• Agustino
    11.3k
    If you're an agnostic please get out. Only theists and atheists should be in this room.

    For theists: Who is the most convincing atheist philosopher?
    For atheists: Who is the most convincing theist philosopher?

    I will start; for me the most convincing atheists are Epicurus, Lucretius and the early Greek Materialists. Unlike modern atheists, they seem to have had an understanding of true morality that is lacking for today's atheists. Their arguments are also stronger than the critique that New Atheists attempt of religion, and they provide a more coherent alternative (and scientific!) worldview. Furthermore, their intellectual discovery of the atom is a breakthrough considering that it took around 2000 years for science to catch up to what they already had philosophical reason for supporting, thus illustrating the power and reach of human reason. The swerve of the atom, furthermore is another flash of brilliance, which is much alike the "weird" quantum mechanics effects that science is only now discovering. If anything, all this should make them awe-inspiring, and more philosophical interest should go towards investigating their methods of using reason, which clearly yielded astounding results.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    The swerve of the atom, furthermore is another flash of brilliance,Agustino

    Explanation here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinamen

    When atoms move straight down through the void by their own weight, they deflect a bit in space at a quite uncertain time and in uncertain places, just enough that you could say that their motion has changed. But if they were not in the habit of swerving, they would all fall straight down through the depths of the void, like drops of rain, and no collision would occur, nor would any blow be produced among the atoms. In that case, nature would never have produced anything — Lucretius, De Rerum Natura

    I suppose it is uncannily like a premonition of the 'quantum leap'.

    Nevertheless there were sound counter-arguments against the early atomists, the chief one being that, if an atom was truly indivisible, then it couldn't have any sides, and if it didn't have any sides, there was no way it could come into contact with anything i.e. the notion of a 'dimensionless particle' was a logical contradiction.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    if an atom was truly indivisible, then it couldn't have any sidesWayfarer
    Why not?
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    Well, think about it. The word 'atom' is derived from the Greek 'atomos', where a- is the negative particle, so the compound word means 'not divisible'. But if something was indivisible, how could it have top, bottom, left and right? Those are precisely 'divisions' or 'parts'. So it can't have sides, so it can't come into contact with anything. All of which is anyway obsolete, because it has long since been discovered that actual atomic 'particles' are nothing like the conjectures of the ancients. The notion of Democritus of 'atoms and the void' is stricly binary, atom=1, void=0, but the 'probability wave' and 'uncertainty principle' have torpedoed that as surely as Galilean physics did the Aristotelean.

    All of which is a digression, for which I apologise.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    But if something was indivisible, how could it have top, bottom, left and right? Those are precisely 'divisions' or 'parts'.Wayfarer
    That makes absolutely no sense. What if it was round? Then there would be no "top", "bottom", etc. because these are relative to a frame of reference, and an objective frame of reference can only be provided by asymmetries in the shape of the particle. But spherical particles would have no asymmetries. They would have no parts - no top, no bottom, no distinctions.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    The notion of Democritus of 'atoms and the void' is stricly binary, atom=1, void=0, but the 'probability wave' and 'uncertainty principle' have torpedoed thatWayfarer
    Nah, it's basically the same, just more detailed. Democritus was basically right. The uncertainty principle and probability wave are the swerve. Inability to predict.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    That makes absolutely no sense.Agustino

    That's not my argument, that is a paraphrase of the arguments against atomism by early philosophers.

    In any case, a spherical object of any kind is not dimensionless because a sphere can only be defined in terms of the distance of the surface from the centre.

    There are many obvious conundrums with Lucretius atomism apparent even to the untrained. For instance, he claimed that 'heat atoms' flowed out from the sun and hit the earth. The obvious question is, what happens to all of them when they land? Why don't we have to clear the driveway of expended 'heat atoms' before driving out in the morning?

    For viewpoint of one who is more educated than either of us on this very question, have a geez at Heisenberg's essay The Debate Between Plato and Democritus. (Spoiler alert: comes out against Democritus.)
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Thomas Aquinas. He continues to impress me with his systems thinking. I'm not qualified enough to seriously criticize anything in his metaphysical system. He seems to have foreshadowed many future philosophical developments, and even his triad of the mind is strikingly similar to Peirce's theory of semiotics. Kant may be the best answer to Scholastics like Aquinas; not very contemporary Scholastics seem to really recognize Kant as a legitimate threat to their entire metaphysical enterprise.

    However I do think Aquinas' ethics is more open for controversy. Natural law theory is unintuitive (to me) and reflects the attitude the Scholastics had at the time - the world was their oyster, ripe for the taking, and was also overflowing with teleology, thus making it easy to feel at home in the world. All you have to do is follow the telos of your natural kind and you'll do fine. I personally try to argue that this essentialist doctrine is nauseatingly oppressive, and puts the natural kind over individuality in terms of importance. I try to argue that part of the existential predicament of man is that he has no telos at all, thus teleological ethics are null. The ability to transcend effectively means humans no longer have a place in the immanent, where all the teleology is at.

    I also take the route Kiekegaard and Nietzsche went and criticize how Aquinas seemed to think there was a universal purpose for humanity (what Nietzsche would have called nauseating, which I agree), and that his theological-metaphysics excludes personal experience, a la Kierkegaard's criticism of Hegelian systems. The idea that we'll all be part of some City of God (except for all the animals, cause fuck 'em) gives me a knee-jerk reaction of opposition.

    That's the thing about system theories - they are intoxicatingly all-encompassing and yet oftentimes sideline other things in the process. They promise answers to everything and thus act as an intellectual crutch of sorts, the promise of a future complete understanding gives meaning and purpose to inquiry. In my case at least, devotion to an INCOMPLETE metaphysical system is fallacious and inauthentic.

    It's also likely that Aquinas was pressured in some ways to synthesize Aristotelian metaphysics with Catholic dogma, which, unless Catholicism is "correct", means Aquinas essentially bastardized Aristotelian metaphysics.
  • R-13
    83
    The swerve of the atom, furthermore is another flash of brilliance, which is much alike the "weird" quantum mechanics effects that science is only now discovering. If anything, all this should make them awe-inspiring, and more philosophical interest should go towards investigating their methods of using reason, which clearly yielded astounding results.Agustino

    How eerie. I was just reading up on Epicurus and thought of how prescient this swerve was, even if it perhaps motivated to avoid determinism. There's also a fascinating kind of piety of Epicurus.
    First believe that God is a living being immortal and blessed, according to the notion of a god indicated by the common sense of mankind; and so believing, you shall not affirm of him anything that is foreign to his immortality or that is repugnant to his blessedness. Believe about him whatever may uphold both his blessedness and his immortality. For there are gods, and the knowledge of them is manifest; but they are not such as the multitude believe, seeing that men do not steadfastly maintain the notions they form respecting them. Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. — Epicurus
    He's something like a practical atheist without, in this letter at least, being a genuine atheist. Perhaps he was quietly an agnostic who saw the use of the gods or of God as an image, or perhaps he thought the world needed a cause (deism, etc.).
  • Banno
    3.8k
    I'm agnostic on days with a "t". Atheist most other days

    So it being a Monday, I'll mention G.K. Chesterton.
  • ThePhilosopherFromDixie
    31
    The most "serious" atheist philosopher, in my view, is probably David Hume. Problem is, his arguments only work against the moderns. They don't really apply to the classic and medieval philosophers.
  • Banno
    3.8k

    So do we roll dice?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.4k
    I don't find any religious philosophy at all convincing in its metaphysical claims. It's rather that especially when it comes to academic work, I enjoy authors who write in a straightforward, clear, more or less analytic style. There are a lot of philosophers who were religious where I've enjoyed reading their religious-oriented work. Plantinga, Swinburne, Hartshorne, Royce, James, Kierkegaard, Descartes, Augustine are a few examples. I've also enjoyed some of the aspects of their religious work that have focused on positive social and psychological values (which isn't the same thing as referring to the ethical dictates of particular religions; I mean for example Hartshorne's focus on love and compassion).
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    In any case, a spherical object of any kind is not dimensionless because a sphere can only be defined in terms of the distance of the surface from the centre.Wayfarer
    So? How does this imply that indivisibility is inconceivable? How does this imply that if the atom has spatial properties it must be divisible?

    There are many obvious conundrums with Lucretius atomism apparent even to the untrained. For instance, he claimed that 'heat atoms' flowed out from the sun and hit the earth. The obvious question is, what happens to all of them when they land? Why don't we have to clear the driveway of expended 'heat atoms' before driving out in the morning?Wayfarer
    There are solutions to those problems offered by Epicureans through the ages. The heat atoms get reflected or absorbed temporarily in the voids between other atoms.

    For viewpoint of one who is more educated than either of us on this very question, have a geez at Heisenberg's essay The Debate Between Plato and Democritus. (Spoiler alert: comes out against Democritus.)Wayfarer
    :-} I did read it, and found that it is nothing but Heisenberg inserting his favorite biases without even arguing why. It's so silly. "Uhh fundamental reality is pure mathematics" - yeah sure, give me a break. But other than that, I'll reply to the appeal to authorities more educated than us with another authority:
    Read God and the Atom by Victor J. Stenger (Spoiler alerts: Democritus wins)

    As I said, Greek Materialism is a tenable position.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    There are solutions to those problems offered by Epicureans through the agesAgustino

    Oh yes. They were noted atomic physicists, right?

    I got no time for Stenger, sorry. His last published piece was 'Why Particles are for Real' , which I think is entirely groundless, and which ends with the plaintive appeal:

    No one doubts the moon is real, and it’s just a particle when viewed from far enough away. How is it any different from a photon registered in a photodetector? So, even if I can’t prove it, it seems reasonable that photons, electrons, quarks, neutrinos, and Higgs bosons are for real.

    I honestly don't think Stenger would pass Philosophy 101, whereas Heidegger, apart from having helped devise quantum mechanics, is also philosophically astute.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    I honestly don't think Stenger would pass Philosophy 101, whereas Heidegger, apart from having helped devise quantum mechanics, is also philosophically astute.Wayfarer
    :-} I highly doubt Heisenberg would pass Philosophy 101. If his "philosophy" is like that essay he has no chance. As for Heidegger, he may pass Philosophy 101, but he would certain fail in Newtonian mechanics 101 (forget quantum mechanics 101).
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    Bohr, Schrodinger and Heisenberg were all highly educated and philosophically astute.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Bohr, Schrodinger and Heisenberg were all highly educated and philosophically astute.Wayfarer
    And am I to take that for truth? Am I not to look at their writtings and confirm whether what you're telling me is the truth? And if so, then I have looked at Heisenberg's writing that you offered, and it doesn't sound philosophically astute at all. It's more like propaganda.

    Anyway, instead of going off topic with all this, I think you should answer the question of the thread if you have a different opinion.
  • Michael
    7.4k
    Maybe Kant.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.4k
    I honestly don't think Stenger would pass Philosophy 101, whereas Heidegger, apart from having helped devise quantum mechanics, is also philosophically astute.Wayfarer

    It depends on who the professor is. Heidegger as a student, writing as he's famous for, when I was teaching Intro to Philosophy courses, wouldn't have passed.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    It depends on who the professor is. Heidegger as a student, writing as he's famous for, when I was teaching Intro to Philosophy courses, wouldn't have passed.Terrapin Station
    Does that go to show that Heidegger is weak as a philosopher, or that you're weak as a teacher of philosophy? :P
  • Terrapin Station
    5.4k


    Depends on who is assessing it, obviously.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Depends on who is assessing it, obviously.Terrapin Station
    And does this statement also depend on who is assessing it? >:)
  • Terrapin Station
    5.4k


    Sure as some would disagree obviously.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Good! Then to the garbage can it goes! :D
  • Terrapin Station
    5.4k


    You only want stuff with no possibility of different views?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    stuff with no possibility of different views?Terrapin Station
    How quaint, that sounds like a good definition for truth no? :-*
  • Terrapin Station
    5.4k


    Here's a good recipe for no possibility of different views:

    (1) turn off your computer
    (2) make sure no one else is in your home
    (3) lock your doors
    (4) cover up your windows
    (5) make sure you do not go outside
    (6) don't read any books, watch any tv, etc.
    (7) enjoy!
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Doesn't work mate, I left the TV open!
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Don't skip step (6)Terrapin Station
    I didn't forget it, but I can still hear the TV you know...
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