Saturday, May 30, 2009

Craig on the absurdity of life without God

And this is Parsons' rebuttal.

49 comments:

Ilíon said...

WLC: "Modern man thought that when he had gotten rid of God, he had freed himself from all that repressed and stifled him. Instead, he discovered that in killing God, he had also killed himself.

For if there is no God, then man’s life becomes absurd.
"


John Donne: "He must pull out his own eyes, and see no creature, before he can say, he sees no God; He must be no man, and quench his reasonable soul, before he can say to himself, there is no God."

Doctor Logic said...

Hmm.

There's no objective significance to human existence. Check.

If there's no subjective significance to human existence, then life is miserable. Not obvious, but, for sake of argument... Check.

Therefore, if I draw subjective significance to human existence solely from objective significance, then I will perceive no subjective significance to human existence, and I will be miserable.

But I don't, so I don't, so I won't. Goes back to enjoying life.

[Not that God would give significance (let alone objective significance) to our existence, if he existed.]

Aaron said...

There are a couple issues I have with Parsons' reply. First he writes,

"Does atheism imply that life is absurd?... For the atheist, human life is just an infinitesimal moment before the eternal grave:"

But notice that Craig doesn't say anything about atheism, per se. He says, "If God does not exist." There is a big difference between the existence of X, and *disbelief* in the existence of X. Craig is clearly talking about the former, but when Parsons writes "atheism," he's talking about the latter. God's existence is not dependent on whether we believe in Him or not. It seems to me like Parsons is setting up a straw man, because Craig is talking about the existence of God, not about disbelief in the existence of God.

After citing Craig's quote Parsons writes:

"One hardly knows where to begin in commenting on this remarkable passage. I guess my first impression is one of monumental egotism."

I would like to know what Parsons' definition of "egotism" is. Craig writes that if God does not exist, then his life, and indeed all life, is ultimately absurd. He's making a statement about the meaningfulness of his life in relation to the ultimate fate of the universe. If this is "egotism," then it seems to me that pretty much all of existentialism is just one big exercise in egotism. I'm not sure why Parsons seems to oppose any kind of talk about man's objective meaning.

"Surely there is something monstrously egocentric in thinking that my life is of such transcendent significance that I should be an exception to cosmic law--that my ego should survive when planets, stars, and galaxies are no more."

It seems to me that Craig is making an "If S then P" proposition: ["If God does not exist (S) then life is absurd (P)"]. But then Parsons goes on to talk about life having "transcendent significance," or, ~P. Craig is making a claim about the absurdity of life without God (P) and is not making any direct claims about the opposite. He's not saying, "If God doesn't exist, life is absurd. Therefore, life has transcendent significance," which is what it sounds to me like Parsons is unjustifiably inferring from Craig's quote.

"As for anyone who really worries about the ultimate "death" of the universe, the best advice would be "Get a life!"

How is the ultimate fate of the universe an irrelevant or moot topic? Especially for philosophers???

In his paper, Craig is specifically talking about *objective* meaning, not relative meaning. Craig doesn't deny that relative meaning can still exist, only that having relative meaning does nothing to show that there can be objective meaning.

"The message we should draw from our knowledge of our mortality is this: You have a limited number of days, hours, and minutes. Therefore you should strive to fill each of those days, hours, and minutes with meaning. You should strive to fill them with learning and gaining wisdom..."

As Craig has (I think rightly) pointed out, the humanist is engaged in a war on not 1 but 2 fronts: against the theist, and against the nihilist. In the absence of God, humanism is not the default position.

"More likely, I think that the denial that life is meaningful for atheists is an expression of simple arrogance."

Again, Parsons misses the point. Craig is talking about the non-existence of God, and the resulting implications, *not* disbelief in the existence of God. Parsons seems to think that Craig is somehow picking out atheists as only those who can't have meaningful lives, but he does no such thing. Craig says that if God doesn't exist, *all* our lives are ultimately meaningless, regardless of what your beliefs are about the existence of God. I don't know how Parsons misses this.

Ilíon said...

VR: "And this is Parsons' rebuttal."

Surely you jest! That amusement, which I suspect that most of your regular readers have read before, was seriously meant as a rebuttal to Craig? Simply amazing! By *confirming* what Craig has said about the absurdity of life/existence without God, Parsons has rebutted him?!

Don't 'atheists' simply have the most amazing and ingenious modes of reasoning?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ilion that is awesome. Especially impressive is the way you get into the nitty-gritty details of the argument, and really pinpoint the place where Parsons went wrong.

Parsons did it all wrong, the way he actually cited Craig with an extended quote, and then explicitly addressed the specific passage from Craig that he had cited. Much better would be if he have just thrown out nonspecific generalities and insults.

Especially when Parsons says that he finds meaning in family, friends, learning (I might add the arts, sciences, politics), and when he questions whether finite existence implies meaningless existence (when it is obvious that evanescent is just a synonym for existential absurdity). It is just so obvious that Parsons is wrong, why bother mentioning what he actually said, nay, why bother reading it.

Yes, Ilion, everyone else is intellectually dishonest.

Keep 'em coming Ilion. You are back in top form. What is funny is I think people here were starting to take you seriously. :) They didn't realize you were doing a bit to provide us with comic relief.

Hiero5ant said...

BDK, when are you going to update Neurochannels? Some of us have been waiting ages. Everyone who even casually reads DI is well aware of what Ilion is. At least when you put fingertips to keys on NC there's a chance we could learn something we didn't already know.

Ilíon said...

BDK: "Ilion that is awesome. ..."

Hiero5ant: ".... Everyone who even casually reads DI is well aware of what Ilion is ..."

And there's the rub, for everyone who casually reads DI also knows what you two are: you're intellectually dishonest (and dishonest in the regular way, of course) and you have no shame of it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Heiro5ant: I will update the consciousness work this week. Frankly that will probably become a book, in which case I will not publish as much on the blog...

Ilion: you rule. I think perhaps a real person was impersonating you for a few weeks, as you are now back in tip-top shape!

Gordon Knight said...

This is a real issue. Sartre (who I LOVE), thought the nonexistence of God was tremendously important, and required a robust existential response. To say "family etc" give your life meaning is to live the sort of bourgois shallow existence that Sartre rails against. Of course we can find pleasure in things that we do. But if there is no objective value, then the pleasure I find in my children's existence is also shallow, a mere psychological phenomenom, like my desire to have sex with angelina Jolie.

Anonymous said...

Ilion, you really need to stop playing the dishonest intellectual card.

Ilíon said...

Don't be so foolish, Anonymouse; what you're asserting is that I (and we all) have some odd moral obligation to pretend that intellectual dishonesty -- hypocrisy with respect to reason -- is not what it is. But that moral obligation doesn't exist, and I, for one, will not pretend that it does.

Amusingly enough, you folk who like to pretend that there is such an obligation are generally very selective about it. For instance, Parsons is calling Craig intellectually dishonest ... or stupid; he's just not using the explicit words, as I do. And I *never* call you fools stupid, nor imply it.

Ilíon said...

At the same time, I can assure one and all that when these folk stop being so blatant in their intellectual dishonesty, I'll stop being so in-you-face about calling it what it is.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymouse; what you're asserting is that I (and we all) have some odd moral obligation to pretend that intellectual dishonesty -- hypocrisy with respect to reason -- is not what it is."

No, I'm asserting that you should skip the rhetoric and produce arguments, like you know, premises and conclusions?

Victor Reppert said...

Intellectual dishonesty charges are easy to make and hard to prove.

Ilíon said...

True on both counts; that why I'm very careful about making them.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ilion bequeaths a howler when Victor mentions intellectual dishonesty and he says:
"True on both counts; that why I'm very careful about making them."

Most people, when they write 'LOL, probably didn't really LOL. In this case, I can say with all honesty (intellectual and otherwise), LOL.

Thanks Ilion.

Ilíon said...

You will notice, should you care to actually look, that, and contrary to accusations by certain persons of variable honesty, I do not toss around the accusation just because someone disagrees with me.

You might *also* notice that I almost always hold my "meanness" in reserve until it is earned by explicit behavior directed at me or others.

The exception to that "almost always" will be when I examine the public words of public figures and show, by their own words and/or behavior, that they are intellectually dishonest.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Gordon: If you are really claiming that the apparent meaning people find in their children, wider family, wider community, the environement, work, etc is superficial, then you'd need to provide an argument for that.

If the said meaning is "mere psychology" and if it is superficial to find meaning in raising one's children, or in one's work, then we'd need a couple of things from the theist making this claim. For one, that the meaning they find in their religion is not superficial in the same sense (e.g., merely extending your existence forever into the future doesn't somehow make it transcend psychology).

You would probably have to say, yes those things are meaningful of course, but I am talking of a different sense of meaningful, let's call it meaningful(2). That's fine. But then the negation of meaningful(2) isn't absurd, but includes the most meaningful events in most people's lives. Certainly this isn't absurd, it would be a gross distortion of the human language to suggest otherwise.

Parsons wins that one.

I can imagine Sarte sitting there, a petulant pout on his face, the cigarette dangling from his pudgy fingers, "You bourgeousie swine, your thin inexistence doesn't let you see the depths of meaning you are missing by focusing on such superficialities as children." Of course, any theist who wants to use the language of Sartrian existentialism to make their point should realize they are on very thin ice :)

Blue Devil Knight said...

I said: "it would be a gross distortion of the human language to suggest otherwise."

Umm, perhaps change that to the 'English' language.

unkle e said...

"You might *also* notice that I almost always hold my "meanness" in reserve until it is earned by explicit behavior directed at me or others."This of course is quite contrary to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:44: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."And Peter's teaching in 1 Peter 3:15-16: "Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you. But do it with gentleness and respect."And Paul's encouragement in Ephesians 4:15 about "speaking the truth in love".

Yes I know, "niceness police", "psychobabble" and all that. But it's also called following Jesus.

I'm sorry Ilion, but I am ashamed of your behaviour from a supposed christian, and I apologise to non-believers about it - not all of us wish to treat non-believers that way.

Ilíon said...

At the same time, it's not as though it's exceeding difficult, much less impossible, to determine that someone is indeed intellectually dishonest.

There are three and only three general categories of explanation for why a person presents and continues to present an irrational and/or illogical argument:
1) stupidity, which is not his fault and which cannot be changed in any event;
2) ignorance, which is not his fault and which can be changed;
3) intellectual dishonesty, which is his choice and can be changed only by himself.

When a person is arguing irrationally and/or illogically, charity demands that one assume that it is due to ignorance. Charity demands that one work on that.

But, when that person *keeps* arguing irrationally and/or illogically, refusing to correct the error(s), the point eventually comes when honesty demands that one admit that the problem is not due to ignorance. And, there are only two other possibilities, neither of which is at all flattering.

Now, I cannot see how we can generally be justified in believing that another is incapable of reasoning properly. And, since I am unwilling to say that of anyone, the only other option available is that the habitually irrational/illogical person chooses to reason improperly.

Ilíon said...

Good for you, Uncle E. Your namby-pamby Churchianity disgusts me. So, it seems we're even.

Ilíon said...

On the other hand, considering what we each mean, we're not at all even.

I mean that you have misunderstood Christ (hell! have you even *read* the Gospels, much less the whole Bible?), and that you are trying invalidly to impose upon me a moral obligatin that I simply do not have.

On the other hand, you mean that I am not really a Christian, that I am an anti-Christian, that I am one of the goats.

Ilíon said...

Lastly, VR, even if you haven't yet consciously worked through for yourself the "three and only three explanations" reasoning, you do understand how it works, and you do make the accusation appropiately. That you don't explicitly use the words no more changes the fact of what you say than did Parsons' avoidance of the word "stupid" change the fact that he "refutated" of Craig by (among other things) calling him stupid.

Edward T. Babinski said...

What about

THE ABSURDITY OF PHILOSOPHIZING ABOUT LIFE WITH OR WITHOUT GOD?

If there is a God, then there is no "life without God." All life would then be lived in and through God.

If there is no God, then there is no "life with God."

The question of course for people who believe they are living lives "with God" is exactly what they feel they must believe or practice in order to claim their lives are being lived "with God."

Edward T. Babinski said...

Same thing with the afterlife question.

If there is a personal human afterlife, none of us is in a position to prevent it.

If there is no afterlife, none of us is in a position to ensure we will live forever in a personal human manner.

Ah, but some religions promise an afterlife if you believe and practice specific things. So the question reverts to what those specific things are and how you can know for sure they are all true, inspired by God, etc.

Joshua said...

@Edward: "Ah, but some religions promise an afterlife if you believe and practice specific things."

What religions would those be? Which religions say that your soul is only eternal if you profess a particular creed?

As far as I knew, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and most Buddhism believes that your soul is eternal -- full stop.

Ilíon said...

What about

THE ABSURDITY OF PHILO-SOPHISTICAL WORD-GAMES?

It's one thing to seek precision in the language being used in an argument (which "fault" the charge "That's just semantics" frequently uncovers), it's quite another to seek to obscure meaning via word games.

Shackleman said...

I find it particularly bothersome when one implies that one is of a higher moral standing whilst being sarcastic toward, belittling of, and defaming another.

BDK, if you take a deep breath and reflect, are you proud of the way you attack Ilion and others (me on occasion)? Especially considering Ilion in this case did nothing whatsoever to warrant such a personal and insulting post from you? He made not a single post on this thread directed toward you before you launched into your insulting and abusive message.

Your posts, BDK, were uncalled for and downright rude. You failed to meet the standards of argumentation and decency that you yourself imply that you strive for.

unkle e said...

Ilion:

What a pity! Here was an opportunity for you to show that you believe in Jesus and his apostles strongly enough to actually follow their teachings. But instead you chose to ignore their teachings and instead make four suppositions or insinuations about me, none of which were true.

Obviously you are unwilling or unable to accept a correction from me, and it would be contrary to Jesus' teachings for me to press the point further, so I will simply hope and pray that you may yet be willing to show your faith by your actions and take seriously the clear teachings of Jesus and his apostles on this matter.

Best wishes.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackleman : You are being oversensitive and once again trying to derail a discussion by focusing on me personally. Relax. Ilion can dish it and take it with the best of 'em. If he didn't like the give and take, he wouldn't keep coming back with his lite diatribes.

Ilion's post was a nonresponse to an interesting argument by Parsons. That is his MO. I have no qualms about calling him out using sarcasm.

Shackleman said...

BDK, It is not my intent to derail the conversation. I think *you* did that by not making any *arguments* and instead flinging sarcasms around.

I respect your posts (usually) and often learn a lot from your posts even when I disagree.

However, I single you out now because lately, you seem to have your panties in a bunch over Ilion personally, and it's detracting from your usually well presented arguments and thoughts. I also single you out because my hypocrisy detectors have been chirping lately when it comes to your posts.

That said, you're right. I have had my panties in a bunch with your posts, the way you've had your panties in a bunch over Ilion's. Thanks for pointing it out. I'll refrain from making these types of observations about you in the future. Consider this my last on this subject, and I go now with my thanks to you for showing me my own folly.

I hope to see you back to presenting well reasoned and sound *arguments* in the near future!

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackleman:
As far as crying for poor helpless Ilion, are you joking?

As far as saying I provided no content in response to Ilion's deep analysis, you must have missed my response to Gordon as well as the argument I made that was implicit in my sarcastic response to Ilion (indeed, Gordon Knight who makes the comments section at this blog worth reading, noticed this and responded to it).

Shackleman said...

BDK, I thought my response to you was fairly measured and fair.

**shrug**

I agree Gordon Knight is a worthwhile read. So too is Ilion , Doctor Logic, Mr. Babinksi and you.

Ilíon said...

Well, Shackleman, I would say that you have just discovered an important truth about humans in general, and specifically about the relationship between me and my detractors.

Ilíon said...

Uncle E,
Your criticism doesn't reflect Christ (nor does it reflect reason), it reflects supine Churchianity -- it reflects multi-level untruth.

Ilíon said...

There is one mild criticism I might make of what Shackleman has written in his first post in the thread.

Now, while I much doubt that Shackleman really means what he said in the manner or spirit of which I'm going to criticize, others *do* mean similar statements in this way (and, frequently, those others are persons who not merely oppose what I say, but attack and slander me).

Let me emphasize this. I appreciate Shackleman sticking his neck out on my behalf. And, I do not believe he meant what he said in the manner I am criticizing ... but others do say similar things, and do mean those things in just the way I am criticizing.


Shackleman: ".. Especially considering Ilion in this case did nothing whatsoever to warrant such a personal and insulting post from you? He made not a single post on this thread directed toward you before you launched into your insulting and abusive message. ..."

Let us suppose that I really am the mean, nasty, horrible person that certain other persons continuously (and frequently hypocritically) assert that I am.

And, let us suppose that I'd made but one, and quite innocuous on its face, post in this thread.

And, let us suppose that someone whom I regularly unjustly attack and/or slander had replied to what I'd said *here* in a manner that would leave dumbfounded someone knowing nothing about the history and relationship between us.

And, let us suppose that I myself had faulted this person by replying "Dewd! All I said was 'X'" -- Can you not see the rank hypocrisy on my part of playing victim or martyr?

Or, let us suppose that the person who knows nothing about the history and relationship between the two of us had replied, "Dewd! All he said was 'X'" -- Can you not see the presumptuousness of judging someone's act when you don't have enough facts to justify the judgment?

Or, let us suppose that a "nicean" -- who knows full well just what sort of person I am, and knows just how unfairly I badger that other person -- had replied, "Dewd! All he said was 'X'" -- Can you not see the rank injustice of pretending that the world has just begun, that all the injustices I have heaped upon this other person are of no account?

It is the first and the last -- which differ only in point of origin -- that I particularly want the reader to understand; for, among other things, it is this meaning and use which is most frequently employed.

Again, let me emphasize this: I do not in the least believe that Shackleman means anything like what I have criticized. But others do even here at DI, and frequently.

===============
The "nice" people of Churchianity *increase* the injustice in the world; they wink at the injustice they see and they thereby add to it. And, since such persons are generally not at all actually nice persons, they frequently actively and directly add to the injustice in the world.

Ilíon said...

What "Churchianity" or "Niceanity" has at its root is the desire to be seen by other men as being more righteous than God himself.

Shackleman said...

Ilion,

I might have gotten what you meant all wrong (it happens frequently) and you make several good points, but the question which popped up in my mind was: what about redemption and repentance?

Suppose for sake of argument that you really were a mean and nasty jerk as some here tend to portray you to be. What if you decide to turn over a new leaf? Repent of your past transgressions? Try today to be a better man and better Christian than you were yesterday?

What then?

It's impossible to know another's motives with certainty. Therefore might you be better serving God by giving the benefit of the doubt? Not once, but twice, thrice, an infinite number of times?

Maybe THIS time, this hypothetical you really IS trying to do better and be better.

I can say for myself I am not always proud "the next day" after rereading one of my posts. I try to better represent myself and God each time I post, and especially after cringing from a reread of something I've written in the past. I fail. But I try. I wouldn't fault someone for remembering a historic entry and weighing that in their responses to me, but I would hope I'd be given the benefit of the doubt.

Also, with regard to your disdain for "niceness"----more bees with honey than vinegar, no? If one can make a point and or sway an opinion whilst being "nice", so be it, and all the better!

People are both emotional AND intellectual creatures. Words and accusations such as "fools", "intellectually dishonest", or "irrational", tend naturally to lead to one's putting up of one's defenses (even if the accuser is technically right and accurate in their usage of those words) and this therefore can stunt discourse and derail fruitful discussion.

Shackleman said...

Ilíon: "What "Churchianity" or "Niceanity" has at its root is the desire to be seen by other men as being more righteous than God himself."

I'm almost guilty of this. I admit I sometimes desire to be seen by other men as being more righteous than I actually am. Sometimes I also desire to *be* more righteous than I actually am. Sometimes it's worthwhile to fake it until you make it.

Progress toward righteousness....isn't that why we're here? Shouldn't we be striving for it?

Ilíon said...
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Ilíon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilíon said...

Shackleman: "People are both emotional AND intellectual creatures. Words and accusations such as "fools", "intellectually dishonest", or "irrational", tend naturally to lead to one's putting up of one's defenses (even if the accuser is technically right and accurate in their usage of those words) and this therefore can stunt discourse and derail fruitful discussion."

It's utterly impossible to have a "fruitful discussion" with persons who are being intellectually dishonest. It's utterly impossible to have a "fruitful discussion" with persons who are not themselves directly being intellectually dishonest but are nonetheless enabling other "partners" in the so-called discussion to be so.

A discussion can exist only where there is a seeking after truth. (Emotional) Blackmail cannot be the basis of a true discussion.

Ilíon said...

Shackleman: "... Progress toward righteousness....isn't that why we're here? Shouldn't we be striving for it?"

Ilíon: "What "Churchianity" or "Niceanity" has at its root is the desire to be seen by other men as being more righteous than God himself."

Ilíon said...

Shackleman: "Suppose for sake of argument that you really were a mean and nasty jerk as some here tend to portray you to be. What if you decide to turn over a new leaf? Repent of your past transgressions? Try today to be a better man and better Christian than you were yesterday?

What then?
"

If I really were that monster, and if I really had decided to turn over a new leaf, would it be rational for me to expect others to notice it at once?


Many years ago, I was dating a woman and had asked her to marry me (we didn't get married). At some point, I shaved off my beard ... and didn't say anything to her about it. It was, in part, my intention to teach her a lesson about that so-common feminine whinge about "You didn't even notice my new dress!" (and, in part, to have fun).

Now, keep in mind, we saw each other every day (or close to as makes no difference), and kissed each other every day. And it was *days* (I'm thinking about 5) before she noticed that I'd shaved off a full beard.


Shackleman: "It's impossible to know another's motives with certainty. Therefore might you be better serving God by giving the benefit of the doubt? Not once, but twice, thrice, an infinite number of times?"

That's why I try to avoid motive-mongering and focus on *behavior.*

unkle e said...

Ilion, you say:

"Your criticism doesn't reflect Christ (nor does it reflect reason), it reflects supine Churchianity -- it reflects multi-level untruth."

Which part of Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:44: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.", Peter's teaching in 1 Peter 3:15-16: "Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you. But do it with gentleness and respect." and Paul's encouragement in Ephesians 4:15 about "speaking the truth in love" doesn't reflect Christ?

Steven Carr said...

WLC
For if there is no God, then man’s life becomes absurd.

CARR
And if there is a Christian God, then children can be killed because otherwise they would grow up to interfere with this alleged god's plans.

God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel. The killing of the Canaanite children not only served to prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity but also served as a shattering, tangible illustration of Israel’s being set exclusively apart for God.">

If there is a Christian God, then child killing can be approved by God.

Blue Devil Knight said...

2 Timothy 2:24 “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”

From a link Victor provided.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The funny thing about Ilion's kooky accusations is that even if someone is being intellectually dishonest, pointing that out doesn't address their argument. I could give an argument that is great, while still being intellectually dishonest.

Intellectual dishonesty says nothing to a particular claim being made; it is a non-argument. Ilion, seriously, take a Freshman Logic course. If you are for real, I feel sorry for you because you are so out of your league with the give and take of skilled argumentation. If you are a troll, then kudos to you for fooling so many people and getting us to waste so much bandwidth on your trollery.

I tend to think he is a troll, but Poe's Law is in effect with Ilion. From now on I'll just ignore him unless he actually engages with the arguments presented.