Camels With Hammers From 2011 To 2012

Welcome to the future everybody! I had a really great 2011 on multiple levels. Not least of all was the tremendous growth of Camels With Hammers, and an incomparably huge part of that growth was the move to Freethought Blogs. I am extraordinarily grateful to Ed and PZ for taking this chance on me and proud of my fellow bloggers for creating such a high quality network that I can be so proud to be a part of.

Another major growth of the blog came through the addition of Eric Steinhart as a regular guest contributor. His posts stretching back to February have consistently blown me away. Sometimes he infuriates me, as I know he does some of you readers, but I have learned a tremendous amount from him and through arguing with him over the years and have immensely enjoyed dialectically engaging him in my mind as I read his ideas and your comments unfold in post after post on this blog. So many of his relatively brief and astoundingly clear and straightforward posts are perfect introductions to incredibly complicated concepts. He distills and freshly illuminates so many ideas at the same time that I frequently think, “I have to use this with my students, since it so well catches them up with the existing philosophical discussion and so well provokes new questions” . Readers frequently ask me what they should read to get an introduction to philosophy and I, rather immodestly, want to say to them “Camels With Hammers!” I may be biased but I think the kinds of explanations I give and which Eric has been giving are the ones that get to the real hearts of philosophical issues in an introductory way.

And Eric in particular does such an amazingly thorough job of integrating ideas from so many different sources into philosophically powerful and analytically precise syntheses. I do have to constantly hold my breath anticipating a backlash of anger each time he shows little regard for the anti-metaphysical pieties of so much of the broader New Atheist movement. But inevitably I wind up proud of his abilities to subtly turn the arguments of theists against themselves and to deftly explicate the strengths and possibilities of religion in a way that make his criticisms of its perversion that much more decisive, deep, and ultimately constructive. I am very happy to be hosting his project on my blog. I think what he has to offer atheists (including me) is vital to the health of our movement.

Finally, in the last year I think I did much of my own best writing and perpetually grew as a philosopher through the process. I wouldn’t even know where to start to summarize all the thinking I did this year. I will just highlight that my favorite (and in many ways my most personal) post was Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers The Idols Of Faith”).

Now, for 2012, I am resolved to push this blog to the next level. I defended my dissertation more than a year and a half ago now, and in 2011 I frequently used Camels With Hammers as an outlet to reformulate and further develop some of the themes that came at the end of the dissertation. But, with my extremely heavy teaching schedule (I taught 15 sections of college classes in 2011 and intend to teach more in 2012), I let the time for new research slide.  It’s time to interact on a daily basis with scholarship again. And I’m going to motivate myself to do this by bringing more of academia and less of the rest of the blogosphere to this blog.

A chunk of the time I am accustomed to spending scanning the internet for blog fodder will be better spent scanning and deeply reading philosophical scholarship, and popular books on the social sciences, religion, and science. I will serve you and myself better by bringing more of what’s in those places to the internet than I do replicating what is already online. I have figured out how to make it a reliable part of my hectic schedule and now it is time to just do it. It’s time to make Camels With Hammers a place where I don’t just work out my own ideas in reply to reader provocations, but also a place where I make more of the main points of dense philosophical articles and books accessible to readers so that their valuable insights can reach a wider audience, and so that in the process I can improve my own thinking and writing in a much deeper and more thorough way.

As part of this increased focus on scholarship, I hope to also continue and step up my efforts which I began in August to blog more about Nietzsche. And, of course, as I interact with scholarship and with your responses to it, I will step by step refine, fill out, and defend my own views on metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics as I go. So, both those features of the blog will remain.

And, of course, a major staple of this blog is that it is an unapologetically atheistic blog. And in addition to all this sober, detached academic philosophy that Eric has been doing and which I want to focus more on myself, there will be plenty of room to regularly engage in the cultural fights for rationalism and for atheism against irrationalism and against theism. I am still passionate as ever about getting atheists proudly out of their closets. I am still passionate about exposing the unbelievable falsehoods and outrageous abuses of authoritarian faith-based religions as they crop up daily in the news and in popular debates. I am still passionate about pushing back against theocrats in America and around the globe. And I am still passionate about vigorously combating the appalling yet commonplace notions that the most important questions of ethics and the most fundamental questions of metaphysics are best answered with either baseless faith claims or irresponsible apathy.

In short, I will continue to be unapologetically academic and unapologetically activism-oriented without letting either my activism corrupt my academic rigor or my academic detachment calm my activist’s fervor.

I can’t wait to get started.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • John Morales

    Your enthusiasm is enviable. I do wish you well.

    (And you’re obviously fully aware that the blogosphere ain’t exactly philosophy-friendly. :) )

    • Daniel Fincke

      Your enthusiasm is enviable.

      I’ve always been a happy guy. :)

      (And you’re obviously fully aware that the blogosphere ain’t exactly philosophy-friendly. )

      My theory is someone’s gotta get out there and work to change that! Plus, writing about other people’s stuff will help me to write stuff where the criticism is not always directly at me but at someone else’s hypotheses offered up for group analysis. It should be fun and a little more open ended in spirit than in all the posts where I take a stand myself.

      I do wish you well.

      And a good new year to you too, John! Thanks for taking the time to read and to contribute to the blog even though you hardly always agree. I appreciate it.

  • Colin Hutton

    “anti-metaphysical pieties” : pieties, not. Active b.s. detectors, perhaps.

    Looking forward to your posts, Dan.

    • Daniel Fincke

      “Overactive b.s. detectors, then?” ;)

    • Colin Hutton

      Compromise: Hyperactive.

    • Daniel Fincke


  • Steve Schuler

    Hey Dan!

    I’m curious if you are overtly anti-theistic, or anti-religious in general, in the manner in which you conduct your classes teaching philosophy?

    Part of what spawns this question is my own awareness of a deeply committed evangelical with a Phd in philosophy who’s primary employment is at the Denver Seminary. He also teaches part-time in secular institutions and utilizes his teaching as an opportunity for evangelical outreach, a practice about which he has been explicit. I’ve no personal experience with how he teaches and have no idea in what way or to what degree he ‘evangelizes’ while teaching in secular environments. I do know that his text selections and recommended reading are very deliberately made to help facillitate evangelism.


    • Daniel Fincke

      I’m curious if you are overtly anti-theistic, or anti-religious in general, in the manner in which you conduct your classes teaching philosophy?

      My classes are about my students learning influential arguments from the history of philosophy and from contemporary philosophy and being guided through the process of thinking analytically about the relevant issues for themselves. They are not about my views except as those might be an interesting fodder for their consideration. My classes are about them and the ideas, they’re not about creating acolytes. As with all academics, in my scholarship and other public writings (including my evangelical atheism on this blog) I write forthrightly about my own views. Teaching and writing are simply different endeavors.

      Theism and religion only come up under certain conditions in certain classes. In those contexts, I educate students about the best arguments I know on both sides of an issue and let the students figure things out for themselves. I only insist that students give reasons for their positions as they would on any other topic and we go from there. I’m honest with them if they ask for my views and where I see more good arguments for one position than another that may become apparent. But my priority is letting the class’s dialectic go where the students go with it and feel rather indifferent in most cases about what they think as long as they are thinking well.

      Again, the only thing that matters in the classroom is my students’ abilities as critical thinkers. Several students have said strikingly similar things to me about reading my blog, they say, “your writing sounds just like you—but much more forceful”. On the blog and in formal academic writing, I argue as aggressively as necessary to persuade. In the classroom, I argue to open up lines of thought.

    • Steve Schuler

      Thanks for such a detailed response, it was certainly much more than I expected. I’d become aware of Doug Groothuis, the professor mentioned above, using his teaching in secular environments to further his own religious agenda. Doug and I were very good friends in high school and I have subsequently had an enduring interest in his life and thinking.

      When you ended this post with, “…without letting either my activism corrupt my academic rigor or my academic detachment calm my activist’s fervor.”, it caused me to consider the potential tension between providing a relatively unbiased classroom environment with an “activist’s fervor”, and of course that caused me to consider Doug’s approach. Please bear in mind that, again, I have no idea how Doug actually teaches his classes.

      Thanks again for your response.


  • Daniel Fincke

    No problem, I wrote more about this and more of how I go about teaching in this post if you are interested:

  • infinity

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts! I’ve missed them the past couple months, but I can’t imagine finding time to blog while teaching that many classes…

    • Daniel Fincke

      Thanks infinity! It’s turned out that grading the 9 classes makes it impossible to blog. It was surprisingly manageable to blog while teaching them. I’ll be back with a vengeance soon as grading is done…