Atheism

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“Atheism is not a philosophy;

it is not even a view of the world;

it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious.”

Sam Harris – American neuroscientist

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Your comments are most welcome –

as together we discover

TRUTH

 

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13 Comments on “Atheism”

  1. … The obvious truth that Mr. Harris has not studied philosophy. He maintains, for example, that free-will is an illusion; yet he attempts to ground morality in nature. Unfortunately, Mr. Harris is either engaging in self-deception, or he has failed to make the obvious connection between materialism and amorality.

    • Inresting, where do you think morality comes from? Or better yet, how would you describe morality?

      I would be intresred to hear what you have to say ☺.

      WAH

      • I think morality comes from the First Cause, whether we call the First Cause God or something else.

        For morality to exist, we must be rational and free to some extent. The same, then, must be said of the First Cause.

        I believe that morality should lead us to the First Cause, in Whose nature morality is grounded.

      • Ok, fair enough. Just two questions. What exactly do you mean by morality, what is it? And why should anyone think your morality if right and the morality of Mr Harris is wrong.

        As far as I can tell all you have done is say: “he is wrong because I am right” without giving any explanation why.
        I know you did not write that explicitly, yet I can’t help to think that when I see your comment.

        Just to be fair, I would describe morality as the method employed in making a choice or taking a decision. Nothing to do with a first cause or anything else, it works just fine without it.

        What do you think?

        Thanks for replying ☺

        WAH

      • Likewise – thanks for the reply 🙂

        I cannot offer a precise definition of morality, but basically it revolves around human acts and intentions.

        The problem with Sam Harris’s philosophy is that the denial of free-will is not compatible with morality. If we are not free, then our actions are not causally related to the faculty of reason; and even if they were, it would make no difference because our actions would still be the product of blind chemical reactions in the brain.

        Basically, if free-will truly is an illusion, then praise and blame, intent, guilt, honour, and every other facet of or relating to morality would be an illusion. That was all I intended to say.

        Many philosophers admit this inconsistency in principle, but they deny it in practice. Mr. Harris will not admit his inconsistency.

        Morality still works without conscious reference to the First Cause, but if we remove the First Cause, there can be no morality (or existence, I would argue). Short of an essay on metaphysics, I cannot demonstrate this, so I will not attempt to do so.

        Many philosophers more competent than myself have gone to great lengths to demonstrate the (necessary) existence of God. If they are right, the rest follows.

        This book *might* interest you:
        http://www.ecatholic2000.com/lagrange2/untitled-23.shtml

        Ta det lugnt!

      • Hello,
        Thanks for clarifying what you mean by morality. I believe when it comes to these issues it important to know what people mean when they implore terms like morality or free-will and so on.

        I do not speak for Sam Harris, but I would wager that it is a misconception to say that free-will cannot work under a positivist framework. That is to say, under a framework where the human body, and indeed the human mind works under purely physical laws.

        Now there are two points that have to be made:

        -Firstly, as far as we can tell the brain and indeed thought work under a physical framework, and there are no indications of it working in any other way. Indeed, through neuropsychology and neuroscience we have been able to describe with increasing certainty, the relationship between: the physical networks and interactions in the brain; and behavior and cognition.

        One easy example of this is the extensive research done on the frontal cortex and how people who lost this region of the brain through accidents or disease, have dramatically changed in their behavior; behaviors and choices that can be categorized as ‘moral’ (I would categorize this as a choice that may be conflicting).

        (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_Gage one of the first and most famous examples of an individual with severe frontal lobe damage)

        -Secondly, the debate about Voluntarism vs Determinism (Volunterism: complete choice over out actions. Determinism: our actions are automatic and predictable) is one that is being had even under a positivist framework. There are problems with both.

        If determinism is true, all humans would behave in the exact same way all the time under the same conditions, we know this not to be true, and indeed people make different decisions to their neighbor all the time.

        If voluntarism is true, humans would be unpredictable, and their choices would always happen irrespective of the context in which they are happening. We know this not the case because we know that people behave in similar ways given the same conditions.

        That leaves us in a state where neither are absolute. Therefor the best conclusion to make is that we actually operate somewhere in between, and I would argue that that is what we call ‘Free will’; not total voluntarism, something I would wager you are trying to propose.

        All this, keep in mind, happening under the ‘naturalistic’ worldview, without the need of a hypothesis of god.

        🙂

        Walking Around Human

      • Neuroscience has indeed proved to yield significant results. But neuroscience or empirical observation is limited; we cannot access the mind by such means.

        The existence of universal concepts, such as ‘being,’ for example, suggests that the mind is immaterial (of course, it is closely related to the brain). Hylemorphic dualism, to me, best accounts for this (the soul is the form of the body; it animates the body).

        I don’t believe that we are totally free; we are subject to various limitations and conditioning causes; but, in order for us to exercise rationality and moral decision-making, our thoughts and actions must have some degree of voluntariness. Whatever is not free, just is.

        Take care.

      • Hey,
        What do you mean by “access the mind?” Because I believe I demonstrated how thoughts and decisions DO happen in the brain under a neurocognitive level, and indeed there is no need for any other hypothesis.
        Why do you believe the mind is immaterial? Hylemorphic dualism only stands if you can demonstrate that indeed there is a soul that controls the body, something that had never been demonstrated in any impirical way :-s .

        At least we agree on the fact that we are not totaly free, but I think you go a step too far by saying voluntarism is needed to make rational desitions, or otherwise. Many other animals apart from humans exhibit the ability to make rational desitions through thought and reflection. Perhaps there is a problem in the way we articulate thought. The ability of reflection and pragmatic thought is attributed to the physiology and development of an animals brain, that is to say:

        Chimpanzees are able to reflect and think on their past memories, and act accordingly towards them, this is because they have a better developed frontal lobe than for example; a crab, which we would describe as acting under mostly instinctive manner, and this is because their brains are different.

        So what you may call ‘free’ is just the ability of the brain to reflect and think over their actions, whereas something that is not ‘free’ is something that operates under instinctive processes.

        Thanks for the conversation 🙂

      • I don’t think it is possible in principle to demonstrate the existence of immaterial realities by empirical means.

        Introspection can help us to know the nature of mind. The mind grasps universal, abstract concepts all the time – concepts that are not instantiated in any particular parcel of matter, or in any particular neurochemical reaction (e.g. truth). Our knowledge is not merely sense knowledge. So it seems to follow that the mind cannot be reduced to the brain, in which case we must hone our philosophical skills in order to better understand the mind’s relation to the brain.

        Animals certainly appear to exhibit moral behaviour, but appearances can be deceiving. I could put a chip in a chimp’s brain, causing him (let’s call him Dexter) to act in accordance with our notions of right behaviour; but the morality of such actions should really be attributed to us, not Dexter. The chimp was not free; he did not deliberate on his decisions; he could not have done otherwise.

        According to Sam Harris, we are essentially in the same boat as the chimp. We are not free (apparently), and it can therefore never be said that we could have done otherwise. He might say that we have greater powers of deliberation and moral reasoning, but these mean nil if they have no influence on our decisions. They might have an accidental impact on our decisions, but as they are arbitrary in origin, they must be arbitrary in their end.

        I am ordering the following book, which apparently treats of these topics with great clarity: http://www.amazon.com/INTELLECT-MIND-MATTER-Mortimer-Adler/dp/002500350X

        Ditto! 🙂

      • Hello Little Souls, I’m really enjoying these 🙂

        It is a misconception to think that the ability to create, or think of abstract concepts is somehow in need of a deity. We know how we create these from a linguistic perspective, if I say “what is the colour of hate?”, I’m creating a totally coherent question, yet we do not expect it to be answered just because…

        What do you mean by sence knowledge? and can you describe what is this other knowledge is?

        Perhaps you are reffering to our epistemology, yet that we also understand and describe in great detail (I would suggest Foucault, Habermas and Derrida).

        You say that that concepts are not instantiated in any particular parcel of matter and so on… What do you mean by this? Again it seems you are trying to ask a question that is just written grammatically correct yet it does not have a possible valid answer.

        If what you mean is, where did these concepts, ideas and thoughts come from; then we can have a conversation. It is through our cognitive processes, that create knowledge and in turn influence the way we process the world. Your question presupposes that thoughts have to be ingrained somehow in a physical stationary state. We know thoughts exist in the neurological architecture under electronic and chemical reactions.

        Even if they are arbitrary (I would disagree) you still fail to explain why they HAVE to be arbitrary

      • Me too, WAH!

        The problem with that sentence is that, while it is nonsensical, it still appeals to two universals, namely, colour and hate.

        When I conceive of colour, I am not thinking of any particular colour; I am considering colour in abstraction; I am not referring to sensory knowledge of a particular colour (e.g. the experience of seeing red). The word “colour” or the concept of colour, cannot be explained adequately by linguistics. Words themselves are composed of random sounds or squiggles, which have no independent meaning apart from the brain/mind that applies this meaning. So, to explain universals by means of words, is to raise a deeper question: how does the mind formulate words? If we appeal to brain states to explain words, we will ultimately run into the same problem; brain states are particular, and, like words, they have no intrinsic meaning. (I am not referring to every brain state. Obviously pain qua sensation requires no knowledge of universals.)

        An example of sense/sensory knowledge would be taste; we “know” what something tastes like through physical experience, not abstract thought.

        To say that a concept is not instantiated in any particular parcel of matter, is to say that it cannot be reduced to any particular parcel of matter. It is universal; it is invoked in order to explain particulars (e.g. the universal “colour” is used to explain red, blue etc.); it rises above sense knowledge, which is particular.

        I don’t believe that all thoughts are arbitrary under a physicalist schema; only that any knowledge that rises above the senses would be unreliable. Why? Because – getting back to Sam Harris – if the mind is not free, the “logical” connections we form are the product of a series of physical events in the brain that need not have any logical relation to one another. This problem plagues all naturalistic accounts of thought.

        The immateriality of the mind, combined with the principle of causality, seems to require a powerful, immaterial Cause; but I don’t argue for God in this way. I prefer the argument from motion, which requires a somewhat tedious distinction between potency and act.

        … Unfortunately I cannot do this argument justice. I would need an entire book (and even then…). If you want to read someone competent in this area, Rev. Garrigou-Lagrange is a safe bet: http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/reality.htm#05

        Have a good one!

  2. Hey,

    They are not universal, or at least just saying they are does not make them so. To say that when you sre the word colour you don’t think of a colour seems strange to me, the word colour can only ever be seen under the gaze of our own experience of seeng colours. If the word colour was ‘universal’ people born blind would know what it is, yet they do not! The word ‘hate’ can only ever be understood through our own expirience, no need for anything else.

    You have at every point been unable to ever demonstrate ‘universality’ in concepts, and just saying they are because you think they should be makes no sense at all to me.

    You suggest that under a positivistic framework of reality we expect everything to be deterministic, yet I demonstrated that this is not the case; and indeed most people would say we are somewere in between determinism and voluntarism. Yet you continue to implore it as if everyone thinks this way, indeed I would wager this is just a misunderstanding or miscaracterisation of what Sam Harris believes.

    Positivism ≠ determinism of the mind.

    Yes, “seems to require” a God, is just a supposition based on wishfull thinking, not logic as far as I am concerned.

    Thanks for sharing all the books with me, I would recomend Steven Pinker if you want to go into linguistics, he has done a HUGE amount on the subject.

    Again thanks for replying 🙂

    WAH

    • 🙂

      Take another example: the concept of “being”. “Being” refers to everything in existence. But it cannot be limited to a particular thing; individual things participate in being; they are not the source of being. When I consider being qua being, I don’t think of any particular thing; my knowledge, in some sense, transcends individual “beings.” It follows then, that this act of intellection cannot be reduced to anything physical. This is proof of its universality.

      I have to disagree on the topic of positivism or a compatibilist account of the will; it simply boils down to semantics, with the individual being as “free” as an animal or a stone.

      The “seems to require” statement is no less logical than its contrary.

      No problem. Thanks for the discussion! I am familiar with Steven Pinker, but perhaps not familiar enough.

      I think the disctinction that St. Thomas makes between potency and act is essential to understanding that God’s existence is as sure as motion itself. You can look into if you like (obviously… you don’t need my permission haha).

      I will have to bow out at this point. To do justice to this topic I would need to write much more, and I sadly don’t have the time at the moment.

      Thanks and all the best!


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