Thursday, March 08, 2012

Reply to Loftus on the argumentum ad Kierkegaard

This kind of reminds me of what I used to call the argument ad Kierkegaard. You can't defend the rationality of Christianity, I've been told,  because Kierkegaard says that Christianity is a leap of faith. So what?
In the Catholic Church, it's actually heresy to be a fideist.

Vatican I, recognizing elements of truth and falsehood in both
rationalism and fideism, adopted a mediating position. Against the
fideists it affirmed that reason, by its natural powers, could establish
the foundations of faith and the credibility of the Christian revelation
(DS 3019, 3033). And against the rationalists Vatican I attributed
the full assurance of the act of faith to the power of divine grace
enlightening the intellect and inspiring the will (DS 3010). The act
was therefore reasonable without being a deliverance of pure reason.--Avery Dulles.
http://www.shu.edu/catholic-mi...

I can play that game too. Here's a Thomas Nagel quote:
It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm
right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there
to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.
-Thomas Nagel

See, atheists admit that they are motivated by a fear of religion. Thomas Nagel says so, and he's an atheist. You don't want to let me get away with this? Then you can't use the kind of argument  you're using here.

25 comments:

Andres Ruiz said...

Vic,

Why do you find Loftus worth responding to?

John W. Loftus said...

Sure Vic, not every Christian says these things about faith and reason, even though their practice betrays them. I grant you that. But you will NEVER EVER read where an atheist said anything derogatory about reason and that's a HUGE difference.

Andres, perhaps for this reason.

Steve Lovell said...

JWL,

Really? I read plenty like that ... aren't most of the postmoderns atheists?

The now atheism may not necessarily lead to postmodernism, but that doesn't mean the two aren't connected.

Steve Lovell said...

oops ...

Now, atheism ... (not "The now atheism").

Susan said...

Atheists who express themselves well are fascinating. That's why Loftus is worth responding to.

They honor reason too much, though. Reason is great but it's not as important as the atheists assume it is.

John W. Loftus said...

Steve, yes you're right. I tend to ignore postmodernism ("out of sight out of mind"). It's a strangely wonderful relationship fundamentalists have with postmodernists, isn't it? While they repudiate your absolutist faith, you utilize part of what they say whenever it suits you, even though what they say destroys any rational basis you might have for your faith.

Eric said...

I know atheists who critique reason and science on New Age grounds, on postmodern grounds and on radical skeptical grounds (and that's just off the top of my head). I also know *many* atheists who regularly label serious philosophical analyses as 'semantics' or 'worldplay' or 'hairsplitting'; if that's not evincing a derogatory attitude towards serious reasoning, then I don't know what is.

Vallicella: "The charge of hairsplitting has always been one of the weapons in the arsenal of the anti-intellectual. One root of anti-intellectualism is a churlish hatred of all refinement. Another is laziness...Thinking is hard work. One has to be careful, one has to be precise; one has to carve the bird of reality at the joints. It is no surprise that people don't like thinking. It goes against our slothful grain. But surely any serious thinking about any topic issues in the making of distinctions that to the untutored may seem strained and unnecessary...The truth of the matter is that there are very few occasions on which the charge of hairsplitting is justly made. On almost all occasions, the accuser is simply advertising his inability to grasp a distinction that the subject-matter requires. He is parading before us his lack of culture and mental acuity and his churlish refusal to be instructed."

Of course, we must distinguish legitimate critiques of the limits of reason and science from saying 'derogatory' things about reason and science. To acknowledge that my car can do things that my computer cannot, and vice versa, can't be identified with saying anything derogatory about either one of them.

Crude said...

Atheists who express themselves well are fascinating. That's why Loftus is worth responding to.

Uhhh...

The idea of Loftus expressing himself well is.. you know what? It goes without saying.

Victor's got far better fish in the barrel to shoot at.

William said...

Any honest analytic will admit that there are premises beyond which reason cannot go.

That is why reasonable and rational persons can disagree.

To that extent at least, reason is limited.

And yes, in some situations faith is rational, and so in other situations is the witholding of belief. Why? Depends, among other things, on our starting premises.

Steve Lovell said...

Well said Eric.

JWL,

Are you saying that this is what I'm doing by making the response I have? That would be a bizarre reading of my comment. So I'll assume you aren't saying that. But then you only seem to be saying, like Eric, that Christians are happy to borrow from postmoderns here and there. Indeed we are. I also borrow from scientists, logicians, economists, social theorists, anyone who I think has genuine insights. To do so is not necessarily to think that those I borrow from are right about everything. I'm fairly sure there are elements of Christian thought that you borrow to. But you don't borrow them because they are Christian, you borrow them because they seem to you to be true.

Believe it or not, you cannot beat Christianity with every stick you can lay your hands on.

Papalinton said...

Eric says:
"I also know *many* atheists who regularly label serious philosophical analyses as 'semantics' or 'wordplay' or 'hairsplitting'; if that's not evincing a derogatory attitude towards serious reasoning, then I don't know what is."

If there is ever to be a reasoned and rational discussion between the two pillars of human endeavour, philosophy and science, one must of necessity inform the other, in a dynamically constructive relationship. One without the other would indeed default to matters of semantics or wordplay or hairsplitting. The ubiquitous euphemism, 'science without philosophy is blind and philosophy without science is empty', is axiomatic.

Should the philosophy of religion be the particular flavour of discourse engaged, it too, must form that relationship with science if we are to indulge in 'serious philosophical analyses' that does not result in the inexorable slide into 'semantics' or 'wordplay' or 'hairsplitting'.

Contrary to its claim, the Vallicella quote seems not to have much to do with 'serious reasoning'. It appears rather, to be illustrative of a philosophy somewhat devoid of substance, branding all that does not subscribe to his notion of reasoning as anti-intellectual.

I am somewhat amused by christians, ever quick to point out the limitations of reason and science, while concurrently neglecting to apply any form of logic or reason in acknowledging any limitations of faith and theology.

Philosophy and science are the fundamental logic streams in human growth and development, in knowledge and understanding. While theology may inform the debate at the margins, in a peripheral sense, as does indeed the broader genre of mythology, it is not central to human understanding going forward.

At the core of the nature of contemporary discourse, is the changing relationship between 'traditional' categories of knowledge and the emerging forms of knowledge possessing far greater explanatory power. Concomitant with this change is a fair degree of discomfort and dislocation experienced by those in society as a result of this changing relationship. Traditional categories of knowledge refer to the long-standing traditions and practices of regional, indigenous, and local communities, and encompasses the wisdom, knowledge, and teachings of these communities. In many cases, traditional knowledge has been orally passed for generations from person to person. Stories, legends, folklore, custom and convention are expressions of traditional knowledge. They are transmitted principally through rituals, ceremonies and rites; through observance, service, sacrament, liturgy, worship; and through act, practice and custom. Theology, or more particularly, religion, is a traditional category of knowledge borne from one generation to the next within a community. Different communities reflect different traditions of religion.

By contrast, much of contemporary and emerging forms of knowledge, meta-knowledge if you will, recognizes the role of traditional forms of knowledge but seeks to distill and encapsulate that which is universally accepted while extracting and dispensing with any localized provincial stricture or binding parochial social accretion. Through science and philosophy, much of that which we once took for granted, generally conceived as 'conventional wisdom', is being rightly scrutinized, and challenged to justify their continued observance. The tradition of religious knowledge and practices is one such domain that cannot be set apart or to accord itself a status above scrutiny. It too, must earn its keep in contemporary society.

Crude said...

Hey everyone. I'd like to draw a little attention to something Linton just did.

Notice that at no point does he attribute any part of what he's saying to another source. It's all one nice, big, flowing comment.

Let's take this slice from his comment: Traditional categories of knowledge refer to the long-standing traditions and practices of regional, indigenous, and local communities, and encompasses the wisdom, knowledge, and teachings of these communities. In many cases, traditional knowledge has been orally passed for generations from person to person. Stories, legends, folklore, custom and convention are expressions of traditional knowledge. They are transmitted principally through rituals, ceremonies and rites; through observance, service, sacrament, liturgy, worship; and through act, practice and custom. Theology, or more particularly, religion, is a traditional category of knowledge borne from one generation to the next within a community. Different communities reflect different traditions of religion.

Now, let's compare it to the traditional knowledge entry on wikipedia. Also, let's bold the areas that seem to be a 100% direct word for word lift. Not even the 'almost' parts - just the 100% pickups.

Traditional knowledge (TK), indigenous knowledge (IK), traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) and local knowledge generally refer to the long-standing traditions and practices of certain regional, indigenous, or local communities. Traditional knowledge also encompasses the wisdom, knowledge, and teachings of these communities. In many cases, traditional knowledge has been orally passed for generations from person to person. Some forms of traditional knowledge are expressed through stories, legends, folklore, rituals, songs, and even laws. Other forms of traditional knowledge are expressed through different means.

Gosh. One would almost get the impression that what went on here was a pretty direct lift from a wikipedia entry, along with some minor mixing up of the order of words. You know, the sort of thing a student does when he has a homework assignment, and he's wants to phone it in with minimal work. Parroting, with just enough jumbling to minimally differentiate oneself from a parrot.

Now, I don't know why Linton is engaging in wikipedia plagiarism in a freaking comment section on a blog. Oh, I could speculate, believe me. For now, I won't.

But I thought some of you would find some dry humor in having this pointed out. ;)

Victor Reppert said...

Why is Loftus worth responding to? If he were the only person who says the kinds of things he does, it would maybe not be worth it to respond to him. But lots of people get confused on this issue. In fact, I tell Christians that unless you disambiguate the idea, whenever you use the word "faith" in earshot of an atheist (at least of the Dawkins or Loftus variety), they are automatically going to hear "irrationality."

Crude said...

Victor,

In fact, I tell Christians that unless you disambiguate the idea, whenever you use the word "faith" in earshot of an atheist (at least of the Dawkins or Loftus variety), they are automatically going to hear "irrationality."

In your opinion, how much of that is "honest mistake / faulty misconception", and how much of that is "active attempt to strawmen Christians or misrepresent their views"?

I mean, you'd accept that certainly the latter takes place, right?

Papalinton said...

crude:

Mea culpa, crude. An oversight, not an omission. I forgot to add a couple of paragraphs in my original commentary. On deleting the original comment to rectify that omission, I took the opportunity to review and change some of the flow and content of the original comment and in the rush of the moment, again forgot to incorporate the missing paragraphs. Additionally, the original comment was too large to be posted in one, and in the process of rightsizing to match Blogger word count requirement, I thought I had lost much of my commentary.

It is as below:

-----------------------------------------------

This discomfort in challenging the traditional religious forms of knowledge is no better reflected than by Steve Petermann, a believer no less: [at http://theology3m.blogsome.com/2006/11/27/a-feeling-for-things/#more-46 ]
"Of course, there are various reasons for the steady decline of participation in traditional religion. Is there any doubt that there is also a steady secularization in societies? The reason I would like to focus on is the incredulity of many religious claims found in the traditions. Most of the traditions, at least in the West, still point to an interventionist supernatural mode of causation. The miracle stories in all the traditions are still taken seriously by many adherents. For some people, however, the idea that there are supernatural interventions taking place in the cosmos has become less and less tenable. Why? In a large part I think it is a result of people getting a feel for how things work in reality."
And while I very much disagree with the obfuscatory conclusions he reaches, he nonetheless articulates the particular discomfort derived from the cognitive dissonance between traditional scriptural interpretation and the widening divergence of evreyday information and knowledge that does not prescribe or subscribe to religious interpretation. Such interpretation is utterly superfluous.
It goes without saying that Traditional forms of knowledge, as illustrated above, is the bedrock of religious belief, and no less so for christian theism. And one need not go the extra distance than to take further comment from Wiki; "Traditional knowledge, on the other hand, may be perceived very differently by indigenous and local communities themselves. The knowledge of indigenous and local communities is often embedded in a cosmology, and the distinction between "intangible" knowledge and physical things is often blurred. Indigenous peoples often say that "our knowledge is holistic, and cannot be separated from our lands and resources". Traditional knowledge in these cosmologies is inextricably bound to ancestors, and ancestral lands. Knowledge may not be acquired by naturalistic trial and error, but through direct revelation through conversations with "the creator", spirits, or ancestors."
[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_knowledge ]
As close a description of christian theism for which one could not wish better, even down to the 'cosmologies' inextricably bound to the ancestors, Abraham, Moses, and the ancestral lands of the Israelites etc etc.
I say, if it looks like traditional religion, feels like traditional religion and squawks like tradition religion, it sure as hell is traditional religion.

----------------------------------------------

The import of the message, crude, does not change. The substance of the argument is not diminished one jot, as religion is gradually caste adrift from the moorings of social addiction and as the fear of consignment to hell for eternity for supplicating to the wrong god, no longer washes with the general populace.

Papalinton said...

For the benefit of crude, in order to minimize any confusion that may eddy in crude's muddled 'metaphysics of the superstitious' mind and the conspiracy theory detection part of his brain, I have posted the comment in its entirety:

"Eric says:
"I also know *many* atheists who regularly label serious philosophical analyses as 'semantics' or 'wordplay' or 'hairsplitting'; if that's not evincing a derogatory attitude towards serious reasoning, then I don't know what is."

If there is ever to be a reasoned and rational discussion between the two pillars of human endeavour, philosophy and science, one must of necessity inform the other, in a dynamically constructive relationship. One without the other would indeed default to matters of semantics or wordplay or hairsplitting. The ubiquitous euphemism, 'science without philosophy is blind and philosophy without science is empty', is axiomatic.

Should the philosophy of religion be the particular flavour of discourse engaged, it too, must form that relationship with science if we are to indulge in 'serious philosophical analyses' that does not result in the inexorable slide into 'semantics' or 'wordplay' or 'hairsplitting'.

Contrary to its claim, the Vallicella quote seems not to have much to do with 'serious reasoning'. It appears rather, to be illustrative of a philosophy somewhat devoid of substance, branding all that does not subscribe to his notion of reasoning as anti-intellectual.

I am somewhat amused by christians, ever quick to point out the limitations of reason and science, while concurrently neglecting to apply any form of logic or reason in acknowledging any limitations of faith and theology.

Philosophy and science are the fundamental logic streams in human growth and development, in knowledge and understanding. While theology may inform the debate at the margins, in a peripheral sense, as does indeed the broader genre of mythology, it is not central to human understanding going forward.

At the core of the nature of contemporary discourse, is the changing relationship between 'traditional' categories of knowledge and the emerging forms of knowledge possessing far greater explanatory power. Concomitant with this change is a fair degree of discomfort and dislocation experienced by those in society as a result of this changing relationship. Traditional categories of knowledge refer to the long-standing traditions and practices of regional, indigenous, and local communities, and encompasses the wisdom, knowledge, and teachings of these communities. In many cases, traditional knowledge has been orally passed for generations from person to person. Stories, legends, folklore, custom and convention are expressions of traditional knowledge. They are transmitted principally through rituals, ceremonies and rites; through observance, service, sacrament, liturgy, worship; and through act, practice and custom. Theology, or more particularly, religion, is a traditional category of knowledge borne from one generation to the next within a community. Different communities reflect different traditions of religion.

Cont.

Papalinton said...

Cont.
This discomfort in challenging the traditional religious forms of knowledge is no better reflected than by Steve Petermann, a believer no less: [at http://theology3m.blogsome.com/2006/11/27/a-feeling-for-things/#more-46 ]
"Of course, there are various reasons for the steady decline of participation in traditional religion. Is there any doubt that there is also a steady secularization in societies? The reason I would like to focus on is the incredulity of many religious claims found in the traditions. Most of the traditions, at least in the West, still point to an interventionist supernatural mode of causation. The miracle stories in all the traditions are still taken seriously by many adherents. For some people, however, the idea that there are supernatural interventions taking place in the cosmos has become less and less tenable. Why? In a large part I think it is a result of people getting a feel for how things work in reality."
And while I very much disagree with the obfuscatory conclusions he reaches, he nonetheless articulates the particular discomfort derived from the cognitive dissonance between traditional scriptural interpretation and the widening divergence of evreyday information and knowledge that does not prescribe or subscribe to religious interpretation. Such interpretation is utterly superfluous.
It goes without saying that Traditional forms of knowledge, as illustrated above, is the bedrock of religious belief, and no less so for christian theism. And one need not go the extra distance than to take further comment from Wiki; "Traditional knowledge, on the other hand, may be perceived very differently by indigenous and local communities themselves. The knowledge of indigenous and local communities is often embedded in a cosmology, and the distinction between "intangible" knowledge and physical things is often blurred. Indigenous peoples often say that "our knowledge is holistic, and cannot be separated from our lands and resources". Traditional knowledge in these cosmologies is inextricably bound to ancestors, and ancestral lands. Knowledge may not be acquired by naturalistic trial and error, but through direct revelation through conversations with "the creator", spirits, or ancestors." [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_knowledge ]
As close a description of christian theism for which one could not wish better, even down to the 'cosmologies' inextricably bound to the ancestors, Abraham, Moses, and the ancestral lands of the Israelites etc etc.
I say, if it looks like traditional religion, feels like traditional religion and squawks like tradition religion, it sure as hell is traditional religion.

By contrast, much of contemporary and emerging forms of knowledge, meta-knowledge if you will, recognizes the role of traditional forms of knowledge but seeks to distill and encapsulate that which is universally accepted while extracting and dispensing with any localized provincial stricture or binding parochial social accretion. Through science and philosophy, much of that which we once took for granted, generally conceived as 'conventional wisdom', is being rightly scrutinized, and challenged to justify their continued observance. The tradition of religious knowledge and practices is one such domain that cannot be set apart or to accord itself a status above scrutiny. It too, must earn its keep in contemporary society.

Crude said...

Linton,

Mea culpa, crude. An oversight, not an omission. I forgot to add a couple of paragraphs in my original commentary. On deleting the original comment to rectify that omission, I took the opportunity to review and change some of the flow and content of the original comment and in the rush of the moment, again forgot to incorporate the missing paragraphs. Additionally, the original comment was too large to be posted in one, and in the process of rightsizing to match Blogger word count requirement, I thought I had lost much of my commentary.

Bwahaha. This is epic. Screenshotted! What are you? 50? 60? And you just got caught red-handed plagiarizing, only to be fumbling through your excuse like a freaking high school freshman.

It wasn't a case of you blatantly copying and pasting things and passing them off as your thoughts and insights. Good heavens no! Instead you lifted whole sections from wikipedia, then got totally confused by word count, and when you went back you just reworded a few things for 'flow' reasons and it completely slipped your mind that the "flow" you were changing was from wikipedia. Also you kept forgetting to add some paragraphs, which further distracted you. So you edited it all a second or third time, and still forgot to mention "Oh yeah, I'm like, copying stuff straight from wikipedia, except I'm also altering it for "flow" reasons".

Also, you have rock solid evidence that this is the truth, not some panicky made-up excuse. Here's the evidence: "I'm going to rewrite the post after the fact, and THIS time include cites! See? I didn't plagiarize at all!"

Priceless, Linton. Simply priceless.

Thank you for not only yet again backing up everything I've been pointing out about you for weeks, but doing so in a way that could hardly be more funny. I don't even know how you could top this one. Mistaking an article in The Onion for a real news article? Quoting Gene Ray as a legitimate physics authority?

Watching you comment is like watching Evel Knievel do stunts. With all the successful jumps edited out. ;)

John W. Loftus said...

My view is a conclusion I have come to upon a lot of thought. I have changed my mind about it. I really think faith is irrational.

Papalinton said...

JWL
Your conclusion of the irrationality of faith is germane to this discussion.

The following article at, http://www.philosophynews.com/post/2011/12/05/Interview-with-Peter-Boghossian.aspx , starts; "In a recent article for Inside Higher Ed professor Boghossian of Portland State University (Oregon) sketches his position that professors should have a primary goal of changing students beliefs if those beliefs are false and seek to replace those beliefs with true ones." It goes on to note, ""He subsequently gave a talk on the PSU campus arguing that faith is a cognitive sickness and should be given no countenance in the classroom."

Embedded in the article is the recorded interview with Prof Boghossian on the recognition of faith as a symptom of cognitive sickness.

Well worth the read and a listen.

John W. Loftus said...

Here's my challenge to you Vic.

Victor Reppert said...

As you can see by the above redated post, C. S. Lewis answered that one. Why don't you give him his prize and put flowers on his gave, next time you're over in England.

Susan said...

Re: Loftus, challenge: "Christian theists make two claims about faith: 1) That atheists define the concept of faith wrong, and 2) That atheists have faith just like Christian theists do. So here's my challenge: Define faith in such a way that it fulfills both requirements"

Faith is an affection for truth - willing the truth because it is true.

Same for atheists and theists.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Victor, you have used the Nagel quote in the past as evidence for claims about "atheists" in general. Glad to see you think this is a mistake. Which it clearly is.

All one needs to do is mention the caveat that they are attacking claim/argument X among atheists(Christians) and it doesn't touch those that don't buy that claim.

Peter K. Rufus said...

The problem with Loftus' reasoning is that there is no standard definition for reason.

He, and all atheists, seem to think there is universal agreement on what is and isn't reason-able.

Case in point, evolutionists seem to think that ex-nihilo creation can be self-caused, despite no observable evidence for such a conclusion.

Is this reasonable?

Much of our reasoning is based on a priori assumptions. Who decides whether these assumptions are reasonable or not?

So we need to examine the 'reasonability' of our assumptions. But before that, we need a standard definition of what is 'reason'.

Also, how can we confirm that any definition of 'reason' is reason-able? Who's the final authority?
Who decides what's reasonable and what isn't?