Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Motives and arguments

I've been acutely aware, since I was 18, of the wishful thinking charge against Christianity, when I read Bertrand Russell, and that is one of the main reasons I majored in philosophy as an undergraduate. If there were reasons to reject Christianity, I wanted to know what those were, and I wanted to know that sooner rather than later. These considerations have made Christianity more difficult to believe, not easier to believe.
All discussion of the motives of other people is sheer speculation. If you become convinced, say, that atheism is true, it may help you explain why there are so many believers, but you have things backwards if you think you can start with speculation about peoples motives and conclude anything about what you have good reason to believe. Everyone can speculate about the motives of their opponents. It's as easy as pie, but it ends in a stalemate.
If you say, "I'd love to believe in a heaven, but I just can't because the evidence just isn't there." I'm not going to call you a liar. But if I tell you I thought about these issues, and I would believe if I didn't think there were good reasons for believing (and I've just given a couple of reasons off the top of my head), then no matter how poorly you think of them as reasons, you don't have a good reason to disbelieve my introspective report.


BeingItself said...

"But if I tell you I thought about these issues, and I would believe if I didn't think there were good reasons for believing"

Thank you for finally admitting this.

Victor Reppert said...

I'm afraid you seized on a typo. I meant to say I wouldn't believe.

BeingItself said...

A Freudian slip.

Crude said...

A Freudian slip.

Scientific thinking at its finest ladies and gentlemen. ;)

im-skeptical said...

"All discussion of the motives of other people is sheer speculation."

Amazing. How many times have I been told that I'm an atheist because I'm rebellious or because I'm afraid of God? If anyone should try to argue that you are motivated to believe, it's "Oh no. My reasons for believing are sound logical ones."

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

It's not about what you genuinely believe, or what I genuinely believe. The same evidence which you claim is sufficient for your belief in the supernatural and gods is pretty much the same evidence [which I have deduced is simply insufficient] for my not believing in them. This has been the problematic nature of Christian belief since it was first promulgated. The long history of heresy and blasphemy are a clear testament of the fluidity of religious belief and the almost frictionless ease by which one can run aground in the SS Blasphemy or MV Heresy. And it basically comes down to the speculative nature of what constitutes and who determines the 'evidence' or 'proofs' or 'facts' available. This is prevalent more so within the Christian tent than it is for those of us who by reason and logic have dispensed with religious 'knowledge'.

The appeal to abjure from entertaining motives is perhaps one request that has the least chance of being heeded. Why? Because entertaining motives is one characteristic of the human condition that is so acutely resistant to such calls. To suspect motive is the classic behavioural outcome of humanity's inherent predilection for teleology and intentionality. Indeed motive is synonymous with teleological intentionality. And where would religion be without teleology and intentionality? Both are defining concepts of cosmic intelligence etc that supposedly underpins order, regularity, the anthropic zone, and the fine tuning of the cosmological constants, and a myriad of other physical laws that are attributed to supernatural supervening intelligence or intellect, or the 'being itself'.

And yes, I do have a good reason to be very mindful of your introspective report, not because of introspection per se, but those that believe seem to also desire to apply or introduce that personal introspective report into the community generally, either legislatively or by regulation, to apply even on those that do not share it be they believers of other religions in the community or non-believers, like me.

Removing motives is to imagine there are no reasons for people's beliefs.

B. Prokop said...

The Globe and Mail (a Canadian newspaper) yesterday published an interview with Dawkins and Krauss which contains two (unintentionally) hilarious back-to-back quotes. Here they are.

Krauss: I think it’s frustrating. When I was a kid in the ’60s, I was sure that by now there would be no religion. In a way it’s very surprising that there are these momentary resurgences. I think it’s going to be a long road.

Dawkins: If you look at the broad sweep of history, then clearly we’re on the winning side. I think things are moving in the right direction, probably not as fast as I would like to see.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, HA !!!!

Reminds me of a certain poster on this website forever bloviating about how history is supposedly on atheism's side, and that your children will live under materialism. (Or was that Communism? Just what was it that Khrushchev said?)

I love the way they both offer themselves an escape hatch. Krauss says it's "going to be a long road" and Dawkins adds that it's "not as fast as I would like to see". How convenient. That way, they can never be proven wrong when their predictions don't come true. Just keep punting to the future. After all, Krauss thought we'd all be living in a godless paradise today!!!

Victor Reppert said...

My claim is that everyone's belief choices are partly the result of reflection, and partly the result of motives, of which none of us are fully aware. No one side in the discussion has a monopoly on rational or nonrational motives. So motive arguments are a wash, and if they are introduced in place of actual arguments, the result is mutual assured destruction, since each side can "bomb" the other with an equal measure of motive arguments, and blow up the discussion permanently.