Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Parsing the Haysian Square-Circle

Here I will post some thoughts and counterpoints to a post Steve Hays published on Triablogue at the end of July this year called Square one.

Hays begins by linking to an entry he posted in February (here) stating “an atheist attempted to refute my post.” In that February post, Hays writes:
To take a comparison, consider a typical debate with a village atheist. They lead with a particular reason for rejecting Christianity. If you shoot down their stated reason, it doesn't faze them at all. They just reach into the bag for another reason. You can go down the list, and it makes no difference.
I did not see the comment of the challenger on that blog entry, so either it was sent to Hays apart from the comments of that blog entry, or if it were originally posted as a reply to that entry, it appears to have been deleted.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Burden of Proof

People engaged in or looking for a debate often make a big fuss about who has the burden of proof. Atheists say that theists exclusively have the burden of proof, and theists say either that atheists shoulder all the burden of proof or at the very least share it. At least some do. Either way, it often seems that no one on either side is ready to come out and say, “Yep, the onus is all mine.”

Now, I’m sure I could go research any number of authorities on the subject of who owns the burden of proof in debate, but not every exchange is a debate, and going around to everyone who makes any kind of statement saying saying “Oh yeah? Prove it!” strikes me as rather untoward, anti-social, even childish. Perhaps the issue is not so much who has the burden of proof, but when is the very notion of a burden of proof even relevant to begin with. Dwelling on who has the burden of proof in a discussion (rather than a debate) can be anticlimactic and even counterproductive to the goals of a discussion. Contention for contention’s sake will only close doors that would be better off if left propped open. So some wisdom is certainly due here.
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Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Disgruntled Apologist

Over on Triablogue Steve Hays titles a recent post with the words Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I’ll have to take his word for it that this is true, but pardon my skepticism. In fact, reading through his post, it seems his assertion is borne on some pent-up resentment for people who don’t believe in his deity.

I have often heard the aphorism to the effect that “it’s hard to be angry when you’re thankful.” And I think there’s a lot of truth to this. Moreover, many religious people in my experience have touted the virtues of gratefulness and thanksgiving, and many have demonstrated remarkable patience and humbleness along with their thankfulness. It’s quite therapeutic in fact, but I’ve never supposed that such virtues were reserved only for the believer. Nor have I ever been effectively persuaded that belief in invisible magic beings is a necessary precondition for the positive orientation to life to which many religious people I’ve known have paid ample lip service.

When I read apologetic screeds like Hays’ blog entry, dripping – as many I’ve read – with spite and venom, I don’t find a man who is thankful or grateful, humble or patient; rather, I see someone who has allowed himself to build up a rage for people he’s never even met, for people that are simply a figment of his own fantasies, people who ironically he likely wishes never existed in the first place. It’s quite easy to make imaginary people the scapegoat of our ire, but when you have a scapegoat, you have no mirror. And maybe that’s the whole point to Hays’ numerous posts excoriating non-believers. A proud Darth Vader might say, “the displeasure is strong with this one.”

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I have it all backwards. Maybe I as an atheist am the real villain in this screenplay. Maybe I’m the one who has made a scapegoat of Hays and other apologists in spite of their displays of scorn for non-believers and, even worse, individuals who were devoted Christians at one point in their lives, but then departed from the fold and found a new direction in life. I don’t think this is the case, but if it’s true that I am in the wrong here, I want to know and I want to correct my ways. So in the interest of discovering whether or not I’m wrong in either measure, let’s explore Hays’ post and find what we can learn. 
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Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Futility of Theodicy

Several weeks ago on his blog, Christian apologist James Anderson plugged Greg Welty’s newly released book on the problem of evil on his (Anderson’s) blog. Readers can find this in his entry Why Is There Evil In The World (And So Much Of It)? Though not an in-depth review, I’m afraid it’s more of the usual syrupy praise for the labors of a fellow-traveler in the faith doing what he can to strengthen believers’ devotion to the imaginary.

Of course I have to admit upfront that, whenever I see another book come out which, once and for all, presumably puts the problem of evil to rest (why else would a Christian theologian publish a book on the problem of evil to begin with?), part of me (the mature, adult part of me) is inclined to yawn, down a hot cup of delicious coffee, and go on with my day teeming with productive labor. Another part of me (one more inclined to playfulness) says “Oh goodie! Yet another effort to battle this untamable dragon!” and likewise yawns and moves on to another fulfilling day of personal achievement. That is to say, I probably won’t be running out to buy Welty’s book any time soon. 
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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Edward Feser on Ayn Rand

A couple of months ago a reader of my blog wrote to me privately and asked me to comment on a January 2014 blog posting of one Edward Feser titled Does existence exist? In this entry I’m finally getting around to posting some reactions to it.

Feser headlines his blog, simply called Edward Feser, with several bits of praise, all of it I’m sure very true, such as “One of the best contemporary writers on philosophy” (National Review) and “Feser… has the rare and enviable gift of making philosophical argument compulsively readable” (Times Literary Supplement). It’s not clear where in these publications one can find such laudations. But given these accolades, one would suppose that his efforts to interact with Rand’s axiom of existence might unearth startling and profound truths missed by the average armchair philosopher.

Beyond this article, I’ve never read anything of Feser’s (not that I remember anyhow), so without studying more of his work (it will have to get in line), I will take his profile for its word when it says that he “write[s]… from a traditional Roman Catholic perspective.”
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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Existence and Perception

Fundamental principles are the most critical part of philosophy to get right since all inferences, deductions and applications of its principles depend on their truth, their defensibility, and their suitability as fundamentals. Unfortunately it is philosophy’s fundamentals that are often the most misunderstood or even the least developed, either because they have not been securely identified, their truth is taken for granted and therefore deemed unworthy of deeper attention, or they have been disfigured through filters foreign to that philosophy.

I suspect that one reason why Objectivism’s fundamentals are so frequently and persistently misconstrued, is the very fact that Objectivism actually has clearly stated fundamentals, affirmed in terms of conceptually irreducible primaries, while other philosophies typically have at best vague handling of fundamentals and essentially zero regard for conceptual irreducibility. For example, consider the question: What is the fundamental starting point of post-modernism? Or Dialectical Materialism? Or Existentialism? Or Hinduism? Or Christianity? Or Scientology? Etc. Are they truly fundamental, or do they take certain unstated premises for granted? Do their stated foundations consist in identifying general facts that are directly available to any thinker, or do they rest in authoritarian pronouncements, secret canons, or elements of stories passed down by prior generations? 
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Monday, March 26, 2018

Incinerating Presuppositionalism: Year Thirteen

Again we now come to another anniversary of this blog’s inception, marking a full 13 years since its inaugural post in March 2005. While I’d think by now I’d have become accustomed to the increasing rapidity with which the days, months, years and hours of my life pass, I’m still amazed at where all my time goes. For time is life, and life is all.
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