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The Denver Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › Philosophy Book Club

Philosophy Book Club

Eric B.
ejbman
Denver, CO
Post #: 659
I'm not sure what you're asking me, Ken. I'm confused probably by the formatting of your post, and by time, and by the combination of both.

One thing that confused me was your claim that the Greeks were concerned with a broad purpose of life question whereas the Hebrews were concerned with what I'll interpret you as saying was a narrow, legalistic system. According to a very broad sense of things, this might be essentially correct. The Greeks have an escape hatch because they were so diverse and loosely associated. Narrow the question down to Sparta vs. Jerusalem, however, and the Greek claim on broadmindness hits a rock. The Greeks had a Homer, but that's not the same thing as a Moses when it comes to a binding cultural text.

Philosophically, yes, the Hebrews were more confined than the Greeks, up until Judaism jumped the fence with Christ. Christianity is an ambitious project to unite Rome, Athens and Jerusalem. It buries Mosiac Law, demystifies it, and puts it in the service of reason.

The only real opposition occurs with modern philosophy, which wonders what reason has to do with it.

Christianity was revolutionary 2,000 years ago, only because it was a useful step in cultural evolution at the time. It has far outlasted its usefulness. The proof of that is the fact that it barely resembles its original configuration. People have had to do increasingly uncomfortable contortions in order to try and maintain its relevance, and the strain is embarrassing to watch. It's like those ladies that go in for more and more plastic surgery and hair coloring and finally look like a walking corpse with stretched skin and lipstick on. They don't look any different in the casket when they finally die. Christians are just humping that corpse over and over.

There's a whole lot of insisting going on and not much actual demonstration. Nobody has ever made a good case for why one should even bother with it in the first place - except for the original Christians who demonstrated it was better than what came before. But we've moved on. I can't believe anybody wastes their time on this worthless old junk. Stop being impressed by a development that was old when Nietzsche declared it dead.

Hell, even Nietzsche's view is old and past its prime. We've moved on past him, and he was space-age compared to Christianity.
Jeanette M. N.
wickedatheist
Denver, CO
Post #: 3,019
Eric:
It's like those ladies that go in for more and more plastic surgery and hair coloring and finally look like a walking corpse with stretched skin and lipstick on. They don't look any different in the casket when they finally die. Christians are just humping that corpse over and over.

You have ~the~ most enchanting way with words, Mr. Blommel.
A former member
Post #: 37
I'm not sure what you're asking me, Ken. I'm confused probably by the formatting of your post, and by time, and by the combination of both.

My apologies.


One thing that confused me was your claim that the Greeks were concerned with a broad purpose of life question whereas the Hebrews were concerned with what I'll interpret you as saying was a narrow, legalistic system. According to a very broad sense of things, this might be essentially correct. The Greeks have an escape hatch because they were so diverse and loosely associated. Narrow the question down to Sparta vs. Jerusalem, however, and the Greek claim on broadmindness hits a rock. The Greeks had a Homer, but that's not the same thing as a Moses when it comes to a binding cultural text.

What I was saying, briefly, is that the Greeks were concerned more with life purpose, and the Hebrews more with morality.

Philosophically, yes, the Hebrews were more confined than the Greeks, up until Judaism jumped the fence with Christ. Christianity is an ambitious project to unite Rome, Athens and Jerusalem. It buries Mosiac Law, demystifies it, and puts it in the service of reason.

I would say that contemporary Christianity is characterized by many aims.

The only real opposition occurs with modern philosophy, which wonders what reason has to do with it.

Modern philosophy, too, is characterized by many aims, I think.
Spry
the.one
Amherst, OH
Post #: 798

Christianity was revolutionary 2,000 years ago, only because it was a useful step in cultural evolution at the time. It has far outlasted its usefulness. The proof of that is the fact that it barely resembles its original configuration.

Nah. Sloppy assertion, fallacious proof.


People have had to do increasingly uncomfortable contortions in order to try and maintain its relevance, and the strain is embarrassing to watch. It's like those ladies that go in for more and more plastic surgery and hair coloring and finally look like a walking corpse with stretched skin and lipstick on. They don't look any different in the casket when they finally die. Christians are just humping that corpse over and over.

Who cares what actors resemble within your personal psychodrama, Eric? I mean really. You've really got a hard-on against Christianity and you never miss a beat when find an opportunity to beat it down. But, lighten up. This isn't a Christian forum. Far from it. I'm the only Christian voice there is around here, and the only one who will ever be here. You've got a long standing beef that puzzles me, given what you've said and how you've delivered yourself. You are a man in conflict in several ways, if you ask me, and tending towards the bad, yet comfortable, slice of things. As I see it you're well on your way to making a perfect desolation of your life. You've got a long way, baby! Luckily for you I'm here.


There's a whole lot of insisting going on and not much actual demonstration. Nobody has ever made a good case for why one should even bother with it in the first place - except for the original Christians who demonstrated it was better than what came before. But we've moved on. I can't believe anybody wastes their time on this worthless old junk. Stop being impressed by a development that was old when Nietzsche declared it dead.

Hell, even Nietzsche's view is old and past its prime. We've moved on past him, and he was space-age compared to Christianity.

You realize you're speaking fighting words now, Eric? Simultaneously picking a fight with both the Christians and the Nietzscheans? Somebody write this down. This is a marvel.
Spry
the.one
Amherst, OH
Post #: 799
I'm not sure what you're asking me, Ken. I'm confused probably by the formatting of your post, and by time, and by the combination of both.

My apologies.


One thing that confused me was your claim that the Greeks were concerned with a broad purpose of life question whereas the Hebrews were concerned with what I'll interpret you as saying was a narrow, legalistic system. According to a very broad sense of things, this might be essentially correct. The Greeks have an escape hatch because they were so diverse and loosely associated. Narrow the question down to Sparta vs. Jerusalem, however, and the Greek claim on broadmindness hits a rock. The Greeks had a Homer, but that's not the same thing as a Moses when it comes to a binding cultural text.

What I was saying, briefly, is that the Greeks were concerned more with life purpose, and the Hebrews more with morality.

Philosophically, yes, the Hebrews were more confined than the Greeks, up until Judaism jumped the fence with Christ. Christianity is an ambitious project to unite Rome, Athens and Jerusalem. It buries Mosiac Law, demystifies it, and puts it in the service of reason.

I would say that contemporary Christianity is characterized by many aims.

The only real opposition occurs with modern philosophy, which wonders what reason has to do with it.

Modern philosophy, too, is characterized by many aims, I think.

This isn't helpful, Ken, and the result is more vague than what passed before. When it comes to the conflict of modern philosophy with religion, it's been my habit on this board to seek the reaction to the pope's speech in Regensburg. Could this frame the conversation in a more helpful way? What is your reaction?

Regensburg
A former member
Post #: 38


This isn't helpful, Ken, and the result is more vague than what passed before. When it comes to the conflict of modern philosophy with religion, it's been my habit on this board to seek the reaction to the pope's speech in Regensburg. Could this frame the conversation in a more helpful way? What is your reaction?

Well, it's difficult to articulate my reaction in the scope of a forum of this nature, where both time and attention are at a premium; but it wouldn't be fair to come this far without attempting at least a brief response. (Though written a few decades ago, the most definitive response of which I know can be found in Brand Blanshard's "Reason and Belief" as the issues haven't changed at all in the intervening years.)

It seems to me that in the end what the Pope has to say here doesn't withstand much scrutiny.

What "reason" (rationalism) requires is the founding of conviction on evidence; too, it requires internal consistency (the very backbone of logic). Whatever faith may be (a number of different accounts are on offer), it seems to me to frequently come into conflict with both of these requirements.

Where faith probably enters most decisively into issues of this nature is with what might be called the epistemology of belief in God. If belief requires faith, and it seems to me that thus far it does, then rationalism and Christianity cannot easily be reconciled.

Early in this address Pope contrasts the Emperor/"Greek spirit" with Muslim teaching. For the Emperor, "not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature" -- but for the Islamist "God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." And the Pope then comes down on the side of a synthesis of these views -- or seems to. Here's what he actually says: "the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, 'transcends' knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos."

But this isn't persuasive, I think.

In the passage above the Pope consistently invokes God's nature in his attempt to effect the synthesis of which he speaks -- but in a rationalist perspective God's nature, indeed his very existence, is the first issue in question here. It is only after minimally securing the existence of God that we can reasonably begin to speak of His nature and what it might imply. Insofar as it stands in for rationalism, the "Greek spirit" the Pope speaks of doesn't assert that it is contrary to God's nature not to act in accordance with reason. It asserts, rather, that we know little or nothing at all of God's nature, if indeed we are even clear what we have in mind when we speak of God. Rationalism takes issue with the Islamist for the same reason: a rationalist will, first of all, want to know what we mean when we speak of God, and then will want to know what the evidentiary basis is for belief in such a being. Until these issues are resolved, it's premature to speak of the nature of God's will and its relationship to our categories.

So it seems to me that the Pope's "frame" here is wrong, and his attempt at a synthesis is premature, as these preliminary issues remain unresolved.

But even if we accept the frame, and set aside evidentiary issues, invoking love as the basis for the synthesis doesn't seem to me to work very well. Love is essentially emotive, and more specifically conjoins appreciation with concern. It seems to me that it isn't really about knowledge at all; and if that's right, then it can't really "transcend" knowledge, any more than football transcends mortgages. Nor is it truly a form of perception like sight or hearing. Significant as it is, love is a different sort of thing altogether.

I'll bring my own response to an end here. I would, again, commend Blanshard's "Reason and Belief" for an almost superhumanly fair and thorough discussion of all of these matters.

Best,
Ken
Eric B.
ejbman
Denver, CO
Post #: 660

Nah. Sloppy assertion, fallacious proof.

What, yours? You have no idea what you're talking about and can't handle the challenge! Funny...


Who cares what actors resemble within your personal psychodrama, Eric?

Nobody, and I never said they did. If your only recourse is to try to personalize, it proves you've got nothing.

I'm the only Christian voice there is around here, and the only one who will ever be here.

*Sound of crickets chirping.*

You've got a long standing beef that puzzles me, given what you've said and how you've delivered yourself. You are a man in conflict in several ways, if you ask me, and tending towards the bad, yet comfortable, slice of things. As I see it you're well on your way to making a perfect desolation of your life. You've got a long way, baby! Luckily for you I'm here.

Yup, we're lucky we get to keep watching you humping those corpses. Go Spry, Go! Hump, Hump Hump away!


There's a whole lot of insisting going on and not much actual demonstration. Nobody has ever made a good case for why one should even bother with it in the first place - except for the original Christians who demonstrated it was better than what came before. But we've moved on. I can't believe anybody wastes their time on this worthless old junk. Stop being impressed by a development that was old when Nietzsche declared it dead.

Hell, even Nietzsche's view is old and past its prime. We've moved on past him, and he was space-age compared to Christianity.

You realize you're speaking fighting words now, Eric? Simultaneously picking a fight with both the Christians and the Nietzscheans? Somebody write this down. This is a marvel.
I'm not surprised your shocked, you don't have the vocabulary to deal. Also, you don't even know the scope of the argument. Here's some work by George H. Smith that should help you:

Some religious critics prefer to attack the unpopular ideas associated with atheism rather than face the challenge of atheism directly. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find entire books with the expressed intent of demolishing atheism, but which fail to discuss such basic issues as why one should believe in a god at all. These books are content to identify atheist with specific personalities (such as Nietzsche, Marx, Camus and Sartre) and, by criticizing the views of these individuals, the religionist author fancies himself to have destroyed atheism. In most cases, however, the critic has not even discussed atheism.

And:

Presenting the atheistic point of view is a difficult, frustrating endeavor. The atheist must penetrate the barrier of fear and suspicion that confronts him, and he must convince the listener that atheism represents, not a degeneration, but a step forward. This often requires the atheist to take a defensive position to explain why atheism does not lead to disastrous consequences. The atheist is expected to answer a barrage of questions, of which the following are typical.

Without god, what is left of morality? Without god, what purpose is there in man's life? If we do not believe in god, how can we be certain of anything? If god does not exist, who can we turn to in times of crisis? If there is no afterlife, who will reward virtue and punish injustice? Without god, how can we resist the onslaught of atheistic communism? If god does not exist, what becomes of the worth and dignity of each person? Without god, how can man achieve happiness?

These and similar questions reflect an intimate connection between religion and values in the minds of many people. As a result, the question of god's existence becomes more than a simple philosophical problem - and atheism, since it is interpreted as an attack on these values, assumes a significance far beyond its actual meaning. Defenses of religion are frequently saturated with emotional outbursts and the atheist finds himself morally condemned, diagnosed as a confused, unhappy man and threatened with a variety of future punishments. Meanwhile, the atheist's frustration increases as he discovers that his arguments for atheism are futile, that the average believer - who was persuaded to believe for emotional, not intellectual, reasons - is impervious to arguments against the existence of a supernatural being, regardless of how meticulous and carefully reasoned these arguments may be. There is too much at stake: if the choice must be made between the comfort of religion and the truth of atheism, many people will sacrifice the latter without hesitation. From their perspective, there is much more to the issue of god's existence than whether he exists or not.

Where does this leave the atheist? Must he offer atheism as an alternative way of life to religion, complete with its own set of values? Is atheism a substitute for religion, can atheism fulfill the moral and emotional needs of man? Must the atheist defend himself against every accusation of immorality and pessimism? And does atheism offer any positive values? These questions are not as complex as they may appear. Atheism is a straightforward, easily definable position, and it is a simple task to outline what atheism can and cannot accomplish. In order to understand the scope of atheism, however, we must remove the walls of myths surrounding it - with the hope that the fears and prejudices against atheism will collapse as well. To accomplish this goal, we must determine what atheism is and what atheism is not.


He goes on to add:

"Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief." and "Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief; it is the absence of belief."
Eric B.
ejbman
Denver, CO
Post #: 661
You've really got a hard-on against Christianity and you never miss a beat when find an opportunity to beat it down.

You've made a good point here: I do have a problem with Christianty. My problem is that people should be embarrassed to be only as moral as a Christian. If you need to consult a list before deciding whether or not to kill someone, you probably DO need supervision. Apparently, Christians fail to bring their lists with them when they are out and about because numerous studies show that Christians excel far more than atheists at:

Violent crime; contracting STDs; getting teens pregnant; having babies out of wedlock; divorcing their spouse; cheating on their spouse

And we're not even getting into scientific myopia, educational backwardness, horrible IQ scores and so on.

So do I think we should all grow up and get past this ancient bullcrap. Well, yes I do.

Am I resentful that people who should know better keep selling this crap to minors, like they do with cigarettes and fast food? Yes, I am angry that people continue to abuse each other in this way.

But hell, I'm only as moral as an atheist.
A former member
Post #: 39
Without god, what is left of morality? Without god, what purpose is there in man's life? If we do not believe in god, how can we be certain of anything? If god does not exist, who can we turn to in times of crisis? If there is no afterlife, who will reward virtue and punish injustice? Without god, how can we resist the onslaught of atheistic communism? If god does not exist, what becomes of the worth and dignity of each person? Without god, how can man achieve happiness?

Hi, Eric.

In my view, these are all perfectly good questions; and it's understandable that an individual who has grown up with one set of answers to them would feel distinctly disoriented when those answers are challenged -- the more so the more plausible the challenge.

Providing a set of coherent answers was among the most important challenges confronting 20th century philosophy -- perhaps the most significant challenge; and while those answers can be found, I think, they lie scattered among the reflections of a few dozen philosophers, are often couched in dense and forbidding language, and are typically jumbled together with other ideas that aren't so good.

So in my view the 20th century was a kind of transitional century for very good reasons.

The challenge before philosophy in the 21st century remains to effect a coherent synthesis of the tentative and confused views of earlier centuries.

And Smith is surely right in noting why atheism isn't up to that challenge:

Where does this leave the atheist? Must he offer atheism as an alternative way of life to religion, complete with its own set of values? Is atheism a substitute for religion, can atheism fulfill the moral and emotional needs of man? Must the atheist defend himself against every accusation of immorality and pessimism? And does atheism offer any positive values?


"Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief." and "Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief; it is the absence of belief."

So atheism is only a sort of starting point, if one difficult enough of achievement in itself, for the reasons of profound disorientation that Smith rightly notes.

Again, it falls to Humanistic philosophers to effect the synthesis; more specifically, to offer Humanism as an alternative way of life, complete with its own set of values. To provide a substitute for religion -- or perhaps, rather, its true fruition. To fulfill the moral and emotional needs of man; and to provide a morality, and positive values.

To fulfill a program of that nature, three specific things are needed: 1) a morality; 2) a theory of life purpose; and, 3) an ideal of human character in which these find their proper place.

My own start on the synthesis can be found at http://www.vmeme21.com­

For anyone who may be interested, logon using the email and password provided on the splash page, and then go on to the non-fiction section, specifically to "The Human Horizon" document.

Best,
Ken


Eric B.
ejbman
Denver, CO
Post #: 662
Hi Ken!

I wish you could have been part of our discussion last night. You would have gotten a lot out of it, I think. I recommend reading Rorty's work.

I've got some responses to your points. I've got some disagreements with your perspective (some of which are newly informed by Rorty).

So atheism is only a sort of starting point, if one difficult enough of achievement in itself, for the reasons of profound disorientation that Smith rightly notes.

Again, it falls to Humanistic philosophers to effect the synthesis; more specifically, to offer Humanism as an alternative way of life, complete with its own set of values. To provide a substitute for religion -- or perhaps, rather, its true fruition. To fulfill the moral and emotional needs of man; and to provide a morality, and positive values.

To fulfill a program of that nature, three specific things are needed: 1) a morality; 2) a theory of life purpose; and, 3) an ideal of human character in which these find their proper place.


The problem I have with this perspective is that it is still significantly locked into the framework of the past. Your vision of what happened in the 20th century seems to describe a confusion, and you suggest that it requires synthesis. I deny this entirely. I think that what happened instead was a blossoming of diversity, finally achieved - whereas prior to that, institutional value systems attempted to impose a unified view. This blossoming of diversity is desirable, and any synthesis would represent a retreat.

Atheism is just one tiny beachhead, one tiny example of where you can go when you explode the old order. It's a great example of the effectiveness of the universal antibody for overweening ideologies: skepticism. No matter what synthesis is attempted now or in the future, it will always be dissolved into a blossoming of diversity by skepticism.

One of the ways that Rorty deals with this is to say, with Davidson (an author he quotes liberally), that we should abandon our addiction to Platonic essences. In Platonism, Christian neo-Platonism and other traditions, we have had this notion that 'The Truth' is something outside of us which can be discovered. The tradition of European Romantics, like Nietzsche, simply inverted this notion, and decided that 'The Truth' came, somehow, from inside our deepest selves. However, both of these views divinize different things, and rely on the idea that there are essences which we can approximate to a better or worse degree. This notion is bankrupt, and has been disproved repeatedly, not only by philosophy but also science. Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem is a great example of this, as is the work of Kuhn on scientific paradigm shifts.

So if we are not in the business of discovering essences, then what are we doing? We are doing what we always do - toolmaking. We place a problem before ourselves and we try to invent tools that will help us resolve the problem. What is a tool? Interestingly, a tool can be anything that we think can solve a problem - just like the old saying, "When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

So the program for the 21st century is not so much to try to solve the problems of prior centuries using their same old tools, but having de-divinized "The Truth" to realize that our language, our selves and our culture are in a constant state of evolution, their definition and their values always moving and changing, because they are constantly trying to adapt to the current environment. The only real 'challenge' in this, is to grow up psychologically - to stop being whiney babies who demand that the universe give us comforting absolutes. Instead, we have to bolster our fragile little egos, and train ourselves to accept that everything will always be in flux.

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