Thursday, March 08, 2007

This is the Flew interview with Gary Habermas

12 comments:

Jason said...

No 'Flew the coup' puns, please... {g}

AF: "My own initial lack of enthusiasm for the ontological argument developed into strong repulsion when I realized from reading the _Theodicy_ of Leibniz that it was the identification of the concept of Being with the concept of Goodness (which ultimately derives from Plato's identification in _The Republic_ of the Form or Idea of the Good with the Form or the Idea of the Real) which enabled Leibniz in his Theodicy validly to conclude that an universe in which most human beings are predestined to an eternity of torture is the 'best of all possible worlds.'"

I'm willing to bet that this, right here, represents the biggest stumbling block for Flew ever going much further--and for most sceptics, too. (His critique of the AfM is important to pay attention to, too. Notice, it isn't the logic-to-God where he seems to have the worst problem with the AfM, but with the logical immorality of the results he has found by looking along this route.)


Does anyone have another copy of this interview around? I'm curious as to what question Habermas asked, not included in the linked copy, to which Flew answered, "No, not really." (Especially since AF's previous comment ended with an approval of Spinoza's notion of deity not involving "any [Divine] preferences either about or any intentions concerning human behaviour or about the eternal destinies of human beings.")

It's curious that he actually _hopes_ that there is no afterlife.


AF [to GH]: "I must some time send you a copy of the final chapter of my latest and presumably last book, in which I offer a syllabus and a program for moral education in secular schools."

Some intriguing connections to Lewis' AoM lectures here, and in the surrounding paragraph. This was updated through 2005, at least--anyone heard anything about this since then?

JRP

J.Clark said...

The great stumbling block for all thinkers is not some fantastic Aristotelian theory or the reasoning of the Sophists or scientific theory but the pride of intellect. What a great behemoth! Sometimes rebellion is called honesty and escaping is called reasoning.
Without my commentary on our condition, Habermas seems to think Flew may come along if he lives long enough. It would be delightful to have a "Mere Christianity for the 21st century.

stunney said...

Something I wrote on Flew's shift, with particular attention to some problems with a merely deistic conception of God, can be found here:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=102&topic_id=1058931&mesg_id=1061398

Jason said...

I think someone as enslaved to his intellectual pride as you're painting Flew to be, J, wouldn't be so gracious at granting credit to his opponents.

JRP

Anonymous said...

I think people (perhaps evangelicals especially) should at least be aware of some of the background issues that Richard Carrier raises with Flew's conversion (see http://www.secweb.org/index.aspx?action=viewAsset&id=369). If accurate this seems to mitigate the force of the appeal to this event.

J.Clark said...

Sorry, Jason, I came across the wrong way. My commentary on "all thinkers" was truly meant for "all thinkers" including myself. I am simply giving comment to universal condition including Flew, Lewis, Chesterton, you, and myself. We are crafty creatures and are experts at philosophizing but not experts at loving wisdom. Thinkers are only as good as their practice. And many times thinkers practice sitting in their office thinking and not much else. Again here, I am talking in general,universal terms not necessarily about Flew. But I imagine Flew has spent more time in his office and lecturing than feeding the poor and loving the unlovable. I assure you I exact the judgment on myself. If a philosopher spends his life apart from humility he will never find true wisdom or truth. Humility is the key to philosophy. I am not sitting around hoping for Flew to become an evangelical. But a similar thing did happen with Lewis and Chesterton. In Chesterton's words:
“at the back of our brains . . . there was a forgotten blaze or burst of
astonishment at our own existence . . . [a] submerged sunrise of wonder”

Jason said...

J.Clark: {{My commentary on "all thinkers" was truly meant for "all thinkers" including myself. I am simply giving comment to universal condition including Flew, Lewis, Chesterton, you, and myself. We are crafty creatures and are experts at philosophizing but not experts at loving wisdom. Thinkers are only as good as their practice. And many times thinkers practice sitting in their office thinking and not much else. Again here, I am talking in general,universal terms not necessarily about Flew. But I imagine Flew has spent more time in his office and lecturing than feeding the poor and loving the unlovable.}}

Well, since we're including everyone in the principle (and I agree, we should): I think someone as enslaved to his intellectual pride as you're painting yourself to be, wouldn't be so gracious at granting credit to his opponents. {g!}


Anon: RC, Victor and I (and several other people) engaged in a long private debate about what Flew's change of position actually involved, a couple of years ago. So I'm aware that Richard chalks this up to AF being not much of an expert in biological issues combined with a lack of influence from his now-departed sceptical friends who could have headed him off from being influenced by his other, Christian friends (such as Habermas). Which could very well be true, though it sort of denigrates AF's competency: a denigration that hardly seems worth the effort, given the very minimal move made by AF. {shrug} It isn't like there's that much 'force' to 'mitigate'.

(That being said, much of what Richard was initially complaining about, and rightly so IMO, was overreaching by certain public apologists--not Victor--at hearing initial reports of this.)

JRP

J.Clark said...

I did not say I was "enslaved" but that we must "exact the same judgment on ourselves" lest we do become enslaved and not see the danger before us. But you didn't mention freedom from the intellectualizing with fancy words by feasting on the "burst of astonishment" that brings those empty, intellectual words to life. I am asking, do you (plural) philosophers of the world poke one another in the heart for motives of such fancy words? Every philosopher must have such if he wants wonder more than renown. And that I do exact upon myself so I do not become enslaved. I still think I must be communicating poorly. This question is for you and me and Flew. So do you feed the poor with your own hands? Or do you philosophies about it? Do you paint yourself with words into corners of lecture halls and upon mounds of books or do you paint yourself into the refuge of society that cries out for wonder? That is all I'm asking. I would ask Flew first thing otherwise what good is his philosophy? What good is it if he decides he is an evangelical if he doesn't bear good news? What good is a philosopher if he doesn't love wisdom?

Victor Reppert said...

I have mixed feelings about the Flew business. On the one hand I am glad that he has at least become a deist. At the same time I haven't seen any contributions to natural theology from him, at least at this stage.

Jason said...

Victor,

I expect we're looking at the extent of it here, in synopsis: criticism (not necessary bad) of more detailed positions, and a set of denials concerning God's characteristics. Minimal deism puts a large break on much development of natural theology. (Even the nominal deists he admires in American history, were more than minimal deists.)

JRP

Jason said...

Jarrod (and hereafter): {{I did not say I was "enslaved" but that we must "exact the same judgment on ourselves" lest we do become enslaved and not see the danger before us.}}

Obviously I agree, or I wouldn’t have been making the second criticism. {s}

And I know _you_ did not say _you_ were enslaved to the same universal condition of being a crafty creature (where ‘we’ includes yourself, nominally) who is an expert at philosophizing but not an expert at loving wisdom, meant for all thinkers including yourself; but not yourself, I guess, except when you exact the same judgment upon yourself. Wherein you judge yourself not enslaved to this same universal condition and stumbling block for all thinkers including, as you otherwise say, yourself: the pride of the intellect, that great behemoth. That doesn’t enslave _you_, I mean, despite being a universal condition of all thinkers including yourself, when it seems convenient to include yourself in that category--for a moment’s humility?

Frankly, it looks like a way of just ignoring what Flew’s criticisms are, a priori, by writing them off as empty intellectualizing, the only evidence for this being that they happen to be speaking against something you believe to be true. The advantage to that kind of dismissal, is that no actual evaluation of what he’s saying is required: simply impugn his character by rhetorical questioning to which you expect you’ll never have to get a response. (Reminds me of a sceptic I know with the initials EB, actually...) Thus, no risk is required. It’s a very safe way to proceed against him.

{{I am asking, do you (plural) philosophers of the world poke one another in the heart for motives of such fancy words?}}

Pretty frequently, yeah, we (inclusive of myself) do. (See above for one example. {lopsided s}) And I _could_ do that at some length on what Flew has written in this interview (compiled over time) with Habermas. Generally, though, drawing inferences or making claims about motivation or intention _ahead of_ the actual analysis (much less in place of actual analysis) is considered to be cheating. Including when the cheating is done by rhetorical appeal given poetic (one might even call it ‘fancy’) coloring.

In any case, that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about, in regard to his interview, so I didn’t. If I had wanted to talk about educated guesses concerning his motives, I would have come up with something more substantial than (what amounts to), ‘Bah, talking about Aristotle and the Stoics--intellectualizers like Flew are such posers! He’s only doing that, instead of agreeing with me, out of pride in his own supposed intelligence. It’s this bloated monstrous (behemoth) pride in his own supposed intellectual power he is stumbling over; nothing else.’

One reason I wouldn’t have gone _that_ route in considering his (possible) motivations, is that in my own experience (including with opponents), as well as in inference from principle application, people who are so defensive about their own bloated ego (intellectual or otherwise), are _not_ the sort of people who go out of their way to find real compliments to give concerning their opponents. On the contrary, such people tend to look for quick a priori dismissals of their opponents based on character denigration and rhetorical questioning of motivation and intention by innuendo, in order to protect their own cherished ideologies from being even remotely put at risk by actually evaluating an opponent’s criticism or positive position.

And Flew doesn’t seem to be doing a lot of that, in that interview. He _does_ seem to be doing a substantial amount of the other thing, though. Thus I conclude: despite being a sinner as all of us are, he’s doing pretty well (here at least) in being truly gracious, too.

{{But you didn't mention freedom from the intellectualizing with fancy words by feasting on the "burst of astonishment" that brings those empty, intellectual words to life.}}

For all I know, Flew feasts regularly on bursts of astonishment in regard to the qualitative meaning of the words he is writing and saying. I’m not going to assume ahead of time that he doesn’t. {shrug} Bursts of astonishment aren’t the only appropriate way to personally respond to the qualitative meaning of what one is saying and thinking, though--not necessarily the most appropriate way in particular cases, either. 2 + 2 = 4 remains true as a logical statement whether or not someone is having a burst of astonishment in regard to its meaning (regularly or otherwise) while stating it. And making logical criticisms of doctrines deemed oppressive to the poor in spirit as well as false (which is what Flew believes he is doing), is not the sort of thing to engender bursts of astonishment and wonder as a properly connected feeling.


As to whether or not Flew feeds the poor with his own hands or only philosophizes about it, or even philosophizes about it at all--I have no idea. Apparently he would say that the news he bears is no worse than the news borne by some of his opponents, though, while at least having the advantage of (he thinks) logical coherency; and by this he apparently means to give no insult to God or even to the idea of God. (Not that he thinks very highly of God anyway, but he evidently considers minimal deism preferable to promoting a worship of Darkseid the Destroyer.)


As to whether or not _you_ feed the poor with your own hands, I would hazard a guess that you do, and would like to use a lack of that on Flew’s part (established by rhetorical innuendo if nothing better will do) against whatever Flew is saying rather than actually risk doing the logical math on it.


As to whether _I_ feed the poor with my own hands, etc., I am extremely tempted to answer that question, but since I am not supposed to be letting even my left hand know what my right hand is doing, I see no good reason (the operative word being ‘good’ there) to let _you_ know, especially in my own defense. Let God defend me as He will, in that matter, or not, as He sees fit; whatever charity I do, I do for true love’s sake, and not as armor or ammunition against criticism.

As to whether I am a scholar painting myself into a corner; I am not a scholar, I have no degree in the relevant fields being discussed here, and I spend my days as a manager at a factory where I care for my employees as if they were family. And being an accountant (among other things) gives me an edge in watching to ensure I’m not painting myself into a logical corner.

As to whether I am a refuge for a society crying out for wonder, my published works can attest to that (whenever they’re finally available.) As to whether I am a refuge for a society crying out for _hope_, then I think I can say with some sureness that even Antony Flew would consider the good news I bear as an orthodox trinitarian Christian to be actually _good_ _news_, compared to what he has been taught by Christians generally, even if he still couldn’t bring himself to believe it for whatever reason. (Ironically, one of the technical problems he’s having stems from Christians _not_ teaching trinitarianism but intentionally or unintentionally teaching something like Aristotelianism instead.) Indeed I expect you would almost certainly say I proclaim far _too much_ hope; that the truth is _not_ in fact as hopeful as I believe God to be.

What good is it, if you decide you are an evangelical, if your evangel is one of God’s _own_ hopelessness? I can tell you what the result of _that_ kind of evangel is. Antony Flew is one such result: what little of God he can bring himself to believe in, is (not surprisingly) a hopeless God.

JRP

Jason said...

D'oh!! {slapping forehead}

Sorry, J, I totally mixed your name up with Jarrod, whom I was debating in a nearby thread. Completely my fault.

JRP