July 20, 2014

So maybe I am not an atheist

by Neil Rickert

No, I have not suddenly become religious.  I am just reacting to a recent post by PZ Myers:

When asked, I have usually said that I am not religious.  I don’t take offense when people say that I am atheist, but it is never a term that I have asserted for my own position.

PZ says:

Yet so many people just make that statement, and then argue that there are no antecedents and no consequences of atheism — a revolutionary idea for which people have been executed, which is in opposition to the premises used to establish many of the powerful institutions in our culture, which directly contradicts what many people consider the basis of all morality in society, is treated as casually and cavalierly as the statement, “I don’t much care for Justin Bieber’s music”.

Sorry, PZ, but “I don’t much care for Justin Bieber’s music” is pretty close to how I look at the God question.  I suppose that makes me closer to being an agnostic or an ignostic or an apatheist.  But those terms seem too technical, so I’ll stay with “not religious.”

I was a serious theist, mostly during my teenage years.  But I never rebelled.  Rather, I just walked away.  It did take serious thought for me to recognize that religion is entirely man-made.  And that was why I could easily walk away.  But I never did conclude that there is no god.  As best I can tell, there is no evidence either way.

Continue reading

July 17, 2014

More on my disagreement with analytic philosophy

by Neil Rickert

In a post earlier today at his new site, Massimo Pigliucci compares analytic philosophy with continental philosophy:

I found it an interesting post, and I suggest you read it.  Most of the philosophy that I have read has been in the analytic tradition, so I did learn something about continental philosophy.

The starting point

By way of distinguishing between the two traditions, Pigliucci describes analytic philosophy this way:

Analytic philosophy refers to a style of doing philosophy characteristic of the contemporary British empiricists, like G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, with an emphasis on argument, logical analysis, and language, and it is what one finds practiced in many (though by no means all) philosophy departments in the United States and the UK. Michael Dummett [2] famously said that the “characteristic tenet [of analytic philosophy] is that the philosophy of language is the foundation for all the rest of philosophy … [that] the goal of philosophy is the analysis of the structure of thought [and that] the only proper method for analysing thought consists in the analysis of language.”

And, right there, you see where I disagree.  The analytic tradition starts with language, and wants to make that the foundation for all philosophy.  I want to start far earlier.

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July 11, 2014

Why I am a heretic

by Neil Rickert

I’ve been thinking about posting on this topic for several weeks.  But it has been hard to get started.  Writer’s block, I guess.

And then, earlier today, I posted a comment elsewhere which looks as if it might be a good fit for the topic.

For context, there was a brief discussion of the usefulness of ontology.  And then walto posted a new thread to give his position on the questions:

My comment was a response to that post.

Here’s what I wrote (I’ve skipped the first two sentences):

Continue reading

July 2, 2014

The Hobby Lobby case — a bad decision

by Neil Rickert

By now you will have heard of the Supreme court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case.  I believe this was a terrible decision from the right wing ideologues on the court.

Fred Clark (Slacktivist) has a good account of the history leading up to this case:

It started with a bad court decision on Peyote, back in 1990.  At the time, I thought that decision (written by Scalia) was a bad decision.  Congress then enacted RFRA, in an attempt to undo the Peyote decision and some subsequent mistakes.  And now Scalia and others are using RRFA to allow Hobby Lobby to force the owners religious views on employees.

I lost a lot of respect for this ideological court back in 2000, when they wrongly interfered in the Bush vs. Gore election.  And now I have lost any remaining respect.

 

June 18, 2014

Seen on the Internet

by Neil Rickert

I have just noticed this comment at another site:

Mildly interestingly, when I typed “average size of a woman” into Google I got height and weight answers. When I typed “average size of a man” I got penis size data.

I have not attempted to experimentally confirm that.  But I did think it was amusing.

June 15, 2014

A note on the science/philosophy wars

by Neil Rickert

Further to my earlier post, there was a recent discussion of this topic at Blogging Heads TV, between Daniel Kaufman (Missouri State Univ.) and Massimo Pigluicci (CUNY) on this topic (h/t Brian Leiter at his blog).

It was a pretty good discussion, and worth the 57 minutes it took to watch and listen.  Or you could just listen, as the watching is of talking heads.

At around 4:40, Pigliucci says (as transcribed by me):

Philosophy of science, in particular, is a way to look at the doings
of science from the outside, specifically from the epistemic warrant
perspective. So we want to know, as philosophers, how science
works logically, what is it that scientists take to be sufficient
evidence for their theories, how they construct their theories.

My own criticism of philosophy of science, is that I see them as doing poorly what is mentioned in the second sentence of that quote.

Overall, I agree with these two philosophers on many of the points that they brought up.  I do recommend taking the time to listen.

June 10, 2014

Frank Schaeffer’s latest book: a review

by Neil Rickert

This will be a brief review of Schaeffer’s recent book:

  • Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God, Frank Scheffer 2014.

Full disclosure — I “purchased” the Kindle edition of this book when the price was right (i.e. it was free).

I follow Schaeffer’s blog: “Why I Still Talk to Jesus — In Spite of Everything“.  I at least skim most of the posts, but only read a few in detail.  Schaeffer is a relentless self-marketer.  Some of his posts are of broad interest, and some are just selling himself or his latest book.

I had already purchased (for real money), his previous book “And God said Billy”, but I stopped reading that about halfway through.  So I had decided not to buy his latest book.  Even when Schaeffer announced that it would be free for two days, I continued with my decision to not “buy”.

Then I read Benjamin Corey’s post “When Two Formerly Fundies Chat: My Video Interview With Frank Schaeffer (and get his new book FREE)!”  It was a great interview.  I recommend that you watch it.  For me, it was Corey, rather than Schaeffer, who was the star of that interview.  In any case, that’s when I changed my mind and picked up the Kindle book while it was still free. Continue reading

June 9, 2014

The nature of knowedge — a personal perspective

by Neil Rickert

In my previous post, I wrote

When I read John’s statement (either version), as quoted above, I see John mentioning the nature of knowledge as an important topic.  I’ve read a lot of epistmology (the subfield of philosophy that deals with knowledge).  In all honesty,  I have not learned anything at all about the nature of knowledge from that reading.

Here, I want to talk informally about what I take to be the nature of knowledge.

To me, knowledge is closely connected with learning.  I see knowledge is the result of learning.  I guess that makes me an empiricist, at least in the broad sense of the term.

At around 10 years of age, while walking home from elementary school, I wondered about knowledge.  In particular, I wondered if knowledge could be just those natural language statements such as we learn in school.  But, as I pondered that, it seemed impossible.  It seemed to me that there was nothing in those sentences that said how our language sentences connect with the world.

Continue reading

June 6, 2014

The science – philosophy wars

by Neil Rickert

From time to time, scientists criticize philosophy.  And philosophers react.  For an example of this, see the relatively recent post by John Wilkins:

In that post, John quotes some physicists, and wonders why they criticize philosophy.  I am going to suggest that a lot of this is miscommunication.

Knowledge

To see the problem, let’s look at what John said in a comment to that post:

Philosophy, which is about the nature of knowledge at least in part, must attend to actual knowledge. Hence it cannot ignore science and just pull epistemic strictures out of its rear end. Hence, [good] philosophy must attend to science.

Continue reading

May 20, 2014

A good sign for the economy?

by Neil Rickert

Spamming is up.  I’m referring to comment spamming of blogs.

I have just deleted 26 spam comments.  When I checked this morning, I deleted 29 spam comments.  In the middle of the day, I deleted another 23 spam comments.

Until recently, I would rarely see more than 2 spam comments per day.

I’m guessing that this is a good sign for the economy.  It suggests that someone has money to spend on hiring spammers.

Oh, and Akismet is great in detecting spam.  I do briefly scan what it finds to see if there are any false positives, though that seems to rarely happen.

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