© Chris Port, 23rd May 2011
The following comment was posted yesterday on Blog #246: Avowed Atheism versus Deputized Deism: God, whatever He is (or isn't) is certainly a sense of humour...
"God(?), I hate philosophy. You've focused on a helpful, yet ambiguous label like 'atheism' and amplified it into a debate about belief, science, and chairs.
I look at the word 'atheism' and see nothing but a negation of 'theism'. It's as much a belief as any null hypothesis."
* * * * * * * *
I have today posted the following reply:
Thanks for your comment Adam. It exemplifies much of the sloppy thinking going on in the atheist camp which does the cause of science (which I share) no favours. For this reason, I’ve used it as a case study and publicized a brief (by my standards) reply as below:
Philosophy is “love of wisdom”. So when you say “I hate philosophy” what you’re actually saying is “I hate wisdom”. That much is evident. Why do you think that this prejudice is of any interest or relevance?
I’m guessing that you’re a reductionist. Wittgenstein (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein) initially asserted that all philosophical problems arise because of a misuse of language. In his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tractatus_Logico-Philosophicus) he claimed that the world is the sum of ‘facts’, that thoughts are an attempt to picture the atomic world, and that language is an attempt to express this picture. All else is nonsense. “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”. Bertrand Russell described Wittgenstein as the most perfect example of genius.
Wittgenstein then completely changed his mind (see Philosophical Investigations http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_Investigations). He realized that (unlike maths) language is not fixed. I would caricature his later position as “Language is as language does”. This means that communication is always context-specific, and the real task of philosophy is to analyze and clarify the ‘language game’ being played.
For example, do you understand what is going on here?
“There is no language where a double positive can form a negative.”
If you wish to reduce semantics to a null hypothesis (inadvisable, but you’re welcome to try) then which particular hypothesis are you trying to falsify? Which phenomena are you measuring, what type of data are you using, and what relationship are you considering? Hence a chair…
The language of science is good for doing science. It’s not good for talking about good and evil, and has nothing to say about meaning. If you blunder into a language game using the wrong language, you’re going to look foolish. I’m sure that you’re more intelligent than your comments suggest.
Put more simply, do you know what you are talking about? (The answer, by the way, is “No”). I suggest you do some reading and thinking. Come back when you know what you’re talking about.
Some useful reading:
The 'Meaning' of Life (Emergent Properties)
Can Science Answer Moral Questions?
Some Notes on Schrödinger’s Cat
Beware 'Common Sense'...
Marty Solves One of the Problems of the Universe
Epistemological Debate Map - Probability, Statistics and Bikinis
Two parting thoughts to take with you.
1) Wittgenstein claimed to view the world from a religious perspective, while being non-committal about religion itself. (“Make sure that your religion is a matter between you and God only”.) I think it probable that he experienced a ‘crisis of faith’ from which he never really recovered. His solution to the ‘problems of life’ was that the problems disappear when we die. What meaning you wish to take from this is up to you.
2) Wittgenstein claimed that “A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.” If you can come up with a good joke, I may take your opinions more seriously.
Here’s a good joke about religion…
I saw a man about to jump off a bridge.
"Stop!" I called. "Don't do it. There's so much to live for."
"Like what?" he asked.
"Well... are you religious?"
"Me too! Christian or Buddhist?"
"Me too! Catholic or Protestant?"
"Me too! Episcopalian or Baptist?"
"Me too! Original or Reformed?"
"Me too! Reformation of 1879 or 1915?"
So I said "DIE HERETIC SCUM!" and pushed him off...
Put more simply, it's not really about "Yes" or "No", is it? ;)
Mitchell and Webb: Does God Exist?
Mitchell and Webb: Does God Exist?