Monday, July 20, 2009

Beckwith contra Dawkins

Can Dawkins criticize someone for failing to reach their intellectual potential?


Gordon Knight said...

I don't really see the force of this critique, except as an instance of a broader critique of a variety of meta-ethical views (subjectvism, cultural relativism, prescriptivism, etc). For if any of these views are correct, the moral judgements (or pseudo-judgements)of the sort discussedare perfectly compatible with a universe that is not designed.
Then again Aristotle held that there was no designer, and yet saw intrinsic purposes everywhere. That would be another route. Kantian or platonic ethics would be yet another. ethics would be yet another. I get the impression dawkins has not seriously studied moral philosophy, so an ad hominum against him may be pretty easy, but not on the basis of his belief that there is no designer.

Anonymous said...

"But the issuing of that judgment on Wise by Dawkins makes sense only in light of Wise's particular talents and the sort of being Wise is by nature, a being who Dawkins seems to believe possesses certain intrinsic capacities and purposes, the premature disruption of which would be an injustice."

Silliness. You can't criticize someone for failing to live up to a standard unless you're an Aristotelian (and, as GK points out, not even Aristotle lives up to that).

Anonymous said...

The force of the critique is that Dawkins is inconsistent in his views and vocabulary, talking about oughts and purposes when his other and obvious viewpoints demand that neither really exist in any meaningful way.

On the other hand, who cares? Outside of his largely internet-based fan club, Dawkins has become irrelevant. Oh wow, someone found a point on which Dawkins said something inane and he made himself into an easy target? In other news, Ann Coulter said something outrageous, and Richard Simmons came across as rather fruity.

kbrowne said...

I can't see that Beckwith has a case here at all. Like Gordon Knight, I think that a judgement that it is wrong not to use your abilities can be combined with a belief that there is no design or ultimate purpose in the world, unless the lack of design makes all judgements inadmissible.

But, in any case, that is unimportant. I see no suggestion that Dawkins is criticising Wise for failing to realise his potential. He pities him and despises him for throwing away everything he most wanted in life. Wise's ambition was to be a professor of geology. For the sake of his religion he 'tossed into the fire' all his 'dreams and hopes in science.'

I can't speak for Dawkins but I can see no sense in the idea that a person has a duty to himself. I see Wise's story as very sad not because he had unfulfilled abilities but because he gave up what he most wanted in life, and what he could have had, for a mistaken religious belief. It would be just as sad if Wise had given up an ambition to grow potatoes or climb mountains for the sake of religion.

Anonymous said...

And what if he "gave up what he had" simply because he felt happier doing so overall? Apparently what he "wanted most in life" wasn't to become a professor of geology after all.

The lack of design, objective purpose, morality, etc does not mean judgments don't exist. It just means they're all subjective... So they simply do not matter in any sense but a personal one. Dawkins is free to feel outraged at what went on, but that's all he has: Personal outrage. No actual injustice took place. There is no objective wrong that should have been righted.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Reppert:

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