraisal of evidence to bear on putatively *objective phenomena, especially where it might cut to the quick of one's traditional and well-indoctrinated beliefs.

    Do you follow any of these true-crime / exoneration series? They portray a murky epistemological world where many are mistaken. Yet there is no doubt that a true version of reality has occurred, and they labor, rightfully, to search out those pieces of *evidence that will shed light on the matter. The stronger the evidence, the less interpretation is required, just as in science the well-staged and documented experiment can blow through a great deal of preconceived opposition. That is the point of looking for and properly interpreting evidence.

    Or do you think that the “limits of science” prevent it, or other rational philosophy, from taking a view on the miracles of Jesus and the existence of the supernatural and divine?

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  11. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “I was invoking philosophy, not disparaging it.”

    Do you really want me to pull up and quote all the times you have disparage philosophy? In the past you wouldn’t even admit to invoking philosophy—you thought you were just speaking “facts” and noting the “evidence.” Seriously?

    “…That does not wave away, as you do, the ability, indeed duty, to bring a critical and rational appraisal of evidence to bear on putatively *objective phenomena, especially where it might cut to the quick of one's traditional and well-indoctrinated beliefs.”

    I have never “waved” such a way. What I have asserted that we are always coming to our critical and rational appraisal of the evidence by way of an over-all world-view or narrative that shapes the way we use and understand critical reason and how we view the evidence. If you think making that distinction is “waving” away the use of such, then you are making the very mistakes noted by the writer.

    Again, you miss the fact your own views are tradition based and well-indoctrinated. Maybe you need your own view cut to the quick. You refuse to look in the mirror. Again, the writer is writing to you in the portion I quote and he is an atheist. I hope you can appreciate that.

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