Note: Edited some grammatical errors and added some ideas that I feel need to be emphasized.
Date Edited: August 2, 2005
"D" Sweeper has written a response to one of my comments
in his blog, Truth Matters
, about my attempt to explain why atheism cannot be considered a philosophy. I have written a response on his persistence that atheism is a philosophy. My comments are in the normal text format, while quotation from "D" and other sources are italicized.I agree the way atheist seeker define Philosophy. But his way is one of the 4 approaches of getting at the meaning and nature of Philosophy. What atheist seeker did is he gets the meaning of Philosophy by the word itself which is the first approach. But we cannot nail ourselves to this single approach, like what I’ve said before In Philosophy it involves reason, criticism, examination and analysis.To make this thing clear and to know what is Philosophy. Here is the four ways of getting at the meaning and nature of philosophy.1. Philosophy – comes from the Greek word which means “love of wisdom” like what said.2. We can approach the meaning of philosophy form different standpoint. Standpoint of different field of investigation but not all list of the field philosophy would agree but most of them would almost certainly including the six: metaphysics, epistemology, value-theory, ethics, aesthetic and logic.3. The third approach something more illuminating that giving the root meaning of the word something less ponderous than spelling out its several fields. In short we will get the meaning and nature of philosophy in a rational and critical enterprise.4. The last one - Philosophy is the attempt to think rationally and critically about the most important questions.In summary the best way to approach what philosophy is about it to philosophize. So philosophy is the attempt to think rational and critically about the most important questions. Like what Socrates said in his challenge, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
"D" sweeper is now having an equivocal confusion here. To understand better his equivocation let's look again at Abby Aaron's original argument which "D" is trying to defend. Let's see what Abby Aaron means by "Philosophy".
Abby Aaron's said"This is not true. Atheists believe that there is no God. Therefore, they believe that all decisions made by the individual, the family and the government should be made without regard to religious dogma. That is a philosophy."
When Abby Aaron accused atheism as being a philosophy, she meant that atheism entails a particular worldview. In this case, by saying that atheism entails believing that "all decisions made by the individual, the family and the government should be made without regard to religious dogma", she is then conflating an epistemological stance (freethought in this case) with atheism as if atheism necessitates one to hold such a stance which happens not to be so. Atheism does not require one to have a specific epistemological stance to hold it.
Further more she writes:This is true regardless of anecdotal incidents when atheists, for ulterior motives, say that it's okay for certain people to believe in God, e.g., "I'm in favor of the citizens of such-and-such country believing in God if it will keep them from slaughtering each other."
Now, the writer is accusing atheism of endorsing a particular ethical stance to hold. You will notice here that Abby Aaron seems to think of atheism as a philosophical system, in similar vein with objectivism, epicureanism etc., which espouses a particular set of metaphysical worldview, epistemology, morality and even politics. Again Atheism has nothing to say about morality and ethics and any of these things.
Then..."Even when an atheist says, "I don't care if other people believe in God or not," he's merely expressing an isolationist viewpoint toward a philosophy that he still applies to himself.
Now she is accusing that there are atheists who hold on to a philosophical statement of "I don't care if other people believe in God or not" that "he still applies to himself". Unfortunately for her, atheism does not demand one to hold such a view point since atheism itself is a lack of belief (I shall address his insistence that atheism is not just a lack of belief but a belief that gods do not exist later), no more, no less. Theists love to throw in some sugar and spice add-ons to such a simple lack of belief in God and accuse it of endorsing them."Otherwise, he wouldn't be an atheist, for no atheist will follow any religious dogma."
Now atheism demands an epistemological and even a political stance. Atheism necessitates none of these things.
So what Abby Aaron meant by her statement "atheism is a philosophy" is that, atheism is a philosophical way of life, that is, it necessitates one to hold a particular view on morality, epistemology, metaphysics etc. And this also implies that one need to rigorously undergo a critical, disciplined, passionate study for one to become an atheist since it forces one to hold on to complicated issues such as epistemology, morality etc. But as I have shown, this is not so.
Now "D" sweeper is talking about a different "philosophy" than what Abby Aaron originally intended and meant.
One of his definition of philosophy is as follows:"So philosophy is the attempt to think rational and critically about the most important questions."
Now by deviating our attention from what Abby Aaron originally meant by philosophy and then giving philosophy such a broad definition, he then thinks that atheism now falls under "philosophy" under the particular definition of philosophy of his choice. Again, his attempt fails because one need not to to think rationally and critically to arrive to atheism
. If you don't believe in gods and thinks the god concept is bunk regardless of how you arrive into that direction, be it for irrational or uncritical reason, then you are an atheist. That's why babies are atheists because atheism is simply the absence of God belief. My apathetic gothic rocker neighbor is an atheist too for the simple reason that he doesn't believe in gods and that he simply does not give the issue that much thought. He just doesn't care.
"D" Sweeper again is confusing atheism
with the atheist
. Just because an atheist holds on to a particular viewpoint does not mean that the particular viewpoint he adheres to is necessitated by atheism.
Atheists only share one thing in common: they all have no theistic beliefs. Some of us arrive there via rational and critical study, some do not. And it doesn't matter anyway, since critical thinking has nothing to do with atheism.Now let us move on to the definition of atheism. What is atheism?Atheism – comes from the negative ‘a’ which means ‘no’ and theos which means ‘god’. In short atheism means “no god”.Like what he said there are two main categories of atheists strong and weak. What are these?Strong atheist – this is more aggressive, they believe that there is no God exists, and the like to use logic and anti-biblical evidences to denounces God’s existence.
I just would like to point out that an atheist does not only deal with the Christian God, but with the god concept in general.Weak atheist – those who exercise lack of belief in God. It is a position who likes to avoid facing and defending the problem in their atheistic position. Their position is not open to attack and examination and they can quietly remain atheists.
This is just an ad hominem. It is not about "a position who likes to avoid
facing and defending the problem in their atheistic position". Desire has nothing to do with lack of belief.
Learn from Dan Barker:"Theists claim that there is a god; atheists do not. Religionists often challenge atheists to prove that there is no god; but this misses the point. Atheists claim god is unproved, not disproved. In any argument, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim.If a person claims to have invented an antigravity device, it is not incumbent on others to prove that no such thing exists. The believer must make a case. Everyone else is justified in refusing to believe until evidence is produced and substantiated."
In the second paragraph, you will see that it is not about them "liking
to avoid facing and defending the problem in their lack-of-belief-in-antigravity-device position".
Again atheism does not make any claims. It is simply the absence of belief.The atheist seeker said ...Does the state of having a lack of belief entails passion? Does newly born babies who are in the state of not having any theistic beliefs have a "philosophy" called atheism? Do all people who lack belief on anything arrived to this state through a passionate and disciplined approach? Is your lack of belief in the tooth fairy due to a passionate disciplined inquiry? Are all people's lack of belief on anything? If a person is fortunate, their atheism, or any other lack of belief on other things, may be a product of reasonableness and rational passionate inquiry (being PRIOR to atheism further reveals that these qualities are NOT a part of atheism).He used baby as an example. I’m going to use baby also as my example. Baby has no awareness about theistic belief of God. But baby will not remain baby they become mature and aware in the concept of God; they may reject, accept or hold off judgment about that concept. We all know that sooner or later they had something to do with the concept. They will not continue to in a lack of belief because whether we like or not some sort of intellectual actions occur in regard to it. By default they become affected by it, made aware and do something with it.
As I have addressed above, intellectual actions are not demanded, not endorsed, and not necessitated by atheism. The baby example serves only tp prove the point. "D" is conflating and not distinguishing between "how we arrive to knowledge and beliefs" with the "knowledge and beliefs itself." The former employs a philosophical epistemological standpoint, the latter in of itself does not necessarily entails a philosophical stance. I may have arrived to the conclusion that God beliefs are unnecessary and superflous to my belief system via freethought and critical thinking but that does not mean the absence of belief in deities in itself necessitates that I only arrive on it via reason and rationality.
Once more, atheists only share one thing in common: they all have no theistic beliefs. Some of us arrive there via rational and critical study, some do not. And it doesn't matter anyway, since critical thinking has nothing to do with atheism.Now, if someone is exposed to a concept he/she need to make a decision about the concept even it if is to withhold judgment. Therefore lack of belief will not continue to a lack of belief state of mind they only suspend judgment until more information acquired. This is not atheism but agnosticism.
He doesn't know what agnosticism is. Again I need to redirect him and my readers to Austin Cline's excellent article
explaining the confusion regarding agnosticism. He may also want to read this explanation from the Infidel Guy website about atheism and agnosticism
. I quote myself from my article A Theist's 13 Biggest Flawed Understanding of Atheism -- Part 1
written last July 09, 2005:"Too many people misunderstand agnosticism. Agnosticism is not a middle ground between atheism and theism. Agnosticism has nothing to do with belief. It has something to do with the nature of knowledge. Because atheism and theism deal with belief and agnosticism deals with knowledge, they are actually independent concepts. Agnostics hold that God, and by implication, his existence, cannot be known. It is a claim and assertion regarding the nature, capability and limits of our knowledge to know something about God. Hence, an agnostic, does not have any theistic beliefs since he doesn't know anything about God in the first place. Except for agnostic theism, agnosticism then IS atheism."
And yes when you suspend judgement on God' existence, you in effect, possess no theistic beliefs hence you are an atheist.The atheist seeker said ...The fact is, atheism does not necessitate that you arrive in it via a passionate and disciplined approach. Atheism also does not dictate any metaphysical, epistemological, moral, and political stance. The absence of belief in gods implies no necessary conclusions about proofs of gods, about the nature of the universe, and so forth. As a matter of fact, there are atheists who hold completely different views than I do on a wide range of things, including fundamental metaphysical issues. If they lack belief in gods, then they are atheists - even if they are Buddhists who believe in reincarnation, even if they believe in astrology, even if they are objectivists, even if they are racists, or any other array of things that they can be. Atheism requires not a "passionate and disciplined method of inquiry". Atheism is the state of being without any theistic beliefs - that's simply what atheism is. This is the definition truest to the roots of the concept, and is the proper use of the term. It does not follow from this that atheism is a philosophical code, for it is not asserting a anything. My disbelief in the Tooth Fairy is not a philosophy of life - is it for anyone else?Wrong, by the definition of atheism – atheism comes from the negative ‘a’ which means ‘no’ and ‘theos’ which means ‘god’. In short atheism means “no god”. No God is not the absence of belief. Absence of belief is agnosticism not atheism.
One of "D" Sweeper's problem stems from his misunderstanding of agnosticism. An agnostic, except from agnostic theism, is an atheist.
Michael Martin states in his book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification:If you look up 'atheism' in the dictionary, you will probably find it defined as the belief that there is no God. Certainly many people understand atheism in this way.Yet many atheists do not, and this is not what the term means if one considers it from the point of view of its Greek roots. In Greek 'a' means 'without' or 'not' and 'theos' means 'god.' From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist. According to its Greek roots, then, atheism is a negative veiew, characterized by the absence of belief in God.
Moving on.As I said “Philosophy is the attempt to think rationally and critically about the most important questions”. Like for example, if someone bought an unknown electronic gadget into the room, we know immediately know several things about that gadget even we didn’t know its full functionality. But we know that it exist, the color, the shape and etc. Another example is gravity, we all know if we have a ball and drop that ball it going to fall because of gravity. These examples show that we can develop a concept and we cannot say that we have a lack of belief and unaware of those things.
I do agree. Since we have empirically tested the examples above, we cannot have lack of belief in them and still be honest.
But in the case of the gods, none exists.In short, lack of belief is position for sentient being only.
I agree. How can a non-sentient entity have a lack of belief? Who's arguing with this?This kind of belief is agnosticism, not atheism. Therefore, atheism believes and/or knows that there is no God exist, either beyond the universe or in it is basic philosophy.
Once again, "D" sweeper misunderstands agnosticism. Second, he is unable to grasp that rational, critical thinking is not required to possess no theistic beliefs. It is our default position anyway. None of us possess any theistic beliefs until we are inculcated by it. I am skeptical of extra terrestrial beings but that does not mean that I believe or know that aliens do not exist. I simply make no claims nor do I make any assumptions. "D" sweeper needs to understand that to possess no theistic beliefs is not the same with possessing a belief that gods do not exist. How can a non-belief be a belief anyway? A is not equal to B and vice versa. Belief is not equal to non-belief and vice versa.
But there's more. Even in his broad definition of philosophy, atheism fails to qualify.
Using his definition and line of thinking, my belief that my father exists is a philosophy. I also have a "my computer exists" philosophy. And don't forget my "newly bought cellphone exists" philosophy. So do the gazzilions of things that I believe to exist. I didn't realize that I have so many philosophies. Hmmm, I wonder what metaphysical stance that my "dog exists" philosophy necessitates me? Also what epistemological position does my "girlfriend exists" demands me to have? What kind of moral and ethical stance does my "Red Alert CD exist" philosophy forces me to have?
So many philosophies to passionately, rationally and critically study, so little time...The atheist seeker said...If there is anything that I am passionate about, it is logic, reason, skepticism and critical thinking - not my lack of belief, not my atheism. Reason only dictates to me, by virtue of Occam's Razor, that I cut my belief in a deity thus I no longer posess any theistic beliefs hence I am an atheist.But how come Atheist Seeker able to cut out his belief in deity without having an initial assessment about it and still claimed it was done as a function of Okham’s razor? It doesn’t sound an Okchams Razor. What Okham’s razor is to employ simple verify of epistemological, metaphysical inquiry of a phenomenonal reality that is not visually available to our senses. It is a presentation of such inquiry with the least possible utilization of entity (material or immaterial) to explain such phenomenon. The obvious point is that a pre- dissemination or inquiry was made and a pre-view or judgment is pronounced that led to unbelief of a deity. In simple terms, we all make pre judgment on all things; we may in some occasions suspend judgment. However, one is unable implement it without a set of initial condition assessed and observed about any concept of reality. In the final analysis, once has to employ a belief (positive or negative) in order to exercise unbelief.
Let's just say that I am one of the many atheists who happened to arrive to atheism via critical thinking as there are also many who arrived there via irrational, uncritical means. I possess no theistic beliefs just like a baby possess none. We may have a different reason from not having a god belief but we share one thing in common, we have no theistic beliefs hence we are atheists
.The atheist seeker said...Atheism simply means the absence of belief in gods. This is the only thing that all atheists have in common. However, this doesn't render the concept meaningless, but it does force us to realize that being an atheist is not, in and of itself, very significant. A person can be a rude, immoral, superstitious, ignorant, gullible, irrational atheist. Is that person's atheism very significant? No, I don't think so - and there was never any reason to assume that it had to be, either.I agree that one of the common beliefs of atheist about atheism is the absence of belief in gods. This is common for those atheists who don’t like to be criticized. Maybe, because it is more difficult to them (atheists) to defend their position. Absence of belief is only good for a baby and for those who remain a baby. But not for the rational creatures who knows and never doubt for his/her own existence.
Refer to my Dan Barker quote above. A fallback position need not be defended. A fallback position is the belief that one would hold before one has any evidence. He seems to believe that Christian theism is a fallback position - that he can just assume that his version of a god exists. This is wrong however. He has things backwards. I don't have to defend NOT believing in something, unless one can show that the evidence simply demands belief.
Todangst of Infidel Guy Forum has this to say:if I were to ask you your opinion on Julian Jaynes' book "The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral man" your belief in his argument would be .... nothing! You have no belief in it, either positive or negative. You simply don't know anything about it, nor do you have any evidence in favor of his thesis.So, it is the natural state to simply NOT believe something. This is why atheism is a fallback position.This is why an atheist does not have to "defend" his view, for his view is basically a lack of belief.
Moving on.Atheist seeker said “However, this doesn't render the concept meaningless, but it does force us to realize that being an atheist is not, in and of itself, very significant.” this statement is dogmatic and wants to suspend judgment it is not atheism belief , hence it is agnosticism.
He doesn't understand agnosticism.The atheist seeker said ...If significance is to be achieved, a person's atheism must be combined with things like skepticism, a love of learning, a bit of humility (i.e., recognizing that one can err), critical thinking, and so forth - what George Smith calls a "habit of reasonableness". None of those qualities are shared by all atheists because none of them are necessitated by atheism. Once again, you are confusing "atheism" with "atheists". Just because an atheist has something to say on religion or philosophy doesn't mean that those views are a part of atheism. Atheism does not dictate any NECESSARY epistemological(rationalism and empiricism), worldview (materialism, dualism), moral (objectivist ethics, moralrelativism) stance. Atheism is not a philosophy in itself, but an opinion on a single issue. An atheist is a non-theist. That's all we can deduce from the label. We can deduce nothing more about his or her personal philosophy or character. Atheism is not a philosophy anymore than non-gardenerism is. A non-gardener could be a creep, a benefactor, a capitalist, a communist, almost anything except a gardener.Well let me get it clear, on the one hand he define atheism as “absence of belief “, and now atheist seeker are saying it’s an opinion. Terribly, How can he had an opinion if are not using reasonable and critical thinking?, OPINION according to Webster is a view and a judgment.Again, Socrates said in his challenge, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Also, atheism is the absence of belief of a God after having an opinion about God/gods. This is a self contradictory assessment. In effect you are saying “you know in my opinion about god/gods, I decided to have an absence of belief about it.”
Look at the context of what I'm saying there. Before the above statement, "D" sweeper was confusing "atheism" with "atheists", that is, he is marrying many independent and mutually exclusive issues with atheism where in fact, atheism has nothing to do with them. I then went in to say that atheism is just an "opinion" (only focuses on a single issue) to a single issue and does not say anything about morality, epistemology etc. I was using "opinion" in a loose sense and I thought he would have understood what I meant.
Apparently I'm wrong. With this I would like to thank "D" Sweeper for making me further realize that I should be clear with the words I'm using and that I should not place too much trust that the person I am discussing with will always get what I am trying to get across.
How we arrive at atheism doesn't matter if one is to be called an atheist. Whether one has exercised her rational mind to arrive at this conclusion, or whether one is merely suspending judgement, or whether one is just apathetic to the issue, or whatever reason one may have for not having any theistic beliefs, he/she is an atheist.
Again, if one possesses no theistic beliefs, whatever her reason for being one doesn't matter. As long as one possesses no God belief, he is an atheist.Back to Atheism, It is a belief that no God exist. Atheist is the one who advocates, subscribes and practice atheism.
Practice atheism? What are the practices that an atheist must do? What kind of philosophical worldview does atheism advocates? Now he is accusing atheism as some sort of a way of life. Just like Bushido philosophy, the way of the Samurai.If the view of theist doesn’t mean a part or component of atheism, why in this world they call themselves as an atheist? Atheist Seeker statement is not atheist view but advocating skepticism
Atheism in itself cannot stand alone. It must be coupled with other philosophies to be significant. I have explained this already in my previous comment on your blog:
Austin Cline writes:"If significance is to be achieved, a person's atheism must be combined with things like skepticism, a love of learning, a bit of humility (i.e., recognizing that one can err), critical thinking, and so forth - what George Smith calls a "habit of reasonableness". None of those qualities are shared by all atheists because none of them are necessitated by atheism."
the atheist seeker said...Disregarding everything I have said, by implication of your statements, do youthen have an a-santaclausian philosophy? What are the philosophical tenets ofyour a-santaclausian philosophy?It is obvious that Atheist Seeker are the one that has an absence of belief or an –a, I guess he are supposed to tell me, I am a theist, I’m not an –a- theist
Now he avoids the question for he knows that simple lack of belief in something does not necessitates and demands one to hold a set of philosophies as a baggage deal. I am being true to Abby Aaron's understanding of what atheism is. He simply hides under the broad brush of "philosophy is the attempt to think rational and critically about the most important questions" definition.
While I agree with him that philosophy is indeed an attempt to think rational and critically about the most important (actually even non-important ones) questions, this does not give us a full understanding of what philosophy is and does not do it justice. It is too ambigous, broad, vague, and general that so many things can fall under this definition. Refer to my "dog exist" philosophy musings above.The atheist seeker said ...0 = Nothing, absent, zero, zip, nada, none. (Belief in God is absent.)1 = There is something. Theism. There is something called God.Atheism is neutral.It only becomes a negative when it is asserted that "there is no God".1 = There is something. Theism. There is something called God. Positive claim.-1 = There is no something called God. Strong Atheism. Negating the above positive claim.See the difference?Universal negative can be proven by examing the object's coherence. As simple as that.Well I’m not a mathematician , but you have made a basic algebraic fallacy here, -1 is not the absent of something and/or quantity , it is an expression of magnitude .in mathematics, the absolute value of -1 is 1, the magnitude value is -1 below zero .A negative (-x for example) term of a number or a mathematical expression is not equal to zero (-1 = 0), hence it is a value below zero. You need some algebraic philosophy.
I agree that zero is the absent of something. Let's take a look at what I said:0 = Nothing, absent, zero, zip, nada, none. (Belief in God is absent.)1 = There is something. Theism. There is something called God.Atheism is neutral.
See here, I agree with what you said.
Now let's look at where your confusion lies.It only becomes a negative when it is asserted that "there is no God".1 = There is something. Theism. There is something called God. Positive claim.-1 = There is no something called God. Strong Atheism. Negating the above positive claim.
Notice the underlined word. It is a negating claim
NOT JUST a mere lack of belief. One claim vis another claim.Applying it in our topic, the negative position is not the absent of position, but a definitive position exactly opposite the positive counterpart.
Not necessarily as one may be just witholding judgement, or merely not making any assumption about the issue, or merely not having any knowledge on the claim, either positive or negative, or you simply don't know anything about it.
I hear you shouting, "that's agnosticism!". If you have read everything I have written by now, you must have now understood what agnosticism is... I hope.By the way Atheist Seeker the difference I see your math problem. Proving universal negative is highly debatable, in fact it is not as simple the way you claimed it to be.
So you are doubting that no married bachelors exist? I can live with that.