• darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    I'm going to unabashedly re-post this question that I posted in a different forum recently:

    How do you deal with the fact that very smart people disagree with you?

    For example, on the existence of god, I consider myself an agnostic that is leaning towards atheism. Although theism is not the majority view of philosophers, it seems absurd that the theistic philosophers are just idiots.

    I use this example because when it comes to the existence of god, it often includes the existence of hell. And although I have my own opinions on this (such as the perceived incompatibility of hell and omnibenevolence, the argument from evil, the argument from ignorance, etc) I have to wonder how a professional philosopher can actually argue that these things exist and are compatible, or how any rational person for that matter can hold such positions. Which actually makes me doubt my own opinions, like they are superficial because they apparently do not have the argumentative power to sway the opinions of professionals. Therefore, I end up doubting my own view (even though it makes perfect sense to me) simply because much smarter, more professional people aren't swayed by them; and worse, if I'm wrong, off to hell I go (and it might be justified even). Having more confidence in my views is especially important because if I'm wrong, I might go to hell, and even though this seems absurd to me, this isn't absurd to a lot of philosophers so it might be justified to send me to hell simply because I'm ignorant (which also seems absurd to me, and yet I find it ridiculous to assume these philosophers haven't thought about that). It's a bit of a vicious circle.

    Aquinas, Anselm, Plantinga, van Inwagen, etc were/all Christians (for example) and all contributed greatly to philosophy: they obviously were quite intelligent. So how could they miss something that I find to be obviously absurd? Isn't it more likely that me, the novice, has missed something?

    End of re-post.

    This doesn't apply just to the existence of god/hell (which my above elaboration sounds suspiciously like Pascal's Wager), but really to any position. Is the only rational position to take, agnosticism?

    Obviously the initial reaction would be to just read what they have to say. This can be problematic, though, if the work is very articulated and technical.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    There is a kind of philosophy that is about how to present a simple idea in as garbled and complex a way as possible. Load on the jargon and make it appear that it's all about what a particular philosopher did or didn't say. This is genitally driven philosophy and it does its job: it makes people feel good about themselves. Scholars report that this has been an aspect of philosophy for a good while now. Some philosophers find favor mainly because they feed this spew of bullshit.

    Then there's the kind of philosophy that arises spontaneously from your own life. If it hasn't yet.. give it time. It will. This sort of philosophy cares nothing for what the contemporary trends may be. It doesn't care what the cool kids are saying. It's earnestly trying to understand something.

    As for proofs of God... every one of them is defining God in a peculiar way... Anselm says it's the greatest thing, Descartes says it's perfection, Aquinas says it's the mystery of motion.

    Your thoughts are more important than any of these and the collective academic establishment.

    Because they are your thoughts. Write them down and keep them. Your future self will be amazed by your wisdom.
  • Janus
    8.2k


    For every sophisticated argument supporting any position there is (potentially, at least) always a more sophisticated argument supporting its antithesis. It is always a matter of what your starting assumptions are, that is what is axiomatic for you. This is where the real evaluation takes place in my view; that is, what (ultimately) groundless presuppositions are the most plausible? This will be a matter of taste, or conditioning; should we accept the venerable deliverance of tradition on the basis of their ancient provenance or should we free our speculative reason from all such traditional prejudices as much as possible and start our inquiries afresh?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Interesting response, Mongrel. I share your annoyance with a lot of philosophical "deep-shit" philosophy that hides behind sophisticated word-language. As I like to say, I hate quasi-sophisticated, pretentious fucks. Q.E.D. Why on earth it's so hard just to say what you're trying to say without using a thesaurus is beyond me.

    But maybe it's because I'm stupid. :-d

    Or maybe it's because some of these philosophers realized they made a mistake pursuing a degree in philosophy and now have to compensate. Or maybe it's because reason (and intimidating wordplay) is too often used to justify bullshit.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Dude. Are you an American?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    This is where the real evaluation takes place in my view; that is, what (ultimately) groundless presuppositions are the most plausible?John

    Sweet, this rings very true with me. Philosophy, in my opinion, should be about untangling the crap in our minds and clarifying the basic suppositions of life. It's when grand theories begin to be stated that things get way too twisted and out of touch with reality.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Nothin' important. Just my own brewing psychosis. I've developed a problem with non-Americans, which is really ironic.

    But somehow, I know that the only way to deal with it is to talk to Americans who aren't psychotic.
  • Janus
    8.2k


    I agree that grand theories should not be taken too seriously, but it might be fun creating one yourself or attempting to understand one that has been created by another. I don't think any grand theory can be 'the truth'. I agree with Hegel who says all philosophical systems are dialectically related aspects of the truth, 'truth' being understood here in the Heidegger kind of sense of 'aletheia' (disclosedness, unconcealing or revelation). Grand theories may contain invaluable insights that can be gained nowhere else.
  • WhiskeyWhiskers
    151
    There's an interesting comment by Pierre Hadot, made in an interview at the end of his book Philosophy as a Way of Life. It's something I've long had an inkling or a suspicion of. He says:

    "I was very much influenced by [John Henry] Newman's Grammar of Assent. Newman shows in this work that it's not the same thing to give one's assent to an affirmation which one understands in a purely abstract, and to give one's assent while engaging one's entire being, and "realizing" - in the English sense of the word - with one's heart and one's imagination, just what this affirmation means for us. This distinction between real and notional assent underlies my research on spiritual exercises."

    I think what he's saying here is that you can assent to ideas in a sort of trivial way, perhaps in much the same way a scientist assents to a fact, data or a theory, which can be disbelieved on the moments notice if something better comes along. We give assent like this all the time in every day situations, knowledge or truth that goes as easily as it comes. Then there's a kind of assent that comes to you like a revelation, a "realisation" using "one's entire being", as Hadot says. Here's something I said on PF back in November 2014:

    "knowledge isn't really Knowledge until one finds this knowledge deeply profound (you don't 'get it' until you really get it). This profoundness usually comes with experience (a lesson learned (the hard way)), instead of from a hand-down in a class room, a piece of advice or from the page of a book. But a book or statement can speak to something in your past experience that you may or may not have realised at the time (ie. knowledge through revelation). This does not necessarily apply to scientific knowledge, which probably is just the memorisation of scientific facts/theories."

    This "hand-down in a class room" kind of knowledge is assented to with the kind of assent Newman first speaks of, the trivial sense. You accept it and agree to it, but it's just not the same kind of assent or knowledge as a deeply held belief.
    Both Newmans/Hadots and my ideas of truth and knowledge sound very similar to Johns comment on Heideggers understanding of truth:
    'truth' being understood here in the Heidegger kind of sense of 'aletheia' (disclosedness, unconcealing or revelation).John

    There may be differences in the details though, since I don't know a lot about Heideggers theory of truth or knowledge. But on the face of it they seem eerily similar, or at least compatible.

    I think it's this deeper or profound kind of understanding (literally a revelation of a spiritual/religious kind) that makes people religious, and not their intelligence, or lack thereof. Like someone has said before, I forget who, "No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument." The kind of assent that one gives to an argument is not the same kind of assent one gives to a spiritual experience.
    In fact, if you look at the kinds of studies the New Atheists love to cite, that purport to show a correlation between intelligence and atheism, Newmans Grammar of Assent begins to make sense; perhaps only some people are open to this kind of profound moment of realisation where one really "gets it" - an over-reliance on rationality (and philosophical argumentation) precludes one from these kinds of experiences because logic and argumentation are cold things that require no meaningful or deeply felt experience - just Newman's assent of the former kind.

    [edit]

    This probably explains relativism to a great degree; that the same ideas can strike some people more deeply than others leads some to conclude that truth must therefore be relative in the strict sense (which isn't what Newman, Hadot, or I are claiming) - what's true for some is not true for others. It's similar, but not quite relativism as commonly understood.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I consider myself an agnostic that is leaning towards atheismdarthbarracuda

    Once again, atheism and agnosticism are answers to different questions. Do you have knowledge that God exists? No? Then you are an agnostic. Do you believe that God exists, irrespective of whether you have knowledge that he does? No? Then you are also an atheist.

    So how could they miss something that I find to be obviously absurd? Isn't it more likely that me, the novice, has missed something?darthbarracuda

    Intelligence is not the same as wisdom. Philosophy is the pursuit of the latter, not the former, which is not required to do it. Though there are many intelligent people who have done and are doing philosophy, many of them are not wise, which can be especially seen if one takes a peek at their biographies. Simple greed, envy, anger, or in a word, egoism, sully and even destroy the greatest of minds. I for one don't give two figs about my fellow apes' computing power. I care far more about whether they are compassionate, courteous, sincere, etc.

    it seems absurd that the theistic philosophers are just idiots.darthbarracuda

    It's because they're not.

    Is the only rational position to take, agnosticism?darthbarracuda

    I think you are confusing agnosticism with skepticism, which are very similar but not the same. Agnosticism simply declares your lack of knowledge about something (usually God in deism and/or common theism), but it does not on this account imply that you doubt the veracity of the claim in question. One could be an agnostic theist, for example. Skepticism is the attitude that all claims must be doubted until demonstrated. If you don't find that the arguments theists (masquerading as deists most of the time) make concerning the existence of God have been thoroughly demonstrated enough to warrant your belief in him, then rationally speaking, you ought not to believe.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    This distinction between real and notional assent underlies my research on spiritual exercisesWhiskeyWhiskers

    I quite like this distinction too, but the problem is that religions still require, and in my experience stress, notional assent over and against real assent. In many ways, I am already religious, much more so than my fellow human beings, but only if we judge by the latter. I do not and cannot notionally accept any of the Christian creeds, say. This paradoxically makes me a non-believer who is estranged from what would have otherwise been the religious community best suited to me.

    In ages past, this wouldn't have been a problem, since non-belief would likely never have occurred to me or anyone as a possible stance to take. Religion and culture were indistinguishable. Now, however, all the critical disciplines have shattered that union and rendered it very hard for a great many thinking and contemplative people like myself to swallow the old dogmas. As long as religions cling to such empty verbiage, then their erosion by secularization and our expanding knowledge will continue unabated.
  • Michael
    8k
    Once again, atheism and agnosticism are answers to different questions. Do you have knowledge that God exists? No? Then you are an agnostic. Do you believe that God exists, irrespective of whether you have knowledge that he does? No? Then you are also an atheist. — Thorongil

    An atheist isn't just someone who doesn't believe that God exists; he's someone who believes that God doesn't exist. It's a different thing. For example, I don't believe that it will snow tomorrow, but nor do I believe that it won't snow tomorrow.

    So how would you describe someone who neither believes that God exists nor believes that God does not exist? I'd call them an agnostic.
  • Marchesk
    2.8k
    People start out with different premises and start arguing form there. If your metaphysics is fundamentally different than mine, then of course we're not going to agree on lots of things, no matter how good or bad the arguments presented are.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    If you don't find that the arguments theists (masquerading as deists most of the time)Thorongil

    Very well stated response in general, Thorongil, but especially this part. Nowhere do I see any adequate explanations for why the "first cause" must be external and somehow have its own personality while simultaneously not being under the influence of causal relations.

    Atheism is much too strong of a position, in my tastes. Agnostic deism seems to be where I fit the best, at least currently.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    An atheist isn't just someone who doesn't believe that God exists; he's someone who believes that God doesn't exist.Michael

    You've just described two different types of atheist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_atheism

    It's a different thing.Michael

    No, it's a different type of the same thing.

    So how would you describe someone who neither believes that God exists nor believes that God does not exist? I'd call them an agnostic.Michael

    By definition that person is an atheist, specifically a weak atheist.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Agnostic deism seems to be where I fit the best, at least currently.darthbarracuda

    It doesn't much matter to me, so long as you use the labels right. I loathe all labels, especially political and religious labels, but they if they're going to be used, and it would be foolish to expect them not to be, then they must be used as accurately as possible.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Except that it's not. A/theism deals with belief. A/gnosticism deals with knowledge. Belief and knowledge are not the same thing. Recognize this and your confusion will cease.
  • Michael
    8k
    I still don't get it. The agnostic claims that there is not enough evidence to suggest either that God exists or that God doesn't exist, and so doesn't believe either.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    I hate labels as well but they are useful for communication purposes.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    The agnostic claims that there is no evidence to suggest either that God exists or that God doesn't exist,Michael

    Nope, the agnostic claims that they have no knowledge that God exists. The Greek word gnosis means knowledge, while the prefix a is a negation. So the agnostic is "without knowledge," in this case, of God.

    and so doesn't believe either.Michael

    Again, no. You can be an agnostic theist OR an agnostic atheist; in other words, you can be without knowledge of God and yet still believe that one exists or be without knowledge of God and choose not to believe.
  • Michael
    8k
    Nope, the agnostic claims that they have no knowledge that God exists. The Greek word gnosis means knowledge, while the prefix a is a negation. So the agnostic is "without knowledge," in this case, of God. — Thorongil

    And how is that different to the weak atheist? He also claims that he has no knowledge that God exists.

    Again, no. You can be an agnostic theist OR an agnostic atheist; in other words, you can be without knowledge of God and yet still believe that one exists or you be without knowledge of God and choose not to believe.

    And you can also be without knowledge of God and not believe either that he exists or that he doesn't exist.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    And how is that different to the weak atheist? He also claims that he has no knowledge that God exists.Michael

    The difference lies in what one is talking about. Weak atheism is a position with respect to belief, which is perfectly compatible with agnosticism, which is a position with respect to knowledge.

    And you can also be without knowledge of God and not believe either that he exists or that he doesn't exist.Michael

    No, I don't think this is possible. It would mean the person simply lacks belief. They would be an agnostic atheist.
  • Michael
    8k
    From here: "In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God."
  • TheWillowOfDarkness
    1.8k


    Those are actually a contradiction. How can one believe it is true (understand) that God does or doesn't exist if there is no knowledge about God to be had? The point of believing something is true or not true is that, with respect to the belief, is that it is an expression of someone is aware of. If God is unknowable, supposing God exists or does not exist is incoherent. If knowledge is not applicable to God, there is nothing, whether true or false, for people to think and understand on the matter. Belief (either way) would be impossible.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    How can one believe it is true (understand) that God does or doesn't exist if there is no knowledge about God to be had?TheWillowOfDarkness

    The same way one could believe in Sasquatch without knowing whether it exists or not, e.g. "I don't know if Sasquatch exists or not, but I believe he does based on the evidence." Or you could have believed that Saddam had a nuclear weapon before the invasion of Iraq, despite not knowing that he did. I see no contradiction here.

    Belief (either way) supposes God is knowable.TheWillowOfDarkness

    No, it presupposes that he is possibly knowable.
  • TheWillowOfDarkness
    1.8k


    That belief is the position you know the Sasquatch exists without having the empirical evidence which shows it to be the case.

    No, it presupposes that he is possibly knowable. — Thorongil

    Yes... and that's what the version of agnosticism you talked about denies. It says there is no knowledge about whether God exists of not. This is a contradiction with God being possibly knowable. If we may know whether or not God exists, knowledge about God is most clearly not impossible. We may have it, unlike the agnostic claims.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in GodMichael

    To "neither believe nor disbelieve" still amounts to a lack of belief. It's a re-statement of weak atheism.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    That's believing you know the Sasquatch exists without having the empirical evidence which shows it to be the case.TheWillowOfDarkness

    No, it's not, and I have no idea why you would say such a thing. The following statement is either perfectly intelligible or it's not, and if it's not, then you need to show me why it's not, which you haven't yet done: "I believe in Sasquatch but do not know if it exists."

    and that's what the version of agnosticism you talked about denies. It says there is no knowledge about whether God exists of not.TheWillowOfDarkness

    What version? There is strong and weak agnosticism just as there are both for atheism. The weak agnostic simply lacks knowledge of God. The strong agnostic knows that there is no God.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I might also point out here that the weak forms of atheism and agnosticism reflect the psychological state of the individual. The strong versions are making claims about the nature of reality. This is important to note. You can't refute someone who says they lack belief in God, for they are just expressing a fact about themselves to you, not presenting an arguable point. It would be akin to someone telling you they don't feel any pain. That's different from saying "there is no such thing as pain."
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