Friday, July 29, 2011

111 Years Ago Today



Of the many signs of an approaching death, perhaps the most infallible indication is the growth of large cities. City people are traditionless, matter of fact, religionless, clever, unfruitful, and contemptuous of the considerate person, especially the considerate person from the country. It's a doom that grips mankind and brings the inevitable results. There's no use in hoping for the impossible. We may deplore the present, but it cannot be otherwise. If someone says that fatalism is discouraging, we reply that false hopes are hardly a source of enduring optimism. Those who are able to avoid wishful thinking can see the handwriting on the wall. We of today face---we of today are---the decline of the West.

--Redaction of Gordon Clark, summarizing Spengler's The Decline of the West. From Gordon Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things, Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1952, pages 55-56. This gives the context of the "handwriting on the wall" quote I posted recently. Clark is summarizing Spengler, but it's clearly Clark's statement.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Being vs Knowing

The question of atheism is precisely what is the inferential or epistemic justification of the claim that God exists. Sure, given the premise that God exists, everything is existentially based on God's being and sovereignty. But in the role of atheist, I'm not questioning that conditional implication.

I'm questioning only its antecedent: that God exists.

My question would be how belief in God can be justified logically, as well as how to logically justify the notion that God is the only adequate ontological or whatever ground for morality. But by morality I just mean deciding from among the various possible proximate or ultimate consequences in relation to possible actions. If God exists, then there is a mind that can bring about ultimate consequences, and I would do well to pay attention to that mind just like any other inescapable factor I might confront as an existing finite mind, precisely and especially because of its ultimate capabilities.

Meta-Morals Already Drive the Moral Argument Debate

There are background moral values running in parallel to the process of inquiry of any kind, but the point from an atheist perspective is that mere personal preference (for whatever reasons) is enough to equal the commitment to certain values on the part of those who believe in God. Having known a number of atheists literally in my neighborhood for decades, I think this is true. In fact, in some instances I've never seen such commitment to certain values with which we obviously agreed. So I think the no morals without God thing is off target, counterproductive, and simply unneeded anyway as an argument for God. There may be a successful moral argument for God, but nothing I've seen so far seems successful.

Conditional Preferences vs. Moral Obligations and Arguments

To construe morality in any way already assumes a supervisory propriety or obligation to think in certain ways and according to certain rules and values. This is independent of first-order analysis of morality, given -any- particular construance of it, and necessarily so, to be able to recognize such propriety, analyze it, and possibly decide the question itself in the first place. I don't see how anyone can get around that. To believe in God or morality for reasons assumes the prior, independent---and most importantly: higher---epistemic authority of those reasons, one's own mind, and the principles that make those reasons viable and adequate to the conclusions they support.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Early Darwinian Prophet of Sam Harris's Human Flourishing Doctrine


"Natural selection needs a boost, like me with a shotgun."


--Eric Harris, Columbine shooter, 1999



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Supervisory Demons of False Assumptions

"Those attracted to nominalism usually seek to press it as far as it can go, and understandably so. For if one's nominalism is motivated by a desire to defend materialism or naturalism, there isn't much point to being selective about it, since to admit that at least some sorts of abstract (hence non-material and non-natural) objects exist seriously weakens the plausibility of materialism or naturalism as a general position."

--Edward Feser, The Last Superstition, 2008, 274-275.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ed Feser on The Philosopher

"How significant is Aristotle? Well, I wouldn't want to exaggerate, so let me put it this way: Abandoning Aristotelianism, as the founders of modern philosophy did, was the single greatest mistake ever made in the entire history of Western thought. More than any other intellectual factor . . . this abandonment has contributed to the civilizational crisis through which the West has been living for several centuries, and which has accelerated massively in the last century or so. It is implicated in the disintegration of confidence in the rational justifiability of morality and religious belief, in the widespread assumption that a scientific picture of human nature entails that free will is an illusion; in the belief that there is a "mind-body" problem and that the only scientifically and philosophically respectable solution to it is some version of materialism; in the proliferation of varieties of relativism and irrationalism, and also of scientism and hyper-rationalism; in the modern world's corrosive skepticism about the legitimacy of any authority, and the radical individualism and collectivism that have followed in its wake; and in the intellectual and practical depersonalization of man that all of this has entailed, and which has in turn led to mass murder on a scale unparalleled in human history."

--Edward Feser, The Last Superstition

An Epistemic Chance for Natural Selection

Maybe most people would still say they believe in God, if they had to answer a questionnaire. But if you have to ask people pointed questions for them to acknowledge belief in God, that's not serious conviction. It's the vestigial remains of their grandparents' religion.

--Redacted from Gordon Clark in 1952. A Christian View of Men and Things, Grand Rapids MI: Baker, 1981, page 13.

To Be Rather Than To Seem

"You must more than try, Mrs. Hudson. You must succeed."

--Sherlock Holmes

Friday, July 01, 2011

A Rose by Another Name

Philosophies that ignore the tendency toward self-contradiction in human nature do so at their own risk.

The Real Crash of 1929

"Human conduct and belief are now undergoing transformations profounder and more disturbing than any since the appearance of wealth and philosophy put an end to the traditional religion of the Greeks. It is the age of Socrates again: our moral life is threatened, and our intellectual life is quickened and enlarged, by the disintegration of ancient customs and beliefs. Everything is new and experimental in our ideas and our actions; nothing is established or certain any more. The rate, complexity, and variety of change in our time are without precedent, even in Periclean days; all forms about us are altered, from the tools that complicate our toil, and the wheels that whirl us restlessly about the earth, to the innovations in our sexual relationships, and the hard disillusionment of our souls. The passage from agriculture to industry, from the village to the town, and from the town to the city, has elevated science, debased art, liberated thought, ended monarchy and aristocracy, generated democracy and socialism, emancipated woman, disrupted marriage, broken down the old moral code, destroyed asceticism with luxuries, replaced Puritanism with Epicureanism, exalted excitement above content, made war less frequent and more terrible, taken from us many of our most cherished religious beliefs, and given us in exchange a mechanical and fatalistic philosophy of life. All things flow, and we are at a loss to find some mooring and stability in the flux."

--Will Durant, The Mansions of Philosophy: A Survey of Human Life and Destiny, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1929, pages vii-viii.