Saturday, January 19, 2008

I hate philosophy

Trying to clean out my email box and came across a link sent to me almost a year ago. I was asked to comment on it, and it is simply one of those things I put on a back burner and just looked at today. So, my apologies for not commenting on it sooner.

The title is suppose to be a play on words (philo-love & sophia-wisdom). On the other hand, it does express my view on the discipline itself. Even when theology (admittedly a form of philosophy) becomes more about rationality than trying to understand God, I do not enjoy it. It's the feeling, I suppose, a semi-illiterate gets when forced to read a novel. The person might be able to get through it, but not without a heck of a lot of struggle and frustration and an overall sense of apathy. It may simply be an excuse to not dialog about issues brought up by intellects. It may be an unwillingness to do the hard work posed by thinking people. Their questions are valid and sometimes worth the effort to talk about. However, I am not the person that is capable of engaging their minds in talking about highly intellectual stuff.

Well all right then. Now that we have the disclaimer out there, that this is way outside my domain, I will try to interact with this article on the need for skepticism in our (Western) society.

The author, I think, is arguing that postmodernism (defined below) and skepticism should be valued more in today's world. It all begins with multiculturalism, a subject with which I feel I am slightly familiar, having, in my opinion, a pretty good background in pedagogical theory and its usage in the public arena (i.e. my undergrad is in Secondary Education). And as defined, I think I can assent to the idea.

"peaceful coexistence and the mutually-beneficial sharing and disseminating of ideas. "

Now I do think that the ideal mentioned above will have a very hard time ever being achieved, but hey why not have impossible goals. The argument then goes on to say that only in a "secular" realm can this multiculturalism be realized. I think "secular" here means devoid of religion (especially organized and institutional ones).

"Personally, I'd like to see religion wither away as a force in human affairs...Yet that need not prevent us from striving to realize one of the key objectives of Enlightenment thought: the removal of organized religion from politics."

I was under the impression that "religion" was a part of culture? But maybe I got that wrong somewhere. On the one hand Sims (the author) wishes to have a free sharing of ideas between distinct cultures, but then he argues for any religious thoughts to not be included in the exchange. Only the religion of secularism can be exchanged.

Don't get me wrong, if you mean by "secular," the separation of church and state, well then we agree. As to whether a secular state means the best chance for multiculturalism, I am not ready to say I agree or disagree. It could just as well be as not could be. (I would entertain a more in depth look at the Persian Empire to see what might make for a good multicultural atmosphere)

The "cause" of not being able to achieve multiculturalism (defined above) is religious dogmatism. As I understand it, "dogmatism" is insisting that what is thought to be fixed can not be questioned or that

"assumptions [are] claimed to be beyond all possible doubt"

This dogmatism is the arch Nemesis of Skepticism (as a system of thought I guess). In other words, we have the right to question the validity of everything in life (mostly what we don't like). I really don't care if someone wants to go around questioning everything. If that is how someone wants to live their life, I say go for it.

"Unquestioning belief is rife amongst us, and it always leads to trouble."

In regards to the above statement, I can agree to a certain degree. It's OK to question the Church, God, or whatever, but what if the same critique were made upon Skepticism? Is it right to question, if we should question? Please don't answer, it will spiral this conversation way out. It is only a side note to say, why do we have to question everything including whether we should even be questioning? Can't we have something in our personal lives that is solid, a foundation? If you don't like mine, fine. I probably don't like yours. I'll try not force Jesus on you. Similarly, why is it so important to make seem more ideal your foundation of skepticism? If that's your thing, cool. Be skeptical! But to keep the argument (see above on multiculturalism) alive, my ideas must coexist with those of doubt. Skepticism can't trump belief if we are trying to attain an ideal multicultural. Granted, I am not perfect in this myself.

The next thing in the article is a bit difficult (for the author is responding to criticism he has received over previous statements he's made elsewhere) for me grasp. We get that he's not being nihilistic but relativist, the opposite of fundamentalism. He defines relativism as

"relativism is calling into question the notion of there being an absolute truth - precisely what all those of a fundamentalist disposition claim there is (their version, naturally). Even worse, fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge that other views have any validity at all. You can't debate with them - about multiculturalism or anything else."

Maybe I am a fundy after all (see paragraph 2).

Next, we get into postmodernism, which

"challenges authority in its many guises, and questions the assumptions that underpin our value system. "

Side note: If indeed postmodernism exists (and I have never doubted its existence, just its extent especially in America.) this is a great example of its philosophy, and it's how its adherents would view the world.

If applied equally everywhere, this could be of some value. I am not the one to advocate how it should be applied. Basically, postmodern is the freedom to question the structure of modernity. Modernity, for all its advancements in science and technology, has not made humanity any better. Therefore, there is a backlash and frustration over the lack of progress in how human beings (maybe there is something more wrong than just what we can see) treat other human beings. Wars, injustice, poverty, hate, violence etc. all are evidence of Humanity still Gone Wild. The cause; therefore, must be the traditional structures of society (i.e. institutions like church etc etc etc).

You know, the institutional C(c)hurch has really screwed up. You know most governments of the modern (pre- and post- as well) world have made serious errors in regards to actions against humanity. Business (in a free market society even) have exploited its workers. Yes, indeed, bad things have gone on (are still going and will continue to go on) among humans. Look at the story (you don't have to believe in it) of Cain and Abel. In this story from this world view, humans are out to injury in the most heinous ways other humans. No matter the structure, humans are humans; bad people. Yes, yes, yes, I know you know some very nice people, so do I. But can't we agree that humanity in general is more self centered than other centered? If not, why are we even talking about this. The subject itself, seems to me, to indicate that we agree. Changing the structure is not going to change the human.

As Sims goes on, I actually find that I like just a tinge his explanation of his universals. He

" explicitly commit[s] [him]self in 'Fundamentalist World' to what [he] admit[s] could be called 'universal values': 'equality of opportunity, an end to cultural oppression and the tyranny of tradition (religiously inspired or otherwise), and the eradication of discrimination on the grounds of gender, ethnic group, social position, or sexual preference' "

My favorite is "tyranny of tradition." For some reason, it brings a smile. I am not laughing at Sims. I am thinking this poor man has been abused by "tradition" somehow, and the image is a bit funny for me.

OK. So, I need to finish this. If you have gotten this far, bravo, and I am sorry for having wasted this much of your time already. It has surely taken up more time than I intended.

In conclusion. I would DISagree that we need more doubt and skepticism. What we need is more real belief. I agree we do not need more of the same belief. What we need is to find a structure(s) that will guide us to improve whatever bad situation we find ourselves in or find others in. We need something to believe in!

22 comments:

Mrs Zeke said...

I have been asked to drop 2 philosophy classes by the instructors :) I kinda think it's an honor.

What I have found is there is often a timid person or two in the class and the instructors in the name of exploring often belittle them until they think like they do. The "great" ones of Greek past never had the need to convince anyone they were right because they were wise enough to know that once that is your objective you no longer can listen, and if you can not listen and if you can not listen you can not gain knowledge and if you can not gain knowledge then you can hardly say you are under the study of philosophy.

What I note is modern philosophy is it is not a forum of free thought and debate it is a forum of personal beliefs whatever they are under the safe cover of being philosophical.

I will never forget this 18 year old girl in class crying after a week of the instructor telling her that her catholic beliefs where bull****. So I said "now that we have walked down the thought road of no God would it not be in our best interest to walk down the thought road a God for the sake of knowledge" I was promptly told no but he turned back to the girl and that is when I had it.
So he asked me to drop the class and I asked him not to forcefully brainwash anyone.

:P I would sign up for another but then I would be guilty of just wanting to fight and that is the problem with the modern ones.

Be well and Be loved!

pecheur said...

Mrs. Zeke,

It is a great honor. I've been too scared to ever take one!

Great points. "not a forum of free thought but a forum of personal beliefs" Yep.

Thanks for the comments. You are wise beyond your years!! I was encouraged by yur visit

drlobojo said...

Academic Philosophy in America is sterile and occupies a secret suburban cul-de-sac somewhere in Ohio in which it circles endlessly.

I have found that many of the most evangelical atheist and agnostics in philosophical circles are actually antithesit who are arguing against the existance of a God that has disapointed them.

I have also found that most cynics try to cover their true selves in the cloak of a skepticism.

Dogmatism by definition is "Straight thinking". Sometimes, especially with anal antithesitic and cynical temporal proponents as well as fundamental inerrent apologist it has become "straight jacket thinking".

Those are my thought bites on this subject today!

pecheur said...

I have found that many of the most evangelical atheist and agnostics in philosophical circles are actually antithesit who are arguing against the existance of a God that has disapointed them.


That is what I have found too.

BTW is there a huge difference between cynicism and skepticism?

Let's break out of the straight jackets!!

Stew said...

Ah, we atheists are often accused of hating god. Why else do we rail on so? It is often (but not always) the case that the most outspoken atheists tend to be ex-christian. This would lend to the arguement that they are disappointed/bitter/angry with god, rather than convinced of his non-existance.
Perhaps this is so with others.
I tend to be more bitter about time wasted, and embarrased about fairy tales believed.
But bitterness and anger are wasteful emotions and best left behind.

ewinwe said...

ah. fairy tales. a.k.a "tales of or from the land of Faerie". what a co-ink-i-dink. i read the post by pecheur and then the original post by sims, again, and was struck by sims' statement:

"we need to encourage scepticism and doubt as a method of countering the spread of dogmatism and unquestioning belief"

belief is one thing, i suppose, and unquestioning belief another. but what is "belief"??

personally, i believe in fairy tales, i believe there is a Santa Claus, i look for evidence of elves and trolls when i go for long walks in the darks woods around my home, i even believe that there is a land in the West that i may get to go to someday - or is it the Utter East?
these are things i *believe*, not because i was told "tales of faerie" as a child, but because i *have* seen evidence of this fairy-tale world, and the mythology i believe in is supported in fact. all good mythologies are. when i see a particularly splendid sunrise, or sunset, or the mist curling up in a valley at my feet, i get a feeling that it was done a'purpose - now don't get weird on me, i don't mean that some divine finger was stirring around in the clouds just to impress me - no, i mean that when i see something so wondrous that i cannot explain it *rationally*, i look towards the *irrational* explanation. one can not think of a divine creator of the universe, and also creator of all that is in it, in a *rational* way - c.s. lewis may have put it best, our creator "is not a tame lion".

i suppose i will just hold tight to my *irrational* belief in a *fairy tale*, as that fairy-tale holds more kernels of truth than the alternative, and i would further put forth that a belief in the land of faerie is better than the *rational* disbelief (skepticism?) expressed by sims in his article.

Stew said...

"the mythology i believe in is supported in fact"
As all good skeptics would respond "Can you show me your evidence, please?"

pecheur said...

Stew,

Want to reaffirm that you and your comments are always welcome here.

Thanks for talking with us.

In your opinion, which came first, the belief in gods (God) then disbelief or disbelief that became belief?

Really who cares?

But one of my points is that "atheism" may come first in the dictionary (those dang Greeks), but theism of some sort came first. Now again who cares and what does it matter? So what if belief preceded non-belief it doesn't make it true!

But someone somewhere believed in some sort of explanation first before it was disapproved our fell out of vogue. They may have been ignorant. True. No one may believe that the sun is being chased everyday to the underworld, then during the night fights off the bad underworld god and reappears the next morning a victor. That may have been debunked in the fact that there is no stupid anything chasing the sun to a supposed underground blah blah blah. We as humans may have become more enlightened and gotten past that point.

And just because someone believed it did not make it true. I would assume (and we all know what that means an ASS of ME) that it is the same argument that you might start with against any "religion." And in you eyes it may be just as silly for, let's say us Christians" to believe God became human and died and rose from the dead. You know, I can understand how that sounds ridiculous. It's sounds really bizarre.

So, what is the difference in believing the Egyptian myth of why the sun rises and any other system of myths? Not much really. Except faith.

Obviously, I am not saying anything new to you. We agree on two things though. We both are not going to waste our time believing in fairy tales, and we believe that bitterness and anger are wasteful emotions. But I sure do like comic books,(and a good story) and I get mad at someone at least once day. I really suck at living life!

pecheur said...

oh crap I think this is a first. I have cross posted with Stew.

Sorry dude.

Oh BTW I can't provide any evidence. I used think I could, but I can't.

Again, nothing new there for you. You knew that already.

Erudite Redneck said...

The demand for evidence that no atheist would accept seems, to me, to be the fundamental dogma of atheism. Weird.

drlobojo said...

I find atheism a rational and reasonable position to hold. The same with agnosticism. What I was critical of is that many who claim to be atheist are flying a false flag as a ruse of war against "theist". They are really antitheist, which has a different base and agenda than do the atheist. It is one thing to rid yourself of the theist, quite another to try to destroy the theist as a group or influence. However because dichotomies are seldom valid, there will of course be true atheist who function as antitheist too.

A new definition of Dogmatic: A straw man walking a straw dog smoking a cirgarette and claiming the other guy is the one doing it.

ewinwe said...

stew,

yea, i *could* show my evidence, but would you believe it? that is where this gets so darn sticky ... i see the evidence of a Living god all around, so for me the argument is moot, but you may need convincing, and quite frankly i'm not up to the task. i've never had much luck convincing my own brother, why would i fare better with a total stranger. };->

keep looking for the evidence, it's all there.

pecheur said...

Dr. Lobo,

Good distinction

pecheur said...

For all,

For the record, I do not believe in Santa Claus!

Foxpaw said...

Why is the dog smoking a cigarette??

drlobojo said...

I like to think I have an open mind on these things. For example,
I will beleive in Santa Clause, if he will leave me somthing next Christmas.

drlobojo said...

Query: When I first came to your blog I understood the Crushed Leviathan allusion, or so at least I thought, and thus your name "Pecheur" or "fisher". I wasn't sure whether you were fishing for the levaithan or souls of men however. But as I was reviewing some of the work published on the Dead Sea Scrolls I was reminded of the Pesher method of secret story telling within or interprtation of Old Testament scripture. So the query is: have you named played with the French 'Pecheur' and Hebrew 'Pesher', and if so are you dabbling in the Thiering hypothesis of Pesher being extend into the New Testament?

pecheur said...

Dr Lobo,

Originally, I started this blog to vent about my thesis on Psalm 74. I was (still am) fascinated with sea monsters from the Bible, thus the Leviathan part.

The "crushed" part was a bit of interest since it had to do with why YHWH was king (he had killed a monster--a stolen motif from Ugaritic poetry). Therefore, if YHWH crushed the leviathan then he is king.

And yes, the "pecheur" part is in conjunction with sea monsters. Sort of like being on a ship and facing sea monsters. It is my online identity. It is a French play on words because the same word (depending on the accent) can mean either fishmerman or sinner. "Fishermen of men" if you like or simply a "sinner" needing rescuing from "leviathans."

I am a little only a little familiar with the Pesher method, but I was not playing off it when I chose "pecheur".

So can't be of any help with Thiering in the NT. However, I think there may be a connection to "kingship" borrowed from the OT. That is that Jesus is King because of his power over the water elements (i.e. walking on water etc.). And in the Revelation, a dragon from the sea is defeated by a kingly figure of Jesus.

Stew said...

redneck, ewenwe: you are probably right. Where you might see god, or a divine force in nature and life I would probably explain in other terms. We would probably then chase each other around in circles arguing over definistions and semantics and not realising that we were embodying the reason Pecheur titled this post "I hate philosophy"!

And anyway, it's all of little import in the great scheme of things. I'd rather get to know you guys and how you think rather than be written off as a cynical bombast. (Which is what I am to be honest!)

ewinwe said...

stew. tres bon! (and that is about the extent of my French, pardon).

i tend more towards the cynical, myself, so you already have a brother in spirit - um - so to speak };->

philosophically speaking, while i fall on the "believing" side of the big G question, i also like the ocassional "grain of doubt in the oyster of my faith"

pecheur said...

I am with Stew. Let's get to know each other and how each other thinks! Perfect plan, dude.

drlobojo said...

Have you ever seen any parallels or metaphors of the sea leviathan to mean the Sea Peoples (probably the Phonecians and/or Minoans)?