Monday, February 09, 2009

The Secular Outpost: Stupid Philosopher Tricks

Keith Parsons thinks philosophers have said a lot of ridiculous things. I think in a lot of cases there is method in their madness even if, at the end of the day, we conclude that there was madness in their method.

The Secular Outpost: Stupid Philosopher Tricks


Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

This seems like a very, very poor list. Parsons says that "each is not only false, but obviously so." Well, not to labor the irony, but...that's false—and obviously so.

5) This world is the best of all possible worlds. (Leibniz)

How is this obviously false? What does "best" even mean here? Is there some standard to which Parsons is appealing in saying that this world is not the best one? How can he possibly know that? If he's just relying on his intuition, then that's hardly a valid criteria by which to rebuff Leibniz in such a way. I can just appeal to my intuition and say that I think this is the best possible world. Is Parsons' intuition just "better"? But then we have the same problem!

6) Animals have no thoughts or feelings. (Descartes)

Again, not exactly an obvious falsehood. Animals may have the appearance of having thoughts and feelings; but appearance doesn't, in itself, warrant us to say that they do have such thoughts and feelings. Unless Parsons wants to concede that prima facie truths are always actual truths. Of course, I do believe that animals have rudimentary thoughts and feelings, since they are endowed with nephesh—but I cannot see that denying this is obviously false.

14) Saying “God does not exist” is self-contradictory. (Anselm)

Again, hardly an obviously false statement. Now, an atheist might argue that it is false, but if in fact Christians are right and logic is grounded in God himself, then the statement "God does not exist" is non-obviously self-contradictory. So this is just question-begging in favor of some non-Christian view.

15) It is always wrong to lie, even if lying saves an innocent life. (Kant)

As with (5), how could Parsons possibly justify calling this an obviously false statement? Maybe it's prima facie false to him. But what standard is he appealing to in saying that it (i) really is false; and (ii) is obviously so? Considering that his post is supposed to be an indictment of sloppy thinking in the history of philosophy, he's not exactly distancing himself in that regard.

19) Women are less rational than men. (numerous)

If what is meant here is simply that, generally speaking, women are less naturally inclined to evaluate a given situation dispassionately and with logical rigor, then I don't see how this is obviously false. You could launch a sociological study to show that it is false, but it isn't obviously so. In my own experience, it is probably true. The terms "politically incorrect" and "obviously false" are not any more synonymous than the terms "prima facie true" and "actually true". And if (19) is itself false, it doesn't constitute any reflection on the intrinsic relative worth of women and men. Men aren't better at everything. But they are better at some things. Women are better at others. Generally speaking, of course.

20) Evil is merely a privation of good. (Augustine)

I guess really terrible examples come in multiples of five for Keith. There is plenty of literature defending the view of evil as a privation of good. It is by no means obviously false. It may be false—but how? Is Keith arguing that evil has ontological status of its own? That seems weird. And again, sans a theistic worldview, what does that statement even mean? Where's the justification? What's the standard being appealed to?

17) Humans are naturally good, but are corrupted by society. (Rousseau)

I include this one at the end because I find it interesting. I'm not sure exactly what Keith is saying is obviously false here:

(a) Humans are naturally good
(b) Humans are corrupted by society
(c) Both

(a) would be of particular interest if he's claiming that it's obviously false. There's a man who recognizes total depravity when he sees it and doesn't shy away from calling a horse a horse. But it's not clear that's what he means...

unkle e said...

"Each is not only false, but obviously so. "

Dominic has already made the point, but I will repeat it. This statement is absurd. I would love to see him attempt to justify its application to half a dozen of the statements I would choose from the list.

But let's look on the positive side. It gives a brief glimpse of the depth (or otherwise) that lies beneath the new atheist confidence that they are right in everything.

Gordon Knight said...

Personally, I note that Berkeley and Bradley are getting their usual bum rap.

On Animals, Descartes' view on this has always struck me about as insane as 20th century logical behaviorism. It is not obviously false in the sense of being contradictory, but none of the statements list are obviously false in that sense. Solipsism is probably not self contradictory either, if thought out properly.

Descartes' belief about animals also have the unfortunate effect of historically sadling dualism (a good view) with weird associations with bad views (Plato does the same thing, when he disses physical pleasures)

legodesi said...

Is that something GK Chesterton said? The madness in their method part, I mean.

Perezoso said...

5) This world is the best of all possible worlds. (Leibniz)

Leibniz does make some sense, at least for theo-bots who consider Stalin, Hitler, and Polpot and the rest of 20th century history (and natural history) signs of the Almight-ay's love and omnipotence.

Brandon said...

Perezo, based on your explicit list it is obvious that there are more atheists than theists who can not be trusted.

Perezoso said...

Ah then the All-might-ay must approve of atheists--totalitarian, murdering atheists at that-- eh? And let's not forget Pope Piuss XII or whatever, who kissed Il Duce's ring, or the catolico bishops siding with the brownshirts, etc?

Most biblethumpers never had to complete Theological Absurdity 101, with ye olde POE. At least read Voltaire's Candide (scandalous!).

Brandon said...

Dude, don't mix up the logical problem of evil with the probablistic problem of evil. And you forgot to add Brother Bob Tilton to your list.

Perezoso said...

Apparently you haven't understood either, dude. The LPOE, however trite, can't be refuted anyway, except by denying omnipotence or denying Justice (most calvinist Rapture Bots opt for the later course).

Yr pseudo-thomistic "logic" was updated years ago anyway. For that matter, Leibniz himself was no calvinist, and the statement might be read as a capitulation, and indeed heretical (ie it's the best a limited Deity--deities?-- could do)

Gordon Knight said...

LPOE: Every philosopher I know, theist or atheist or agnostic, believes Plantinga refutes with the free will defense.

On the other hand, the probabilistic problem of evil is a very difficult nut to crack indeed. Anyone who underestimates the significance of evil, just does not understnad either theism or the nature of the world.

"theobots" what the hell? Treating your opponents as if they are intellectually dishonest makes you akin of the infamous Illion.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Before you waste too much time, please be aware that Perezoso is a troll; you won't ever get any cogent argument from him—just name-dropping and assertions. He will of course deny this, so please refer to the comments thread of a previous post here, 'A critique of my defense of critical rationalism', for validation.


Perezoso said...

I don't think Plantinga suffices at all for "evil" or atrocity done to innocents (as I think Mackie pointed out, or some philo-snob): it's not merely "free will", but say tidal waves killing thousands, disease, collateral damage in wars, etc.

Besides, like most theologians, Plantinga wants it both ways: if God is omniscient and omnipotent, he already knows what his creatures will do, so the freedom's pretty much moot anyways. (Russell made the same criticism of Calvinism a few decades ago).

Besides the LPOE is just one of many skeptical arguments (the fallibility of Scripture--including the Rapture chants of the Book of Rev.--another).


You're the "troll," Domski.

In fact, when someone barks "troll" they are generally either stalinists or nazis, or perhaps calvinists who wannabe nazis.

The Ad Trollium is generally an attempt at censorship. Since Domsky can't stand to lose arguments, he merely needs to chant "Troll!" (as they do on most neo-con sites) and thereby thinks he has established something.

Really, since "troll" originally meant "spreader of misinformation," Troll would be a fit description for Domsky and his fellow Triablogue Rapture-bots.

Perezoso said...
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Perezoso said...
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Perezoso said...

Reviewing Plantinga's argument contra POE, one notes that he grants "G*d" could be limited, both in terms of omnipotence, and omniscience, and he also suggests "malicious spirits" (hah) could be responsible for natural disasters (beyond G*d's control?).

That's capitulation, indeed I would aver Manichaeism, or polydeism.

Mackie 1, Plant. 0

Brandon said...

"Really, since "troll" originally meant "spreader of misinformation," Troll would be a fit description for Domsky and his fellow Triablogue Rapture-bots."

hahaha, no. from the the font of knowledge:

"An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of provoking other users into an emotional response[1] or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion."

Inflammatory is the operative word.


Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...


Sorry, but your jejune comments on the problem of evil fail. Refer

Perezoso said...

That's the newbie definition of Troll. IN hacker slang, it originally meant misinformation spreader. Like some biblethumpers who chant thomistic jargon in hopes that some will mistake that for logic.

Anyway, for the real fundie, the POE of whatever sort is not a problem. A skeptic mentions Tsunami 2004, and fundie merely retorts, "G*d works in mysterious ways," or it was done to challenge our faith, or in Tom DeLay fashion, they had to atone for our sins, goldang it.

Anyway, few believers know JL Mackie from a Big Mac, or realize that Plantinga responded with a heretical (or nearly so) view on the LPOE.

SE said...

Bnonn, by the cherished criteria of your brother in Christ, Ilion, you are a fool and intellectually dishonest. And no, Perezoso is not a "troll".

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...


Perezoso said...

Grazi SE.

Have you noted how hysterical fundies have become? They band together on a blog, insult people, make the usual insinuations, spew BS and jargon, and get away with it. Yet some skeptic (or even non-fundie believer--rare) refers to them as Rapture-Bots, and they're ready to call Karl Rove or Limbaugh or something.

It's not about Reason, but like a chant, or cheer: Go Jeeezuss! Cheerleaders for the Big Guy.

Gordon Knight said...

I feel like I may be, blowing against an ideological wind far greater than I can withstand, but almost everyone agrees "fundies" have a naive understanding of Christianity-- Since the beginning of Christianity as an organized movement, I mean the early Church Fathers, the idea that one must interpret, e.g. the Genesis account, literally, was not accepted. Indeed, the chief proponent of conservative Christianity (not politically, but theologically). C.S LEWIS
was not a literalist about the Bible. The blogfounder can feel free to correct me on this.

I taught a philosophy of religion class once and I was struck by how similiar the one hard core fundamentalist Christian and the one hard-core anti-theist was.

They both had before their minds caricatures. As if the age of the earth or the truth of evolution had anyting to with ultimate reality!

Perezoso said...

Note that the believers conflate the older aristotelian/mechanistic arguments with the scriptural based ones. Scripture is fallible: Darwin/Lyell falsified the traditional account (later confirmed with radiocarbon dating), of 4 or 5 thousand BC. So the Bible is no guide to evolution, or astronomy or cosmology (the assumption that the pre-xtian arguments support a ju-xtian account also seems implausible---).

For that matter, the "primum mobile" is, I suggest, more metaphorical than rational--Zeus, not JHVH. Plausible, but not necessary (and obviously pre-copernicus, pre-newton, pre-einstein). The old thomistic chestnuts also allow the churchie- philosopher to distract students/citizens from other more pressing issues (say, energy issues, economic issues, justice issues): metaphysicans generally worked for the king.