Thursday, August 17, 2017

On ulterior motives, or Ezekiel Bulver rides again

Someone on Secular Outpost tried to explain away my arguments by saying I was just looking for reasons to hold onto my religion. I called this ad hominem circumstantial, and I went on to explain what is wrong with that approach. 

No, the problem with reading ulterior motives and less than reputable underground arguments is threefold. One, you don't know me personally, so your speculations about my motives are just that, speculations. I do know Keith personally, and I know his experiences with Christianity are different from mine, and this probably affects our prior probabilities. But it cannot be used as a basis for explaining each other away, and neither of us does that. Speculation about the other guy's motives is too damn easy. "You don't want to give up life after death, so you make up these arguments." "You are living in what Christians call sin, and you don't want to give that up. Besides, you don't want to admit the existence of someone who has the right to tell you what to do. That's why buy the argument from evil." It's like the Cold War, you get mutual assured destruction.
Second, this approach averts the serious and often useful efforts we make to understand one another when we have a deep difference. Instead of working on figuring out just why we differ, and how we differ, you just chalk it up to an ulterior motive. In so doing you avoid the hard work you have to do to understand one another. That is some of the most difficult work in philosophy, but it is also some of the most rewarding.
Third, when C. S. Lewis accepted this line of argument, he was not religious, and went from a form of naturalism to Absolute Idealism, which avoided any commitment to any particular religion or a personal God. Thomas Nagel accepts the argument from reason against standard naturalism but still rejects theism and, so far as I can tell, life after death. I don't think David Chalmers is a religious person, and Lawrence BonJour, who is a dualist, is one either. My undergrad metaphysics teacher, Ted Guleserian, was both a Cartesian dualist and an atheist or many years, fr philosophical reasons, and he also did not believe in life after death. I don't know in what ways he might have changed his mind later on.
This kind of psychological speculation always degenerates discussion. It has a lot to do with how debate and discussion on Debunking Christianity, for example, has gone from reasonably interesting to almost entirely unproductive over the past 12 years.


Dave Duffy said...

Ulterior motives:

Racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, transphobia...

Now defend yourself against my accusation!

Victor Reppert said...

Well, there are distinctions to be drawn between something that is merely prejudicial and that which has some rational basis. There are instances where the term "racism" for example, has been used in a trigger-happy way.

However, it is not trigger-happy to apply the term "racist" to the Ku Klux Klan. As we have seen there is real racial bigotry out there.

Dave Duffy said...

Yes, we all agree the KKK is racist. Hell, even the damned KKK agree with that.

Your comment was about the accusation of ulterior motives. This was what I was responding to.