Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blatant ad hominem?

Papalinton seems to be arguing as follows:

1. C. S. Lewis defended the view that there is a God, and that Christianity is true.
2. But C. S. Lewis was a fantasy fiction writer.
Therefore, his arguments in defense of belief in God and Christianity cannot be taken seriously.

Now, if this isn't what he's arguing, I've seen plenty of people say the same thing.

Can anyone explain to me why this is not a blatant example of the ad hominem fallacy? Why would a fantasy fiction writer be less likely to defend true propositions in the area of religion, as opposed to a writer of detective fiction, or a or realistic novels, or science fiction, or what have you, or even than people who don't write fiction?

If this were just Papalinton, I probably wouldn't devote a post to it. But I've seen it from a quite a few people.

39 comments:

Crude said...

1. C. S. Lewis defended the view that there is a God, and that Christianity is true.
2. But C. S. Lewis was a fantasy fiction writer.
Therefore, his arguments in defense of belief in God and Christianity cannot be taken seriously.


As stated, the above does seem to be an explicit example of an ad hom. Wiki's definition of it is: "An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it."

I suppose if one is going to play the card of "someone who writes fiction can't be taken seriously", out goes Sagan too. He wrote Contact, after all. (And there comes the pleading: but that was science fiction, not fantasy. Totally different thing!)

Bilbo said...

We would need a third premise, something like,

1.2. The only thing that causes authors of fantasy fiction to believe in God is the fact that they write fantasy fiction.

SteveK said...

This is the genetic fallacy.

Bilbo said...

SteveK: This is the genetic fallacy.

Right, so we would need a fourth premise, something like:

1.3: All fantasy fiction writers offer only fallacious arguments.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Shakespeare wrote both poetry and plays. Does that make Hamlet a sonnet?

Bilbo said...

Speaking of poetry, is there a synonym for "argument" that begins with an "f"?

awatkins69 said...

Hmm. Why should we find the argument in your post any more plausible than the following?

1. C.S. Lewis wrote high fantasy novels for children.
2. But C. S. Lewis was a defender of belief in Christianity who appealed to rigorous reasoning.
Therefore, his novels could not be remotely suitable for children.

Seems a simple cause of 'non sequitur'.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Incidentally, where does he argue this? I can't find a source.

Papalinton said...

The bigger picture is missing here. I have no issue with C S Lewis writing fantasy; the Chronicles of Narnia are no doubt as good as JRR Tolkien's 'Silmarillion' or Phillip Pullman's 'The Subtle Knife', a most anti-Narnia style of story in many ways, or even Ursula Le Guin. Great fantasy writers.

As one literary site on the web described Narnia:
"This classic kid's story is home to the biggest Christian allegory ever written. Lewis was a prolific (Christian) writer with his masterpiece being his children's story -- the Chronicles of Narnia. Call it a ham-fisted attempt to bash readers with Christian allegory after allegory, call it a timeless classic, call it the perfect story to read your kids to bed with, or simply call it a series that's had a profound influence on the fantasy genre. Whatever you decide to call it, the series should be read, even if you are an adult."

And I say, Amen to that.

In respect of Mere Christianity, this personal and highly charged emotional perspective brings no more evidence to the table than the Narnia Chronicles, or for that matter, the bible. As might well Lewis defend the view there is a god, but his defence is fully predicated on theological and/or philosophical grounds. That is, such a proposition is founded on the ontological argument; that is, in p[lain words, “I can imagine it, so it’s real.”

And if, as Lewis claims, christianity is true, how is this truth reconciled with the truth of Hinduism?
Further, I am sure that contemporaneous societies of Mithraism also claimed that the god Mithras was real and true. [The cult of the god Mithras, which became popular among Roman soldiers of the later empire, was the main rival to Christianity in the first three centuries AD.]

And while Lewis would wish it to be true, the bible together with narnia, share an equal quantum of evidence: they are both books, written by people.

Even today, sophisticated theologians such as Plantinga, in his book, 'The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader' (James F. Sennett, ed., 1998, Eeerdmans Publishing Co.), struggle to come to terms with the paucity of evidence for the existence of god[s] and christianity.
He writes,
"So presumably some propositions can properly be believed and accepted without evidence. Well, why not belief in God? Why is it not entirely acceptable, desirable, right, proper, and rational to accept belief in God without any argument or evidence whatever? (p. 121)

Lewis's argument amounts to the same claim.

PatrickH said...

Plantinga asked, and answered, the question that you say is a "claim". Why don't you even read the selective misquotes you slop out? You can't even create a misleading impression without screwing it up.

Ryan M said...

I think the word "Cannot" is the word that should raise a red flag.

steve said...

1. Philip Pullman has defended the view that there is no God, and that Christianity is false.
2. But Philip Pullman is a fantasy fiction writer.
Therefore, his arguments in defense of disbelief in God and Christianity cannot be taken seriously.

Crude said...

You can't even create a misleading impression without screwing it up.

L O freaking L. That pretty much sums Linton up to a T.

Papalinton said...

PatrickH
"Plantinga asked, and answered, the question that you say is a "claim". Why don't you even read the selective misquotes you slop out? You can't even create a misleading impression without screwing it up."

This tells me nothing. This says nothing Patrick. The best that the comment above can best described as, is the bleating of a prodded goat. The least one could do is to point out where I have misquoted and demonstrate where it is that I have been unable to, "even create a misleading impression without screwing it up."

Plantinga is clear. He presents his argument thus: that belief in God is a properly basic belief. A “properly basic belief” is one for which one doesn’t need evidence, for it is manifest to the senses immediately. He lists examples of "properly basic belief”, each of which are little more than a plea to intuition. The basis of his claim is singularly theological and/or philosophical in nature, called the ontological argument; that is, “I can imagine it, so it’s real.”

Plantinga is smart and comes up with interesting arguments, but do not confuse that with saying he comes up with correct, plausible or rational arguments though. There are just as many philosophical justifications for defending the existence of gods as there are philosophical justifications for the nonexistence of gods. Philosophy in and of itself will always remain captive to assumptions or principles made at the first premise regardless of their veridical nature or otherwise. Philosophy works equally well in demonstrating the plausibility of its first premise whether that first premise is fact or fallacy. It makes no difference to the philosophical process. Plantinga in his examples of 'properly basic belief' assumes the first premise that god exists from which his argument then follows:

"Of course none of the beliefs I mentioned a moment ago is the belief that God exists. What we have instead are such beliefs as:
God is speaking to me
God has created all this,
God disapproves of what I have done,
God forgives me, and
God is to be thanked and praised.
These propositions are properly basic in the right circumstance." [P.154]

. . . From this point of view it is not wholly accurate to say that it is belief in God that is properly basic; more exactly, what are properly basic are such proposition as [(1)-(5)], each of which self-evidently entails that God exists. It is not the relatively high-level and general proposition that God exists that is properly basic, but instead propositions detailing some of his attributes and actions." (p. 154)

So the question asked of Plantinga, "How can one use those “basic beliefs” to support the notion that “God exists” if they all presume that God exists? How can one intuit, for example, that “God is to be thanked and praised” unless a basic belief is held that there’s a God in the first place? Is is simply obfuscatory, self-serving nonsense. [I am indebted to Professor Jerry Coyne, University of Chicago for my potted version of his review of Plantinga.]

There is scientifically informed philosophy and there is scientifically uninformed philosophy. Scientifically uninformed philosophy is a crock. Science without philosophy is blind ... but philosophy without science is empty. Plantinga's philosophy is empty. Lewis's work does not in any sufficiently substantive way distinguish the emotional appeal to intuition in the Narnia series as distinct from the emotional appeal to intuition in 'Mere Christianity'.

Lewis, and Plantinga, have not offered claims worthy of consideration for the existence of gods and thereby demonstrate christianity as true, even on the basis of probabilities let alone beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bilbo said...

Hi Papa,

It's difficult to tell when you are quoting someone and when you are just making your own comment. Have you read Lewis's Mere Christianity?

BenYachov said...

>There is scientifically informed philosophy and there is scientifically uninformed philosophy.

Paps you see equates Atheism, naturalism and materialist reductionism with "Science".

Thus if you don't assume these views(which are given without argument) or accept them as properly basic like Paps does then you are not "scientific".

Give me a break Gnu!

To claim Plantinga's philosophy is "not informed by science" is just begging the question.

Mind you Plantunga's philosophy here employs Ontological Arguments for the Existence of God which are anathema to the traditional Thomist.

You want to critique Plantinga Paps?

Here is how it's done.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/12/plantingas-ontological-argument.html

Paps you need to at least start reading Atheist philosophers. Coyne is an idiot. He doesn't know philosophy from his own arsehole.

Atheist philosopher Stephen Law recently spanked Dawkins and Atkins for their anti-philosophy bullshit.

http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2012/02/magadalen-college-last-night-think-week.html

So I will give him Kudos for that.

Anti-philosophy and the ignorance of philosophy among Gnus will simply not due.

It's a form of fundamentalism for non-believers.

Papalinton said...

Bilbo
"Have you read Lewis's Mere Christianity?"

Yes. A deeply apologetical work steeped in personal experience.
I might add, the basis of the claim, 'Lewis's Trilemma', has been roundly challenged by both theological and secular scholars and found wanting. N T Wright, and John Hicks are a few that have critiqued Lewis's perspective. Other philosophers have modified the 'Liar, Lunatic, Lord' trilogy to include "Legend'.

Lewis was a naturally mythopoeic writer and this aspect of his writing is clearly visible in his treatment of ' Mere Christianity.'

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Papalinton -

So if I understand you correctly, you're issue with CS Lewis, at least in this discussion, is not that he is a fiction writer, therefore his apologetics should not be taken seriously, but rather, that his reasoning, steeped in personal experience, is basically the argument from religious experience?

Do I understand you correctly?

Papalinton said...

Cristofer Urlaub
" ... therefore his apologetics should not be taken seriously ..."

No, not at all. Treat his apologetics as seriously as your would wish. Simply don't trot it out as proof or evidence for the existence of god[s].

Treat christianity as the truth in the same way you would treat any other but different religious tradition as truth. That is all I am asking. Not an unreasonable entreaty by any stretch. Just as humanity once believed in Mithraism, or Greek and Roman polytheism, or the three thousand year life-span of the Egyptian pantheon, they were all true and held in reverential awe. But as history attests they were a product of their times, now forgotten. Gods don't die. They are forgotten. Christianity is no less being forgotten as other forms of religion emerge within their cultural milieux. Some recent examples that demonstrate this trend has been the emergence of the Mormons, with a very different 'truth' about the historical context that informs its basic tenets. And the emergence of Scientology, equally and consciously eschewing the apparent 'truths' of christianity, even though and despite two thousand years of supposed truth of tradition.

Much of the New Age spiritualist movements of the Deepak Chopras [and James Redfield, Eckhart Tolle and John Holland, to mention a few] of this world is emblematic of society voting with their feet away from institutional religion to more eclectic and inclusive forms of experience. To the chagrin of both the catholic church and the Southern Baptist Convention. Theism in the New Age movement is reflected in a more general and abstract idea of gods, understood in many ways and seen as superseding the need to anthropomorphize deity.

Clearly, today's people no longer consider the god of catholicism or protestantism as true. And indeed are progressively forgetting him, as people are want to do with old gods.

Maths Tutor Wirral said...

'Why would a fantasy fiction writer be less likely to defend true propositions in the area of religion...'

Why would a zoologist be less likely to defend true propositions in the area of religion than a philosophy professor at Notre Dame?

Maths Tutor Wirral said...

C.S.Lewis was a remarkable man.

His books are infallible, without a single error in logic or fact on any page.

Just ask Victor.

Compare that with Dawkins where even fellow-atheists have taken him to task over parts of 'The God Delusion'

Papalinton said...

Cristofer Urlaub
Following on:
" ... but rather, that his reasoning, steeped in personal experience, is basically the argument from religious experience?"

Cristofer, one of the best sites and conversations that I have read in respect of personal experience and the nature of subjectivity can be found here:

http://www.achristianandanatheist.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=2668

I commend the reading.

PatrickH said...

Plantinga is a theist, Linton. He has not "struggled" with the lack of evidence for belief in God. He has pointed out that belief in God may be properly basic, in the way that belief in a really existing past, a really existing external world, other selves, etc. are. You created, incompetently, the impression that Plantinga, who has provided many arguments for the existence of God, is somehow struggling so hard with the absence of evidence that he's come up with the properly basic approach as a desperation measure. You're not honest, and you massively misrepresented Platinga with every word of your botch job.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

Philip Pullman writes fantasy, so everything he says about religion must be rubbish, according to Pappy's argument.

Victor Reppert said...

Where in the world do I argue the infallibility of Lewis?

Part of what I have always contended, for example, is that Elizabeth Anscombe made criticisms of Lewis's original AFR which were well-taken. They were not, however, fatal to the argument as a whole.

BenYachov said...

>Why would a zoologist be less likely to defend true propositions in the area of religion than a philosophy professor at Notre Dame?

Because Philosophy professors both Atheistic and Theistic have shown that particular zoologist specific arguments are pure bullshit.

Victor who is a philosophy professor has written and defended the Argument from Reason.

I can extensively tell you why the Ulimate Boeing 747 argument from the Zoologist is crap and as Atheist Michael Ruse said "an embarrassment" or "amateurish" as Thomas Nagel(also an Atheist) has said about the Zoologists arguments.

Why not give me reasons why the AFR is wrong?

Bilbo said...

Hi Papa,

You described Lewis's Mere Christianity as a "deeply apologetical work steeped in personal experience."

I'm curious. What exactly do you mean by "steeped in personal experience"?

Papalinton said...

PatrickH
"He has not "struggled" with the lack of evidence for belief in God."

Exactly right. Plantinga's belief in god does not rely on any form of evidence. He admits so himself. There is no struggle for him to believe in god without evidence. There is no evidence, period. Unless of course one uses the theist's definition of 'evidence' that includes 'revelation' as a source of evidence.
Plantinga's struggle is in search of a replacement substitute for evidence to justify why he believes in god[s] that is imagines is a little more substantive than revelation.

"... Plantinga, who has provided many arguments for the existence of God ..."
As was commented before, "Plantinga is smart and comes up with interesting arguments, but do not confuse that with saying he comes up with correct, plausible or rational arguments though." You, PatrickH, confirmed as much in your comment, "Plantinga is a theist, Linton".

However, PatrickH, should you wish to fool yourself in Plantinga's reverie, knock yourself out.

BenYachov said...

>Plantinga's belief in god does not rely on any form of evidence. He admits so himself.

Quote please? Because Plantinga does offer rational argument for his beliefs(which can be evaluated philosophically).

He doesn't believe empiricism is the end all & be all standard of knowledge unlike certain ex-fundamentalist Christians turned fundamentalist Atheist advocates of Scientism.

Even Atheist philosophers like Stephen Law notes not all knowledge is strictly empirical in his take down of Dawkins and Atkins.

http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2012/02/magadalen-college-last-night-think-week.html

Paps you are a public school teacher what do you know?;-)

BenYachov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crude said...

Ben,

Quote please? Because Plantinga does offer rational argument for his beliefs(which can be evaluated philosophically).

What Plantinga believes is that belief in God can be properly basic, and that basic beliefs need no argument. That's utterly different from claiming there are no arguments for God's existence (Plantinga gives, supports and names a variety throughout his career), much less that there are no arguments for particularly religious beliefs (Christian, etc).

I'd recommend his latest book. It's actually pretty damn good.

And, as ever, some teacher humor. ;)

Bilbo said...

Okay, I couldn't find a synonym for "argument" that started with 'f'. So for my third premise, I came up with:

1.3: All arguments offered by wholly imaginative authors are always awful.

Bilbo said...

And Papa,

I'm still wondering what you mean by claiming that Lewis's Mere Christianity is "steeped in personal experience"?

PatrickH said...

Papalinton, I'm giving up on you. You have no intellectual integrity. You lack utterly the habitus of truth. You know how they say of a scientific hypothesis that "it's not even wrong?"

Well, you're not even a liar.

Papalinton said...

"Papalinton, I'm giving up on you. You have no intellectual integrity."

Just the bleating of another prodded goat whose cupboard of theist evidence is found bare.

From Jack Huberman, best selling American author, wrote of: H.P.Lovecraft; American fantasy, horror and science fiction author. STEPHEN KING called him the greatest master of the classic horror tale. Before age five, announced he no longer believed in Santa Clause. "Further thought convinced him that arguments for the existence of god suffered the same weaknesses", a biographer wrote. At Sunday School, "when the feeding of christian martyrs to the lions came up, Lovecraft shocked the class by gleefully taking the side of the lions."

Lovecraft: "If religion were true, its followers would not try hard to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity, but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth."

One can always gauge the level of indoctrination and the 'truth' of christian theism by the fervor and intensity of subsequent reactions of believers of cries of disbelief, isolation, rejection, threats, intimidation, warnings, menace, bullying and harassment of those that speak they do not believe in god[s].
How many recent reports do you wish me to raise to reflect this mode of response?

Papalinton said...

"The humanist philosopher Simon Blackburn recounts a wonderful anecdote told to him by a colleague about a high-powered interfaith panel discussion. Each speaker took turns to explain some key ideas of their faith – Buddhist, Hindu and so on – and the response from other panel members was always along the lines of: "Wow, terrific, if that works for you that's great." The same response greeted the Catholic priest who talked of Christ and salvation, but instead of being pleased with their enthusiasm "he thumped the table and shouted: 'No! It's not a question of if it works for me! It's the true word of the living God, and if you don't believe it you're all damned to hell!'"

"And they all said, 'Wow, terrific, if that works for you that's great.'"

[from Dawkins website]

BenYachov said...

But Paps you don't have any intellectual in integrity.

We have all seen you rant against even fellow Atheists just because they don't endorse your narrow brand of Fundie Atheist dogma.

Remember Jesse? He showed why the OTF was unworkable & you couldn't handle it.

The man had to beat you over the head to even get you to believe he was rejecting the argument.

>"And they all said, 'Wow, terrific, if that works for you that's great.'"

Yes that is a funny story but I've heard it before in conservative religious circles which is why I reject liberal religion.

You are a good story teller at best but you are still a lousy thinker & you clearly seem to set in your ways to change.

Bilbo said...

Hi Papa,

I'm still wondering what you mean by claiming that Lewis's Mere Christianity is "steeped in personal experience"?

J said...

Perhaps you've completely missed the point of Fantasy literature and its relationship with 'God'. Two points:

1. Christianity cannot be explained in logical/rational language.
Our world is based on language... created by humans. We can only understand the world based on language/symbols. (Read Lacan for more on this)

2. Fantasy Literature offers us an alternative route to understanding 'God' or a 'superior reality'. Humans can only see through the murkiness of symbols/language.
Fantasy doesn't show the true picture. Just an 'idea' of it. This is the only way we can possibly 'see' a superior reality.

Logic, like language, works within the confines of our human understanding. It may function perfectly in our perceived universe, but that doesn't mean it gives truth to everything.

Those who understand how Fantasy can be "true", will understand how 'God' 'exists'.

I'm not saying fantasy fiction = God must exist. I'm just trying to point out that boxing it into a 'logical argument' is never going to work.