ISF Logo   IS Forum
Forum Index Register Members List Events Mark Forums Read Help

Go Back   International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Religion and Philosophy
 


Welcome to the International Skeptics Forum, where we discuss skepticism, critical thinking, the paranormal and science in a friendly but lively way. You are currently viewing the forum as a guest, which means you are missing out on discussing matters that are of interest to you. Please consider registering so you can gain full use of the forum features and interact with other Members. Registration is simple, fast and free! Click here to register today.
Tags agnosticism , agnosticism definitions

Reply
Old 11th May 2018, 07:33 AM   #241
Ron_Tomkins
Satan's Helper
 
Ron_Tomkins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 42,950
Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
Your claim, as I see it, is that everyone is an agnostic, because nobody can objectively know whether there is or is not a God. If so, then the word "agnostic" according to your definition is redundant and need not be used.
Ahhh ok, I see what you mean. Well, you're absolutely right: The word "Agnostic" does become pretty useless when you consider that no one really "knows" for certainty whether there is a God or not. Which perhaps illustrates why the whole "Agnostic vs Atheist" conundrum is useless. Again, answering the question "Do you believe in God?" with "I don't know for certain if God exists" is kinda useless, since yes, probably no one knows that, and yet that doesn't stop a lot of people from believing in God anyway.

Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
Can we please, therefore, use it for a definition that's useful to the rest of us, which is "a person who believes that they cannot know for certain whether there is or is not a God"?
Sure. The problem is that such definition includes a lot of Atheists too. Since a lot of atheists (such as myself) believe that we cannot know for certain whether there is or is not a God. So then, the definition becomes useless and redundant again, because it's not exclusive to Agnostics.
__________________
"I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"

Carl Sagan
Ron_Tomkins is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 07:41 AM   #242
JoeMorgue
Self Employed
Remittance Man
 
JoeMorgue's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Florida
Posts: 13,332
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Take this sentence : I'm a hard atheist as regards Yahweh and Zeus and Indra and Ra, but I am a soft atheist as regards a Zen-ic or Advaitic God-ness that underlies our everyday reality. Wouldn't it be much clumsier to express this if the terms "soft atheist" and "hard atheist" did not exist? Why do you think this is a good thing?
For the same reason I can say "Fairies don't exist" without breaking it down into "Wood Nymphs don't exist, pixies don't exist, the tooth fairy doesn't exist" and having to assign a probability to each.

Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
Sure. The problem is that such definition includes a lot of Atheists too. Since a lot of atheists (such as myself) believe that we cannot know for certain whether there is or is not a God. So then, the definition becomes useless and redundant again, because it's not exclusive to Agnostics.
Ted and Steve are arguing over whether or not the chair is blue. Bill joins the conversation and says the color of the chair is unknowable for certain.

Are Ted and Steve now obligated to change how they present or what they call their opinions?
__________________
"Ernest Hemingway once wrote that the world is a fine place and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part." - Detective Sommerset, Se7en
JoeMorgue is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 07:42 AM   #243
Dave Rogers
Bandaged ice that stampedes inexpensively through a scribbled morning waving necessary ankles
 
Dave Rogers's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Cair Paravel, according to XKCD
Posts: 27,732
Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
Sure. The problem is that such definition includes a lot of Atheists too. Since a lot of atheists (such as myself) believe that we cannot know for certain whether there is or is not a God. So then, the definition becomes useless and redundant again, because it's not exclusive to Agnostics.
No, it doesn't. A lot of red-headed people are tall, but neither tall nor red-headed is useless or redundant as a result. It simply means that they define different attributes. A person is or is not an atheist depending on whether they do not believe or do believe there is a God; that same person may or may not be an agnostic depending on whether they personally believe that they know for certain that there is or is not a God. It's a perfectly workable and consistent set of definitions. The objection that "agnostic" refers to a personal belief is no more valid than the objection that "atheist" refers to a personal belief; it's simply that one is a belief concerning epistemology and the other a belief concerning the existence of a deity.

Dave
__________________
Me: So what you're saying is that, if the load carrying ability of the lower structure is reduced to the point where it can no longer support the load above it, it will collapse without a jolt, right?

Tony Szamboti: That is right
Dave Rogers is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 07:53 AM   #244
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 657
Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
For the same reason I can say "Fairies don't exist" without breaking it down into "Wood Nymphs don't exist, pixies don't exist, the tooth fairy doesn't exist" and having to assign a probability to each.

Your answer makes no sense.

I'm asking you :

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
e.g., Take this sentence : I'm a hard atheist as regards Yahweh and Zeus and Indra and Ra, but I am a soft atheist as regards a Zen-ic or Advaitic God-ness that underlies our everyday reality. Wouldn't it be much clumsier to express this if the terms "soft atheist" and "hard atheist" did not exist? Why do you think this is a good thing?

Or take, for added emphasis, my edited example :

Quote:
I'm a hard atheist as regards Yahweh and Zeus and Indra and Ra, but I am a soft atheist as regards a Zen-ic or Advaitic God-ness that underlies our everyday reality ; and I'm igtheistic when it comes to the God question in general.

There : now, using your preferred phraseology, how do you re-cast this sentence? Why do you think you'd like to make communication more clumsy, as you'll no doubt find you've ended up doing when you try to re-cast that sentence as requested?

Your answer to this question, quoted above, makes no sense whatsoever. Would you like to try again?

(Don't forget this thread is specifically about the meaning of the word Agnostic, and not about your position, or mine, about these questions.)




Also, you did not address my other question within the post you part-quoted :

Quote:
Granting for the sake of argument that I agree with you : How do you propose to enforce this? Given that, in the real world, by 'atheist' some people mean 'hard atheist', others mean 'soft atheist', and so on, when in some discussion that you do have, either here or elsewhere, people do end up using the term 'atheist' in different senses : then how do you propose to enforce your proposal, how do you propose to get everyone to use your particular meaning? How do you get people to agree that 'atheist' should mean exactly what its etymology suggests it should mean, without any qualifiers tagged on?

Last edited by Chanakya; 11th May 2018 at 07:55 AM.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 08:02 AM   #245
JoeMorgue
Self Employed
Remittance Man
 
JoeMorgue's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Florida
Posts: 13,332
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Your answer makes no sense.
Because I refuse to answer it in your context which is my entire point.

It's also why I'm ignoring parts of your argument, which you seem to think I'm not allowed to do for some reason.

You're trying to pigeon hole me into defining something so we don't have to deal with the context of how it's used.

Technically, dictionary level "agnostic" just means to be unsure of God's existence. There, that's an answer to the question you seem to think this is all about.

How the term is applied and used in discussions is not some side topic you can build a wall around nor am I obligated to pretend so.
__________________
"Ernest Hemingway once wrote that the world is a fine place and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part." - Detective Sommerset, Se7en

Last edited by JoeMorgue; 11th May 2018 at 08:04 AM.
JoeMorgue is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 08:03 AM   #246
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 657
Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
(...) Since a lot of atheists (such as myself) believe that we cannot know for certain whether there is or is not a God. So then, the definition becomes useless and redundant again, because it's not exclusive to Agnostics.

This is getting weird.

There are some theists who believe, with absolute certainty, their own God-beliefs. They believe (that is, some of them believe) that everyone who does not follow their particular creed are heathens, and are headed straight to hell. It doesn't matter whether these heathens are atheists, or agnostics, or theists who believe in some other religion.

So then if some such theist -- let's just say (just as example, with no offense intended to any actual RCCs who may have wandered into this Godless discussion) that this particular theist in our example subscribes to the RC faith -- were to suggest that we do away with the words 'atheist', as well as 'agnostic', as well as 'Muslim', as well as 'Buddhist', as well as 'Baptist', et cetera -- and lump all of these categories together under the single word "heathens" -- then would you agree with them? Why not?

Even if you were yourself an RCC : Does it make sense, even then, for you to agree with this person? Why not?

Last edited by Chanakya; 11th May 2018 at 08:19 AM.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 08:16 AM   #247
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 657
Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Because I refuse to answer it in your context which is my entire point.

It's also why I'm ignoring parts of your argument, which you seem to think I'm not allowed to do for some reason.

You're trying to pigeon hole me into defining something so we don't have to deal with the context of how it's used.

Technically, dictionary level "agnostic" just means to be unsure of God's existence.

How the term is applied and used in discussions is not some side topic you can build a wall around.

Oh, you're allowed to not touch on parts of my argument, or all of my argument. But I'm allowed, in turn, to point that out back to you, am I not?



Okay, I think I finally get exactly where you are coming from.

(Do correct me if I'm strawmanning you. It is not my intention to misinterpret you. I'll be happy to correct myself if I am not representing what you're meaning to say correctly.)

Although you haven't said this in so many words, this is what I infer your position is :

You're saying, you will simply not engage in discussion with those who hold a different position than you as far as the question of atheism goes.

If you are a hard atheist, then you will use the term 'atheist' to mean what we now refer to as 'hard atheist', and you will simply not discuss this with others who happen to be soft atheists.

Or else, you are either unable or unwilling to recognize the different nuances that the terms 'soft atheist', 'hard atheist', or 'igtheist' convey. And you simply refuse to engage in discussions where these different nuances come into play.


Am I correct?


If that is truly your view, sure, you can do that. No reason why you shouldn't. No argument about your personal choice in this matter.

But no, I don't think I'll follow your example. And I doubt you'll get too many followers for your particular approach : a few, perhaps, but not too many, even within these forums. And you'll do no better in the world at large, I don't think.


But sure, you are free to follow this proposal when it comes to yourself, personally. I have no issues with that.



With that, we can wrap up our particular discussion, you and I. ( And no offense meant to you, if in trying to speak clearly I may have ended up speaking at all discourteously. )



But, now that we know exactly what it is you are advocating (always assuming I'm not strawmanning you -- that is not my intention, and I invite you to correct me right away if I am), I doubt your view will have too much of an influence so far as this thread is concerned.

Last edited by Chanakya; 11th May 2018 at 08:20 AM.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 10:27 AM   #248
Ron_Tomkins
Satan's Helper
 
Ron_Tomkins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 42,950
Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Ted and Steve are arguing over whether or not the chair is blue. Bill joins the conversation and says the color of the chair is unknowable for certain.

Are Ted and Steve now obligated to change how they present or what they call their opinions?
Since the color of a chair is something that can be proven, unlike the existence of God, your example is invalid.

But more importantly, your example is invalid mainly because we're talking about belief. So your example should be "Ted and Steve are arguing about what each of them believe the color of the chair to be". And since a personal belief doesn't need to be backed up with true information in order for it to be a belief, either Ted or Steve could believe the chair is Red for all that matters, even if you show them that it is blue. Belief is a blind leap of faith that, when strong enough, doesn't give a **** about accurate information proving it wrong. And that has been my point all along.
__________________
"I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"

Carl Sagan

Last edited by Ron_Tomkins; 11th May 2018 at 10:44 AM.
Ron_Tomkins is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 10:33 AM   #249
Ron_Tomkins
Satan's Helper
 
Ron_Tomkins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 42,950
Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
No, it doesn't. A lot of red-headed people are tall, but neither tall nor red-headed is useless or redundant as a result. It simply means that they define different attributes. A person is or is not an atheist depending on whether they do not believe or do believe there is a God; that same person may or may not be an agnostic depending on whether they personally believe that they know for certain that there is or is not a God. It's a perfectly workable and consistent set of definitions. The objection that "agnostic" refers to a personal belief is no more valid than the objection that "atheist" refers to a personal belief; it's simply that one is a belief concerning epistemology and the other a belief concerning the existence of a deity.

Dave
I think your definition of agnostic needs some tweaking, because that same exact verbatim definition you gave, applies to theists and some atheists. Theists believe that they know for certain that there is a God. Moreover, some atheists (but not all) believe that they know for certain that there is no God.

Here is the definition of Agnosticism from Dictionary.com:

Quote:
"an intellectual doctrine or attitude affirming the uncertainty of all claims to ultimate knowledge."
An agnostic is simply someone who believes nothing can be known for sure.

The problem, again, is that when answering specific "Do you believe in X God" questions, the Agnostic is basically saying he doesn't want to answer, because he claims nothing can be known for sure. But, once again, this is a fallacy and a cop-out because you don't need to know whether something is true or not, in order to believe in it. In fact, the whole point of Religious belief is one of a leap of faith. Of believing despite having no evidence to support the belief. But you either believe in something or you don't. You also don't get to consciously will yourself to either believe or not believe in something. The only thing you can decide to do is to avoid answering the question "Do you believe in X God?", whether for politeness or for not wanting to talk about the subject, or whatever reason. So some people just politely say "I don't have enough information to assert whether there is a God or not" (but again, that is not answering the question "Do you believe in it?")
__________________
"I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"

Carl Sagan

Last edited by Ron_Tomkins; 11th May 2018 at 10:40 AM.
Ron_Tomkins is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 10:57 AM   #250
3point14
Pi
 
3point14's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 15,851
The whole discussion annoys me.

I shouldn't have to refute the fantasies of the delusional.
__________________
Up the River!
3point14 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 11:15 AM   #251
xjx388
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 6,452
In practical use, isn’t “agnostic” just a fancy way to say; “I don’t know for sure, therefore I don’t concern myself too much about it.” An atheist is more like “I know for sure there is no God” and a theist is like, “I know for sure there is a God.”

Of course, there is a wide variety of nuance involved in various individual positions. But isn’t that simple definition of each position pretty much what people mean when they say they are agnostic/atheist/theist?

For example, I am fundamentally agnostic. I’m pretty sure that the man-made religions are all crap but I’m not willing to dismiss the existence of any type of God at all. It’s within the realm of possibility that there is a creator who concerned itself with creating and then sat back to watch it all unfold. Kind of like how we might start Conway’s Game of Life just to watch all the patterns emerge. But I’m not too concerned with who/what God is because it seems largely irrelevant to my everyday existence. Yet, weirdly enough, I still “pray.” Maybe only to myself, but I find it helpful and comforting -probably a hold over from my Catholic upbringing.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
__________________
Hello.
xjx388 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 11:47 AM   #252
Tommok
Student
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 37
xjx388: this is based on the false assumption that atheism means that you believe there is no God.

The main point of this distinction being that a positive belief ("There is no god") would imply a burden of proof, whereas the simple rejection of a claim ("There is a god") would leave the sole burden of proof with the one who makes the claim.

If you do not wish to dismiss the possibility of there being any gods, yet you personally don't believe in a particular one, then you are an Atheist.
Tommok is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 12:14 PM   #253
Fudbucker
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 8,537
Originally Posted by Tommok View Post
xjx388: this is based on the false assumption that atheism means that you believe there is no God.

The main point of this distinction being that a positive belief ("There is no god") would imply a burden of proof, whereas the simple rejection of a claim ("There is a god") would leave the sole burden of proof with the one who makes the claim.

If you do not wish to dismiss the possibility of there being any gods, yet you personally don't believe in a particular one, then you are an Atheist.
He was talking about practical usage of the terms. I think he's right. In my experience, atheists invariably believe there are no gods and agnostics aren't sure, one way or another.

In philosophical discussions, the terms become more nuanced, but for practical purposes, "atheist" and "agnostic" are sufficient.
Fudbucker is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 12:27 PM   #254
Egg
Graduate Poster
 
Egg's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,486
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
He was talking about practical usage of the terms. I think he's right. In my experience, atheists invariably believe there are no gods and agnostics aren't sure, one way or another.

In philosophical discussions, the terms become more nuanced, but for practical purposes, "atheist" and "agnostic" are sufficient.
I think bringing in the concept of "certainty"/"knowing for sure" puts all but the extremes in the middle position. Even many of the staunchest believers have their days of doubt.

It might be more useful to think in terms of being convinced of X or maybe (at least) provisionally accepting X as true/false.
__________________

"That's the thing with eggs: It's all about chicks and getting laid." - Wuschel
"A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg" - Samuel Butler
“When arguing with a stone an egg is always wrong” - African proverb
“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” - Bernard Meltzer
Egg is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 01:07 PM   #255
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,801
Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
He was talking about practical usage of the terms. I think he's right. In my experience, atheists invariably believe there are no gods and agnostics aren't sure, one way or another.

In philosophical discussions, the terms become more nuanced, but for practical purposes, "atheist" and "agnostic" are sufficient.
Merely a theists/philosowankers way of incorrectly defining an atheist as being a believer. Some (not all) do believe there are no gods of course, but that's not what defines them as being atheists. I claim to know there is no god. The only thing common to all atheists is they don't have a belief in a god or gods. All the rest is merely reasons why they're atheists. Agnostics that don't have a belief in gods are atheists.
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.

Last edited by ynot; 11th May 2018 at 01:31 PM.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 01:10 PM   #256
Fudbucker
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 8,537
Originally Posted by Egg View Post
I think bringing in the concept of "certainty"/"knowing for sure" puts all but the extremes in the middle position. Even many of the staunchest believers have their days of doubt.

It might be more useful to think in terms of being convinced of X or maybe (at least) provisionally accepting X as true/false.
Yeah, if I want to drill-down, I'll ask if they're merely not sure, somewhat convinced, totally convinced, etc. But all the people I know who self-identify as atheists (meaning those that make a point to tell me without asking) are totally convinced they're right.
Fudbucker is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 01:47 PM   #257
Egg
Graduate Poster
 
Egg's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,486
Originally Posted by ynot View Post
Merely a theists/philosowankers way of incorrectly defining an atheist as being a believer. Some (not all) do believe there are no gods of course, but that's not what defines them as being atheists. I claim to know there is no god. The only thing common to all atheists is they don't have a belief in a god or gods. All the rest is merely reasons why they're atheists. Agnostics that don't have a belief in gods are atheists.
I must confess to being somewhat agnostic as to the correctness of your definition of "atheist".

If you care to explain why your definition is The Truth® and why anyone with other ideas must be merely "theists/philosowankers", I believe someone started a thread for that.
__________________

"That's the thing with eggs: It's all about chicks and getting laid." - Wuschel
"A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg" - Samuel Butler
“When arguing with a stone an egg is always wrong” - African proverb
“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” - Bernard Meltzer
Egg is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 02:01 PM   #258
ynot
Philosopher
 
ynot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 7,801
Originally Posted by Egg View Post
I must confess to being somewhat agnostic as to the correctness of your definition of "atheist".

If you care to explain why your definition is The Truth® and why anyone with other ideas must be merely "theists/philosowankers", I believe someone started a thread for that.
My response in the Appropriate Thread
__________________
Paranormal beliefs are knowledge placebos.
Rumours of a god’s existence have been greatly exaggerated.

Last edited by ynot; 11th May 2018 at 02:07 PM.
ynot is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th May 2018, 11:15 PM   #259
David Mo
Illuminator
 
David Mo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Somewhere on the Greenwich meridian
Posts: 3,184
Agnosticism (from Greek a-, ‘not’, and gnastos, ‘known’), term invented by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1869 to denote the philosophical and religious attitude of those who claim that metaphysical ideas can be neither proved nor disproved. Huxley wrote, “I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it.” (Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy).
There is no reason to don't accept this definition. What greater semantic authority than the man who invented the term? I think there is too much background to this issue and too many people trying to manipulate with words.
David Mo is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 12th May 2018, 03:01 AM   #260
Dave Rogers
Bandaged ice that stampedes inexpensively through a scribbled morning waving necessary ankles
 
Dave Rogers's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Cair Paravel, according to XKCD
Posts: 27,732
Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
I think your definition of agnostic needs some tweaking, because that same exact verbatim definition you gave, applies to theists and some atheists.
Yes, that's the whole point. Theists can be agnostic theists, who believe God exists but admit that they cannot know for certain that God exists, or non-agnostic theists, who claim that they do know for certain that God exists. Atheists can be agnostic atheists or, conceivably, non-agnostic atheists, who believe that the evidence or lack thereof is sufficient to claim certainty that there is no God. Atheism and agnosticism are separate properties, that can exist independently of each other. There's no contradiction there, and no internal inconsistency.

And that resolves your cop-out dilemma as well. If someone is asked whether they're an atheist and they say they're an agnostic, they're answering the wrong question. It's as if you asked someone, "What colour is your hair?" and they answered, "Five feet eleven."

Dave
__________________
Me: So what you're saying is that, if the load carrying ability of the lower structure is reduced to the point where it can no longer support the load above it, it will collapse without a jolt, right?

Tony Szamboti: That is right
Dave Rogers is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 12th May 2018, 06:23 AM   #261
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 657
Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
I would dispute that claim, and all the thinking that lies behind it. There doesn't, in fact, need to be very much thought whatsoever to arrive at a position of atheism; it could be claimed to be the default, that we simply do not believe in the existence of entities for which there is no evidence. There is, of course, room for a very large body of thought that follows on from a starting position of atheism, because by denying the fundamental claim to validity of the entirety of religious thought it places the onus on the atheist either to formulate his or her own answers or to find ones supported by evidence and argument rather than the force majeure of some deity, but none of that is necessary simply to point out that there is no reason to believe in something for which there is no credible evidence.

And that, of course, is also why atheism is not, and can never be, a religion in its own right, even though it may be a component of other systems of thought that approximate to religions. It doesn't entail subscription to a body of thought that's been arrived at by consensus. It's simply a reasonable default; a starting point, not a finishing point.

Dave

Agreed, absolutely, with the general point you’re making here.


However, re. one specific portion of what you say, I agree only in part :

Quote:
There doesn't, in fact, need to be very much thought whatsoever to arrive at a position of atheism; it could be claimed to be the default, that we simply do not believe in the existence of entities for which there is no evidence.

In terms of reasoning this out, post facto as it were (that is, after having already ‘seen the light’, if I may put it that way), you’re perfectly right, cent per cent right.

But in terms of how one has, in fact, arrived at this position? There, it seems to me, you are only partly correct.

True, there are those who’ve been brought up in atheistic (or wholly apatheistic) families, who have indeed arrived at their atheism in exactly this manner. That is, they have never needed to “arrive” to it all, this common-sense and wholly reasonable position they have always been able to appreciate, all through. These would be people who are ‘born enlightened’, if I may, half in jest, borrow again from theistic terminology.

There are also some who, although they’ve been brought up in theistic families, nevertheless have been able, by the sheer bent of how their mind works, to have arrived directly at this reasonable way of looking at things. Another class of those who’re “born enlightened”!

But there are many people, very large numbers of people -- and I count myself amongst them -- who were brought up in theistic traditions, and who to begin with accepted their theistic indoctrination to more or less degree, and who had to win through to their atheism after a great deal of mental struggle. Having broken through, one appreciates that the position is exactly as you describe, and no big deal at all -- but that does not change the fact that, for a great many people, this breaking through did involve a great deal of work, a great deal of thought, and a great deal of heartache.

It’s like building a house on a piece of land. The building of the house itself may be straightforward enough ; but sometimes, one needs first to demolish the fantastic and colossal structures that one finds there, towering over everything else, and which aren't always very use to remove.

So you’re right, there doesn’t “need to be very much thought to arrive at a position of atheism”, not necessarily -- but in practice and in fact, in many cases a great deal of thought had indeed been necessary.



And I would say that if we look at the general movement of human thought towards a secular way of looking at the world, I suppose that journey also can be best described -- individual exceptions notwithstanding -- as having moved, with a great deal of thought and struggle, to atheism from a wholly theistic outlook.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 12th May 2018, 07:03 AM   #262
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 657
Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
Agnosticism (from Greek a-, ‘not’, and gnastos, ‘known’), term invented by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1869 to denote the philosophical and religious attitude of those who claim that metaphysical ideas can be neither proved nor disproved. Huxley wrote, “I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it.” (Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy).
There is no reason to don't accept this definition. What greater semantic authority than the man who invented the term? I think there is too much background to this issue and too many people trying to manipulate with words.

Like you, I happen to prefer Huxley's definition for the word 'Agnosticism'.


However, two things:


(1) The way you describe Huxely's meaning above (as well as the terms in which you've spoken of this term earlier in this thread) indicate that you do not fully appreciate Huxely's meaning.

Here's what Huxley himself had to say :
Originally Posted by Huxley
Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. That principle is of great antiquity; it is as old as Socrates; as old as the writer who said, 'Try all things, hold fast by that which is good'; it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him, it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science. Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.

And also :
Originally Posted by Huxley again
That it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can provide evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what agnosticism asserts and in my opinion, is all that is essential to agnosticism. ["Christianity and Agnosticism," 1889]

Sounds familiar?

Like I've been saying earlier in this thread, this carries a definite nuance as regards belief : namely, that one will not believe what one doesn't have evidence for.

This is the definition of agnosticism I myself subscribe to. This would be the same as what we also refer to as 'soft atheism'. Yet another way of referring to this position would be to call it, quite simply, 'reasonable'.



(2) I agree with you that the fact that Huxley intended this word to carry this shade of meaning, that does carry a great deal of "semantic authority".

However, unlike what you appear to be implying here (and what you also imply in an earlier post in this thread), neither Huxely's "semantic authority" -- nor my personal preference for this particular sense! -- gives to this particular interpretation, this particular meaning of the word, any especial authority. Word don't work that way, at least not in English. Philology, or word roots, do not dictate word meanings in English ; usage does. Philology, and word roots, these only help provide some foundational knowledge that throws light on how the word may, perhaps, have started out, as you try to trace its subsequent etymological journey. At least in English, actual usage trumps philology any time, every time. Irrespective of whether you agree with that usage or not.

The fact is that this word, Agnosticism, is also used in many other, different senses and nuances. (I have listed some of those senses -- and it is not an exhaustive list, there may well be others -- in an earlier post.) All of these senses are actually used by people, and are established usage, and are to be found in different dictionaries.

This is something you really cannot argue by saying "There is no reason to don't accept this definition", as you seem to be doing (or at least implying, by invoking Huxley's "semantic authority" without softening that description with further qualification). Like you, I do accept Huxley's definition (albeit the more nuanced definition, that IMO more correctly reflects Huxley's intention than your own formulation), but I do not claim for my preference any especial or privileged importance.

All of these meanings, that are actually used by people, are equally valid.

It is absurd to not recognize this self-evident semantic / linguistic reality. It is because people don't realize this that they often talk at cross-purposes when discussing this subject.

Once you realize that the words 'Agnsotic' and 'Atheist' mean different things to different people, you can then avoid semantic confusion by taking care to clearly define your terms beforehand, that is, by agreeing with your interlocutors to use these terms in some pre-agreed sense at least for the space of the discussion. Failing that, you can move to simply discussing the underlying concepts, rather than continuing to fixate on your pet preferences for these meanings of these words.

Last edited by Chanakya; 12th May 2018 at 07:16 AM.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 12th May 2018, 07:33 AM   #263
David Mo
Illuminator
 
David Mo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Somewhere on the Greenwich meridian
Posts: 3,184
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Like you, I happen to prefer Huxley's definition for the word 'Agnosticism'.


However, two things:


(1) The way you describe Huxely's meaning above (as well as the terms in which you've spoken of this term earlier in this thread) indicate that you do not fully appreciate Huxely's meaning.

(...)
Sounds familiar?

Like I've been saying earlier in this thread, this carries a definite nuance as regards belief : namely, that one will not believe what one doesn't have evidence for.

This is the definition of agnosticism I myself subscribe to. This would be the same as what we also refer to as 'soft atheism'. (...)


(2) I agree with you that the fact that Huxley intended this word to carry this shade of meaning, that does carry a great deal of "semantic authority".

However, unlike what you appear to be implying here (and what you also imply in an earlier post in this thread), neither Huxely's "semantic authority" -- nor my personal preference for this particular sense! -- gives to this particular interpretation, this particular meaning of the word, any especial authority. (...)

The fact is that this word, Agnosticism, is also used in many other, different senses and nuances. (I have listed some of those senses -- and it is not an exhaustive list, there may well be others -- in an earlier post.) All of these senses are actually used by people, and are established usage, and are to be found in different dictionaries.

(...)

All of these meanings, that are actually used by people, are equally valid.

(...)

Once you realize that the words 'Agnsotic' and 'Atheist' mean different things to different people, you can then avoid semantic confusion by taking care to clearly define your terms beforehand, that is, by agreeing with your interlocutors to use these terms in some pre-agreed sense at least for the space of the discussion. Failing that, you can move to simply discussing the underlying concepts, rather than continuing to fixate on your pet preferences for these meanings of these words.
You are wrong: I prefer Huxley's terminology supplemented by the classic meaning of atheism found in the Cambridge dictionary. See here.

Definitions are not more or less "valid/true", but useful, useless or inconvenient. Each person can use words however they want, but communication between different people requires that common meanings of words be used. The opposite is a chaos. In these forums, I have tried to ignore the name of the words in order to discuss concepts several times —according your suggestion. I haven't had much success.

The definition of “agnosticism” I gave was not mine. It was from the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Huxley's definition was quoted verbatim, it was not an invention of the author of the article or mine. Your ulterior precisions do not change the original meaning.

If we are trying to agree on what we're talking about —whatever we call it—, I think Huxley has the copyright and his definition is clear and sharp. It is also the most commonly used in academic books and articles on the subject. That's three reasons and I don't see any other reason to change it.
I insist that the insistence on using neologisms or private terms without necessity, apart from turning everything into jargon, often conceals manipulations of language.

Last edited by David Mo; 12th May 2018 at 07:35 AM.
David Mo is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 12th May 2018, 07:40 AM   #264
Ron_Tomkins
Satan's Helper
 
Ron_Tomkins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 42,950
Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
The whole discussion annoys me.

I shouldn't have to refute the fantasies of the delusional.
This thread isn't about refuting the fantasies of the delusional. It's about explaining the differences between Atheism from Agnosticism.
__________________
"I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"

Carl Sagan

Last edited by Ron_Tomkins; 12th May 2018 at 07:45 AM.
Ron_Tomkins is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 12th May 2018, 07:43 AM   #265
Ron_Tomkins
Satan's Helper
 
Ron_Tomkins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 42,950
Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
In practical use, isn’t “agnostic” just a fancy way to say; “I don’t know for sure, therefore I don’t concern myself too much about it.”
Yes, basically. The Agnostic answer to the question "Do you believe in God" is, in essence, saying that. It's just a fancy way of saying "Next question"

Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
An atheist is more like “I know for sure there is no God” and a theist is like, “I know for sure there is a God.”
Nope. That depends on who you're asking. Not all Atheists claim to know for sure there is no God.
__________________
"I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"

Carl Sagan
Ron_Tomkins is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 12th May 2018, 07:44 AM   #266
Ron_Tomkins
Satan's Helper
 
Ron_Tomkins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 42,950
Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
Yes, that's the whole point. Theists can be agnostic theists, who believe God exists but admit that they cannot know for certain that God exists, or non-agnostic theists, who claim that they do know for certain that God exists. Atheists can be agnostic atheists or, conceivably, non-agnostic atheists, who believe that the evidence or lack thereof is sufficient to claim certainty that there is no God. Atheism and agnosticism are separate properties, that can exist independently of each other. There's no contradiction there, and no internal inconsistency.

And that resolves your cop-out dilemma as well. If someone is asked whether they're an atheist and they say they're an agnostic, they're answering the wrong question. It's as if you asked someone, "What colour is your hair?" and they answered, "Five feet eleven."

Dave
Yes! Exactly

Wait.... were we even disagreeing about something in the first place? Cause it seems we're on the same page
__________________
"I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"

Carl Sagan
Ron_Tomkins is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 12th May 2018, 08:20 AM   #267
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 657
Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
You are wrong: I prefer Huxley's terminology supplemented by the classic meaning of atheism found in the Cambridge dictionary. See here.

"Wrong" how? You've linked to a definition of Atheism from Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. What has that to do with any of what I've said in my post?

When you clarify your meaning, do note that the particular meaning you have linked to is not the only meaning of that word (Atheism) ; and nor is the source you have quoted the only one that records meanings of word. Like I'd said in my post, different dictionaries define this word differently. And in so doing, they reflect de facto usage of this word. That is what dictionaries do.


Quote:
Definitions are not more or less "valid/true", but useful, useless or inconvenient. Each person can use words however they want, but communication between different people requires that common meanings of words be used. The opposite is a chaos.

I'm afraid I cannot agree with your prescriptive view of language. I think it makes far more sense to go for a descriptive approach.

Individuals or very small numbers of people using words in a certain sense can certainly be ignored (at least until those numbers swell to reach significant levels), but when large numbers of people use some word in some sense, that becomes (one) actual meaning of a word. That's how language works (or at least, that's how English works).

What you personally find useful, or useless, or inconvenient, another may not. Do you see how you're implicitly slipping in special pleading for your own particular preference?


Quote:
The opposite is a chaos.

Not necessarily. But yes, it does make reality (linguistic reality) more complex than you yourself may perhaps be comfortable with. That cannot be helped.

This complexity is not necessarily a bad thing. This is one way in which language is enriched (although I suppose language also degenerates via the exact same process).

Irrespective of whether you or I like this complexity, it is fact. It cannot be wished away. At least in English, dictionaries are only descriptive, never prescriptive.


Quote:
In these forums, I have tried to ignore the name of the words in order to discuss concepts several times —according your suggestion. I haven't had much success.

You have my sympathy. If that has been your experience, then it must have been frustrating.

I agree, it takes two to play this game. My proposal presumes that both sides are interested in clear cogent discussion, and that both are both able and willing to co-operate to this minimal level.

I agree, this presumption is not necessarily valid. If your interlocutor neither agrees to some provisional definition, and nor do they agree to stop fixating on their particular pet linguistic prefence, then we do seem to have arrived at an impasse?

How do we get over this impasse? Here's what occurs to me :

If we are discussing with just one person (or with a group of people that subscribes to one single meaning for some word that we ourselves disagree with), then we can simply be the bigger man, and agree to their definition just for the space of that discussion.

But of course, even this flexibility will not avail us if we are discussing with five people or five groups of people, each with their own different sense and nuance, and none of whom wishes to co-operate with the others.

I do realize this weakness in my proposal, basis your post : that what I'm proposing works only if all the parties involved have the wits as well as the intention for co-operating to this minimal extent, in order to further clear discussion.

In the absence of this minimal co-operation, I agree that chaos does seem likely.

Still :
  1. My proposal still holds, I suppose, in those cases where people aren't so unreasonable that they stop refusing to fixate on their pet definitions.

  2. Myproposal also holds when there are just two parties. We can simply give way, ourselves, in such cases, for the space of the discussion.

  3. Even when chaos seems inevitable, even then the solution can never be to impose on words meanings that appear reasonable to us. For three reasons :
  1. Because the English language doesn't work that way. (Albeit you may well try an awareness campaign in order to influence people at large. That is possible, and has been done in the past with some suceess.)

  2. Whose preference are we to try to impose? Yours? Mine? Whose?

  3. Even if you and I agree to impose some meaning on some word, how do we actually do that, exactly? We have no means to impose our wishes in this manner, at least not when it comes to English. (I keep saying this, because I vaguely remember some such 'official' effort to reign in language that was attempted somewhere, probably in France, in fairly recent times. I'm very vague about this, but I do remember reading or hearing of something of ths nature. That wouldn't work with English, I'm afraid.)

Quote:
The definition of “agnosticism” I gave was not mine. It was from the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Huxley's definition was quoted verbatim, it was not an invention of the author of the article or mine. Your ulterior precisions do not change the original meaning.

If we are trying to agree on what we're talking about —whatever we call it—, I think Huxley has the copyright and his definition is clear and sharp. It is also the most commonly used in academic books and articles on the subject. That's three reasons and I don't see any other reason to change it.
I insist that the insistence on using neologisms or private terms without necessity, apart from turning everything into jargon, often conceals manipulations of language.

Ah, but the nuances that I presented, in my post that you've quoted, aren't mine either. They are Huxley's own words. They aren't "private terms", but Huxley's own clarifications about what he meant by the term 'agnosticism'. As such, surely you see that this added nuance, in as much it comports with Huxley's documented intention, is fully valid? They carry the weight of Huxley's "semantic authority" fully as much as the definition you quoted, and as such, they add to and clarify to what you have quoted.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 12th May 2018, 11:58 PM   #268
David Mo
Illuminator
 
David Mo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Somewhere on the Greenwich meridian
Posts: 3,184
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
"Wrong" how? You've linked to a definition of Atheism from Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. What has that to do with any of what I've said in my post?
This was your mistake:
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
The way you describe Huxely's meaning above (…) indicate that you do not fully appreciate Huxely's meaning.
I precisely appreciate Huxley’s definition of agnosticism, I use it and I recommend it.
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
When you clarify your meaning, do note that the particular meaning you have linked to is not the only meaning of that word (Atheism) ; and nor is the source you have quoted the only one that records meanings of word. Like I'd said in my post, different dictionaries define this word differently. And in so doing, they reflect de facto usage of this word. That is what dictionaries do.
I'm afraid I cannot agree with your prescriptive view of language. I think it makes far more sense to go for a descriptive approach.
Individuals or very small numbers of people using words in a certain sense can certainly be ignored (at least until those numbers swell to reach significant levels), but when large numbers of people use some word in some sense, that becomes (one) actual meaning of a word. That's how language works (or at least, that's how English works).
What you personally find useful, or useless, or inconvenient, another may not. Do you see how you're implicitly slipping in special pleading for your own particular preference?
(...)
This complexity is not necessarily a bad thing. This is one way in which language is enriched (although I suppose language also degenerates via the exact same process).
(...)
I agree, it takes two to play this game. My proposal presumes that both sides are interested in clear cogent discussion, and that both are both able and willing to co-operate to this minimal level.
I agree, this presumption is not necessarily valid. If your interlocutor neither agrees to some provisional definition, and nor do they agree to stop fixating on their particular pet linguistic prefence, then we do seem to have arrived at an impasse?
I know that different people use some words in different ways and that dictionaries don't always match. Even in my country, where there is an official Academy dedicated to regulating the use of language, many people do not believe that the Academy is fitting or prefer to use personal forms that seem more appropriate to the context. In addition, there are specialized languages, which require specialized dictionaries. Incidentally, we are dealing with a philosophical issue in a forum dedicated to philosophy. It would be appropriate to be guided by philosophical dictionaries, as I have tried to do. But people are not impressed by the argument and prefer to give other personal meanings to words. It is their right... as long as this does not create communication problems. That is exactly what happens in this and other similar forums. Communication problems.

These are problems of ambiguity and vagueness that create confusion. People who use the same word think they're talking about the same thing and they are not. These confusions can be very good in a poem. They can be creative, original and suggestive. But in a debate of ideas are unnecessary. They are a source of confusion.

The only way to resolve this issue is what you call ‘prescriptive'. It does not mean imposing any meaning, but reaching agreements about the use of a word.
That was my defence of the meanings of the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy.
But, as you note, people do not want to reach any agreement on this issue. Everyone clings to their own definition. Some claim that it is the only 'true' or 'correct' one. My experience in this kind of discussion in this kind of forum tells me that there is no way to solve this. At best, you can try to led the discussion to concepts and to divert it from words. But even this is difficult.

In my opinion, such an irrational defence of mere verbalisms suggests that deep down, people want to manipulate with words or are afraid of being manipulated. That's what we have to face.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Ah, but the nuances that I presented, in my post that you've quoted, aren't mine either. They are Huxley's own words. They aren't "private terms", but Huxley's own clarifications about what he meant by the term 'agnosticism'. As such, surely you see that this added nuance, in as much it comports with Huxley's documented intention, is fully valid? They carry the weight of Huxley's "semantic authority" fully as much as the definition you quoted, and as such, they add to and clarify to what you have quoted.
I did not mean that they were not clarifications of Huxley himself, but that they did not substantially alter the first definition.
David Mo is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th May 2018, 07:28 AM   #269
3point14
Pi
 
3point14's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 15,851
Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
This thread isn't about refuting the fantasies of the delusional. It's about explaining the differences between Atheism from Agnosticism.
Yes, and I'm saying it's pointless to validate the fantasies of the delusional by assigning it so much worth.

It's worth exactly the same as a debate about if Gandalf exists. Both entities have exactly the same volume of evidence for their existence, i.e. none.

The fact that any single or collection of made up entities is somehow required to have a different level of analysis to the general 'I can dismiss this as fiction' that we apply to every other made up thing is something I find, frankly, baffling.
__________________
Up the River!
3point14 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th May 2018, 06:04 AM   #270
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 657
Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
(...)
I know that different people use some words in different ways and that dictionaries don't always match. Even in my country, where there is an official Academy dedicated to regulating the use of language, many people do not believe that the Academy is fitting or prefer to use personal forms that seem more appropriate to the context. In addition, there are specialized languages, which require specialized dictionaries. Incidentally, we are dealing with a philosophical issue in a forum dedicated to philosophy. It would be appropriate to be guided by philosophical dictionaries, as I have tried to do. But people are not impressed by the argument and prefer to give other personal meanings to words. It is their right... as long as this does not create communication problems. That is exactly what happens in this and other similar forums. Communication problems.

These are problems of ambiguity and vagueness that create confusion. People who use the same word think they're talking about the same thing and they are not. These confusions can be very good in a poem. They can be creative, original and suggestive. But in a debate of ideas are unnecessary. They are a source of confusion.

The only way to resolve this issue is what you call ‘prescriptive'. It does not mean imposing any meaning, but reaching agreements about the use of a word.
That was my defence of the meanings of the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy.
But, as you note, people do not want to reach any agreement on this issue. Everyone clings to their own definition. Some claim that it is the only 'true' or 'correct' one. My experience in this kind of discussion in this kind of forum tells me that there is no way to solve this. At best, you can try to led the discussion to concepts and to divert it from words. But even this is difficult.

In my opinion, such an irrational defence of mere verbalisms suggests that deep down, people want to manipulate with words or are afraid of being manipulated. That's what we have to face.
(...)

David Mo, we seem to be in agreement when it comes to the larger point I was trying to make in this thread.

I don’t think we would ever encounter this kind of difficulty, you and I, even if we were to disagree about some definitions that happend to be key to our discussion. You seem to agree with me when I say that it is wise to recognize that a semantic disagreement is just that, no more ; and that when some discussion seems lost in confusion because of semantic differences, then the easy way out is to simply shift to discussing the underlying issues themselves, without getting caught up in a never-ending disagreement on definitions.

I thank you for backing me up on this.




You add two further qualifications in your post, but I have no quarrel with the way you have presented them.

First, you clarify that when you advocate for some particular meaning for some particular word (in this case Agnosticism), you do not mean that yours is the only valid meaning, and nor are you trying to impose your preference on others : you only wish to try to persuade others to see things the way you do, that is all. That is not unreasonable at all : and indeed, I have explicitly said myself, upthread, that this is an attempt that can be made -- and indeed has already been made in the past, in respect of other usages in English, with some success.

Further, you say that when you find that your interlocutor insists on clinging to their pet semantic preference, and repeatedly rebuffs your invitation to speak directly about the underlying concepts, then you would suspect the honesty of their intention when they debate. And in this too, I am in agreement with you. I too would consider such a person either hopelessly closed-minded, or else deliberately disingenuous.

So far, then, we seem to be in full agreement.




However, while we agree on these larger issues, it seems we are not in agreement about how correct your interpretation of Huxley’s definition of Agnosticism was, and whether my subsequent clarification substantially alters that first definition.

Now had this not been a thread that is meant specifically for discussions around the meaning of the word Agnosticism, I suppose it would have been ironic, even inappropriate, to continue to focus on these semantic differences, given what I have just said about not getting caught up in semantics. However, given that the meaning of this word is precisely what this thread is about, it would be remiss of me if I did not go to some length to clarify and to resolve these differences with you.


Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
This was your mistake:

I precisely appreciate Huxley’s definition of agnosticism, I use it and I recommend it.

(...)

I did not mean that they were not clarifications of Huxley himself, but that they did not substantially alter the first definition.

I beg to differ with you here. If you will permit to illustrate, and to clearly explain, why I say this :

Here is how you had expressed your definition of Agnosticism, in your post #259 : "Agnosticism ... religious attitude of those who claim that metaphysical ideas can be neither proved nor disproved."

While you do quote Huxely himself, nevertheless, if one were to focus on just these words of his, to the exclusion of everything else he has said, then we would end up misinterpreting him. This throws no light at all on the issue of belief. It gives the impression that Huxley had merely wanted to express his position on the knowledge axis (one does not know either way), while saying nothing at all about the belief axis. And indeed, this meaning does comport with the philological meaning of the word Agnosticism, the meaning suggested by its word roots.

If interpreted in this manner, then certainly Agnosticism would appear to be a wishy-wishy kind of cop-out. It would indicate that one isn’t really taking any position at all on the God question, while using a fancy-sounding word to pretend that one is indeed taking a position.

And what is more, you yourself seem clearly to believe this was Huxely’s intention : because it only based on such an interpretation that one can say -- as you said in your post #93 addressed to me -- that “Agnostic's problem is to explain what concept of truth he has that prevents him from refuting the existence of gnomes, fairies, invisible dragons or gods.” Those were your exact words in that post. You further said in that post : “The second problem is that it is opening the door for the irrationalist to admit "possible" entities.” And also : “I would not say that the agnostic is an intellectual coward, as Abaddon says, but on many occasions he is similar.”



I submit that your thinking this way is the result of not being able to fully appreciate Huxley’s intention. Those words of Huxely’s that you have quoted (and that I have copied above), they are true, but they do not present the full picture (of what Huxley’s actual intention was).

It was in order to uncover this larger picture, to give a complete balanced idea of what it was Huxley meant to denote by means of this word that he had coined, Agnosticism, that I had quoted him (Huxley) verbatim in my post #262 addressed to you. I had presented two excerpts from his first-hand and verbatim clarification, that he himself presented. I invite you to go through those two excerpts one more time.

I will not copy those entire excerpts again, but I will present again now, for ease of reference as well as for emphasis, two or three key sentences from those two excerpts. Let me start with the most important one : “…every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him”. That quote, first and foremost.

See? He clearly says here, in effect, that : The agnostic is NOT to have faith in that for which he cannot give (adequate) reason. And what kind of reason? Here’s what he goes on to say : “In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.” And also : “it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can provide evidence which logically justifies that certainty."

Thus, Huxley’s agnosticism, notwithstanding the philological word-root meaning of the word ‘agnosticism’, does pertain to faith as well. The agnostic, as Huxley defined the term, and as he clearly explains here, is not to have faith without adequate reason. And evidence, demonstrable and demonstrated evidence, is an essential element of this “adequate reason”. In other words, the agnostic, as Huxley conceived of the term, shall have faith only in that for which he has evidence : he shall not have faith in that for which evidence is not demonstrated (or not demonstrable).

Is that not exactly what the scientist says? And is this not the exact same as the terms with which the (soft) atheist looks at the God question?

This additional nuance I am afraid you had left out entirely from your reckoning, David Mo. Tell me, is it at all possible to say of this position, of agnosticism in the sense that I have now clearly shown Huxley to have meant, that he (that is, the agnostic) is open to the existence of gnomes, fairies, dragons and gods, as you had done? (No he isn’t, not unless he has evidence!) Is it possible to say of this eminently reasonable position, that it opens the door for the irrationalist to admit “possible” entities, as you had claimed? (No it doesn’t, not unless he can produce evidence!) And is it possible to say of the agnostic, as I have shown Huxley to have conceived of that term, that he is on many occasions similar to an intellectual coward, as you have claimed? (No, it isn’t! What is remotely cowardly about this eminently reasonable position? In what way or form is it at all a cop-out, or is it in any way cowardly, to say that you will not have faith in something that you do not have adequate evidence for?)



I hope I have now been able to show you how you were mistaken in how you were interpreting Huxley’s definition of Agnosticism? I hope we now agree that the clarifications I had presented in my earlier post (and which I have tried to clearly explain here now, in detail), do in fact alter the first definition (and specifically your particular interpretation of that definition) “substantially”? And I hope we are now in agreement about what Huxley actually meant when he coined this term?
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th May 2018, 06:21 AM   #271
Ron_Tomkins
Satan's Helper
 
Ron_Tomkins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 42,950
Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
Yes, and I'm saying it's pointless to validate the fantasies of the delusional by assigning it so much worth.

It's worth exactly the same as a debate about if Gandalf exists. Both entities have exactly the same volume of evidence for their existence, i.e. none.

The fact that any single or collection of made up entities is somehow required to have a different level of analysis to the general 'I can dismiss this as fiction' that we apply to every other made up thing is something I find, frankly, baffling.
Huh??

How is explaining the difference between the meaning of the word "agnostic" and the meaning of the word "atheist" validating the fantasies of the delusional?
__________________
"I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"

Carl Sagan
Ron_Tomkins is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th May 2018, 06:59 AM   #272
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 657
Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
Yes, and I'm saying it's pointless to validate the fantasies of the delusional by assigning it so much worth.

It's worth exactly the same as a debate about if Gandalf exists. Both entities have exactly the same volume of evidence for their existence, i.e. none.

The fact that any single or collection of made up entities is somehow required to have a different level of analysis to the general 'I can dismiss this as fiction' that we apply to every other made up thing is something I find, frankly, baffling.

That is merely your personal judgment, your individual personal assessment as it applies to you, and not a general expression of general “worth”. You see that, don’t you?

I was amazed to come across, here in this skeptics' forum, what looks to me like the closed-mindedness of what I have come to see as the ‘clamoring crowd’, who seem to revel in shouting out their views and joining chorus with an echo-chamber in-group : but who, when confronted with cogent argument against their position, are neither able to respond cogently, nor to retract their original position. They wait a while, then simply go back to their clamoring. Why start a thread about this, I found myself wondering, if you have no intention to engage with cogent views presented precisely about the subject of the thread, that go against your pre-conceived notions?

It is as if the “clamoring crowd” were following the Prime Commandment that some theists are, in practice, asked to follow by the kindly clergy guiding them. You know, the one that goes like this : “The Dark One seeks to corrupt thy innocent minds with artful deceit. Thou pure innocent lambs of the Lord, when the Enemy speakest with thee and presenteth to thee views that differ from thine own, and that thou canst not counteract effectively, then know thou that thou wouldst lose, already, if thou were to even listen to those artful words of deceit. When presented with views that differ from thine, thou wouldst do well to plug thine ears with thy fingers, and to loudly, very loudly, utter the ancient sacred mantra of the Lord, the one that goes “La la la la la la la la”. Thou shalt utter this mantra for as long as differing views are presented. Then, afterwards, thou mayst unplug thine ears, and thou mayst then resume speaking out thine own echo-chamber inanities, as if nothing had been said at all. Thou shalt be like the ostrich that buries its head in the sand, only to remove thy head afterwards when arguments that disturb thy closed worldview fall silent, to hold forth anew with vigor thine clamoring.”

I have noticed that you, 3point14, have tried responding once or twice to me upthread, if only with brief would-be witticisms, and I thought I’d see if you might be able to understand why your position is untenable. (That is, at the personal level what you do is perfectly acceptable, as it applies to you personally ; but how and why, as a general proposal, what you say is untenable.)



There are many God ideas going around, some of them oafish, but others somewhat more sophisticated : and it does not make sense to take the same position as regards each of them. (If at all you care to engage with them, that is. If you don’t wish to engage wit them at all, that is a whole different matter. You are perfectly free to do that, no issues with that kind of a purely personal position, a purely personal preference.)

Look at the God-position that is at the core of Advaita, or of (some interpretations of) Zen. A universal consciousness that underlies our everyday reality. You can only be soft-atheistic about this. (And yes, that -- a soft-atheistic objection -- is quite enough to dismiss ideas of this nature.)

However, when it comes to other God ideas like Yahweh, or Allah, or Zeus, or Indra, or Ra, then yes, certainly, as earlier, the soft-atheism approach of simply asking for evidence works. But you have an added option here, the option of coming down really hard on them with a stronger refutation : of actually *disproving* their pet delusion.

Do you see what I am saying? Soft atheism is enough, in all cases, to dismiss God claims. But there are some (more oafish) God claims which give you the additional option of coming down hard, with a hard dis-proof of said claims. To blow the claim spectacularly out of the water. (To be clear : the burden of proof is always on the claimant. But if despite the burden of proof not lying with you, you can go out and disprove that thunderbolts are basically Thor or Indra in action, by showing that thunder can be explained perfectly well without invoking Gods, well then, that makes your position -- and your disbelief -- that much 'harder'.)

Thus, it is reasonable to be a soft atheist re. certain God claims, while being a hard atheist re. others (and igntheistic re. the God question in general).



As for why this especially careful look at the God-question, as opposed to your Gandalf-question? Why this special pleading for God, as opposed to Gandalf as well? That’s a pretty good question actually. You ask it rhetorically, but it can be taken at face value, and answered, easily enough.

And the answer is : It is because the God question is, unfortunately, still mainstream in the world at large (and overwhelmingly so in individual pockets, in individual neighborhoods, or individual cities, or individual states, or individual countries).

Should it so happen that, in some fantastic post-apocalyptic world twenty years from today, people in general started believing that each and every thing that they read in all books (that they found lying around from the pre-apocalypse days) were actual literal truth -- that the fact that something was printed in a book was enough reason to fully believe whatever it was that was written down -- then sure, in such a situation, our language might evolve to throw up words that denote our position about whether what we read in books is real or not. We might end up with words like ‘biblists’, then, and ‘abiblists’ -- and also, perhaps, ‘soft abiblists’, ‘hard abiblists’, and ‘igbiblists’, and so on and so forth. Who knows, twenty five years from now, your son and mine may find themselves sitting on some tree, dressed in barks, fingering torn pages of books they’d squirreled away, discussing whether in their dystopian world the words ‘soft abiblist’ and ‘hard abiblist’ are really necessary, or if one single word, ‘abiblist’, might be enough to take care of all of these positions that have to do with whether what is written in books is literally true.



I agree, for some people, at certain times, in certain situations, this hairsplitting becomes unnecessary. For instance, if you and I were to be discussing God-ideas, then sure, we could come to a tentative agreement that -- for the space of our discussion -- we will, when we use the word ‘atheist’, mean exactly what the philological word-roots of that word suggests, namely, someone who does not believe in Gods, no more and no less. Hell, we may even do away with even that word ‘Atheist’ itself, and simply choose to shoot down some God-idea by saying, simply, that it is ‘not scientific’ or ‘not backed by evidence’. No problem.

But this is not universally practicable. Not in all discussions, not with everybody.

Because there is a need for these words, that is why our language has thrown up these words. If and when we do not feel that need ourselves, we may refrain from using them, sure. But it makes no sense at all to keep clamoring for everyone, everywhere to stop using them, does it?

And when you come across someone who does use these words (that you yourself believe are unnecessary), then surely it is easier to recognize these words (even when you don’t yourself necessarily agree with them), and to use them, in order to have a meaningful conversation? Unless of course one wants to walk away and not have a conversation at all : at a personal level, I suppose that is a perfectly acceptable option, if that is what one wants to do.
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th May 2018, 07:38 AM   #273
David Mo
Illuminator
 
David Mo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Somewhere on the Greenwich meridian
Posts: 3,184
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
David Mo, we seem to be in agreement when it comes to the larger point I was trying to make in this thread.

I don’t think we would ever encounter this kind of difficulty, you and I, even if we were to disagree about some definitions that happend to be key to our discussion. (...)
However, while we agree on these larger issues, it seems we are not in agreement about how correct your interpretation of Huxley’s definition of Agnosticism was, and whether my subsequent clarification substantially alters that first definition.
(...)
I beg to differ with you here. If you will permit to illustrate, and to clearly explain, why I say this :

Here is how you had expressed your definition of Agnosticism, in your post #259 : "Agnosticism ... religious attitude of those who claim that metaphysical ideas can be neither proved nor disproved."
While you do quote Huxely himself, nevertheless, if one were to focus on just these words of his, to the exclusion of everything else he has said, then we would end up misinterpreting him. This throws no light at all on the issue of belief. (...)
And what is more, you yourself seem clearly to believe this was Huxely’s intention : because it only based on such an interpretation that one can say -- as you said in your post #93 addressed to me -- that “Agnostic's problem is to explain what concept of truth he has that prevents him from refuting the existence of gnomes, fairies, invisible dragons or gods.” Those were your exact words in that post. You further said in that post : “The second problem is that it is opening the door for the irrationalist to admit "possible" entities.” And also : “I would not say that the agnostic is an intellectual coward, as Abaddon says, but on many occasions he is similar.”
I submit that your thinking this way is the result of not being able to fully appreciate Huxley’s intention. Those words of Huxely’s that you have quoted (and that I have copied above), they are true, but they do not present the full picture (of what Huxley’s actual intention was).
(...)Thus, Huxley’s agnosticism, notwithstanding the philological word-root meaning of the word ‘agnosticism’, does pertain to faith as well. The agnostic, as Huxley defined the term, and as he clearly explains here, is not to have faith without adequate reason. (…) Is that not exactly what the scientist says? And is this not the exact same as the terms with which the (soft) atheist looks at the God question?
This additional nuance I am afraid you had left out entirely from your reckoning, David Mo. (...) (No, it isn’t! What is remotely cowardly about this eminently reasonable position? In what way or form is it at all a cop-out, or is it in any way cowardly, to say that you will not have faith in something that you do not have adequate evidence for?)
I hope I have now been able to show you how you were mistaken in how you were interpreting Huxley’s definition of Agnosticism?
Leaving Huxley aside -- because we would go into a discussion of the history of philosophy that would only entangle us -- the position of the scientist agnostic that you present as more complete is actually a paradox.
Let's call the gentleman agnostic scientist H.
As an agnostic, H claims that he cannot maintain an idea without justification. The existence of God can neither be proved nor denied.
As a scientist, H justifies his unbelief with the powerful reason that without evidence there can be no belief. The existence of God can be denied because there is no evidence of it. And the theist cannot ask him to prove the non-existence of a thing!

The problem consist in that the agnostic fideist introduces a false distinction between believing something and to affirm something. Rationally you can only claim something you can justify. If your belief has no justification, it is irrational and cannot even be expressed with meaning. This is untenable from the point of view of cientism.

Last edited by David Mo; 14th May 2018 at 07:41 AM.
David Mo is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th May 2018, 07:39 AM   #274
Wudang
BOFH
 
Wudang's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: People's Republic of South Yorkshire
Posts: 11,261
I'm with Bertrand Russell. Practically speaking I am an atheist. Technically speaking (where people throw words around like ontology and epistemics) I am an agnostic. I can't prove the non-existence of of a poorly-defined entity (or set thereof) with varying necessary characteristics according to the individual(s) I happen to be talking to at that time.

tl;dr/less nuanced version "OK I forking give in! OK! Sure I can't prove your invisible sky daddy doesn't forking exist! OK? Can I go get on with my forking life now? There's a yogurt in my fridge that expires today and that's a more pressing concern than the putative existence (for given esoteric definitions of 'exist') of some super-entity with a less coherent set of attributes and attitudes than something the world's worst comic writer came up with sleep-deprived and so full of pills he rattles. OK, bye."
__________________
Aphorism: Subjects most likely to be declared inappropriate for humor are the ones most in need of it. -epepke
Wudang is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th May 2018, 07:47 AM   #275
David Mo
Illuminator
 
David Mo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Somewhere on the Greenwich meridian
Posts: 3,184
Originally Posted by Wudang View Post
I'm with Bertrand Russell. Practically speaking I am an atheist. Technically speaking (where people throw words around like ontology and epistemics) I am an agnostic. I can't prove the non-existence of of a poorly-defined entity (or set thereof) with varying necessary characteristics according to the individual(s) I happen to be talking to at that time.

tl;dr/less nuanced version "OK I forking give in! OK! Sure I can't prove your invisible sky daddy doesn't forking exist! OK? Can I go get on with my forking life now? There's a yogurt in my fridge that expires today and that's a more pressing concern than the putative existence (for given esoteric definitions of 'exist') of some super-entity with a less coherent set of attributes and attitudes than something the world's worst comic writer came up with sleep-deprived and so full of pills he rattles. OK, bye."
Sometimes Russell puzzles me. I don't understand what is "technical" agnosticism. If you have some reason to discard the existence of orbital teapots you have some reason to discard God. The burden of proof is a good reason.
OK, OK, God has the same possibility of existing as an orbital teapot. And that's not practically zero?

Last edited by David Mo; 14th May 2018 at 07:49 AM.
David Mo is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th May 2018, 08:27 AM   #276
Wudang
BOFH
 
Wudang's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: People's Republic of South Yorkshire
Posts: 11,261
Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
Sometimes Russell puzzles me. I don't understand what is "technical" agnosticism. If you have some reason to discard the existence of orbital teapots you have some reason to discard God. The burden of proof is a good reason.
OK, OK, God has the same possibility of existing as an orbital teapot. And that's not practically zero?
Exactly - practically zero. But you could literally spend the rest of your life vainly trying to remove that qualifier. It's quite easy if debating with a reasonably rational person to agree that if we define God as "the being who performed the acts attributed to him in the Old Testament" then such a being does not exist as many of the acts he is supposed to have performed did not happen.
But then we come to more nuanced ideas of God as being the being behind the human need to hang an anthropomorphic face on nature and the more ill-defined, non-interventionist, less partaking of the nature of the physical world the harder it is to even conceive of what it is you are trying to refute. Where, then, to even start?
__________________
Aphorism: Subjects most likely to be declared inappropriate for humor are the ones most in need of it. -epepke
Wudang is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th May 2018, 02:32 PM   #277
xjx388
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 6,452
Wait... why can’t one be “hard-atheist” about Advaitac or certain Zen interpretations of “God?” It is certainly possible to be completely materialistic: I.e. there is no God no matter what characteristics you give such a concept.

I mean you can’t prove or disprove a “universal consciousness” or “oneness” anymore than you can Yahweh. IOW, all interpretations of God have the same ontological problems so “hard atheism” seems just as valid for “universal consciousness” as it does for a more discrete personal God.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
__________________
Hello.
xjx388 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th May 2018, 10:42 PM   #278
David Mo
Illuminator
 
David Mo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Somewhere on the Greenwich meridian
Posts: 3,184
Originally Posted by Wudang View Post
Exactly - practically zero. But you could literally spend the rest of your life vainly trying to remove that qualifier. It's quite easy if debating with a reasonably rational person to agree that if we define God as "the being who performed the acts attributed to him in the Old Testament" then such a being does not exist as many of the acts he is supposed to have performed did not happen.
But then we come to more nuanced ideas of God as being the being behind the human need to hang an anthropomorphic face on nature and the more ill-defined, non-interventionist, less partaking of the nature of the physical world the harder it is to even conceive of what it is you are trying to refute. Where, then, to even start?
If you are going to absolutely demonstrate anything about all the confusing and unverifiable ideas that human beings can come up with, you are going to end up in an insane asylum.
A "non-interventionist" god is like invisible-pink dragons and space teapots. You can't absolutely prove they don't exist. You can't even absolutely prove that the moon exists. Absolutely, with zero probability of being false, you can prove just zero things.
David Mo is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 15th May 2018, 05:48 AM   #279
xjx388
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 6,452
Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
If you are going to absolutely demonstrate anything about all the confusing and unverifiable ideas that human beings can come up with, you are going to end up in an insane asylum.

A "non-interventionist" god is like invisible-pink dragons and space teapots. You can't absolutely prove they don't exist. You can't even absolutely prove that the moon exists. Absolutely, with zero probability of being false, you can prove just zero things.


What’s the point of arguing about the existence of pink unicorns or non-interventionist God? There is absolutely no evidence in either case so there’s nothing to argue about. Those ideas are utterly irrelevant.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
__________________
Hello.
xjx388 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 15th May 2018, 06:47 AM   #280
Chanakya

 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 657
Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
Leaving Huxley aside -- because we would go into a discussion of the history of philosophy that would only entangle us --

I am astonished at your response, David Mo. Not because this kind of response in this kind of a situation is itself necessarily unexpected, but because, basis my limited interactions with you, I had come to expect differently from you.

You had yourself found it fit to initiate a discussion on Huxley’s ideas here. You had also found it fit to continue to speak on Huxley’s ideas subsequently. But now that it has been clearly shown, with clearly documented evidence, that your earlier views were mistaken, now when it is time for you to either defend your claim or to gracefully acknowledge your error, now you suddenly propose that we “(leave) Huxley -- because we would go into a discussion of the history of philosophy that would only entangle us”? Why on earth wouldn’t this same consideration have applied, and kept you from speaking of Huxley, before this clearly documented evidence of your error had been presented?

Also : I don’t see why some very deep or very detailed exploration of the “history of philosophy” is called for here, at all? I have clearly shown in my post # 270, with evidence, what views you had expressed about Huxley’s agnosticism ; I have also clearly shown, again with evidence, what Huxley actually had to say about this ; and I have clearly compared the two, and shown you how what you had said earlier was “substantially” different from Huxley’s actual meaning. We don’t need to delve very deep into philosophy, or into the history of philosophy, in order to be able to discuss that single post of mine, or to acknowledge the obvious conclusion that post points us towards, do we?

You saw fit, earlier, to say that the agnostic is sometimes “similar (to being cowardly)”. Are we perhaps in the presence of something even more similar to the quality that that latter epithet describes?

If I may digress somewhat for the space of one brief paragraph : I am amazed at how very unwilling people are to clearly admit to having been mistaken. Me, I’d prefer any day to having been shown to be wrong. I’d find that more profitable, any day, to having been proved right. More bang for my buck that way. I am always happier when found wrong, or when found so ignorant that I cannot even contribute meaningfully, because that means I am able to get that much more return for my money (in this case, for my time). Apparently this straightforward approach does not carry universal appeal.


Quote:
the position of the scientist agnostic that you present as more complete is actually a paradox.

This position of the 'agnostic' that I have presented (and really, there is no reason to append the qualifier "scientist" to that word) is what I believe is Huxley's meaning. I have, in my earlier post addressed to you, shown you clearly why I think this is so. If you think his particular connotation is a paradox, that is a disagreement you will have to take up with him, not me!

In any case, it seems you find his Agnosticism to be a paradox only because you are misinterpreting him. Strawmanning Huxley himself, if you will! I will attempt to show you clearly how that is so.


Quote:
Let's call the gentleman agnostic scientist H.
As an agnostic, H claims that he cannot maintain an idea without justification. The existence of God can neither be proved nor denied.
As a scientist, H justifies his unbelief with the powerful reason that without evidence there can be no belief. The existence of God can be denied because there is no evidence of it. And the theist cannot ask him to prove the non-existence of a thing!

The problem consist in that the agnostic fideist introduces a false distinction between believing something and to affirm something. Rationally you can only claim something you can justify. If your belief has no justification, it is irrational and cannot even be expressed with meaning. This is untenable from the point of view of cientism.

You will excuse me if I say that that -- especially following on what you have already said in this post just preceding this portion -- appears very suspiciously like using jargon in order to obfuscate the straightforward issue we are discussing. What you say here, camouflaged within technical terms, appears to me to be a clear non sequitur, presented here for no discernible purpose (unless to obfuscate this straightforward discussion).

Nevertheless, let us take what you say at face value, and try to unpack what you’re saying :

As you say, “As an agnostic, H claims that he cannot maintain an idea without justification.” Now two things, around single sentence :
  1. First, let me put this squarely in Huxley’s own words. He had said that the agnostic is not to have faith in that, for which no evidence is demonstrated or demonstrable. While you may have perhaps meant to convey this same thing, nevertheless “cannot maintain an idea” sounds more ambiguous than “won’t have faith in”. So, just to be sure we are on the same page, and on the same page as Huxley himself, let us say, more clearly, that ‘As an agnostic, H will not have faith in a claim that has no evidence demonstrated in support of it.’

  2. And second, let us do away with the word “claim” from your formulation. That the agnostic will not have faith in something for which there is no evidence, that is not a claim, but a pronouncement, a declaration of intent, no different from “I will not steal”, or “I will not lie”, or “I will not sleep with other people’s wives”. This is not a “claim” at all, it is a declaration of intent. Just like I may coin a word “astealist” to refer to someone that will not steal, similarly Huxley had coined the word “agnostic” to refer to someone who effectively would not have faith in that for which he had no evidence. As I have clearly shown you already in my previous post addressed to you.

You next bring in the scientist. I don’t see why you do that at all. We have no need for the scientist at all, at this point. You say “As a scientist, H justifies his unbelief with the powerful reason that without evidence there can be no belief.” Well, that second sentence is superfluous. Because as an agnostic, qua agnostic, H already says exactly that. It does not matter if our agnostic H is a scientist or a cobbler or a circus clown : that he is an agnostic is sufficient grounds (in a tautological kind of way) for him to say -- as I have clearly shown in my previous post addressed to you -- that “without evidence there can be no belief”.



As for this new creature that you next introduce, this “agnostic fideist” that you conjure up -- well, I submit that this last is no more than a red herring, brought in to try to obfuscate this simple issue even further. What on earth is an “agnostic fideist”? A fideist is someone who believes that knowledge springs from faith and revelation, and that this faith has nothing to do with reason, a defender of the patently absurd ‘separate magisteria’ idea. So then, if we were to use the word ‘agnostic’ strictly as Huxley intended it -- as someone who will not have faith in the absence of compelling reason and evidence -- then an “agnostic fideist” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms!

You simply cannot have an “agnostic fideist” at all -- not if you use the word ‘agnostic’ as Huxley had intended it.

(Of course, if you choose to use the word ‘agnostic’ purely in its philological, word-root sense -- as indeed some do -- then yes, you can speak of an “agnostic fideist”. But if that is what you meant, then what you are doing now is exactly what we had both spoken out against, both you and I : speaking past each other by using the same word to mean different things. Now is the time to put in action what we had both agreed on : we either come to agreement about our definitions, or we skip definitions altogether and simply talk about the underlying concepts, even when this takes up somewhat more words, somewhat more space, and somewhat more effort.)

And here is what appears to me to be your final sleight of hand (if you will permit me to be so frank) : having introduced this new creature to our discussion, this “agnostic fideist” of yours, you then go ahead and raise objections to what this “agnostic fideist” might do and say! That’s patently ridiculous, this line of argument, and here’s why I say this :

First of all, like I’ve already pointed out, an “agnostic fideist” is a contradiction in terms (if you use Huxley’s views on ‘agnosticism’) : but, that apart, what follows, follows primarily from the fideism, and not from the agnosticism that qualifies that fideism. You objection, expressed in the last paragraph, irrespective of whether it is valid or not -- and frankly I have not taken the trouble to suss out for myself whether it is indeed valid, that very last paragraph, because the objections to fideism that you present there are wholly irrelevant to this discussion -- I was saying, your objection, expressed in the last paragraph, adheres not to the agnostic but to the fideist!

(To put this plainly and in somewhat crude metaphor : If the “agnostic fideist” takes to turning cartwheels in the nude in full public view at mid-noon, or to howling at the moon at night and attempting to take bites out of young girls’ necks, then he does that because he is a “fideist”, and not because of the “agnositic” that qualifies his “fideism”. If you take this madman away in chains, you will do it for the insanity that is his “fideism”, and not because you have inserted that “agnostic” in front of his “fideism”.)

Surely that is obvious, surely that is clear as day?! Why on earth are you discussing with me, now, suddenly, the antics of some Fideist, as well as the pros and cons of Fideism (and pretending that that somehow rubs off on to our discussion on Huxley’s Agnosticism)?



I am sorry, David Mo, I had expected more of you.

By all means, have another go at properly and cogently responding to my previous post addressed to you, if you wish to, that is. You may also, if you wish, respond after that to the two objections I have raised here. As I’ve said, I am always happy, myself, if I am proved wrong -- that way I end up learning something new/different. If you are able to do that, I will gladly acknowledge you and also thank you.

But what I’m asking of you is that you squarely discuss my earlier post, as well as both objections I have raised now in this post -- and that you address these issues clearly, cogently, and without attempting further obfuscation via technical jargon and unnecessary non sequiturs. It’s either that, or acknowledge your error. (Provided you wish to take this any further at all. I suppose you always have the option of simply not responding at all.)
Chanakya is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Reply

International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Religion and Philosophy

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 11:11 PM.
Powered by vBulletin. Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum began as part of the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF). However, the forum now exists as
an independent entity with no affiliation with or endorsement by the JREF, including the section in reference to "JREF" topics.

Disclaimer: Messages posted in the Forum are solely the opinion of their authors.