Classical Theism, Philosophy, and Religion Forum

You are not logged in. Would you like to login?



4/22/2018 12:51 am  #1


How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

By atheism provincianism I mean the smug, triumphalist, ignorant attitude that is characteristic of the new atheists. I call it provincianism because it really is like an attitude of complete ignorance and incapacity of understanding what goes beyond the limits of one's own mind; the person becomes incapable not only of seeig how they might be wrong about a complex subject, but also of recognizing the very complexity in the relevant questions. For instance, the provincial atheist thinks a teenage "skeptic" who has read some pop atheist books is able to "debunk" (e.g.) the Ontological Argument in one or two sentences, something which has eluded the likes of Anselm, Leibniz and Gödel. The same "skeptic" can, before turning 18, read Sam Harris and therefore conclude that 2500+ years of religious thought is pretty much reducible to superstitious bullshit; that our thoughts are brain processes; and by the way that there really isn't any such thing as free will.

The fact that issues such as free will, God's existence, and metaethics are complex subjects that have been continuously discussed by some of history's greatest minds doesn't give any pause to the provincial atheist. He doesn't know anything about that; he only knows his own small province, his little parish with Sam Harris and some random physicists. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Scotus, Leibniz, Samuel Clarke, etc. may all be reduced to a bunch of idiotic fools who made basic mistakes and didn't know any science. And all that thing about the meaning of life, God and so on is in fact simple, VERY simple. It merits the term "debunking".

How do we fix that? How do we promote philosophical education -- you know,nat least to the point where someone can understand that it may not be very wise to treat great thinkers as if they were ignorant morons, or to treat deep, old existential questions as if they were simple propositions or (to use an even more ridiculous term) "woo"? It's this ignorant, crazy, irrational and provincial attitude towards big questions that is the worst thing about internet "skeptics" and new atheists. And it has grown considerably in the West, unfortunately.  What can be done to educate such folks? What can be done to stop this madness?

 

4/22/2018 3:48 am  #2


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

Hmmm, good question, I too have been thinking about this. Perhaps we need a radical cultural transformation. What kind of "radical cultural transformation"? I'm not so sure, one can speculate.

 

4/22/2018 3:59 am  #3


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

This is tough. I would probably suggest more robust philosophy departments but even then most philosophy professors seem all too lenient with some of the smug philosophical carelessness directed at the traditional theistic tradition. Also I doubt any intellectual defense or fair portrayal of classical theism would be enough to rid a new atheist-type of his trendy convictions. This is also assuming that the new atheist would be interested in philosophy as opposed to just parroting blurbs from Harris, Dawkins, and Dennet on online forums in an attempt to bolster his self-aggrandized image of being intellectually superior to the swathes of religious thinkers that came before him--as if it took until now for someone like Dawkins to bumble along and point out an argumentative error that no theist has been able to realize for some two millenia, that is, that if everything has a cause then God must have a cause.

I really think most of it is very trendy, very fashionable. In reality it seems as if the new atheist fervor is dying. Not because people have realized how shallow their attacks are, but because it was a fad that lasted roughly eight years or so before--like every cultural tidal wave--it no longer became relevant or "cool." In such a case we just cross our fingers and hope that the culture may sway in the other direction. I'm not sure if it will anytime soon though. The majority of the people I see on a regular basis who would consider themselves agnostic, atheist, skeptical, etc. show not even a glimmer of interest in philosophy. Instead they seem to be captivated--or perhaps held captive--by scientism. We live in a philosophically illiterate culture. Education and learning  is meant for its practical purposes of occupation, success, wealth, and their proximate consequences of luxury and convenience. Philosophy is seen, at best, as a coffee-table book containing inspiring or curious adages. Not something to take seriously, but perhaps interesting to look at every now and then.

Last edited by RomanJoe (4/22/2018 12:57 pm)

 

4/22/2018 2:26 pm  #4


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

This is a very good question. I think the main thing to do would be to change the popular perception of philosophy. It is the goal of philosophy, especially metaphysics, to seek and provide explaination, something people don’t really seem aware of (there is a tendency to think of philosophy as an intellectual game or as über-selective inaccessible debating club).

People, even though not consciously advocates of scienticism, have this perception of the sciences as subjects which ‘get results’ whereas philosophy goes round in circles. This is partially due to the fact that results in the sciences tend to have practical results e.g. new bombs and new medicines, whereas philosophical progress does not*.

There is also the fact that philosophy does not receive the cultural reverence that other subjects, even the arts do. Bertrand Russell received no Nobel price for his work on the new logic after all.

*There might be a confusion here in people’s mind though if one was to ask them about values. Has for instance Femmism made a social difference?

 

4/23/2018 5:15 pm  #5


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

Curious: do you guys really think this is just an atheist problem?

 

4/23/2018 6:02 pm  #6


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

John West wrote:

Curious: do you guys really think this is just an atheist problem?

 
Not necessarily, but I definitely think it's a lot more prevalent in atheist/new atheist circles. Especially given how this kind of attitude tends to walk hand in hand with scientism. In fact, I have seen it among philosophers too -- and not among dualists or theists, but eliminativists and radical materialists who think it's all a matter of "breaking a spell" or fixing our language to avoid superstitious "ectoplasm" or "a ghost in the machine". The use of such expressions to describe traditional philosophical views says a lot, actually.

Last edited by Miguel (4/23/2018 6:04 pm)

     Thread Starter
 

4/23/2018 6:12 pm  #7


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

I see. I spent an hour last week explaining to someone (who happens to be a leader in one of the local churches) that the square book shelf in front of us couldn't at the same time be circular. I was at the end told “I believe it can!” (I swear I'm not making this stuff up.)

Have any of you tried talking to the average churchgoer about a philosophical problem, especially one they find even mildly contentious? (I don't mean to reassure them in a roundabout way that God exists or that it can be proven that God exists.)

The goal of philosophy is truth (for its own sake). I don't, however, think most people care that much about truth for its own sake.

 

4/23/2018 8:39 pm  #8


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

John West wrote:

I see. I spent an hour last week explaining to someone (who happens to be a leader in one of the local churches) that the square book shelf in front of us couldn't at the same time be circular. I was at the end told “I believe it can!” (I swear I'm not making this stuff up.)

Have any of you tried talking to the average churchgoer about a philosophical problem, especially one they find even mildly contentious? (I don't mean to reassure them in a roundabout way that God exists or that it can be proven that God exists.)

The goal of philosophy is truth (for its own sake). I don't, however, think most people care that much about truth for its own sake.

 
Most people are ignorant of philosophy, of course, but the provincianism I mention isn't just ignorance. It's this smug, triumphalist, ignorant attachment to one's own worldview while attempting to paint complex issues as if they were simple, and brilliant thinkers as if they were morons. Most people don't actually care about philosophy, but then again most people aren't even that worried about having a coherent worldview. Provincial atheists, by contrast, are very serious about their "skepticism" and "rational view", and actively attack and misrepresent philosophical rivals -- dualism, theism, etc.

As I said, the situation is so bad that we can even find it among professional philosophers (!!). Just take a look at how most analytic philosophers think of religion, God or the soul. Le ghost in the machine, le ectoplasm. It's embarrassing, really.

     Thread Starter
 

4/23/2018 10:09 pm  #9


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

It really is almost a behavioral issue--having a total lack of respect towards your philosophical opponents and remaining steadfastly ignorant of their intellectual tradition. Are you wondering how to solve this problem when it comes to discourse with individuals, or how to remedy it on a cultural level?

 

4/24/2018 6:18 am  #10


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

Miguel wrote:

Most people are ignorant of philosophy, of course, but the provincianism I mention isn't just ignorance. It's this smug, triumphalist, ignorant attachment to one's own worldview while attempting to paint complex issues as if they were simple, and brilliant thinkers as if they were morons. Most people don't actually care about philosophy, but then again most people aren't even that worried about having a coherent worldview. Provincial atheists, by contrast, are very serious about their "skepticism" and "rational view", and actively attack and misrepresent philosophical rivals -- dualism, theism, etc.

Yes, but I wasn't talking about ignorance. I was talking about what Nietzsche calls a “pure urge for truth”, and doubting that most people have it (see Brian's helpful post and link for related thoughts and arguments).

I'm inclined to think that you're observing different manifestations of a more general problem. I haven't said much about what I think that problem is, but that is where I was going with all that.

 

Board footera

 

Powered by Boardhost. Create a Free Forum