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Author Topic:   An Exploration Into"Agnosticism"
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(2)
Message 12 of 179 (554084)
04-06-2010 11:50 AM


Is that a fact?
We get our meanings for words based on the way that he hear or see others using those words. The word "agnosticism" is not in common use in ordinary discussions, so we don't actually have a good way of determining a meaning. We mostly see the term in philosophical discussions, though not necessarily by professional philosophers. Even in philosophical discussions, people are all over the map on how they use the word.

For that matter, as I browse through this thread, I see that people are all over the map here.

I'll add that I don't really know what "agnosticism" means, partly for the reasons just given above. I also don't use it much, as I generally prefer to keep my own religious views private, so not part of any public dialogue. But I won't let that prevent me from exploring the question.

Consider the following hypothetical conversation:

Is it raining right now?

I don't know, and I don't care.

This actually sounds rather ordinary. People do talk that way.

How about:

Is it raining right now?

I'm agnostic about that.


To me, that seems rather odd, even bizarre. People do not talk that way.

I am inclined to think that we do not use "agnostic" with respect to what we ordinarily think of as factual questions.

Now try this one:

Is there a god?

I don't know, and I don't care.


I am inclined to consider that respondent to be an atheist, not an agnostic.

Or try this one:

Is there a god?

Although that poses as a question of fact, it is not actually such a question at all.
I will not respond "I don't know and I don't care" because that gives credence to the mistaken idea that the question is a factual one.
The question is really a proxy for the social-cultural question "Are you a member, or will you become a member of the club that is characterized by its members ritualistically chanting 'I believe in God.'" I choose not to join any of the theist clubs, nor to join any of the atheist clubs.


It seems to me that the last respondent is somebody who could properly be described as agnostic.

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 81 of 179 (555165)
04-12-2010 2:27 PM
Reply to: Message 79 by Straggler
04-12-2010 1:36 PM


Re: Why Decide? What is wrong with being an agnostic?
Straggler writes:
My point is (and always has been) that there is good evidence (objective empirical evidence) favouring the conclusion that the concept of unknowable gods is a product of human invention. This conclusion is therefore more likley to be correct than the opposing and objectively unevidenced conclusion that gods actually exist.

There is good evidence that the concept of money is a product of human invention. Should I therefore be agnostic or atheistic about my bank account balance?

There is good evidence that mathematical concepts are a product of human invention. Should I therefore be agnostic or atheistic about mathematics?

Straggler writes:
And (to end on a positive note) I would entirely agree with your example of specific long term weather predictions as something about which is rational to be agnostic about.

Personally, I think it makes a lot of sense to be skeptical about long term weather predictions, but it makes little sense to be agnostic about them.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 79 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 1:36 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 83 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 2:59 PM nwr has replied
 Message 84 by bluegenes, posted 04-12-2010 3:03 PM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(2)
Message 86 of 179 (555195)
04-12-2010 3:45 PM
Reply to: Message 83 by Straggler
04-12-2010 2:59 PM


Re: Why Decide? What is wrong with being an agnostic?
Straggler writes:
Does money exist? Does your bank account exist? Do banks exist? Is there any evidence to suggest that we have not only conceived of money but brought it into existence? Along with a whole financial infrastructure. Is there comparable evidence to suggest that gods exist?

When I look around at all of the churches in town, when I consider the church memberships, the charitable work done by church based organizations, it seems to me that there is a pretty solid infrastructure in support of the God concept.

Straggler writes:
As things stand your comparison is just bewildering stupid.

I am more inclined to think that the rationality arguments you are persistently making are stupid.

John Searle, in his 1995 book "The Construction of Social Reality", makes what I think is a useful distinction between what he calls "brute facts" (such as facts about the height of a mountain), and what he calls "institutional facts" (such as facts about money).

Your persistent argument seems to be that we must treat the "God" question as a brute fact, and refuses to consider the possibility that we should look at it as an institutional fact.

Straggler writes:
But does the mathematical construct of an infinite dimensional sphere (for example) "exist"? Well the concept exists in the same way that the concept of god can exist in my head. But is anyone claiming that it exists in the sense of existing in external reality independently of people's minds?

Platonist mathematicians believe that, though they will say that it is a reality of platonic forms, rather than physical reality. And by most estimates, a substantial majority of mathematicians are platonists.

You might try asking some mathematicians about the continuum hypothesis. This has been proved independent of the other accepted axioms of set theory and independent of the axiom of choice. Many platonist mathematicians will assert that there is a fact about whether or not the continuum hypothesis is true, but that our current axiom systems are not yet powerful enough to get at that fact.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 83 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 2:59 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 95 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 5:28 PM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 87 of 179 (555196)
04-12-2010 3:49 PM
Reply to: Message 84 by bluegenes
04-12-2010 3:03 PM


Re: Analogy?
bluegenes writes:
If any prophets or theologians ever get around to minting whatever is on their minds, you'll have a good analogy, and I'll become a theist.

I am not saying that money is a good analogy with God. But I am saying that the reasoning that Straggler uses does not distinguish between money and God.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 84 by bluegenes, posted 04-12-2010 3:03 PM bluegenes has taken no action

Replies to this message:
 Message 88 by PaulK, posted 04-12-2010 3:57 PM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 89 of 179 (555200)
04-12-2010 4:03 PM
Reply to: Message 88 by PaulK
04-12-2010 3:57 PM


Re: Analogy?
PaulK writes:
If you presume that God is essentially a fictional entity with no real existence, then you might have a point. However, that is not the concept of God that Straggler refers to.

Many theists and deists presume that God is a real entity with no empirical existence. And Straggler has been arguing about what is empirical.

In perspective, most platonist mathematicians say that mathematical objects are real, but have no empirical existence.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 88 by PaulK, posted 04-12-2010 3:57 PM PaulK has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 90 by PaulK, posted 04-12-2010 4:11 PM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 91 of 179 (555206)
04-12-2010 4:27 PM
Reply to: Message 90 by PaulK
04-12-2010 4:11 PM


Re: Analogy?
PaulK writes:
Straggler is arguing that "God" is more likely the product of human imagination than a real entity. Which is why your comparison with money only works if you insist that God isn't a real entity.

People certainly talk about money being real.

Straggler has mostly been talking about the empirical evidence. Sure, Straggler also says that God is likely a product of human imagination (as is money). It is entirely appropriate for Straggler to use that view of God when deciding whether to be atheist or agnostic. But it seems quite strange to say that what Straggler believes about God should have any relation to whether the agnosticism of person X is rational.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 90 by PaulK, posted 04-12-2010 4:11 PM PaulK has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 92 by PaulK, posted 04-12-2010 4:40 PM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 93 of 179 (555210)
04-12-2010 4:48 PM
Reply to: Message 92 by PaulK
04-12-2010 4:40 PM


Re: Analogy?
PaulK writes:
So what is your view ? Is God simply a convention or a physical object manufactured by humans ?

When I joined this site, I decided to keep my own religious views off the table. I see no need to change that now.

I am, however, atheistic with respect to the epistemology on which Straggler appears to be basing his criticism of agnosticism.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 92 by PaulK, posted 04-12-2010 4:40 PM PaulK has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 94 by PaulK, posted 04-12-2010 5:17 PM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 96 of 179 (555231)
04-12-2010 6:32 PM
Reply to: Message 94 by PaulK
04-12-2010 5:17 PM


Re: Analogy?
PaulK writes:
Then you must be talking about someone else's view of God.

No, I am talking about Straggler's apparent view of agnosticism.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 94 by PaulK, posted 04-12-2010 5:17 PM PaulK has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 97 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 6:35 PM nwr has replied
 Message 103 by PaulK, posted 04-13-2010 2:59 AM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(2)
Message 98 of 179 (555234)
04-12-2010 6:46 PM
Reply to: Message 95 by Straggler
04-12-2010 5:28 PM


Re: Maths and God. Calling Any Mathematicians.
Straggler writes:
There is a great deal of evidence for belief in the veracity of the god concept. You (like so many others) seem to be in danger of going down the circular path of citing belief in god as evidence upon which to justify belief in god.

Oh, bull.

I have not said anything at all about justifying belief in god. I have been commenting on the things you are saying about agnosticism.

Straggler writes:
My persistent argument is that if there is objective empirical evidence in favour of the claim that gods are the product of human invention and (unlike money) no counter-evidence to suggest that such things do in fact exist then it is rational to conclude that they are more likely the product of human invention than real entities.

So what?

Why do you have a problem with agnosticism toward things that might be a product of human invention?

Straggler writes:
I would say that most of our mathematical constructs are based on our empirical experience extrapolated to the nth degree by the application of logic.

Most mathematicians will insist that mathematics is not empirical, and that the application of logic is logical but not empirical.

Straggler writes:
Would the continuum hypothesis exist if there were no intelligent beings to propose such a hypothesis?

I have never asked mathematicians that one. My guess is that they would be divided about that.

Straggler writes:
Would god exist if there were no intelligent beings to invent such a concept?

I have not been discussing the existence of god. My point has been about what you have been saying on agnosticism.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 95 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 5:28 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 100 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 7:05 PM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 99 of 179 (555236)
04-12-2010 6:57 PM
Reply to: Message 97 by Straggler
04-12-2010 6:35 PM


Re: Analogy?
Straggler writes:
And just to be clear here - "Straggler's view of agnosticism" is what..........?

I don't have a full picture of that. But I do see you telling people who have expressed agnostic positions, that rationality requires that they take an atheistic position.

And then, in Message 83 you said:

Maybe this is just sematics on your part but I mean (for example) that I am agnostic about whether or not it will be raining in London on the 24th June 2013.

That seems strange to me. I would just say that I don't know. It seems quite odd to use "agnostic" there.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 97 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 6:35 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 101 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 7:11 PM nwr has seen this message

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(2)
Message 102 of 179 (555245)
04-12-2010 7:30 PM
Reply to: Message 100 by Straggler
04-12-2010 7:05 PM


Re: Maths and God. Calling Any Mathematicians.
Straggler writes:
But why is disblief in one unknowable irrefutable entity justified whilst not being justified in the case of another equally unknowable and unjustifiable entity? Is it because some entities are believed in and others are not? That has effectively been your position elsewhere.

You seem to like making stuff up, and then expecting people to defend what you have made up.

I presume your reference was to my posts in Omphalism. I don't recall suggesting that belief in an entity is justified - you seem to be making that up. My agnosticism was toward a philosophical position, not toward any entity.

Straggler writes:
Are you agnostic to an unknowable and irrefutable Immaterial Pink Unicorn that created the universe and watches over us in deistic bliss? Might that not be a human invention? Are you agnostic? If you are not agnostic towards the IPU are you not claiming atheism on the basis of this irrefutable and unknowable entity being almost certainly the product of human invention?

The IPU is an entity hypothesized for the purpose of making an argument (basically a reductio). It requires neither belief nor disbelief nor agnosticism. One simply pays it no attention at all, except when making that argument.

Edited by nwr, : fix typo


This message is a reply to:
 Message 100 by Straggler, posted 04-12-2010 7:05 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 113 by Straggler, posted 04-13-2010 2:34 PM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 104 of 179 (555353)
04-13-2010 8:45 AM
Reply to: Message 103 by PaulK
04-13-2010 2:59 AM


Re: Analogy?
PaulK writes:
And in doing so you claimed that money was analogous to some view of God in a way that refuted Straggler's argument.

No, there was no analogy intended or implied.

I was responding to Straggler's argument in Message 79, and pointing out that his argument, if correct, would prove too much. For, as worded by Straggler, that argument would also apply to money and to mathematical entities.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 103 by PaulK, posted 04-13-2010 2:59 AM PaulK has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 105 by PaulK, posted 04-13-2010 9:21 AM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 106 of 179 (555368)
04-13-2010 9:37 AM
Reply to: Message 105 by PaulK
04-13-2010 9:21 AM


Re: Analogy?
PaulK writes:
So basically you were just making a minor nit-pick that the wording was not absolutely airtight - and that's your only problem with the argument.

I was pointing out a problem with the argument presented, not merely with the choice of words.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 105 by PaulK, posted 04-13-2010 9:21 AM PaulK has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 107 by PaulK, posted 04-13-2010 9:42 AM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 108 of 179 (555373)
04-13-2010 9:46 AM
Reply to: Message 107 by PaulK
04-13-2010 9:42 AM


Re: Analogy?
PaulK writes:
Which is why for there to be a problem you would have to show an analogy.

Analogies never prove anything. They can be useful as illustrations, but do not constitute proof.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 107 by PaulK, posted 04-13-2010 9:42 AM PaulK has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 109 by PaulK, posted 04-13-2010 9:53 AM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6004
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 110 of 179 (555378)
04-13-2010 10:07 AM
Reply to: Message 109 by PaulK
04-13-2010 9:53 AM


Re: Analogy?
PaulK writes:
And since you have changed the subject, I take it that you concede that all you did was point out a minor problem in the wording of Straggler's argument.

You do, of course, have the right to jump to unwarranted conclusions.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 109 by PaulK, posted 04-13-2010 9:53 AM PaulK has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 111 by PaulK, posted 04-13-2010 10:15 AM nwr has seen this message

  
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