What Good Is Philosophy? (2 of 2)

nerf gun

In my last post, I summarized some of the useless fruits of the pop philosophy used by Christian apologists like William Lane Craig. Now, let’s look at issue from the other side to find the good within philosophy.

Something nice to say about philosophy

Philosophy contains important stuff. The laws of logic and the understanding of logical fallacies fall under philosophy, as does the study of ethics. The study of philosophy can be great training.

Alvin Plantinga argued that philosophy is relevant at the frontier of science when he said that philosophy is simply thinking hard about something. By that definition, Werner Heisenberg (a physicist) was doing philosophy when he came up with his uncertainty principle, Kurt Gödel (a mathematician) was doing philosophy when he discovered his incompleteness theorems, and Alan Turing (a computer scientist) was doing philosophy when he developed the Turing Test. Maybe string theory or ideas on the multiverse are philosophy.

A broad definition of philosophy doesn’t bother me, but note that all these “philosophers” were first scientists or mathematicians. That’s why they were able to make their contributions. While a scientist can put on a philosopher’s hat and do great work, the reverse is not true. A philosopher isn’t qualified to contribute to science or math. This was the problem outlined in the previous post with philosopher William Lane Craig’s ill-advised dabblings in science.

I get annoyed with philosophers putting on an imaginary lab coat and playing scientist like a child plays house. Craig imagines himself strutting into a meeting of befuddled scientists and saying with a chuckle, “Okay, fellas, the Christian philosophers can take it from here” and seeing them breathe a sigh of relief that the cavalry has come to save them from their intellectual predicament. He imagines that he has something to offer on questions that his discipline couldn’t even formulate.

In perhaps the height of hubris, Craig the non-scientist permits himself to pick and choose the areas of science that are valid. He likes the idea of a beginning to the universe, so the Big Bang is A-OK with him. But complexity in life without the guiding hand of God doesn’t sit so well, so he questions evolution.

I pick on William Lane Craig here just because he’s a well-known example. Other Christian apologists take similar positions.

Contributions in science vs. philosophy

Every year we see lists of the top scientific discoveries of the previous year, and 2016 didn’t disappoint. We detected gravity waves with the LIGO experiment, we found a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri (the star closest to earth besides the sun), NASA’s Juno spacecraft began orbiting Jupiter, the New Horizons spacecraft finished transmitting its data taken of its Pluto flyby, clues suggest a mysterious Planet 9 in our solar system, Greenland sharks can live to 400 years, and more.

I couldn’t find a list of the Top Ten philosophical breakthroughs for 2016.

Philosophy as a caltrop

While thoughtless and ungrounded pop philosophy is one problem, weighty arguments such as the Transcendental Argument or the Ontological Argument are another problem. This is philosophy as a caltrop.

A caltrop is a defensive weapon used when the opponent is getting too close. These and other complicated philosophical arguments can be handy when the expected evidence for God isn’t there. You want to discard the God hypothesis? Hold on—first, you must respond to this ponderous argument. And there are more behind it. These arguments are effective because they’re confusing, not because they’re correct.

What does it say about Christian apologetics that such arguments are necessary? If you want to see what keeps the planet warm, go outside on a sunny day and look up. A god who is eager to have a relationship with us and is so much more powerful and important than the sun should be at least as obvious. Complicated philosophical arguments simply paper over the glaring fact that evidence for God is negligible and that we have no justification for belief.

Philosophy is useful in the hands of scientists. But philosophers? What have they done for me lately?

Religion was our first try at philosophy,
it was our first try at epistemology.
It’s what we came up with when we didn’t know
we lived on a round planet circling the sun.
— Christopher Hitchens

Philosophers do not agree about anything to speak of.
— Peter van Inwagen

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 3/14/14.)

Image credit: Tim Pierce, flickr, CC

 

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  • Chuck Johnson

    While a scientist can put on a philosopher’s hat and do great work, the reverse is not true. A philosopher isn’t qualified to contribute to science or math.-Bob

    Daniel Dennett began as a philosopher, and then was able to use science to enhance his philosophical research.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Dennett
    His work includes “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”.

    • RichardSRussell

      Not quite relevant to that exact combination, but related, is the work that Steven Pinker, a linguist, contributed to neuroscience.

      On the other side of the ledger is Linus Pauling, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, who became enamored of Vitamin C as a panacea in a related field, medicine, in which he really wasn’t competent.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Pinker’s work is very valuable.
        Interdisciplinary studies can be quite productive. Leonardo Da Vinci was no slouch at this.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Pauling, yes. – – – Have you looked into the William Shockley story ?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shockley

        “My research leads me inescapably to the opinion that the major cause of the American Negro’s intellectual and social deficits is hereditary and racially genetic in origin and, thus, not remediable to a major degree by practical improvements in the environment.”

        • TheNuszAbides

          couldn’t escape his own research – hubris indeed.

  • Herald Newman

    You want to discard the God hypothesis? Hold on—first, you must respond to this ponderous argument.

    Isn’t that always the way it works with apologists? In order to leave theism behind you have to dissect countless arguments that apparently favor their proposition. They’re happy to say that a person who leaves the faith didn’t really understand it deep enough. It’s all apologetics, and many seem happy to accept when the reverse happens, namely some schmuck who converts to their beliefs because it makes them feel better, rather than being shown to be a good proposition.

    They don’t seem to understand that the burden of proof is with them, and discarding hypotheses that haven’t met their burden of proof is what everyone should do.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Right–use your feelings to come in, but the Exit door can only be opened if you pass an intellectual test.

      • Tommy

        Ironically that’s how many Christians convert and deconvert – they became a Christian by passing the emotional test and they became an atheist by passing the intellectual test.

  • SRR126

    Philosophers don’t do real scientific work? You might want to check out the history of math and physics before saying something so silly.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You’re thinking of Descartes, Pascal, or similar, I’m assuming?

      They did their science as scientists. What I want from you is a philosopher who was not a scientist making a breakthrough in science, in recent times.

      • J Hoffman

        “They did their science as scientists”

        You are equivocating. If a philosopher, by way of a particular way of reasoning, comes upon something that will have empirical significance, generated reproducible tests and so forth, that you’d say was science and not philosophy. Also, the very notions of “falsifiability” and so forth in science are philosophical concepts (i.e., Karl Popper) that are not the results of empirical testing. Further, empiricism itself is a philosophical axiom, not the juridical result of its own procedures.

        No more lessons for you. Your post was silly.

        • MR

          Because scientists aren’t allowed to think, I suppose. “Just do experiments and leave the thinking to philosophers.”

        • J Hoffman

          Empirical science operates within a philosophical frame (e.g., Baconian method > scientific method), whether or not one wants to account for that when practicing science on the job. One need not read Enlightenment philosophers or even know they existed, for example, to go about being a successful attorney in American courts; but there would be no American courts and their legal methods outside the apparatus of Enlightenment philosophy. Anyhoo, it’s a waste of time to give OP a list of philosophers who contribute to contemporary science, or how, because he’s equivocating on what the words he’s using even mean, lost unto himself.

        • MR

          To me it just sounds like a big wank-fest ode to capital-P “Philosophy” which isn’t even a thing. People have noticed that the world behaves a certain way, even three-year-olds have noticed this. People have thought about these things. We called some of them philosophers, but does [noticing how the world words and] thinking hard about [it] really make one a Philosopher?

          Is a scientist doing science and thinking about the implications of his experiments a scientist or a philosopher? Or is he simply a person thinking about the implications of his experiments? Does he take off his scientist hat when he’s not doing experiments and put on his capital-P Philosopher hat when he’s thinking about them? It’s arbitrary labeling. Is a person who thinks real hard about the implications of the existence of an imaginary god a Philosopher? Or is he just a person thinking real hard about the implications of the existence of an imaginary god?

          Bob’s not equivocating as far as I’m concerned because [his meaning is] clear from the context of this website and his post. It seems to me that you’re the one equivocating because you want to come to the defense of the label captial-P “Philosophy” and in doing so sweep everything under the umbrella, science, religion and imaginary things. If you want to call someone who thinks hard about ethics an ethics philosopher, fine with me, but to me he’s simply ethicist. Let’s not pretend that he’s the same thing as someone thinking hard about a piece of fiction and then call them both capital-P Philosophers.

        • J Hoffman

          “People have noticed that the world behaves a certain way, even three-year-olds have noticed this.”

          Actually, three-year olds see the world according to teleo-functional reasoning, and not at all like you do. See the work of Deborah Kelemen.

          You’re being a philistine about both science and philosophy, and it’s silly. Not replying to the rest. This is like having an angry redneck wanting me to justify his taxes going to art museums. I don’t care.

        • MR

          Actually, three-year olds see the world according to teleo-functional reasoning….

          Which doesn’t change my point one bit. Even three-year-olds notice the world behaves a certain way, I didn’t say they see the world exactly like I do (though, I think “not at all” is a bit of a stretch, don’t you?). Noticing the world behaves a certain way isn’t the same as contemplating why or how, but it is a building block of understanding (which is kind of how I see “Philosophy.”)

          You’re being a philistine about both science and philosophy,

          I’m being realistic. I’m not saying that thinking hard about things isn’t good or useful. I’m just pointing out capital-P Philosophy is an arbitrary label, a reification of people thinking hard, thinking systematically about things. I understand the desire to justify those philosophy degrees and all, but I’m just pointing out that there’s a difference between thinking hard about the implications of [say, for example] the evidence for natural selection and thinking hard about an imaginary god directing the world. One kind of thinking can lead to better medicine, and the other kind of thinking is about as useful as speculating on the airspeed velocity of an unladen dragon.

          You’re being a philistine about both science and philosophy and I’m not going to teach you any more. (from your comment before you changed it)

          I don’t see that you taught me anything yet, which is really Bob’s point about “Philosophy,” no?

        • J Hoffman

          I deleted my post because this exchange had already exhausted its relevant content. I’m now imagining what it’s like to work with Trump, as he proceeds to fire or hire – to replace some who quit – people with degrees and life-long experience in fields he doesn’t think are “a thing”; in fact, they’re a waste of his time. The less he knows about something, like climate science, the less he thinks there is to know, making him the least prepared person to criticize the objects of his own ridicule. He looks bafflingly stupid to everyone but himself and others who need someone stupid enough for them to relate to. Nice exchange, but I gotta roll.

        • MR

          Then you miss my entire point.

        • J Hoffman

          Would you mind indulging me and letting me know your occupation? The anti-philosophy mentality has the ring of a STEM-minded person (but you don’t seem acute on the S part). If you’re curious, I am a professional art critic; I write essays on art, reviews, etc.

        • MR

          Would you mind indulging me… your occupation

          I do. No offense meant, though.

          The anti-philosophy mentality

          Again, you’re misreading me.

          has the ring of a STEM-minded person

          A tinge, perhaps, but as much humanities-minded.

          My comments have been tongue-in-cheek and playfully snarky toward capital-P Philosophy, but I’m not so anti-philo as you imagine. (Besides, I think I’ve done quite well by not posting the typical philosophy degree comic! 😉 ) Anyway, you’re focusing on the wrong things in my comments and missing my point. I don’t really have a dog in the Philo hunt.

        • Michael Neville
          Would you mind indulging me… your occupation

          I do. No offense meant, though.

          I don’t understand your reticence. Gastronomical Hygiene Technician restaurant dish washer is a perfectly respectable job.

      • SRR126

        Seriously you think folks like Leibniz had interchangeable name-tags that they switched around when they were working on Math as opposed to Philo?
        And you might want to read the Bio’s of Russell and Gödel among many others.

        • Greg G.

          If I am walking down the street, I am a pedestrian. If I am working on a complex piece of machinery, I am a technician.

          When Leibniz was working on Philo, he was not being a mathematician at the time.

        • Pofarmer
        • Greg G.

          Thank you, Pofarmer. That is very interesting. I had noticed the passage in Acts he mentions how Paul and Barnabas were thought to be gods one day and stoned about seven verses later.

        • Pofarmer

          It would just be so interesting if we knew more about religion in that period that wasn’t filtered through the Christian lens that became predominant.

        • SRR126

          Let’s keep it real simple so ur not confused – can we agree that philosophers who self-identify as PHILOSOPHERS are actually philosophers? Once again – read a Bio of Leibnitz or Descartes and see how they self-identify.

        • Greg G.

          Once again – read a Bio of Leibnitz or Descartes and see how they self-identify.

          Did they have a distinction between philosophers and scientists back then?
          https://youtu.be/KwcTD4d7HvA

        • SRR126

          From the most recent Desmond Clark Bio of Descartes: “Descartes’ main contribution to the history of ideas was his effort to construct a philosophy that would be sympathetic to the new sciences that emerged in the seventeenth century. To a great extent he was the midwife to the Scientific Revolution and a significant contributor to its key concepts. ”
          Among many… many… others – Descartes was first a philosopher in his mind and any right-thinking scholar of Descartes.

        • Joe

          You could point out where they used philosophy and not the scientific method to come up with their discoveries.

          Yours is the same ‘Newton was a Chrisitan, therefore Christianity is responsible for science’ argument repurposed for philosophy.

      • Ryan M

        Why would you want an example of a non scientist philosopher making a breakthrough in science? Surely making scientific breakthroughs is not the only means to be useful.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Give me a modern philosopher making a breakthrough in anything.

        • Ryan M

          I’m not sure what you mean by a “Breakthrough”, or why that would matter. If it’s not the case that teachers make public newsworthy breakthroughs, then is it the case that teachers have no use?

          I’m thinking you believe a field must advance to be useful. I’m not sure I’d agree with that. Applied ethics might very well not advance, but this doesn’t make philosophers working on ethics committees in hospitals useless, does it? I’d think their expertise in ethics would be useful regardless of whether their field is changing.

          Even in science, a cancer researcher might not make breakthroughs, but this is not to suggest that such research is therefore useless, right? I’m thinking you’re holding philosophy to a standard that you know will result in the conclusion you want to derive, but that is essentially question begging.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If it’s not the case that teachers make public newsworthy breakthroughs, then is it the case that teachers have no use?

          Of course not. And that’s a value of philosophy.

          I didn’t say philosophy was useless; I’m asking: what have philosophers done for me lately?

          It sounds like we may be in agreement: philosophy isn’t the kind of discipline that generates breakthroughs. It doesn’t uncover new ground. Any breakthrough where you (with a broad definition of philosophy) could say, “Aha! That’s a breakthrough thanks to philosophy” was done by a scientist doing philosophy.

          And any tool provided by philosophy (logic, say) was provided long ago.

          Applied ethics might very well not advance, but this doesn’t make philosophers working on ethics committees in hospitals useless, does it?

          Nope. Ethics is a valuable, evolving field. I mentioned that above.

          I’m thinking you’re holding philosophy to a standard that you know will result in the conclusion you want to derive, but that is essentially question begging.

          This was triggered by the kinds of errors (to my mind) touched on in the previous post, where Christian apologetics demands unwarranted credibility because it has philosophers adding to its work.

        • Ryan M

          I’d deny from the start that philosophy adds credibility to Christian apologetics. I think more accurately, philosophy adds the appearance of credibility to Christian apologetics since people unfamiliar with the relevant philosophy can be ‘wowed’ by what they’re reading.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, appearance is an important second-best when you don’t have reality backing you up.

  • Anthrotheist

    I’ve heard some say things along the lines of “we don’t need philosophy because we now have science.” The quote in the previous post from Hawking about philosophy being dead is in the same vein. I would say: “Saying that we don’t need philosophy because now we have science is like saying that we don’t need trees because now we have wood.” (I’m gonna leave that there because it made the 12-year-old in me chuckle)

    I’ve come to think of philosophy like ‘strength and conditioning coaching’. Generally, strength and conditioning coaches don’t play any sport, they don’t develop the special skills and reflexes needed to compete in sports. What they do is concentrate on the prerequisite conditions necessary to compete, and help players maximize those conditions. The coaches surely develop their own routines, work with other coaches, etc, all in the pursuit of their craft. Technically, no athlete needs to utilize a strength and conditioning coach, but those that do will have an advantage.

    Philosophy is the ‘strength and conditioning’ of intellectual work, including science. Philosophers don’t contribute to science in the same way that conditioning coaches don’t contribute to a winning team. At this point philosophy isn’t needed by most scientists, but it does confer an advantage.

  • MR

    Alvin Plantinga argued that philosophy is relevant at the frontier of science when he said that philosophy is simply thinking hard about something.

    One can think hard about the implications of real things, and that can lead to real science.

    One can think hard about the implications of imaginary things, and that can lead to religion.

    • Chuck Johnson

      Empiricism provides the advantage for science.

  • skl

    “While a scientist can put on a philosopher’s hat and do
    great work, the reverse is not true.”

    The same could be said of virtually any occupation.

    But more importantly, everyone in any occupation has some
    interest in philosophy. Each has a philosophy, or is working on a philosophy, about life and about reality.

    In fact, that’s probably why this blog and Patheos in general exists.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      “While a scientist can put on a philosopher’s hat and do
      great work, the reverse is not true.”

      The same could be said of virtually any occupation.

      Certain occupations attract a subset of people who feel that their occupation is the best one; that someone who has mastered that occupation can master any occupation.

      For example, there’s engineering. Engineering is a serious endeavour, it requires actual skills. But its cheerleaders have led to things like the Salem conjecture.

      My position is not that most creationists are engineers or even that engineering predisposes one to Creationism. In fact, most engineers are not Creationists and more well-educated people are less predisposed to Creationism, the points the statistics in the study bear out. My position was that of those Creationists who presented themselves with professional credentials, or with training that they wished to represent as giving them competence to be critics of Evolution while offering Creationism as the alternative, a significant number turned out to be engineers.

      I was at an atheist meetup not too long ago, and someone (an engineer of course) said that we needed to elect an engineer as US president in order to straighten things out. So I started him out with a list of historical US presidents who actually were engineers: Jimmy Carter*, Herbert Hoover. Does it sound to anyone like the start of a list of the best presidents ever?

      * I have great respect for Jimmy Carter as an ex-president. But a lot of things were messed up when he was still in the office.

      Another such occupation is business. We frequently hear businesspersons say that the government should be run like a business, and that we need to get businesspersons in office. Well we have a businessperson in office now. Does anyone reading this still not realise that politics takes actual skills, and that these are not the same skills that might make one good at running a business?

      • Michael Neville

        Hoover was also a successful businessman. In 1914 he had a personal fortune of $4 million (about $100 million today) earned primarily from his investments in mining corporations.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        I’m not sure we’ve properly tried having as president a good businessman. Bill Gates would approach things very differently than Donald Trump.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          I think Bill Gates is smart enough not to do that.

          Besides, I still insist that it is a different skill set. Do you remember something Trump said early on about firing all of Congress? That’s something a CEO might contemplate doing with his head adminstrators, but it just isn’t possible for a president to fire congresspersons.

          What I want is someone with political skill, who will use those skills to get what I want in the way that I want them. For example, I want to preserve democracy, the rule of law, etc. so I don’t want her to shortcut and destroy those things to reach some other policy goal like changing the tax code.

        • RichardSRussell

          Au contraire, Pierre. A good businessman gets that reputation by maximizing profits. There are 2 ways to do this: increasing revenue and/or decreasing costs.

          In government, that translates into raising taxes and/or reducing services. IOW, a good businessman brings a mindset 180° removed from the task of decent, citizen-centered government.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A public corporation’s job is to bring a return to the shareholders, and that’s pretty much it, but a good businessman can be good for lots of reasons. Yes, he can deliver quarterly results that are consistently higher from the previous quarter, but he could instead be an innovator in many ways. He can create jobs. He can inspire workers. He can provide products to consumers at lower prices than before. He can be a social innovator (some of the 19th-century mill towns, at least initially, provided improved working conditions).

          You might say that these can come at a social cost. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Anyway, a “good businessman” may produce things that a good president would be proud to deliver.

        • eric

          I’d argue, however, that the government is not analogous or equivalent to a public corporation. Its probably more like a conglomerate of nonprofits. Yes sure they each need a revenue stream that supports their activities, but beyond that, they aren’t looking to maximize profits; they count success in terms of mission statement. DOD doesn’t care if it makes money; it cares about fulfilling the mission of winning conflicts with other nations. DHS doesn’t care if it makes money; it cares about fulfilling the mission of protecting US citizens on our soil. Likewise with DOE, DoEd, HHS, and so on.

          So a president who treats the federal government like a public business is, IMO, fundamentally misunderstanding his or her job to the great detriment of the organization and everyone it’s supposed to serve. The same way a hypothetical CEO of the Red Cross would be fundamentally misunderstanding his or her job if he bragged that while sure he may have cut blood drives down to zero this year, think of all the money they saved by not doing them!

        • RichardSRussell

          … a good businessman … can create jobs.

          “When businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it is like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around.

          “I’ve never been a ‘job creator’. I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate.

          “That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.”

          —Nick Hanauer, founder of Second Avenue Partners

        • MR

          I once sat next to a gentleman on a plane who waxed poetic and at length about how he had built up his business and how he deserved every cent he made and ranted at length about having to pay taxes on his business and why should his well-earned dollars be spent on other people…. I forget now, but there was something he said that made me think, “Well, yeah, but if it weren’t for those people purchasing whatever your product or service is, you’d have nothing. What if they heard you right now and decided to no longer support your business?” Seemed to me he had his own private entitlement program. 😛

          When I was in the small towns in Nebraska for the eclipse, I was surprised at all the box stores and chain restaurants. I thought, “Everyone one of these places is siphoning profits out of these communities. Small town money going to big corporation pockets. Why don’t these small town communities support local businesses and keep the money local rather than allow the Walmarts and chain restaurants skim away their dollars? Consumers have power, they just relinquish it.

        • RichardSRussell

          Hey, which small towns in Nebraska? I was in Ravenna.

        • MR

          Grand Island for the eclipse. We were neighbors. Others south and southeast.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          A good businessman gets that reputation by maximizing profits.

          You hear this often, but there is really no basis for it. A good businessman might take smaller profits in order to enhance stability, or consolidate market share, or do any of a number of other things that are good for the business, its management, its workers, the customers, and the broader community. And then there’s always the question of short-term profit vs. long-term profit.

    • eric

      The same could be said of virtually any occupation.

      I agree with you on this. Take any academic discipline, and you are guaranteed to find amongst people who have never studied it someone claiming that it is easy and they can do it without training.

      Having said that, I don’t think much of the idea of broadening the concept of ‘philosophy’ until everyone can be said to do it. There are specific bodies of knowledge that philosophers study that other disciplines don’t typically teach. There are analytical techniques that philosophy departments formally teach that other departments don’t…even if they assume their students should be able to do them (think physics majors and calculus…calculus is not considered a subset of physics merely because physics majors use it. Likewise, just because you analyze arguments for logical fallacies in an Exampleosophy class doesn’t mean that sort of analysis counts as Exampleosophy. It’s philosophy).

      Thus IMO it’s a distinct discipline and has value in terms of teaching useful things that you don’t get in other classes/departments/disciplines.

      • skl

        I agree with much of what you said. Except I still think everyone does do philosophy – and science (“knowing”) also. Just not everyone does them well, and certainly not everyone is professionally
        trained in them.

        I would wager that most of the people commenting here on
        science are not professional scientists, and those who are
        scientists may not be trained in the specific area of science being discussed.
        I would likewise wager than most here don’t have a PhD in philosophy or
        philosophy of science. Many people have some interest in these topics, regardless of what’s on their resumes. And so we have this blog, and Patheos.

        • Greg G.

          I agree with much of what you said. Except I still think everyone does do philosophy – and science (“knowing”) also. Just not everyone does them well, and certainly not everyone is professionally
          trained in them.

          I think those disciplines are far more systematic that the average person does them. It’s more like the way we practice medicine when applying a band-aid.

    • RichardSRussell

      I think it’s mildly interesting that, whenever academia views a person as having jumped thru sufficient hoops to be considered a highly competent practitioner in a field other than law (JD) or medicine (MD), the degree he or she receives is a PhD (doctor of philosophy), which implies not only knowing a lot of facts and procedures but also possessing deep insights into the intellectual basis for that particular discipline. This is true even if they started out with a simple BA (bachelor of arts) or BS (bachelor of science); they don’t move up to DA or DS at the top level, they move up to PhD.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    This is philosophy as a caltrop.

    As opposed to philosophy as a cowflop.

  • Dave Maier

    I get annoyed with philosophers putting on an imaginary lab coat and playing scientist like a child plays house.

    Fair enough. How about when non-philosophers disgorge a load of condescending bullshit about philosophy? (It contains important stuff! It’s great training! … Please.)

    I get that this is not a philosophy blog, and that in the context of “science vs. religion”, part of taking the side of “science” is dealing with people like WLC and their centuries-old metaphysics; but then the conversation inevitably devolves, and quickly, into how philosophy isn’t empirical enough, you see, to give us real knowledge, yada yada yada. As a philosopher I have zero interest in refuting Kalam and other relics from the history of philosophy; but since I feel the same way about materialism (= not interesting, not even worth refuting), I would appreciate it if you just left philosophy alone and got back to defending the secular viewpoint more generally (or, on the other hand, in specific cases), which can indeed be valuable. (Trying to be positive here!)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks for your restraint.

      I’d be happy to leave philosophy alone, but Christian apologists claim that it’s a tool for their side of the ledger. I say little about philosophy, though not nothing.

      • Dave Maier

        Yes, and I agree that it’s hard to know what to say when that happens. It’s hard to avoid getting sucked in, but good for you for trying.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      I have to agree with @dave_maier:disqus that the abuse of a discipline isn’t just done by Christian philosophers. It’s also done by numerous atheistic scientists. Without naming names, I’ve read plenty of philosophical claims from such scientists which go way beyond their scientific expertise, and are arguably just as cringe-worthy as the dubious scientific claims made by philosophers.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Without naming names, I’ve read plenty of philosophical claims from such
        scientists which go way beyond their scientific expertise, and are
        arguably just as cringe-worthy as the dubious scientific claims made by
        philosophers.-Jeffery

        You can tell us those cringe-worthy claims if you want.
        Maybe we will find them to be cringe-worthy, too.

        But don’t expect that such a result will mean that scientists, atheists, Bob Seidensticker or anyone else has no right to criticize philosophy. – – – Of course we have that right.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          Of course people have the right to criticize philosophy. I frankly do not understand why you would even raise that as a topic. If I came across in any way as suggesting otherwise, that was not my intent.

          The question is not whether there is a right to criticize philosophy. There certainly is. The question is whether the OP contains good criticisms of philosophy. I suggest that for a criticism to be “good,” at the very least it needs to distinguish what the discipline says vs. people who abuse the discipline.

        • Chuck Johnson

          I suggest that for a criticism to be “good,” at the very least it needs
          to distinguish what the discipline says vs. people who abuse the
          discipline.-Jeffery

          You keep talking in generalities. – – – A weakness of philosophers.

          Specifically, do you have respect for the work of Daniel Dennett ?
          I consider hm to be a philosopher and a scientists. – – – Do you?
          His philosophy has modern scientific thought in it.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          Chuck, your comment begins with an insult against an entire profession and against me. (For the record, I’m not even a member of the profession of philosophy; I’m merely an amateur philosopher of religion.) That insult leads me to wonder if this exchange is a waste of my time and yours.

          To answer your question very directly, yes, I respect the work of Daniel Dennett. I haven’t read all of his work, but I remember when I first read his book, “Consciousness Explained.” It was very obvious that he knows what he is talking about and has thought very deeply about the subject.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Chuck, your comment begins with an insult against an entire profession and against me. (For the record, I’m not even a member of the profession of philosophy; I’m merely an amateur philosopher of religion.) That insult leads me to wonder if this exchange is a waste of my time and yours.Jeffrey

          Your answer to me is an embarrassment to you.
          If this would turn out to be a common reaction among philosophers, this would be another valid criticism of philosophers and philosophy.

        • Rudy R

          I’d suggest, if you haven’t already done so, check out the Secular Outpost and read some of his articles. You might find you have more in common with Jeffrey Louder than it appears.

        • Chuck Johnson

          I read his August 8th article at Secular Outpost.
          I am unfavorably impressed.

        • Rudy R

          Why is that?

        • Ryan M

          What unimpressed you? I’m not quite sure what you would be looking for that would leave you unimpressed. In the August 8th post, Jeff was attempting to provide a basis for steelmanning a theistic argument for refutation. Were you unimpressed with Jeff’s formulation of the argument? Were you unimpressed that the post did not contain insults of theists?

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          @robrudolph:disqus @Ryan_M1:disqus

          It probably wasn’t partisan enough. Something like this would probably be more to his liking.

        • Chuck Johnson

          I will answer you as I answered Bob Seidensticker.
          Give me a couple of links to Lowder’s essays that you like.

          But I’ll give you a clue.
          If it is merely talk about talk and arguments about arguments, I won’t be favorably impressed.

          I am a scientist, and philosophy that impresses me has to be well connected to the universe that we actually live in. The universe of philosophical arguments is inadequate.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          @disqus_R8tkwMcaxk:disqus

          I wrote a blog post a few months ago listing over 25 lines of empirical evidence against theism. Most of that evidence comes from science.

          LINK

        • Chuck Johnson

          I wrote a blog post a few months ago listing over 25 lines of empirical
          evidence against theism. Most of that evidence comes from science.-Jeffery

          Thank you, I skimmed over that blog post, and as you have guessed, I liked it more than the other ones of yours that I looked at.

          This one makes use of empirical (scientific) information to its advantage.

        • Ryan M

          Out of curiosity, what sort of scientist are you? I wonder because my friends working in physics tend to have no issues with philosophers (As a popular scientist, Sean Carroll seems to like philosophy), and many scientists with extensive training in mathematics tend to favor the use of tools such as formal logical languages given training in proof courses they would receive. E.T. Jaynes is a good example of the latter.

          Here are three articles from Jeff that I like:

          Link 1 – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/06/26/pererz1-25-evidences-against-theism/

          Link 2 – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/02/10/weighing-theistic-evidence-against-naturalistic-evidence/

          Link 3 – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/02/14/paul-draper-the-fallacy-of-understated-evidence-theism-and-naturalism/

          With respect to link 1, I think Jeff’s article does a very good job at demonstrating 25 lines of data which are all evidence for naturalism over theism that many atheists ought to be aware of.

          With respect to link 2, I think Jeff’s article does a very good job at demonstrating a common theistic tactic (atheism has issues with x, so atheism must fail as a whole) is a demonstrably bad way to weigh the probability of hypotheses given data.

          With respect to link 3, I think Jeff’s article does a very good job at demonstrating problems with theistic arguments that rely on a particular type of inductive move. e.g. saying minds are evidence for theism without considering the fact that minds either depend on or identical with brains.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Out of curiosity, what sort of scientist are you?-Ryan

          A generalist.
          My BS in science degree is from Penn State, 1973.

          With bipolar disorder, I was not able to make a living in science, but I have had plenty of time to be able to follow my curiosity.

          Here is my solution to the Feynman Sprinkler problem:
          http://tinyurl.com/n6g6byh

          Richard Feynman was able to do the experiment and discover what was happening with an inflow sprinkler (it develops torque), but he was unable to explain this phenomenon (why it develops torque).

          My interests in science are diverse.

        • Ryan M

          OK, by my standards I would call you a scientist (even if you couldn’t practice, since Neil Tyson is non practicing but obviously a scientist by knowledge and skill). It’s quasi sketchy territory since a BS in science could be maths which many people do not consider science, but I think it’s sufficient.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Here are three articles from Jeff that I like:-Ryan

          I have previously commented on link 1 to Jeffery Jay Lowder.

          Link 2 contains scientific references which I like. But it contains logic and math symbols that I am not interested in. It seems to be trying to quantify and prove things in an unjustified way.

          Link 3 contains a chart full of Paul Draper’s assessments, and those assessments are the kind of scientific challenge to theism which is insightful and appropriate.

        • Ryan M

          The symbols are mostly used to avoid ambiguity in addition to shortening arguments. An argument in natural language might end up extremely long but can be conveniently short with use of the right translations into a logical language, or even making use of some symbolism v none at all.

          The downsides to logic/math symbols, IMO, is that their use is not widely known (so the audience to understand them is limited), and their use can quickly turn people away from an article (even if they are capable of understanding their use).

        • Chuck Johnson

          The symbols are mostly used to avoid ambiguity in addition to shortening arguments.-Ryan

          I occasionally do the same thing. Not often, as Jeffrey does.
          I will line up a list of assertions and label them (A), (B), (C) etc. so they can easily be referred to in the text of the discussion.

          I do not attempt to assign a numerical probability to logical arguments. I consider this to be an inappropriate use of statistics.

        • Ryan M

          It can be inappropriate when a probability estimate is truly inscrutable. That is, we don’t know at all where it would be between 0 and 1, so it could be above .5 ot below it for all we know. But it’s not always the case that lacking specific probability estimates (such as a hypothesis having an exact probability of .7) is a problem. Use of intervals exist, for example, when exact numerical figures aren’t known but an interval is known.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve read lots of Lowder’s stuff–deliberately, since he is interested in philosophy, and I need to see more positive uses of philosophy. He makes an important contribution to the field. Read a bit more, perhaps.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Read a bit more, perhaps.-Bob

          I read his newest on Secular Outpost.
          It is something about an intensified version of formal logic. I was not impressed when Matt Dillahunty tried this as a way to get at the truth, either. – – – I am logical enough already.

          Which of Lowder’s do you like ?
          Do you have some links for me ?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, no links. I’m just suggesting that you not write him off after one lukewarm article.

        • Chuck Johnson

          As you posted this I was reading his August 7th article.
          This is better, but it’s only good at framing a question.

          Jeffery says:

          “I want to make a distinction between genuine inquiry, on the one hand, and partisan advocacy, on the other.”

          In answering that question, Jeffery gives advice that I find to be not valuable. The evidence that I find valuable is a lot different than Jeffery’s evidence.

          This article is (somewhat) about the credibility of theism.

        • Rudy R

          On the credibility of theism, a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and then. As my partisan Republican friends like to remind me, something can be true, even if Trump believes it.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Jeffery shares a quote from Larry Arnhart on August 6th.
          The quote is excellent.

          The pattern that I see emerging is that Jeffery is better at posing good questions than he is at suggesting methods of arriving at good answers.

          But that’s half the battle.

        • Chuck Johnson

          On August 6th, Jeffery presents: “Does science make theism likelier than atheism ?”

          I only red through that one to respond to your suggestion.
          To me, it is boring.

          The tools that Jeffery uses to discover the truth to me, are not especially useful or appropriate.

          But he ans I both arrive at the answer: “No.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Weighty philosophical arguments turn me off. If they’re an important pro-Christian argument, I’ll dig in with the hope that I can make it more accessible to my audience. But if they’re a pro-atheism argument, I hesitate, because I want my arguments to be easy to understand.

          A ponderous argument can be valid, but it’s not very useful (to me). It’s like the Jesus Myth theory–intriguing, but even if I could justify it (I haven’t done the required reading), it’s tangential for me.

          Let a thousand flowers bloom.

        • Ryan M

          Sometimes arguments aren’t accessible to everyone. Some philosophical arguments will end up being weighty because a great deal of knowledge is presupposed to understand them. It’s really no different than scientific arguments, such as ones for the case for human driven climate change.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          Thanks, Bob. :)

        • Ryan M

          What would the criticism be? Are you saying that a “valid” criticism of philosophers and philosophy is that philosophers make note of when people insult them and the profession of philosophy?

        • Chuck Johnson

          No.

        • Ryan M

          OK, so what are you saying is a valid criticism of both philosophy and of philosophers?

        • Chuck Johnson

          OK, so what are you saying is a valid criticism of both philosophy and of philosophers?-Ryan

          As I look into it, the definition of Philosopher becomes so vague that no criticism should be made. It sort of looks like everybody is a philosopher.

          But that leaves lots of people and their opinions to criticize, philosophers or not.

        • Ryan M

          As you look into it? Did you enter this discussion without actually having familiarity of what a philosopher is?

          As Loftus has said in the past, a philosopher is a person trained in philosophy (Per Loftus’ standards, a person is a philosopher if and only if a person has a PHD in philosophy). By Loftus’ standards, not everyone is a philosopher since not everyone has a PHD in philosophy. You might recall Loftus using this very reasoning to deduce the following:

          1. A person is a philosopher if and only if they have a PHD in philosophy.
          2. It is not the case that Jeff Lowder has a PHD in philosophy.
          3. Therefore, it is not the case that Jeff Lowder is a philosopher.

          While I’m not saying you should agree with Loftus, as a fan of his I imagine you might want to consider following the standard he lays out. Depending on who you talk to, any person with a bachelors in philosophy is a philosopher (some of my professors called us “philosophers”). I think one of these standards is appropriate to show that a philosopher is any person with competency in philosophy. Bachelor degrees might not be the cutoff unless a person can demonstrate additional knowledge, but I think it’s a good start.

        • Chuck Johnson

          The opinions are varied.
          A dictionary definition that I saw offered as a synonym: “Thinker”.

          So I have decided to not treat anyone as being a “Philosopher”.
          I will just treat them as being a “Person”.

          This is to avoid entering into any deep, philosophical discussions about the definition.

        • Ryan M

          The opinions might vary, but surely your use of the term here is less useful than the ones I offered. After all, when we call Daniel Dennett a “philosopher”, we are not merely trying to say he “thinks” or that he is a “person”, but rather are trying to communicate that there is something more unique about him. If we had to pinpoint it, we would say the unique thing is that he is a philosopher by trade, has a high level of competency in philosophy, and writes philosophical works.

          Perhaps you should ask Loftus why he uses the standard that he does rather than the standard you have apparently taken after a quick Google search.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Perhaps you should ask Loftus why he uses the standard that he does rather than the standard you have apparently taken after a quick Google search.-Don

          I have never seen Loftus complain (in general) about the use of the word “Philosophy”.

          He complains specifically about the presence of POR (the Philosophy Of Religion) as a university course.

          From Loftus’ description, I take POR to be more of a jargon term for this type of university course than a particular branch of philosophy.

          At any rate, Loftus strongly objects to POR being inserted into college curricula as a kind of “Trojan Horse”. Its title says that it is a philosophical examination or study. It turns out (to hear Loftus describe it) to be shameless Christian apologetics or indoctrination.

          I can see why this would infuriate him.

        • Steven Watson

          So only if your Doctor of Philosophy is in philosophy are you a philosopher? That sounds a bit ‘up your own arse’, but it comes from a Masters in Divinity, so I’m not surprised. Loftus hoists himself on his own logic.

        • Ryan M

          I don’t disagree. Loftus bit the bullet by saying Socrates wouldn’t be a philosopher due to lacking a PHD and lacking the knowledge even philosophy undergrad students have. My standards are different. I’d call anyone a philosopher who has a lot of knowledge of philosophy and applies that knowledge in their work, or teaches that knowledge in some form. I don’t consider “Philosopher” to be a formal title like “Medical Doctor” would be.

        • Chuck Johnson

          To answer your question very directly, yes, I respect the work of Daniel Dennett. I haven’t read all of his work, but I remember when I first read his book, “Consciousness Explained.” It was very obvious that he knows what he is talking about and has thought very deeply about the subject.-Jeffery

          Thank you for your very direct answer.
          Dennett’s work is enhanced by empiricism.

        • Ryan M

          Talking in generalities, in my experience, is the exact opposite of what philosophers do. Philosophers, the good ones anyway, are very careful with their use of quantifiers. If anything, people in general need to write more like philosophers, specifically analytic philosophers.

          Regardless of that, I don’t see how what you quoted from Jeff was a generalization anyway.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Regardless of that, I don’t see how what you quoted from Jeff was a generalization anyway.-Ryan

          I do.

        • Ryan M

          OK, so how is it a generalization? Do you know what a generalization is?

          I’m now sure why you responded with “I do.”. I know you do since you are the one who asserted the statement.

        • Chuck Johnson

          You have picked up the torch from Jeffery, and now you are presenting me with generalized questions. This kind of thing bores me.

        • Ryan M

          Generalized questions? I don’t understand your use of the term “generalized”. From how I use it, a generalization is making a claim about a group from properties about a proper subset of the group (Such as all tigers being from India from the fact that some tigers are from India), or simply making a claim about a group (Such as all Muslims being terrorists). If this is how you’re using the term, then I don’t understand what you’re saying.

        • Chuck Johnson

          The type of “generalization” that I am referring to is arguments with insufficient referents. Without enough empiricism.

          Arguments about arguments. Comments about commentary. Writings about writings. etc.

          At any rate, as I have said, I enjoy philosophies that include plenty of valid empirical information. Daniel Dennett is an example.

        • Ryan M

          OK, so you’re saying there that a weakness of philosophers is focusing less on empirical evidence for the truth of premises, propositions, or whatever, and focusing more on arguing about logical forms of arguments, comments about commentary, and writings about writings.

          In my experience, as someone with a degree in philosophy, I cannot say I have experienced your issues. Having read hundreds of philosophical papers, I can’t say I have seen philosophers spend less time on assessing the soundness of arguments than they ought to. Maybe this is something you happen to see from Christian apologists on blogs such as Debunking Christianity, but I don’t see it among actual academics. e.g. Not David Wood, or David Marshall, or whatever those two guy’s names are (I’ve never read anything by these guys and don’t plan to start soon).

          Arguments about logical forms will often occur, but this is because the logical form of an argument partly determines whether the argument is sound. Think of an argument like a formula. To determine whether a derivation of a formula is a good one, we need to know what numbers we put into the formula AND we need to know the literal form of the formula. Sometimes a philosopher might focus too much on the form of an argument when it’s already settled, or less interesting than the empirical premises, but I doubt this happens often.

        • Chuck Johnson

          I am now persuaded that philosophy can mean just about anything, and that everyone is a philosopher.

        • Ryan M

          “Philosophy” can’t mean “just about anything”, nor is it the case that everyone is a philosopher except in a very loose sense where a philosopher is just anyone capable of thinking about philosophical problems.

      • Jeff Bingham

        Yes, that’s a common approach I hear. “Your philosophical arguments are wrong because … it’s not your field of study … you don’t know enough … it’s beyond your expertise.” A very common dodge from actually dealing with the arguments themselves.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          That’s not what I was saying. An argument is either successful or not; the qualifications (or lack of) of the person making the argument aren’t relevant to whether the argument succeeds.

        • Jeff Bingham

          Well, who could argue with that?

          I was referring to your …

          “philosophical claims from such scientists which go way beyond their scientific expertise”

          … dig, which implies that scientists don’t have the expertise to make philosophical claims.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          You’re making this more difficult than it needs to be. Anyone can make philosophical claims, just as anyone can make scientific claims. The more training one has in philosophy (or science), the more likely they are to avoid mistakes. If they make an inaccurate claim, the person’s lack of expertise isn’t what makes the claim false. The fact that the claim doesn’t correspond with reality is what makes the claim false.

        • Jeff Bingham

          No, YOU’RE making this more difficult than it needs to be.

          Anyone can speak in vague, sensible-sounding generalities. But in your first comment, you clearly have specific “atheistic scientists” in mind, and I remain wary of such criticisms aimed “without naming names”, much less naming the “philosophical claims” that you consider “cringeworthy”.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          I’m not asking anyone to agree with me that atheistic scientists have made cringeworthy philosophical claims merely on the basis of my opinion. I realize this is a public forum, but the comment of mine you quoted was really directed only to the person I was replying to, since I suspected he might agree with me.

        • Jeff Bingham

          I understand, but, as this is a public forum, disagreements with vague reports of “numerous atheistic scientists making cringe-worthy philosophical claims” are quite valid, and certainly not a case of making this “more difficult than it needs to be”.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          That isn’t what I was referring to.

        • Jeff Bingham

          What isn’t what you were referring to? What do you think I’m making more difficult than it needs to be?

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          “What isn’t what you were referring to? What do you think I’m making more difficult than it needs to be?”

          I don’t know if it even matters any longer, since we seem to be in agreement but I’ll answer just to be safe.

          I wasn’t referring to “numerous atheistic scientists making cringe-worthy philosophical claims.” I was referring to what makes an argument succeed or fail. I think you you’re making the topic, “what makes an argument successful” more difficult than it needs to be. Or, at least, that’s what I thought (past tense). In hindsight, I now think we were talking past one another.

        • Jeff Bingham

          Yes, I understood that simplistic point you were making. But the point is not well made by vaguely referencing “numerous atheistic scientists making cringe-worthy philosophical claims”.

        • Ryan M

          That isn’t what Jeff’s claim implies. You interpreted him as saying this:

          Inaccurate interpretation – [Every philosophical claim is outside of the expertise of any scientist]

          The interpreted claim is not what Jeff was saying. He is more accurately saying this:

          Accurate interpretation – [There are some philosophical claims which are outside of the expertise of some scientists]

          Lawrence Krauss, probably, has never studied epistemic logic, so making claims about epistemic logic would probably be making claims outside his expertise. Or, Lawrence Krauss, probably, has never studied bioethics, so making claims about bioethics would probably be making claims outside his expertise.

          Scientists quite obviously have the expertise to make SOME philosophical claims. But Jeff’s point is that it isn’t true that all scientists have expertise with respect to every philosophical claim they can assert. Dawkins, for example, has made claims about modal logic that are beyond his expertise as a biologist.

        • Jeff Bingham

          Oh, he’s saying more than that. He’s claiming to know of “numerous atheistic scientists” making “cringe-worthy philosophical claims”.

          Strange, that he doesn’t know of any non-atheistic scientists in this category. I remain skeptical.

        • Ryan M

          Right, he is saying more than that, but the point is that you misinterpreted what he was claiming about scientists and their ability to make philosophical claims. If you want to put it all together, Jeff is saying this:

          Complete claim – [There are some atheist scientists such that there are some philosophical claims that they have asserted that are outside their expertise]

          The complete claim is quite different from your claim about Jeff asserting that all philosophical claims are outside the expertise of any scientist whatsoever.

          I should point out that Jeff not saying he knows of non-atheistic scientists making philosophical claims outside their expertise does not imply Jeff does not know of any such cases. If you looked into the context of Jeff’s post, Jeff was saying that just as there are Christian philosophers who make scientific claims outside their expertise, there are also atheistic scientists doing the opposite with respect to philosophical claims outside their expertise. He was only showing how the issue with Christian philosophers actually works both ways. Or more accurately, he was asserting that it works both ways. From personal experience, Jeff certainly believes that there exists Christian scientists making philosophical claims outside their expertise (Francis Collins as an example, and many others).

          As a general rule, a failure to make an utterance is not necessarily an admission of the negation of that utterance. This is a common rule in Western law, and I think it applies here. Context needs to be assessed to determine what a failure to make an utterance makes probable. For example, a person failing to utter that they are not guilty is not necessarily an admission that they are guilty, and the failure to utter such a phrase can be ambiguous evidence since such a failure might be equally respected whether the person be guilty or not (a person following a right to silence to avoid unjust incrimination would surely not utter that they are not guilty).

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          Ryan is correct. Francis Collins is, in fact, my first example of a Christian scientist who makes philosophical arguments way outside of his area of expertise.

          To avoid any misunderstandings, I think all of the following are true.
          1. One does not need to be a scientist to make scientific claims.
          2. One does not need to be a philosopher to make philosophical claims.
          3. Having scientific training makes it more likely that a person will avoid making inaccurate scientific claims.
          4. Having philosophical training makes it more likely that a person will avoid making deductively invalid or inductively incorrect arguments.
          5. There are (both Christian and atheist) scientists who lack philosophical training and who make cringeworthy philosophical arguments.
          6. There are (both Christian and atheist) philosophers who lack scientific training and who make cringeworthy scientific claims.
          7. There are (both Christian and atheist) non-philosophers who make deductively valid or inductively correct arguments.
          8. There are (both Christian and atheist) non-scientists who make accurate scientific claims.

        • Joe

          Lawrence Krauss, probably, has never studied epistemic logic, so making claims about epistemic logic would probably be making claims outside his expertise. Or, Lawrence Krauss, probably, has never studied bioethics, so making claims about bioethics would probably be making claims outside his expertise.

          Lawrence Krauss is a good example of where philosophy, and metaphysics, can fall afoul of scientific observation. Apologists want to argue for a philosophical nothing from which our universe sprung forth, but scientists can’t seem to find such a thing. Not for lack of trying, either.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          “Apologists want to argue for a philosophical nothing from which our universe sprung forth …”

          Huh? Genuine question: what are you referring to?

        • Joe

          Lawrence Krauss’s book is titled ‘A universe from nothing’.

          A lot of criticism from apologists is that Dr Krauss doesn’t actually propose we started with ‘nothing’. Even the strongest vacuum would be teeming with virtual particles and fields.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          1. I don’t understand how pointing to the title of Krauss’ book is supposed to show that apologists “want to argue for a philosophical nothing from which our universe sprung forth.” Krauss isn’t an apologist, so the title and goal of his book would seem to be irrelevant to what apologists want to argue. (I’m assuming that when you use the word “apologists,” you mean “Christian apologists.”)

          2. Christian apologists deny that the universe came from nothing. They say it came from God who created it out of nothing. So it’s false that Christian apologists “want to argue for a philosophical nothing from which our universe sprung forth.”

          3. You seem to think that the only people who criticize Krauss’s book (for allegedly equivocating on the word “nothing”) are Christian apologists, but that’s incorrect. I’ve read atheists who make the same criticism of Krauss’s book. (I can’t remember their names, but I can probably dig them up if needed.) My point here isn’t even to take a side on this, but just to point that it’s not as simple as you make it appear, that is, that the debate boils down to the good Dr. Krauss vs. the evil Christian apologists.

        • Joe

          I don’t understand how pointing to the title of Krauss’ book is supposed to show that apologists “want to argue for a philosophical nothing from which our universe sprung forth.”

          http://www.reasonablefaith.org/a-universe-from-nothing

          from the transcript:

          Kevin Harris: Let’s go to this next segment from Lawrence Krauss:

          Lawrence Krauss: I’m amused that people keep redefining their definition of nothing whenever I point out that nothing can create something. But they always want to sort of define nothing as that which something can never come from, and that’s sort of ridiculous, semantically. I think if you asked philosophers years ago ‘what is nothing?’, they’d say empty space and nothingness. But then when you show that that can create something they say, ‘well, that’s not really nothing, because space exists;’ and then I could show, well, maybe the laws of physics that we now understand tells us that even space itself can be created from nothing. And they say, ‘well, that’s not nothing because the laws, the potential for existence, is there. And then I could argue based on multiverse ideas that maybe even the laws of physics arise spontaneously. And moreover I think it’s kind of silly to say that potential for existence is different than nothing, that that’s the same as existence. If there’s no potential for existence then not even a creator can create, I assume. And moreover, as I argued in the book a little graphically, I think the potential for existence is very different than existence. I mean, as I point out, the fact that I walk near a women implies the potential for creating life, but that’s very different from creating it.

          Kevin Harris: There’s an attempt, it seems, to define nothing, that we no longer hold nothing to be what nothing used to be.

          Dr. Craig: Well, this is an incredible segment that you just played, Kevin, because here he accuses others of constantly redefining the word nothing, when that’s the project in which he is engaged.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          I am very familiar with that exchange. How is that relevant to my question?

        • Joe

          I felt it supported my point. Descriptions (of nothing) aren’t prescriptive.

          If we are able to measure back to before Planck Time, and we find something rather than the metaphysical nothing, we should accept the findings (assuming they were obtained using the scientific method, and validated). Anything else is like as ostrich burying it’s head in the sand.

          He’s (Krauss) isn’t redefining nothing, he’s accepting the conclusions of his own work.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          I don’t see how it supports your point. In fact, I think you may have gotten things backwards.

          Let’s assume that Krauss is right that our universe came from a quantum vacuum. In the transcript of Craig’s podcast you quoted, Craig accuses Krauss of redefining the word “nothing” in the title of his book, which is literally “A Universe from Nothing.” My point is this. Regardless of which side you take on the “who is redefining the word ‘nothing’ debate?”, the title of Krauss’s book makes it clear that it is Krauss, not Craig, who wants to argue the universe came from nothing and by nothing. And in the quotation of Krauss, he says/claims that his definition of “nothing” is compatible with how philosophers (allegedly) defined it in the past.

        • Joe

          Well, I don’t think Krauss wants to argue that anyway, even in his book. So it really is a case of Craig latching onto a straw man argument.

        • Susan

          in the quotation of Krauss, he says/claims that his definition of “nothing” is compatible with how philosophers (allegedly) defined it in the past.

          How did they define it in the past? And on what basis?

          the title of Krauss’s book makes it clear that it is Krauss , not Craig, who wants to argue the universe came from nothing and by nothing.

          He certainly provides relevant models of what we generally consider nothing and shows how a universe can come from many concepts of nothing.

          Why is the concept of “metaphysical nothing” relevant?

          What can be said about it and why assume it’s any sort of referent for reality?

          (I’m glad you’re here. My questions are sincere.)

        • Joe

          2. Christian apologists deny that the universe came from nothing. They say it came from God who created it out of nothing. So it’s false that Christian apologists “want to argue for a philosophical nothing from which our universe sprung forth.”

          I’m aware of that. I see it as just semantics. So nothing + God = Something? What did god use to create the universe?

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          I’m not sure I would call that “just semantics,” as you do, but it really doesn’t matter one way or the other. Since they *deny* that the universe came from nothing, it’s false that they “want to argue for a philosophical nothing from which our universe sprung forth.”

        • Joe

          t’s false that they “want to argue for a philosophical nothing from which our universe sprung forth.”

          You may have got me wrong, or I made a typo. That’s often the argument I encounter against a naturalistic beginning to the universe.

        • Ryan M

          Christians believe God created the universe without a material cause, so God created matter and then created the universe, or God created the universe and matter simultaneously.

          There is a confusion, as I have pointed out to you before, in “x came about from nothing”.

          Sense 1 – x came into existence and x lacks an efficient cause.
          Sense 2 – x came into existence and x lacks a material cause.

          Christians think sense 2 is true of the universe but not sense 1. You can call it a semantic issue, but it’s still the case that the two senses mean two different things.

        • Joe

          Well, some Christians don’t think as deeply as that, in that they think God majiked the universe into existence.

          Do we know of anything that lacks a material cause?

        • Ryan M

          Joe, you realize I am an atheist AND a physicalist, right? I don’t think there exists anything that is an effect of something but lacks a material cause. I actively advocate Ex-Apologist’s material causality argument against theism that depends on all our experiences confirming that everything with a cause has a material cause.

          http://exapologist.blogspot.ca/2014/12/theism-and-material-causality.html

        • Joe

          Joe, you realize I am an atheist AND a physicalist, right?

          Yes, I’m attacking the theistic beliefs that you’re proposing. I don’t see how they falsify my claim, particularly when there are any number of crazy theologies out there with varying levels of philosophical thought.

          Picking the most correct example only highlights the exception that proves the rule.

          EDIT: I’d go as far as to say most Christians don’t even know what the terms material and efficient causes even mean. I know I had to look them up when I first encountered them.

        • Ryan M

          I’m not “proposing” them, though I am sort of reiterating what some theists believe. If you were to ask a theist for an example of anything that lacks a material cause, they will either draw a blank, or they would claim the universe lacks a material cause. But in the case of the universe, first they are asserting something they cannot support (Despite what Craig thinks), and second they would be begging the question since the universe lacking a material cause is part of the conclusion they wish to prove.

          My position: we only have experiences of effects with material causes, so our experience goes against theism (since theism depends on it being the case that something came into existence without a material cause).

        • Ryan M

          Most Christians don’t have a clue what those terms mean, but the spirit of the terms is still in the mind of the average believer. Rather than say God created the universe with previously existing matter, the average theist would probably say God brought the universe into existence through something like magic. All the theist philosopher does, IMO, is reiterate common theist beliefs in less ambiguous, more meaningful ways. But obviously not all lay Christians think this way since many like to say God created the universe his his “energy”, whatever that is (Not, apparently, what physicists study).

        • Joe

          3. You seem to think that the only people who criticize Krauss’s book (for allegedly equivocating on the word “nothing”) are Christian apologists, but that’s incorrect. I’ve read atheists who make the same criticism of Krauss’s book.

          I’ve seen numerous criticisms, though the only ones of note are based on criticisms of his theory, or propose a different mathematical model.

        • Ryan M

          Scientists could never in principle find “philosophical nothing”. If it existed, it would be immune to confirmation. “Philosophical nothing” refers to there literally existing no concrete objects, no properties, no relations, no laws. There would be nothing to test if philosophical nothing existed since there would exist no universe at all. It literally wouldn’t make sense to search for “philosophical nothing” since by definition it does not exist in virtue of us existing and by definition it would have no properties that could confirm its existence.

        • Joe

          So, ‘nothing’ has a definiton? Therefore it has a property, therfore is something?

          Scientists could never in principle find “philosophical nothing”

          I agree, so why are people so determined to say it was actually the case that the universe came from nothing?

        • Ryan M

          No, “Nothing”, as in the syntactical representation of a concept, has properties. But “nothing” as in the concept itself, if it were to be actual then it would have no properties. Nothing is the concept of there existing nothing at all; no properties, no relations, no concrete objects, no abstract objects, no space, no time. Imagine “nothing” like the empty set. We can represent worlds with “somethings” in them as sets with cardinalities greater than 0, and any world with no “somethings” in them as having a cardinality of 0, so being the empty set.

          I don’t know of any person who is determined to say it was actually the case that the universe came from nothing other than some theists ON THE ASSUMPTION that atheism is true. That is, they try to argue something like this:

          1. If atheism is true, and the universe exists, then the universe came from nothing.
          2. The universe exists.
          3. It is impossible that the universe came from nothing.
          4. If it is impossible that the universe came from nothing, then it is not the case that the universe came from nothing.
          5. Therefore, it is not the case that the universe came from nothing.
          6. Therefore, it is not the case that atheism is true.

          William Lane Craig has clearly advocated something like this by trying to say that atheism implies the universe would come from nothing, and coming from nothing is “literally worse than magic”, so atheism is irrational to believe. But other than arguments like this, I have never seen anyone actually argue that it was actually the case that nothing existed.

        • Joe

          The thing is, how does a philosophical argument ‘succeed’?

          What’s the measure of success?

          The new Patheos format limits my visits to your blog (which I used to enjoy visiting), but I assume Joe Hinman and Luke Bruer are still regular commentors?

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          A deductive argument succeeds when its premises are true and the conclusion follows from the premises. An inductive argument succeeds when the premises make the conclusion highly probable.

          I’m not sure what to say about the new blog format. It’s the same format that Bob S. has on his blog, isn’t it?

          Yes, Joe and Luke are still commentators.

        • Joe

          I’m not sure what to say about the new blog format. It’s the same format that Bob S. has on his blog, isn’t it?

          Yes, Joe and Luke are still commentators.

          I follow disqus notifications to get here.

          Do Joe and Luke accept your conclusions, for the most part?

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          Is that rhetorical question? :)

        • Joe

          Not now it has an answer.

        • Ryan M

          Joe and Luke almost certainly do not accept many of Jeff’s conclusions. In fact, Joe does not even accept the sort of philosophy that Jeff engages in. Joe is more interested in the history of ideas than he is in analytic philosophy, and he often criticizes the Secular Outpost for engaging in the “illusion of technique” by making use formal logic and probability theory.

        • Ryan M

          They are semi regular, but their comments are moderated. In the case of Joe, he loses some comments due to being uncivil to atheists and frankly off topic. In the case of Luke, he loses comments due to being off topic and apparently just trying to show how many links he can post.

          I think a philosophical argument succeeds in the same way any other argument succeeds. That is, the argument is valid and either has premises which are known to be true or are known to be probable.

          Peter van Inwagen years back tried to come up with a standard by which an argument is a good one v not. I think part of his criteria is that an unbiased agnostic should be persuaded by a good argument whereas a bad argument should leave their belief unchanged. I’d need to look his view up to be sure.

        • Joe

          In the case of Joe, he loses some comments due to being uncivil to atheists and frankly off topic. In the case of Luke, he loses comments due to being off topic and apparently just trying to show how many links he can post.

          Do they lose the argument in their own minds?

          I see what you’re saying, but a successful argument is only based on somebody else accepting it’s premises and conclusion. It’s fine to point to a metaphysical ‘correctness’, but like god-grounded ‘objective morality’ or Platonic forms, it has no practical use outside the heads that will let the ideas in.

      • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

        I’m not sure what scientists you’re impugning, but cringeworthy scientific claims made by philosophers seem more obvious to me. Science, natural philosophy, has grown exponentially in both insight and body of knowledge. Philosophers who haven’t kept up embarrass themselves.

        William Lane Craig is a case in point, as when he repeatedly tried to tell physicist Sean Carroll that Boltzmann Brains invalidate Multiverses (they don’t, they only invalidate some multiverse models as Carroll patiently explained); or when Craig made the idiotic biological claim that the pre-frontal cortex “is missing in all animals except for the humanoid primates.” (All mammals have pre-frontal cortexes; and the most advanced pre-frontal cortexes are not limited to primates, despite his later back-pedaling position).

        Philosophers who, for example, claim expertise in the cosmological argument, are usually woefully out of their depth when it comes to actual current cosmology.

    • Chuck Johnson

      How about when non-philosophers disgorge a load of condescending bullshit about philosophy?-Dave

      This criticism by non-philosophers is necessary.
      Philosophers themselves are not likely to point out the waste-of-time aspects of philosophy.

      Consider the possibility that it takes an outsider to recognize the weaknesses of philosophy.
      Consider the possibility that it takes an outsider to recognize the weaknesses of religions, Scientology, pseudoscience, etc.

      To make your argument credible, you need to point to some philosophy which would show us the value of the philosophy that you are trying to promote. In other words, you are not being empirical enough. – – – Show us.

      • Dave Maier

        Philosophers themselves are not likely to point out the waste-of-time aspects of philosophy.

        Seriously? Very often my criticism of other philosophers comes down to “that’s a waste of time.”

        Also, I’m not promoting any philosophy here. I’m simply agreeing that people (philosophers, scientists, whoever) should try to recognize when they are simply too unfamiliar with a subject to say anything helpful about it. If you think that reading philosophy is a waste of time for you, then maybe you’re right. No harm, no foul, as they say.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Seriously? Very often my criticism of other philosophers comes down to “that’s a waste of time.”-Dave

          Good. That’s my attitude, too.
          There is waste-of-time philosophizing, and there is productive philosophizing. It’s up to us to be analytical and critical.

          See my other comments.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          I agree with you, Dave. I’ve never found much value in the study of aesthetics, but to each his own.

      • Ryan M

        I agree that criticism of philosophy from non-philosophers is important, though I’d add that such criticism must be informed of the philosophy it criticizes. When Sean Carroll, a scientist, criticizes aspects of natural theology, he does so with arguments that are well informed of the discipline he is critiquing.

        • Chuck Johnson

          I agree that criticism of philosophy from non-philosophers . . . -Ryan

          The more I look into it, the more it looks like everyone is a philosopher. That’s the trouble. Philosophy is so non-specific it can mean just about anything.

        • Ryan M

          I don’t think philosophy is so “non specific”. Philosophy of ethics, meta-ethics, philosophy of logic, epistemology, and many other branches of philosophy are rather well defined.

        • Chuck Johnson

          . . . and many other branches of philosophy are rather well defined.-Ryan

          Yes, there are many branches of philosophy.
          So many, that I call it non-specific.

          A dictionary synonym for philosopher is “thinker”.

        • Ryan M

          So you’re saying that philosophy as a discipline is non specific similarly to how science as a discipline is non specific (i.e. a biologist is not a physicist, but both are scientists). I’d agree with this, and so would philosophers. Usually on a philosopher’s CV they will list areas of competency and areas of specialty. A philosopher’s area of specialty typically denotes the sort of philosopher they are. For example, a philosopher specializing in epistemology is an epistemologist whereas a philosopher specializing in ethics is an ethicist.

          One problem with your critique is inferring that since philosophy is non specific it can thus mean just about anything. If this is criticism works, then it also works for science. But it doesn’t work for science, so it doesn’t work for philosophy. Science, just like philosophy, is non specific. Science is largely the study of biology, chemistry, physics, and other subjects just as philosophy is the study of metaphysics, ethics, logic and epistemology. They’re really in the same boat as far as non specificity goes.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Science, just like philosophy, is non specific. -Ryan

          Yes.
          My description of science is even more generalized that yours.

          Science is the search for truth using the tools of curiosity, competence and truthfulness.

          Also, scientists search for truth and then share that discovered truth with their fellow humans, partly out of curiosity, and partly in order to provide benefits for themselves and for their fellow humans.

    • Michael Neville

      It’s philosophers like WLC and Alvin Plantinga, as well as the post-modernists like Richard Rorty, Jacques Derrida and Martin Heidegger, who give philosophy a bad name. Even other philosophers are unimpressed by some of these characters. Roger Scruton wrote, “Rorty was paramount among those thinkers who advance their own opinion as immune to criticism, by pretending that it is not truth but consensus that counts, while defining the consensus in terms of people like themselves.” 18 analytical philosophers tried to keep Cambridge from giving Derrida an honourary doctorate, claiming his work was composed of “tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists.” I won’t discuss Heidegger’s nazism but instead I’ll quote Bertrand Russell on Heidegger:

      Highly eccentric in its terminology, his philosophy is extremely obscure. One cannot help suspecting that language is here running riot. An interesting point in his speculations is the insistence that nothingness is something positive. As with much else in Existentialism, this is a psychological observation made to pass for logic.

      • Dave Maier

        I agree about WLC and (some) Plantinga, but you could not possibly be more wrong about Rorty (I’m not really into Derrida or Heidegger, but they’re certainly not charlatans either). Of course some philosophers are unimpressed by some other philosophers. What, you think we all agree about everything, or even anything? I could give you a list of name-brand philosophers I’m unimpressed by which would be as long as your arm. Your quotes say nothing except that the writer has failed to understand (so, a wash then).

        The Scruton quote in particular is noxious balderdash. I actually like Scruton, which is weird because he’s a total Tory and I agree with almost nothing he says, but he’s very clear and says interesting things. Here what he says is remarkably uncharitable and utterly unhelpful. As it happens he is gesturing from a distance, in his dismissive (and, again, completely unhelpful) way, at what I too regard as an error Rorty actually does make. My own views owe a lot to Rorty, although as they developed I did find more and more places where I disagree (and indeed, some of those places are where he carelessly says something that sounds like relativism). But to say something good here you have to see exactly where it is that he goes off the rails, and what we should do instead at that juncture. And Scruton has no clue.

        Don’t get me started on Russell. Wittgenstein, another big influence on me, was Russell’s student, and Russell understood absolutely freaking nothing about what Wittgenstein was doing, especially later on. (Heidegger would certainly have been the proverbial closed book – not, again, that that means that book is in fact worth reading!) I liked Russell a lot when I was a math-and-logic-obsessed teen. But the more I learned about philosophy, the less I liked Russell. He made some formal innovations early on, but whenever push comes to shove he’s ridiculously unsystematic (Principia Mathematica notwithstanding). Every time Russell starts talking about the philosophy of language, you have to go read Frege to see what the heck Russell is even saying. It’s maddening. I know some atheists hold him up as a hero, but if so, it shouldn’t be for his actual philosophical writing (maybe his cultural activism).

        Sorry, didn’t mean to go off on you! But I hate to see Rorty, a great philosopher, slagged for no reason. He deserves to have his errors discussed correctly.

        • TheNuszAbides

          My own views owe a lot to Rorty, although as they developed I did find
          more and more places where I disagree (and indeed, some of those places
          are where he carelessly says something that sounds like relativism)

          my first exposure to Rorty was in Paul Boghossian’s Fear of Knowledge, which quotes gave my relatively untrained eye the impression of Rorty as an avatar of relativism.

        • Dave Maier

          I have that book. I go back and forth between a) thinking that it is a shameful indictment of philosophy’s present lamentable state that such a load of bollocks was ever published, and b) more charitably, that the book is an instructive and indeed valuable look at how things seem from the point of view of someone who has apparently drunk deeply of the Cartesian kool-aid (i.e. the same value one gets from the work of Stroud, Nagel, Fodor, Searle, etc.). But then I say to myself, of course realists think everything else is relativism; I knew that already — which takes me back to (a).

        • TheNuszAbides

          i actually picked it up while i was looking for anything by Peter Boghossian several years ago; I missed the similarity to Nagel but I’ve read very little by him anyway, even less by Fodor and nothing by Stroud or Searle. I suspect I’ll stick with more of my favorites – Popper, Dennett, Russell, Rawls – and occasionally scrape at the old-timers for an attempt at historical perspective at least – Nietzsche, Kant, Hume, Spinoza. i keep meaning to knuckle down and dig into the neoplatonists too, only i am too readily peevish about Plato in the first place.

          incidentally, I hadn’t put Hegel on my list despite a passing interest in Marx, but then I found out how scathing Popper was of his attitude/priors. But then, Popper and Wittgenstein seem to have had a falling out and I don’t think I have a beef with Wittgenstein (to the tiny extent that I’ve grasped some of his work). Is there anything from Hegel you admire or recommend?

        • Dave Maier

          Hegel is really difficult. I would start, and maybe end, with the secondary literature (e.g. Frederick Beiser’s book just called Hegel). If that goes okay, and your interest is in Hegel’s political philosophy, I understand the book to read is the Philosophy of Right.

        • TheNuszAbides

          if it is half as sycophantic as Popper suggests, I expect my interest to stay with the secondary literature …

          Karl Barth described Hegel as a “Protestant Aquinas”, while Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote that “all the great philosophical ideas of the past century—the philosophies of Marx and Nietzsche, phenomenology, German existentialism, and psychoanalysis—had their beginnings in Hegel.”

          when i see the former i think “uhh, no thanks”; when i see the latter i think i’d be curious how such ‘forerunning’ is illustrated [assuming that Hegel himself doesn’t straight-up predict psychoanalysis or something] – i’ve only read late Nietzsche so far and don’t know how much more he explicitly references/credits Hegel, and I was already led to understand that Marx relied/built heavily on Hegel’s philosophy of history.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I’m usually up for dialectical nitty-gritty, even if it rarely sticks in my long-term memory.

        • epeeist

          even if it rarely sticks in my long-term memory

          It doesn’t seem to stick in a lot of people’s memory for very long. Wander through books on modern epistemology, logic or philosophy of science to see how little Hegel is mentioned.

        • TheNuszAbides

          when reading The Open Society and Its Enemies, when Hegel was brought up, the only other reference that came to mind was “David Hume could out-consume Schopenhauer & Hegel”.

        • Greg G.

          That would be “David Hume could out-consume.Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel”.

          If I could only forget the old Monty Python skits, I would be able to remember some of my passwords.

        • TheNuszAbides

          compromise – use key phrases converted to 1337-speak as passwords.

        • Greg G.

          I’ve been using 1337 phrases converted to modern English so I could remember them better. What a silly bunt.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “Bolour with a K?”

        • Greg G.

          Remember to “dog kennel” to Mr. Seidensticker.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker
  • Chuck Johnson

    What does it say about Christian apologetics that such arguments are necessary? -Bob

    It says more than one thing.
    Christian arguments have ancient foundations. Many ancient ideas are false.

    Christian doctrine has had a reputation for centuries as being the correct way to understand our universe and to understand human morality. That reputation, being traditional and honored, must be upheld. A common result is the use of dishonest, specious arguments. Christianity is so wonderful that dishonesty is justified in upholding it.

    Another tradition in Christianity is the extreme importance of authority.

    Christian leaders learn in seminary how to deceive and mislead. They learn the use of tricky language and sophistic arguments. The faithful tend to believe this stuff because faith (gullibility) is seen to be a virtue.

    As the effectiveness of Christianity in providing good moral teachings continues to fade, the illogical and dishonest qualities of Christian apologetics becomes more obvious.

    • RichardSRussell

      Christianity is so wonderful that dishonesty is justified in upholding it.

      True believers have engaged in child rape, torture, mayhem, murder, and genocide, all for the greater glory of the Biblical God. What on Earth makes anyone think their consciences would bother them so much that they’d draw the line at mere lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and forgery?

      • Chuck Johnson

        True believers have engaged in child rape, torture, mayhem, murder, and
        genocide, all for the greater glory of the Biblical God. What on Earth
        makes anyone think their consciences would bother them so much that
        they’d draw the line at mere lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and
        forgery?-Richard

        Deceit is a special case of religion-inspired evil.
        Deceit (along with ignorance) can magically turn all of those evils that you mention into virtues.

        George Orwell understood this.

  • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

    It might come as a surprise to some, but in the field of “risk management,” which is arguably a sub-discipline of (or intersects with) applied mathematics, there is considerable controversy not unlike many of the controversies in philosophy. (As an aside, I think this is in part because risk management lies at the intersection of mathematics and philosophy, but that’s a topic for another day). I’m mentioning this because your objections to philosophy remind me of some of the objections to risk management. I’ve seen people argue that risk management (and/or statistics) is bogus because there have been people who’ve abused statistics in order to reach a “desired” conclusion. The response to that objection is that we shouldn’t reject the entire discipline of risk management just because there are people who’ve done it incorrectly.

    Similarly, with regard to philosophy, it seems to me you are making a huge mistake by suggesting that the entire discipline of philosophy should be somehow be rejected (or however you phrased it) just because a subset of philosophers, Christian philosophers, (allegedly) abuse philosophy. If someone is abusing or misusing discipline, whether it is philosophy, risk management, or something else, the proper response is to expose the abuses/misuses of that discipline, not to reject the entire discipline.

    • Chuck Johnson

      If someone is abusing or misusing discipline, whether it is philosophy,
      risk management, or something else, the proper response is to expose the
      abuses/misuses of that discipline, not to reject the entire discipline.-Jeffery

      Go ahead. – – – Show us some philosophy that is interesting and useful.

      • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

        Most people, whether they are aware of it or not, use inductive logic on a daily basis. The study of inductive logic has immediate and practical value in everyday reasoning. To avoid any misunderstandings (and not to imply that you, Chuck, don’t already understand it), here’s a short summary of what I mean:

        LINK

        • Chuck Johnson

          . . . here’s a short summary of what I mean:-Jeffery

          That stuff is interesting and useful.
          It’s math and logic to me.
          I didn’t know that it would fall under the definition of “philosophy”.

        • Michael Neville

          Aristotelian logic comes under the purview of philosophy.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Good. Here we have a region of philosophy that is on solid ground.

        • Rudy R

          Inductive reasoning has it’s roots in the Middle Ages, so you are proving the point of the article.

        • epeeist

          Aristotle writes about inductive reasoning, so a little older than the middle ages.

        • Ryan M

          The most elementary inductive logic is quite old indeed, as is what logicians would formally call “Logic”. But the fact that such subjects are old is not to say that philosophy has thus not provided anything useful with these subjects in hundreds of years (or thousands). The inductive logic of Aristotle is not the inductive logic of today, nor is the deductive logic of Aristotle the deductive logic of today. Most students in philosophy probably would neither study Aristotelian inductive or deductive logic on anything more than a quick overview since it has been replaced in practice by advancements in logic made in the 19th century onwards. If people want to see updates in logic, then they might want to read up on the history of symbolic logics and the various existing fields of logics (modal logics, free-logics, relevance logics, etc).

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          @robrudolph:disqus and @disqus_HOKynBthUD:disqus

          My link was to modern inductive argument forms, so I’m not sure how that supports the OP.

    • Jeff Bingham

      There’s no doubt that long standing philosophical principles such as those involving logic are not only valuable, but already an established part of broader fields of study, such as what used to be called “natural philosophy” – the sciences.

      In fact, science IS philosophy in the original meaning of the word, along with many other fields of study. The question of the post is really about whether there are any new innovations of value coming from the more limited scope of contemporary departments of philosophy. To answer my own question, I would say that there are, particularly in the area of ethics. However, what appears in the guise of philosophy of religion these days is far more often than not, merely Christian apologetics poorly disguised.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      My complaint is the elevation of philosophy as a powerful truth-finding tool in the hands of Christian apologists, and lampooning the deepities of Wm. Lane Craig et al was the point of the prior post.

      If I’m forgetting value that philosophy provides today, I’m all ears. That’s not the domain I hang out in, and I could easily have missed something. Or, if the definition of philosophy needs to be broadened (compared to where I’ve left it) to bring in important things that are justifiably called “philosophy,” that’s also fine.

      • Ryan M

        If William Lane Craig and others manage to mask bad arguments with fancy philosophical tools, then answer is not to dismiss philosophy. Rather, you need people to outdo William Lane Craig at making philosophical arguments. Much of Craig’s power comes simply from the fact that he has a grasp of how to structure arguments whereas most people haven’t the slightest clue as to how to formally present an argument. Craig would not seem very impressive if it was the case that people in general were trained in some basic logic and probability.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Right. I don’t dismiss philosophy.

          I’m missing what WLC has that’s impressive. Yes, I dislike the horse he’s riding, but that’s not the issue–I don’t see anything in his style or thinking or arguments that’s particularly impressive or interesting or outstanding.

          Sure, he can make a clear argument. Lots of people can. If you’re simply saying that Craig can make a good argument that a layperson might find impressive, I agree.

        • Ryan M

          I won’t defend Craig. I think Craig is more knowledgeable about cosmology than the average lay person, and obviously knows more about how to construct arguments than the average person, but I don’t think anything he says is either outstanding or interesting. Craig very clearly, to those familiar with his work, show signs of being an autodidact in everything science related that he discusses. This is perhaps because of motivated reasoning rather than genuine interest since largely a person can become well knowledgeable in any subject just by extensively reading textbooks.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Sounds right to me.

      • Steven Watson

        Religion is bollocks; is it surprising then that Philosophy of Religion or philosophy in the service of religion is also bollocks? Anyhoo, I won’t reinvent the wheel but just point you at Richard Carrier’s ‘Is Philosophy Stupid?’ material. At the moment you appear to be writing from ignorance.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Could be. If you could point to specifics, that would be helpful.

        • Steven Watson

          Nope. You get to back-fill your own hole, I’m afraid. ‘Because… Not a Lot’ arguments aren’t very different from ‘Because… God’. Your position is akin to dismissing Medicine assuming it is the same as Homeopathy.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it’s not a gargantuan piece (though what rabbit-holes lurk beyond the links?) – a large tidbit:

          Scientists like Krauss and Hawking thus sound a lot like the character Evil from the movie Time Bandits. He wanted a map to the universe, which is basically what scientists claim they are producing but philosophy is not.

          “When I have the map, I will be free, and the world will be different, because I have understanding…of digital watches. And soon I shall have understanding of video cassette recorders and car telephones. And when I have understanding of them, I shall have understanding of computers. And when I have understanding of computers, I shall be the Supreme Being!”

          Evil was a terrible philosopher.

          Scientists often exhibit not just the arrogance but similar bad reasoning. In the character, as in this quote, these are only exaggerated for comic effect.

          Here is a much better criticism of philosophy…

          “Philosophy is just not oriented to the outlook of someone who needs to resolve the issue, implement the corresponding solution, and then find out – possibly fatally – whether they got it right or wrong. Philosophy doesn’t resolve things, it compiles positions and arguments. It would be one matter if I could just
          look up the standard answer and find that, lo and behold, it is correct. But philosophy, which hasn’t come to conclusions and moved on from cognitive reductions that I regard as relatively simple, doesn’t seem very likely to build complex correct structures of conclusions.”

          —Eliezer Yudkowsky

          Here he really means not philosophy the subject of study, but philosophy as now conducted by the academic community.

          The latter does fail to distinguish good from bad and settled from unsettled in the domain of results.

          And it fails to synthesize well-tested results and centralize them for easy consultation.

          Some philosophers share these criticisms and more. Most importantly, Mario Bunge …

          http://www.richardcarrier.info/philosophy.html

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          interesting, thanks.

      • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

        Your OP doesn’t offer a definition of what you mean by “philosophy,” so I wonder if we are talking about different (albeit related) things. I could be wrong, but my impression is that your real beef isn’t with philosophy per se or even the philosophy of religion, but with Christian apologetics and the related discipline of “philosophical theology.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, the definition of “philosophy” is a potential problem.

          The original problem is, as you say, philosophy claimed as a powerful and convincing weapon by Christian apologists.

          I imagine that you will say: Philosophy has given us formal and informal logic, it’s an excellent training ground for scholars, and the very foundation of science is philosophy. I’m happy to accept all of that–I doubt that I’d have a problem accepting your definition of what’s in and what’s out of “philosophy.” But I’m not interested in what it does for us but rather the abuses of the term and what it doesn’t do.

          WLC says that he’s a philosopher. Yeah? So what? I see no difference between WLC the Philosopher and WLC the Smart Christian Apologist. What could the former do that the latter couldn’t?

          Here the conversation usually takes the turn where I hear, “Yeah, but WLC the Smart Apologist would be using philosophy!” and I’m back to square one. I’m happy to agree, but this does nothing to help me understand what special sauce being a philosopher brings to the table.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          I’m having a hard time following your response.

          Yes, the definition of “philosophy” is a potential problem.

          Unless you or someone else has a better suggestion, I propose we adopt the definition offered by Wikipedia: “Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally “love of wisdom” is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.” And: “Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics (“concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being”), epistemology (about the “nature and grounds of knowledge [and]…its limits and validity”), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic, philosophy of science and the history of Western philosophy.”

          The original problem is, as you say, philosophy claimed as a powerful and convincing weapon by Christian apologists.

          I didn’t say that. More important, I don’t think it’s true. I’ve never heard Christian apologists say anything like, “philosophy [as a discipline] is a powerful and convincing weapon.” The closest thing I’ve heard is, “Philosophical arguments are powerful and convincing arguments for God’s existence.”

          I imagine that you will say: Philosophy has given us formal and informal logic, it’s an excellent training ground for scholars, and the very foundation of science is philosophy. I’m happy to accept all of that–I doubt that I’d have a problem accepting your definition of what’s in and what’s out of “philosophy.” But I’m not interested in what it does for us but rather the abuses of the term and what it doesn’t do.

          I think I understand. Regarding your last sentence, I think instead of “abuses of the term” you meant to write, “abuses of the discipline.” And I would define “abuses of the discipline” to simply be another way of doing things, such as defending invalid (deductive) arguments, defending incorrect (inductive) arguments, misrepresenting the current state of the discipline, etc.

          WLC says that he’s a philosopher. Yeah? So what? I see no difference between WLC the Philosopher and WLC the Smart Christian Apologist. What could the former do that the latter couldn’t?

          This paragraph strikes me as very odd. Let me start with some definitions before I provide my response.

          professional philosopher: someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy; who is employed by a university or college as a professor, lecturer, or instructor of philosophy; or both.

          professional philosopher of religion: someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy, specializing in the philosophy of religion; who is employed by a university or college as a professor, lecturer, or instructor of philosophy of religion; or both.

          apologist: a person who defends a point of view about something
          Christian apologist: a person who defends Christianity

          professional Christian apologist: someone with at least a master’s degree in Christian apologetics; who is employed full-time as a Christian apologist; or both.

          I see Christian professional philosophers, including Christian professional philosophers of religion, as the group of people who are likely going to be doing most of the “thought leadership” in apologetics. These are the people who are doing most or virtually all of the “innovation” in developing new arguments for theism and for Christianity and answering new philosophical arguments against theism and against Christianity. For example, WLC as the professional philosopher of religion is responsible for reviving the kalam cosmological argument (as a result of his doctoral work) and then providing sophisticated, modern defenses of the argument (for example, responding to academic critics of the argument like Grunbaum, Smith, Oppy, Morriston, and so forth). In short, I see the professional philosophers as the people doing most or virtually all of the philosophical research.

          In contrast, when I think of Christian apologists who are not also professional philosophers, I see them as the group of people who may be aware of the research being done by the professional philosophers, but their focus is more on engaging with the culture at a popular level. They may interact with the work of professional philosophers when they think they need to do so to respond to something, but their focus isn’t necessarily the same.

          So let’s now go through some concrete examples:

          1. Kalam cosmological argument. WLC the professional philosopher, with a specialization in the theory of time, has written entire books promoting an A-theory of time and arguing against the B-theory of time. A Christian apologist who wasn’t a professional philosopher could never have done that. Craig then uses his work on the philosophy of time to defend the kalam cosmological argument against objections based upon a B-theory of time.

          2. Abstract objects. WLC the philosopher has spent the last decade or so thinking about abstract objects: do they exist, what does it mean to say they exist, etc. WLC the philosophical theologian has thought deeply about whether abstract objects conflict in any way with (what I consider to be) very obscure, esoteric parts of Christian theology. A Christian apologist who wasn’t a professional philosopher or theologian would not have been able to do that.

          … I’m happy to agree, but this does nothing to help me understand what special sauce being a philosopher brings to the table.

          Here is a list of topics which often come up in debates between WLC (and his followers) and atheists, followed by the special expertise that a philosopher can bring to the table:

          1. Kalam cosmological argument
          – theory of time
          – theory of causation
          – philosophy of physics
          – set theory
          – infinity
          – transfinite arithmetic
          2. Leibnizian cosmological argument
          – modality, necessary vs. contingent existence
          3. Craig’s moral argument
          – metaethics, especially moral ontology, moral epistemology, moral psychology
          4. Evidential argument from evil
          – confirmation theory

          And, of course, transcending all of these arguments, professional philosophers can have special expertise about the concept of evidence.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And I would define “abuses of the discipline” to simply be another way of doing things, such as defending invalid (deductive) arguments, defending incorrect (inductive) arguments, misrepresenting the current state of the discipline, etc.

          I was more thinking of pointing to philosophers as able to bring to the table qualities or credibility unavailable to non-philosophers.

          For example, WLC as the professional philosopher of religion is responsible for reviving the kalam cosmological argument (as a result of his doctoral work)

          You can write an entire doctoral thesis (not just with historical review but with groundbreaking and important new ideas) just on Kalam? I haven’t read his thesis or anything longer than an online paper on Kalam, so maybe that explains my difficulty, but I don’t see the big deal.

          In short, I see the professional philosophers as the people doing most or virtually all of the philosophical research.

          Has any of this work filtered down to popular work rather than academic work? Maybe that’s my problem—that there’s loads here that I simply haven’t heard of.

          1. Kalam cosmological argument. WLC the professional philosopher, with a specialization in the theory of time, has written entire books promoting an A-theory of time and arguing against the B-theory of time.

          Is a philosopher going to add anything to the discussion of time? Isn’t this the job of physicists? Sure, I can imagine that WLC thinks that he’s adding value, but do the physicists agree?

          2. Abstract objects. WLC the philosopher has spent the last decade or so thinking about abstract objects: do they exist, what does it mean to say they exist, etc. WLC the philosophical theologian has thought deeply about whether abstract objects conflict in any way with (what I consider to be) very obscure, esoteric parts of Christian theology. A Christian apologist who wasn’t a professional philosopher or theologian would not have been able to do that.

          I’ll lay my cards on the table and quite possibly reveal myself to be a simpleton, but this sounds like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” thinking. It’s like wondering if some expansion to Dungeons and Dragons would violate the essence or principle of the original game.

          Here is a list of topics which often come up in debates between WLC (and his followers) and atheists, followed by the special expertise that a philosopher can bring to the table:

          I appreciate the list.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          I was more thinking of pointing to philosophers as able to bring to the table qualities or credibility unavailable to non-philosophers.

          I’m not really sure what you’re looking for or how to respond, beyond what I’ve already written. There are a variety of philosophical topics where a professional philosopher may have some degree of credibility that a non-philosopher may lack. I’m thinking of things which are exclusively the domain of philosophy (such as philosophy of science, metaethics, metaphysics, etc.) or inter-disciplinary topics which lie at the intersection of philosophy and another field (such as evidence, set theory, A vs B theories of time).

          Here’s a very concrete example of why having some knowledge of philosophy brings something to the table that someone without any philosophical training doesn’t bring to the table. Consider Craig’s moral argument for God’s existence. Virtually all non-philosophers — and sadly, more than a few professional philosophers — have misunderstood the argument because they don’t understand metaethics. Specifically, they don’t understand what Craig means when he claims that “objective moral values” exist. Because they don’t understand the nature of his claim, they make all sorts of irrelevant objections to the argument. These objections include:

          – But atheists can be moral!
          – But atheists can know what is good and bad, right and wrong!
          – But the Bible contains bad stuff!
          – But different cultures disagree about morality!
          – But the (unmodified) Euthyphro dilemma refutes it!

          In order to understand and refute his moral argument for God’s existence, you have to know something about the branch of metaethics called “moral ontology.” (Interested readers can find a brief overview in my “Primer in Religion and Morality”).

          To see what a correct response to his moral argument looks like, I’m going to shamelessly plug my own work. See my video here.

          I don’t see the big deal.

          I don’t know if it is a “big deal” or not. I’m probably not the right person to comment on that. But that example is an example of what a professional philosopher could do whereas a mere Christian apologist could not.

          Has any of this work filtered down to popular work rather than academic work?

          Some of it has. I would guess that a lot of it has not.

          Is a philosopher going to add anything to the discussion of time? Isn’t this the job of physicists? Sure, I can imagine that WLC thinks that he’s adding value, but do the physicists agree?

          I haven’t studied the philosophy of time, so take my answers with a grain of salt. But I think the question, “Is a philosopher of time going to add anything to the discussion of time?” misses the point, much as the question, “Is a philosopher of science going to add anything to the discussion of science?” Just as there is a difference between science and the philosophy of science, there’s a difference between time and the philosophy of time.

          I’ll lay my cards on the table and quite possibly reveal myself to be a simpleton, but this sounds like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” thinking. It’s like wondering if some expansion to Dungeons and Dragons would violate the essence or principle of the original game.

          LOL! I mostly but not totally agree. The existence of abstract objects is interesting from the perspective of metaphysics. The possibility of abstract objects existing is the reason I call myself an atheist and a naturalist, but not a materialist. (I think the physical exists and the physical explains why the mental exists, but I don’t claim that the physical and the mental is all there is. If I were a materialist, however, I’d have to deny the existence of abstract objects. I’m not ready to do that, however, because I don’t know if they exist or not.) But as far as whether the existence of abstract objects is compatible with Christian theology, that’s a topic not in philosophy but in theology, specifically philosophical theology. I agree with you your “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” analogy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Consider Craig’s moral argument for God’s existence. Virtually all non-philosophers — and sadly, more than a few professional philosophers — have misunderstood the argument because they don’t understand metaethics. Specifically, they don’t understand what Craig means when he claims that “objective moral values” exist.

          I’ve used Craig’s own definition of objective morality myself many times: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” Is that what you’re thinking?

          In order to understand and refute his moral argument for God’s existence, you have to know something about the branch of metaethics called “moral ontology.”

          My response has always been: Your claim of objective morality is intriguing. Please provide evidence that it exists.

          I never get a coherent reply.

          Just as there is a difference between science and the philosophy of science, there’s a difference between time and the philosophy of time.

          OK. I’m still wondering who cares. My simple model was: the philosophers are at the fringe of knowledge, and they lay the coarse framework, pointing out at least the questions to answer, and then the physicists come in after these pioneers, benefitting from the structure the philosophers have given to the discussion.

          I don’t think that’s how it works, and it now sounds like you don’t either. So I’m back to wondering, if that model is wrong, what the philosophers would add to a scientific discussion.

        • Rudy R

          My response has always been: Your claim of objective morality is intriguing. Please provide evidence that it exists.

          A valid argument can be made for both objective and subjective morals. Which one is more probable? Neither, unless you can tip the scales for or against with empirical evidence. And in my opinion, sociological and psychological evidence are what tips the scales, with a little biology thrown in for good measure.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A valid argument can be made for both objective and subjective morals.

          I wonder if we’re using the same definition of “objective moral values.” I’ve been using WLC’s “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” Is that what you mean? If so, I’d like to see the argument for them.

        • Rudy R

          My comment inferred a form of argument in a syllogism. For example, I think WLC argues the following:

          Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
          Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
          Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

          It’s a valid argument, but without empirical evidence to support the premises, WLC’s argument does not refute the following:

          Premise 1: If God exists, then objective moral values and duties exist.
          Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do not exist.
          Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist.

          The latter argument is valid as well, but does not refute WLC’s argument without evidence for the premises.
          WLC’s evidence for objective morality is essentially, in his own words: “… I clearly apprehend objective moral values and have no good reason to deny what I clearly perceive.” As most know who follow WLC’s belief system, perception trumps empirical evidence. Again, in his own words, perception trumps evidence: “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter.”
          I know this is nothing new in your World, but my comments are mostly for the benefit (or detriment) to your theist viewers.
          I believe morality is neither totally objective or totally subjective. Once you make a subjective proposition, that is, human suffering should be minimized or eliminated, then what moral propositions follow can be objective. It is not a subjective moral claim that slavery is immoral, once you propose that all human suffering should be minimized or eliminated. Now, if you would propose that morals are not based on human suffering, but on some other proposition, then slavery might be an objective moral act. Thank god, pun intended, the majority of humans do not establish such an alternate proposition.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but I find WLC’s response fairly easy to undercut. If objective morals exist, what explains slavery being OK in the OT but not today? If objective morals exist (and they’re reliably accessible by humans), show me the objectively correct resolutions to popular social issues like abortion, capital punishment, and same-sex marriage, and explain why these issues remain contentious.

          And so on.

        • MR

          If objective morals exist (and they’re reliably accessible by humans), show me the objectively correct resolutions to popular social issues like abortion, capital punishment, and same-sex marriage, and explain why these issues remain contentious.

          Some of the kickers for me are, the disconnect between seeing the skin peel away from the skulls of some of the anti-abortionists as their brains start to explode while arguing against abortion, and realizing that this seemingly most-important-issue-of-all-time isn’t even mentioned by name in the Bible. O-kay, then. And then, on the same sex marriage thing, no one promoted it better than Christians. Never underestimate the power of even negative press. Most people, even gays, didn’t really care so much about the issue until religious elements started passing laws to prevent it, just so they could rally the troops for political reasons. Without that controversy and the conversation that followed from it, I doubt we’d have SS marriage today. Of course, the capital punishment thing never made sense to me. As a Christian, why wouldn’t you keep someone alive in the hopes that one day they’d “come to Christ?” In practice, that thinking was very selective. These were three issues that went a long way toward undermining my belief.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          I’ve used Craig’s own definition of objective morality myself many times: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” Is that what you’re thinking?

          That’s part of it, but it turns out to be more complicated than that. See the video.

          My response has always been: Your claim of objective morality is intriguing. Please provide evidence that it exists.

          I never get a coherent reply.

          As a skeptic, I like the approach of asking for evidence. I know what Craig would say in response to you. In your response to him, you don’t want to say his reply is “incoherent.” You want to say it is “weak” or “unconvincing” or some other word.

          From a public relations perspective, I think this is a pretty poor approach, even for skeptics, like you, who either deny or are undecided about objective moral values. I could write an entire essay explaining why, but the key points are this (in no particular order):

          1. Even if they are wrong, most people not only believe there are objective moral values, they think it is obvious that there are objective moral values. That’s their perception. You’re fighting an uphill battle to convince them to deny what they consider to be self-evident. The retort, “But there’s no evidence!” is going to fall flat.

          2. Related to #1, you open yourself up to the accusation of desperation. “Look how desperate the skeptic is! In order to deny God’s existence, he has to deny the obvious, that objective moral values exist!”

          3. The request-for-evidence response, by itself, is pretty tone deaf. The public perception of atheists is very negative. Morality is a huge part of that. Whether that perception is fair or not doesn’t change the fact that that is the perception. Questioning the existence of objective moral values will not help repair that perception; arguably, it might perpetuate it. Many people equate “objective moral values” with “real” moral values, so if you come across as denying or even questioning the objectivity of moral values, many people will hear “There’s nothing really wrong with rape, the Holocaust, or anything else.” That, in turn, may very well perpetuate the belief that atheists are less moral than theists because atheists (allegedly) believe that nothing is morally wrong. “If an atheist thinks there is nothing morally wrong with X and they feel like doing X, what’s to stop them from doing X?”

          Obviously there are all sorts of logical holes in each stage of reasoning sketched above. But you’re creating a lot of extra work for yourself, fighting a major uphill battle, coming across as denying the obvious, all for a position which isn’t actually required to defeat the moral argument.

          OK. I’m still wondering who cares. My simple model was: the philosophers are at the fringe of knowledge, and they lay the coarse framework, pointing out at least the questions to answer, and then the physicists come in after these pioneers, benefitting from the structure the philosophers have given to the discussion.

          Since I haven’t studied these specific branches of philosophy (like philosophy of time, philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology), keep in mind I’m not the right person to speak for these sub-disciplines. With that said, I think the answer to your question, “Who cares?”, depends on context. I doubt any professional philosopher thinks that everyone should care. It may be that there is no good reason for you to care. Or it might be that you should care to the extent that there are things you can use from these sub-disciplines to further your goals as a counter-apologist. I don’t really know. The important point to note is that the body of knowledge for, say, philosophy of time is not identical to the body of knowledge for physics, so philosophers of time are going to bring a different body of knowledge to the table. As I say, this body of knowledge may be relevant to counter-apologetics. I don’t know for sure. (I suspect that it is relevant because my hunch is that a study of the philosophy of time would enable one to competently debate the A-theory of time upon which the kalam cosmological argument rests, but I’m not sure because I haven’t studied it.)

          I don’t think that’s how it works, and it now sounds like you don’t either. So I’m back to wondering, if that model is wrong, what the philosophers would add to a scientific discussion.

          I’m not sure how it works, to be honest. I’m not a professional philosopher. At the same time, I think your question, “What would the philosophers add to a scientific discussion?”, is irrelevant. I don’t know of any philosophers, including WLC, who even claim to be adding anything to a scientific discussion. (I’m excluding polymaths like Massimo Pigliucci who has PhDs in biology and science.) Your question strikes me as odd as the parallel question, “What would the scientists add to a philosophical discussion?” Since that isn’t their job, I don’t know why the question is even being asked.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m not sure if you’re still interested in our conversation, but I appreciate your input to date.

          I know what Craig would say in response to you [on the claim of objective morality]. In your response to him, you don’t want to say his reply is “incoherent.” You want to say it is “weak” or “unconvincing” or some other word.

          Right. Coherence isn’t my concern. As for words that I would use to describe it, “sophomoric” comes to mind.

          The caveat is that I’ve only read his online articles and parts of his Reasonable Faith. If he’s given an insightful analysis in his scholarly work, I’ve not seen that.

          1. Even if they are wrong, most people not only believe there are objective moral values, they think it is obvious that there are objective moral values. That’s their perception. You’re fighting an uphill battle to convince them to deny what they consider to be self-evident. The retort, “But there’s no evidence!” is going to fall flat.

          Right. That’s why I say, “Give me some evidence for objective morality.” And, if I’m thorough, I begin with, “What do you mean by ‘objective morality’?”

          2. Related to #1, you open yourself up to the accusation of desperation. “Look how desperate the skeptic is! In order to deny God’s existence, he has to deny the obvious, that objective moral values exist!”

          I agree with your concern about how arguments appear and how to present them to avoid triggering a knee-jerk dismissal.

          3. The request-for-evidence response, by itself, is pretty tone deaf.

          Greg Koukl has gotten a lot of traction for his “Tactics” book, which recommends using “What do you mean by that?” I hear it often from other apologists. You’re saying that we should avoid this?

          The public perception of atheists is very negative. Morality is a huge part of that. Whether that perception is fair or not doesn’t change the fact that that is the perception. Questioning the existence of objective moral values will not help repair that perception; arguably, it might perpetuate it.

          This surprises me. Of course, lots of humans’ illogical biases surprise me (e.g., the Backfire Effect), so that hardly means that you’re wrong.

          What’s wrong with asking, “Objective morality? I’ve seen no evidence of that—show me”?

          I do often soften it by saying, “I’ll admit that I do see widely accepted or strongly felt moral beliefs. Could that be what you mean?” Is this getting there?

          Or maybe you’re just saying to take it slow, building to the demand for evidence of objective morality by finding common ground and agreeing first on what “objective morality” even means.

          The important point to note is that the body of knowledge for, say, philosophy of time is not identical to the body of knowledge for physics, so philosophers of time are going to bring a different body of knowledge to the table.

          IMO, the key question is: Are physicists impressed by or appreciative of philosophers’ work in this domain? Do they find it useful? Did the philosophers provide a useful contribution?

          As far as I can tell, the answer is No.

          As I say, this body of knowledge may be relevant to counter-apologetics.

          My own interest is in popular arguments. That is, if there’s an esoteric argument that really skewers Christianity, it’s not of much use to me.

          I don’t know of any philosophers, including WLC, who even claim to be adding anything to a scientific discussion.

          I agree that WLC never submits papers to physics journals, but that doesn’t change his apparent persona to laypeople. He wants Christians to come to him (rather than scientists) for his critique of science.

        • TheNuszAbides
          3. The request-for-evidence response, by itself, is pretty tone deaf.

          Greg Koukl has gotten a lot of traction for his “Tactics” book, which recommends using “What do you mean by that?” I hear it often from other apologists. You’re saying that we should avoid this?

          avoid which? isn’t there enough of a distinction between “define your terms” and “got evidence?”? (not to mention the occasional cross-over quibbles over the definition of “evidence”, compelling evidence, quality of evidence, etc.)

  • RichardSRussell

    “The metaphorical God of the physicists is light-years away from the interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the theist and of ordinary language. … If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors but witch doctors, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming. If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the smallest difference?”

    —Richard Dawkins PhD, Free Inquiry, 2004 Feb./March. p. 11

    “Philosophy is like searching in a dark room for a black cat.

    Metaphysics is like searching in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there.

    Theology is like searching in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there — and claiming to have found it.

    Science is like searching in a dark room for a black cat by using a flashlight.”

    —anonymous

    • Steven Watson

      Note the philosopher is looking for an actual cat. Physics? One branch of it is looking for a cat that is both dead and alive without entering the room.

      • RichardSRussell

        I think it’s admirable that the Schrödinger types aren’t willing to assert one way or the other that the cat is alive until checking first. This is quite different from the way, say, Pat Robertson would proceed. He’d give positive assurance that the cat is alive and engaged in the kind of immoral activities that called a hurricane down upon those depraved sodomites in Texas — you know, that bastion of liberal licentiousness.

  • Eric Sotnak

    Before taking a position on the question “What good is philosophy?” it might be wise to determine just what philosophy is, in the first place. This is no simple task, and the profession of philosophy contains many different points of view. Rather than make an attempt to provide a definitive answer, I will suggest the following approach. How about taking a look at some of the work that philosophers are actually doing and then considering whether any of them are interesting or useful? Here is a good place to start: https://philpapers.org/recent
    Spend a little time browsing through the entries. It is likely that some of them will seem utterly useless and uninteresting to some people. But then, the very same can be said of many articles appearing in scientific journals.

  • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

    Largely off topic, but here’s something on the importance of practical philosophy:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu3v87_97Hc

  • Rudy R

    I couldn’t find a list of the Top Ten philosophical breakthroughs for 2016.

    And you probably couldn’t find a Top Ten list for 1906, 1806…1506, and so on. Theist philosophers today are still arguing Aristotle’s 2000-year-old theology and Aquinas’ 700-year-old updated version.

  • Rudy R

    Many in the combox are either missing the point of the article, or I am. When Hawking states philosophy is dead, and he is not implying philosophy is unimportant. Science could not innovate without philosophical principles and applications. What I believe BobS is implying is that philosophy is no longer innovating, and what is known is known. And that is what I believe is the larger point of this article.

    • Steven Watson

      That would be a legitimate thing to say if it were evidenced beyond the work of religious loonies; unfortunately this post doesn’t go very much, if anywhere, beyond assertion. We aren’t keen on Christerloons wandering in dismissive of any scholar later than Aquinas; but at least they are aware there is such scholarship.

  • Herald Newman

    While there are, no doubt, some interesting and useful areas of philosophy, there are also areas of philosophy that only pump out junk! The philosophy of religion comes to mind. I, for one, agree with people like John Loftus (of Debunking Christianity) who holds that the philosophy of religion needs to end. Pretty much the only thing this branch of philosophy is doing is trying to find new ways to defend, and rationalize, religious beliefs.

    Apologetics is simply bad philosophy in action, and bad philosophy produces things like apologetics.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      I want to make sure I understand you correctly. Is it your claim that the area of philosophy known as the “philosophy of religion” only pumps out junk?

  • Tommy

    Philosophy: Being in a dark room with no flashlight searching for a black cat.
    Science: Being in a dark room with a flashlight searching for a black cat.

    • Ryan M

      I don’t get the analogy. It’s as if philosophers don’t use empirical facts to back up their investigations, or use tools to solve problems such as inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, probabilistic reasoning. Maybe the analogy is meant to show that philosophers use philosophy when only science is appropriate, or science is the best tool, but I don’t see that as being the case for philosophy as a whole or in general.

      • Tommy

        I don’t get the analogy.

        Sure, you do.

        the analogy is meant to show philosophers those who use philosophy when only science is appropriate, or science is the best tool

        You got it! 😀

        • Ryan M

          OK, so your correction of the sentence makes the sentence gibberish, so I don’t know what you’re trying to say. Are you trying to say the analogy is meant to say that philosophy has no use in solving problems whereas science has use in solving some or all problems? If so, then it’s not a good analogy. An ethical panel at a hospital wouldn’t be reasoning with science alone. Rather, they use philosophy to make their judgments.

        • Tommy

          It’s a correction of YOUR sentence.

          the analogy is meant to show those who use philosophy when only science is appropriate, or science is the best tool.

          That’s gibberish to you?

          Are you trying to say the analogy is meant to say that philosophy has
          no use in solving problems whereas science has use in solving some or
          all problems?

          You forgot what you wrote?

          the analogy is meant to show those who use philosophy
          when only science is appropriate, or science is the best
          tool
          .

          If so, then it’s not a good analogy.

          But it’s not so, so it’s a good analogy.

          An ethical panel at a hospital wouldn’t be reasoning with science alone.

          An ethical panel wouldn’t make empirical claims based on nothing but philosophical reasons.

          Rather, they use philosophy to make their judgments.

          ….Because they’re ethical panels.

        • Ryan M

          No, what is gibberish is your altered sentence which read as the following:

          “those who use philosophy when only science is appropriate, or science is the best tool”

          Replacing “Philosophers” with “Those who” makes a grammatically incorrect sentence. I don’t know why you re-worded it that way, but it became gibberish.

          It seems you think philosophical tools are exempt from empirical tools. I don’t know why you might think that other than just not being familiar with any philosophy.

        • Tommy

          The reason I struck out ‘philosophers’ and instead wrote ‘those who use ‘philosophy’ is because not all who use philosophy are philosophers, but keep arguing with me over an analogy and using strawmen such as:

          It seems you think philosophical tools are exempt from empirical
          tools. I don’t know why you might think that other than just not being
          familiar with any philosophy.

        • Ryan M

          A strawman is a type of argument. What I gave was my view on what I think you’re presupposing about philosophy. That was not an argument, so it was not a strawman. Merely stating something false about a person’s beliefs is not a strawman. But if we’re going to play that game, recall that I asserted that I do not understand the the analogy, and you asserted that I do understand the the analogy. By your standard, you committed a strawman by falsely claiming I understand the analogy when in fact I do not. But of course this is silly, no strawman was committed despite you claiming something false about me and my beliefs.

          I wasn’t arguing with you about the analogy there, I was clarifying why I said you made a gibberish statement. Your rephrase of my original claim made the sentence nonsense. My original claim was technically a disjunction.

          Disjunct 1 – Philosophers use philosophy when only science is appropriate.

          Disjunct 2 – Science is the best tool.

          Your rephrase was this:

          Rephrase 1 – Those who use philosophy when only science is appropriate.

          The second disjunct was not altered, but the first one was altered. Disjunct 1 asserts something, but rephrase 1 asserts nothing due to poor grammar. I think a better rephrasing of your point would be this:

          Rephrase 2 – people who use philosophy to solve problems are using an inappropriate tool since only science is appropriate to solve problems.

          Unless I’m mistaken, rephrase 2 is what you believe the analogy is intended to communicate. If this is not the case, then what proposition(s) do you believe the analogy is intended to communicate? Please state as clearly as possible what proposition(s) you think the analogy intends to communicate.

        • Tommy

          You’re being frivolous and beyond pedantic, or are you going to give me a long winded comment about the words frivolous and pedantic, too?

          Philosophy fails at making accurate models of reality, science succeeds.

          Here’s another analogy that you can argue with me about:

          In the game of Reality, Philosophy is the commentator while Science is playing – and winning the game.

        • Ryan M

          “Philosophy fails at making accurate models of reality, science succeeds.”

          Yes, I think that’s true for the most part. Perhaps you didn’t notice my comment to Joe, but I am skeptical of the use of philosophy despite having a degree in philosophy. I think philosophy has important subject areas such as epistemology, logic (both relevant to thinking in general, and both are extremely instrumental to the legal professions), and ethics. But despite there being important subject areas worthy of study in philosophy, I don’t think philosophy should qualify as an undergraduate degree or greater. Rather, people should take philosophy courses through their life, and focus on other degrees (Probably, STEM). High school students could handle epistemology and basic formal logic with relative ease (basic formal logic is no more difficult than basic algebra).

      • Joe

        How do you deductively reason a cat into a darkened room if it wasn’t there to begin with?

        • Ryan M

          What are you saying here? What does the analogy have to do with coaxing a cat into a room?

        • Joe

          I never said ‘coaxing’, I’m talking about bootstrapping a cat into the room due to a particularly clever philosophical argument.

        • Ryan M

          So presumably you meant to say “How can you soundly deduce that a cat is in a room without using scientific instruments?”. Or in another sense “How can you soundly deduce that a cat is in a room with only a priori reasoning?”.

          If so, I still don’t get the point of the analogy. What is the analogy saying about philosophy? Is it saying that philosophers try to derive conclusions that only science can derive by appealing to scientific methodology? Is it saying that philosophers only use a priori reasoning? Is it saying philosophy tries to answer questions it lacks the tools to answer? I’m at a loss as to what the analogy intends to communicate.

        • Joe

          It’s a humorous (or not so much, apparently) take on the practical limitations of other epistemologies.

          Often in the form of a meme. Trust a philosopher to over-analyse it.

        • Ryan M

          No doubt philosophy is limited. Despite having a degree in the subject, I actively advocate for universities not only to NOT offer degrees specializing in the philosophy of religion (Like Loftus), but I advocate that universities NOT offer philosophy degrees at all. Much of the degrees in the humanities, or social sciences, such as philosophy, English, literature, or whatever, should be reduced to elective courses rather than full modules that poor unfortunate students might spend thousands of dollars on when they could have studied something in STEM. At best, I think everyone should study some philosophy subjects (Ethics, logic, and epistemology), but no one should obtain a degree in the subject unless they either have a STEM degree already or are at a later point in life where it doesn’t negatively affect them.

        • Eric Sotnak

          “Trust a philosopher to over-analyse it.”
          Now you see why they killed Socrates.

    • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

      Religion: Being in a dark room with no flashlight searching for a black cat that isn’t there, and declaring, “I’ve found it! And its name is Casper, and its favorite food is tuna, and it likes tummy rubs, and it loves me more than anyone else, and it told me to kill anyone that doesn’t believe it exists for blasphemy!”

      • http://spiritualanthropologist.info The Spiritual Anthropologist

        OT:

        “Not to take over the discussion, but your cowardly captain banned me…”

        And you thought we’d let you in over here saying something like that? Wow. That’s a special kind of stupid, right there.

        Do you realize that Captain Cassidy is also a moderator here on Godless in Dixie? If not, that’s pretty hilarious.

        Sorry Clint. I didn’t realize that you lot live in an echo chamber where you lot jerk each outer off.

        But to bring it onto topic, religion is admittedly a view related to the unknown. Really it is connected to the current unknowable. People like to have answers, even if there are none, therefore religion forms.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          Hey, asshole. Fuck off. You don’t get to follow me around to other blogs because you were banned from Roll to Disbelieve and Godless in Dixie. You’ll likely find yourself banned here rather quickly with that kind of behavior.

        • http://spiritualanthropologist.info The Spiritual Anthropologist

          Hey, just trying to defend myself, but I also did bring this discussion onto topic.

          But to bring it onto topic, religion is admittedly a view related to the unknown. Really it is connected to the current unknowable. People like to have answers, even if there are none, therefore religion forms.

  • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Thanks to everyone for the good exchanges. I’m not going to be able to continue the back-and-forth, so I’m happy to let everyone else have the last word in our exchanges. Good night!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks for your contribution on this topic. Very helpful.

  • skl

    Philosophy could be seen as both the driving force and the value of science.
    If science were just data and observations, it would be useless.
    The data and observations become meaningful and/or useful only through
    the exercise of rational faculties (e.g. logic; discernment of cause and
    effect).
    Philosophy – as in a conceiving of the idea of truth and a valuing of
    truth and a quest for it – is what causes the scientific endeavor to begin
    with.
    Finally, it is philosophy which decides whether the scientific findings,
    and the potential uses of those findings, are good or bad or indifferent.
    Philosophy could be seen as the beginning, middle, and end of science,
    with some data and observations in-between.

    • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

      Science is philosophy. And scientists are perfectly capable of valuing their own discoveries.

      You’re about as deep as a kiddie pool.

      • skl

        “Science is philosophy.”

        Then philosophy is plenty good. You might think of telling the OP author that.

        • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

          Why? You seem to be the one listing bogus assertions about philosophy.

  • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

    Interestingly, Baylor University’s philosophy department has just launched a new Center for Christian Apologetics – oops … I mean Center for Christian “Philosophy”. This summer they presented Alvin Plantinga with a certificate of fellowship recognizing him as the first fellow of the Baylor Center for Christian Apologe – er .. “Philosophy”. The award bearing his name will be presented annually to a scholar who represents excellence in Christian apologetics .. I mean … you know what I mean.

  • http://spiritualanthropologist.info The Spiritual Anthropologist

    The author needs to understand what philosophy is. Philosophy is the process of asking whether or not the way we think is reasonable. Science is therefore a form of philosophy. Hell, the entire article is a philosophical analysis. You are rejecting your own position, as you rely on philosophy FOR your position.