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Why isn’t philosophy taught in schools?
Posted: 06 March 2008 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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Salt Creek - 06 March 2008 12:45 PM

When a text is flexible, such as is the case with fiction and poetry, learning to read with flexibility is a good thing, but I doubt that students need to be exposed to a completely eisegetical approach before they are doing university work. Jobs as eisegetes will be limited until everyone learns to read, and until no one really needs to work to earn a living any more.

I agree with the first sentence but wish to comment on the second. A deliberately eisegetical approach to personal or leisure reading can help anyone who wishes to avoid falling into the sort of slavish literalism that makes bible-bashers so obnoxious. Just as many people don’t bother studying fine art but sturdily know what they like when they see a picture, so readers can relish the quality of a writer’s prose independently of what the latest pundit said about that writer. But even then, as you say, people have to learn to read first.

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Posted: 06 March 2008 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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Thanks, AtheEisegete. Followup question - how are you defining truth? I ask because religions claim that their doctrines and principles represent truth. Also, I see the anti-evolution stickers on cars that show a Truth fish devouring a Darwin fish. Is there a definition of the truth concept that lies outside of the exact sciences?

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Posted: 06 March 2008 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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AtheEisegete - 06 March 2008 05:57 PM
burt - 06 March 2008 02:12 PM

Mis-attribution: This is known as Sturgeon’s Law after science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon.  Told at a party that 90% of science fiction is crap, he replied: “90% of everything is crap.”

I hate to split hairs and hence fall into an unfortunate philosophical stereotype, but I first read the quote with the word “crud”, not “crap”, in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle about 40 years ago (if I remember rightly—I don’t have the book here to check). I’m happy to accept that Sturgeon got there first, as you say, so thanks for the trivium.

Sturgeon’s story was from late 50s or so.  We can quarter the hair maybe.  LOL 

“All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.”  The Books of Bokonon

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Posted: 07 March 2008 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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Carstonio - 06 March 2008 06:56 PM

Thanks, AtheEisegete. Followup question - how are you defining truth? I ask because religions claim that their doctrines and principles represent truth. Also, I see the anti-evolution stickers on cars that show a Truth fish devouring a Darwin fish. Is there a definition of the truth concept that lies outside of the exact sciences?

There is, but you won’t like it. If God says so, it’s true. And if you want to know what God said, read the Bible. God is truth because it says so in John 1:1. This message was brought to you courtesy of a Christian sect called the Presuppositional Apologists.

Their shtick goes like this. How can you explain the existence and orderliness of the universe without God? How can you explain the facts of life and consciousness without God? How can you explain morality, goodness, and truth without God?

My answer is this: How can you explain any of those things with God? By taking the most paradoxical and disputed concept in our entire conceptual world and hanging everything on it, you are committing an egregious act of ignoratio elenchi, a.k.a. begging the question. From a contradiction you can derive anything, and the standard Abrahamic concept of God is as near contradictory as a concept can be.

Explanation in science is a step-by-step process of giving better and better accounts of more and more facts, constrained by logic and evidence. Testing and checking at each stage are essential to the process. All this is missing in the “derivation” from a biblical god, and almost all this is missing in the bootstrap to “God” described within the biblical account of the self-revelation of that entity.

Religion was the pre-rational precursor of philosophy, and philosophy was the pre-empirical precursor of science. As with so much in evolution, the early stages of a development tend to live on in some form. So religion and philosophy live on for us. Philosophy still plays a useful supplementary role for the sciences, but religion is well past its use-by date and is metastasizing in the Middle East into something ugly.

In Germany we have a slogan: Gib Nazis keine Chance—“give (neo)nazis no chance.” We need something similar for God-botherers such as Creationists and Islamist fundamentalists. Their God is a hubristic inflation of a human self—the “I” of “I Am That I Am” is the self of the recognizer of that entity.

If the word blasphemy may be allowed to have any serious meaning today, it should apply for all those who claim to know or represent or act in the name of the Abrahamic god. They are blaspheming against their own humanity.

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Posted: 07 March 2008 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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[quote author=“AtheEisegete”] From a contradiction you can derive anything, and the standard Abrahamic concept of God is as near contradictory as a concept can be…..

All this is missing in the “derivation” from a biblical god, and almost all this is missing in the bootstrap to “God” described within the biblical account of the self-revelation of that entity…..

If the word blasphemy may be allowed to have any serious meaning today, it should apply for all those who claim to know or represent or act in the name of the Abrahamic god. They are blaspheming against their own humanity.

The “standard Abrahamic concept of God” might seem contradictory because it is usually couched in Greco-Roman terms rather than Abrahamic/Hebraic terms. I previously argued that the God of the Bible was not technically omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent or omni-benevolent, even though he may be “almost-omni” in all these categories. Andrew didn’t like what I wrote, but he was too invested in the “omni” method of portraying God to catch the subtlety of my argument. It’s hard to give up arguments that you think are winners, even when they don’t apply to new challenges. 

The God of the Bible is revealed as a person (I know you don’t like that word), and he gets more personal as the revelation progresses, until you get to an actual human-being, a God/Man in the New Testament. All persons seem to have contradictions and inconsistencies, because they are, by nature, unpredictable. They are not concepts or formulas.  God defies absolute explanation, but so do you and so do I and so does everyone else here, and we all have our contradictions and inconsistencies. But those do not prove we do not exist - they prove that we are “persons.”

So to speak on behalf of the Abrahamic God is not a blasphemy of humanity, as God and Man share the quality of Personhood, God simply being a much higher form of this.

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Posted: 08 March 2008 12:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 07 March 2008 07:29 PM

The God of the Bible is revealed as a person (I know you don’t like that word), and he gets more personal as the revelation progresses, until you get to an actual human-being, a God/Man in the New Testament. ...

So to speak on behalf of the Abrahamic God is not a blasphemy of humanity, as God and Man share the quality of Personhood, God simply being a much higher form of this.

Good, I can agree that the Abrahamic god is not omni-anything, and is properly conceived as a person. I would describe that person as a fictional ideal. When Moses claimed to speak for that god, he adopted that fictional persona, just as Charleton Heston adopted the persona of Moses in the recreation.

Alternatively, the biblical god was a real historical chap called Yahweh whose deeds got inflated in the telling. Perhaps, then, it was a good move to move the godhead to Jesus, who at least had the right personal qualities to deserve some respect. So in your telling, Bruce, on my reconstruction, Christians worshop Jesus, and the trinity with all its hellenistic logic is metaphysical or psychological or theological baggage.

Fair enough. You are of course free to do so. But ... worship? Jesus was just a man, unless you buy into all the baggage. You can admire a noble personality if you want, as I do for various historical personages who have done good things, but worship is something else. Self-improvement, the cultivation of a better personality, does not require such self-abasement.

People are naturally inclined to find heroes. If they have to worship their heroes, then let’s be sure they have some good heroes to worship. Jesus is worth a bit of hero-worship, of that I have no doubt. But my heroes did not create the universe in seven days and so on.

For my part, to keep well clear of that sort of shameful idolatry, I prefer not to worship people at all. A scientist should not so far adulterate the search for truth as to accept such false gods and idols.

Dialogs like this remind me of the Talmud—perhaps we’re creating a new one for the emerging Googod!

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Posted: 08 March 2008 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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Why is it that people who split logical hairs are accused of Jesuitry? Why is it that most if not all catholic colleges and universities require 2 semesters of philosophy? Why is it that philosophy is on the curriculum of most catholic high schools and not anywhere else? Why are public schools incapable of teaching ethics? Why do Catholic seminaries require 2 years of philosophy before the study of theology? Why is it that I cringe (as would anyone who studied philosophy) at the use of the phrase “blaspheme against humaninty” or at the use of person as meaning human? Why do I see gulags and prison camps and secular inquisitions when I hear the phrase that fundamentalist muslims and neo nazis and creationists are to be given a chance. Using logic we see that the suicide bomber and the Jew hater and the young earth creationist are all of the the same ilk. Why is it so ironic that people who praise tolerance are very intolerant of those who differ with them. Using the dogma atheeisegete promotes progress in science would be impossible. There could be no paradigm shift. There would be no scientific revolution because unorthodox scientific thinking or experimenting would not be tolerated. There would be no Galileo, Einstein, quantum revolution. These things would not be given a chance.

You do not want philosophy taught at schools, because even the educated atheist understands that the philosophical tradition is teeming with Christians and Christian ideas. You want a watered down secular humanism/ scientism taught that would be and has been dismissed as irrational by philosophers of every tradition. You want students indoctrinated with Sagan’s scientism and with the logical opostivism of the vienna school. You don’t want students to be taught philosophy and logic because you will soon learn that the atheist philosophy doesn’t stand up. Better to push for tv and cable and then use emotional diatribes like harris’s end o f faith and dawkin’s god delusion to convince the brain numb of your intellectual superiority. It is really your only shot.

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Posted: 08 March 2008 08:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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frankr - 08 March 2008 12:44 PM

Why is it that I cringe

I don’t see you cringing, frank, so much as whinging. You’ve ingested a lethal cocktail of paranoia, tradition, and megalomania. Ecce homo.

frankr - 08 March 2008 12:44 PM

Using the dogma atheeisegete promotes progress in science would be impossible. There could be no paradigm shift. There would be no scientific revolution because unorthodox scientific thinking or experimenting would not be tolerated. There would be no Galileo, Einstein, quantum revolution. These things would not be given a chance.

Do you want to try to flesh out your argument a little? No? That’s because you cannot. Please attempt to characterize or summarize what you feel is the “dogma that AE is promoting”, so we can attempt to understand your “argument”.

“Progress” in science is not a matter of tolerance for new ideas. Heliocentrism was not tolerated when it first appeared on the radar, using an example relevant to your own paradigm. That turned out not to matter.

[ Edited: 08 March 2008 08:28 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 08 March 2008 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 07 March 2008 07:29 PM

I previously argued that the God of the Bible was not technically omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent or omni-benevolent, even though he may be “almost-omni” in all these categories.

While the Bible may or may not support that argument, the issue is that millions of believers reject that argument, with their actions being driven by their belief in an omnimax god.

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Posted: 08 March 2008 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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Carstonio - 08 March 2008 01:43 PM

While the Bible may or may not support that argument, the issue is that millions of believers reject that argument, with their actions being driven by their belief in an omnimax god.

Sorry in advance for being grouchy, Carstonio. I do not have any idea how many times you are going to recycle this, what? not an argument, so much as it is an observation. Unless you actually flesh out how this observation looms so large on your radar screen, it is simply not worth much all by itself.

What AE is pointing out is that the belief in an omnimax (and, uh, personal) deity isn’t anything in and of itself, but rather the apotheotic amplification of the ego.

[ Edited: 08 March 2008 09:20 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 08 March 2008 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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frankr - 08 March 2008 12:44 PM

You do not want philosophy taught at schools, because even the educated atheist understands that the philosophical tradition is teeming with Christians and Christian ideas.

And for very good reason: (a) the early church fathers stole their doctrines whole cloth from Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, twisted a few things around, and then denounced philosophy (and finally got all the Greek schools closed); and (b) philosophers from the dark ages to the enlightenment were mainly raised and conditioned as Christians.  I’ve sometimes gone to the online Catholic encyclopedia and marvelled at the way that it slants and distorts philosophical doctrines, and misrepresents various philosophical positions.

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Posted: 08 March 2008 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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Salt Creek - 08 March 2008 02:16 PM

Sorry in advance for being grouchy, Carstonio. I do not have any idea how many times you are going to recycle this, what? not an argument, so much as it is an observation. Unless you actually flesh out how this observation looms so large on your radar screen, it is simply not worth much all by itself.

Sorry, I trying to make a couple of points with that observation. One was Bruce’s interpretation is really a personal one since there is no “true” meaning of the Bible in the metaphysical sense. (That is a different topic from the scholarly question of the original meanings intended by the authors.) It’s pointless to argue over which reading of the Bible reflects the “true” nature of the Christian God, because all readings are equal as to their lack of evidence.

Another was that the omnimax definition of the Christian God is a big factor in the harm caused by religion, because the logical inconsistencies of the definition corrupt the concept of morality. The definition results in natural suffering (as opposed to human-cased suffering) as being a punishment instead of being an inevitable part of life.

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Posted: 08 March 2008 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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frankr - 08 March 2008 12:44 PM

Why ...? Why ...? Why ...? Why ...? Why ...? Why ...? Why do I see gulags and prison camps and secular inquisitions when I hear the phrase that fundamentalist muslims and neo nazis and creationists are to be given a chance. Using logic we see that the suicide bomber and the Jew hater and the young earth creationist are all of the the same ilk. Why is it so ironic that people who praise tolerance are very intolerant of those who differ with them. Using the dogma atheeisegete promotes progress in science would be impossible. There could be no paradigm shift. There would be no scientific revolution because unorthodox scientific thinking or experimenting would not be tolerated. There would be no Galileo, Einstein, quantum revolution. These things would not be given a chance.

I was accused recently on this forum of not answering questions addressed to me. You “eightfold why” post shows clearly enough why I have not answered them all. But let me make a token effort here.

The example of European history over the last century shows the dangers of excessive tolerance as well as the more usual problem of intolerance. Tolerance of communist agitation until it was too late led to several red revolutions with bloody consequences. Tolerance of fascism followed, with its horrific consequences. And now, in the last few decades, tolerance of Muslim ghettos may soon lead to more horrors.

Suicide bombers driven by fanatical hatred of infidel kafirs, Neonazis driven by fanatical hatred of cosmopolitan dilution of racist nationalism, and Creationists driven by fanatical hatred of the idea that they may be related to other animals do have something in common. Intolerance of fanatical hatred is a painful duty. My favorite example of dutiful intolerance is Winston Churchill’s intolerance of Nazi bullying.

Progress in science, as I see Salt Creek has already said, is not a matter of tolerating new ideas. Quite the contrary, it is a matter of subjecting them to rigorous testing and accepting only ideas that survive. I am an eager student of paradigm shifts in science, especially those you cite, and would never advocate a methodology that gave them no chance. But Galileo’s ideas were easy to test and they worked, so despite 300 years of Catholic opposition they survived. Einstein’s ideas for exploring the atomic hypothesis via Brownian motion and explaining the photoelectric effect via photon emission were testable, which made physicists receptive to his deeper idea for reconciling Newtonian mechanics and Maxwellian electrodynamics, which was not so easy to test. As for the quantum revolution, there are the technologies and the ideas. The ideas are still a battlefield.

Moving to my own new ideas, I accept that that they are worthless unless they are testable, and I am happy that people are sceptical of them. If every wacky idea were blandly tolerated we’d be drowning in nonsense.

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Posted: 08 March 2008 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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burt - 08 March 2008 02:30 PM
frankr - 08 March 2008 12:44 PM

You do not want philosophy taught at schools, because even the educated atheist understands that the philosophical tradition is teeming with Christians and Christian ideas.

And for very good reason: (a) the early church fathers stole their doctrines whole cloth from Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, twisted a few things around, and then denounced philosophy (and finally got all the Greek schools closed); and (b) philosophers from the dark ages to the enlightenment were mainly raised and conditioned as Christians.  I’ve sometimes gone to the online Catholic encyclopedia and marvelled at the way that it slants and distorts philosophical doctrines, and misrepresents various philosophical positions.

burt
i know that you know what kept greek philosophy alive. It was not the church but the fall of rome that led to the death of the philosophic schools. The anti philosphical father of the church was tertullian. The church condemned him. We know of the neoplatonists becuase of neoplatonist christians. we know of aristotle because medieval philosophers. I think someone is distorting history and it is not the catholic encyclopedia.

[ Edited: 08 March 2008 01:02 PM by frankr]
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Posted: 08 March 2008 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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frankr - 08 March 2008 05:59 PM
burt - 08 March 2008 02:30 PM
frankr - 08 March 2008 12:44 PM

You do not want philosophy taught at schools, because even the educated atheist understands that the philosophical tradition is teeming with Christians and Christian ideas.

And for very good reason: (a) the early church fathers stole their doctrines whole cloth from Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, twisted a few things around, and then denounced philosophy (and finally got all the Greek schools closed); and (b) philosophers from the dark ages to the enlightenment were mainly raised and conditioned as Christians.  I’ve sometimes gone to the online Catholic encyclopedia and marvelled at the way that it slants and distorts philosophical doctrines, and misrepresents various philosophical positions.

burt
i know that you know what kept greek philosophy alive. It was not the church but the fall of rome that led to the death of the philosophic schools. The anti philosphical father of the church was tertullian. The church condemned him. We know of the neoplatonists becuase of neoplatonist christians. we know of aristotle because medieval philosophers. I think someone is distorting history and it is not the catholic encyclopedia.

Sorry Frank, the philosophical schools didn’t die because of the fall of Rome, they were killed off by Christianity in its effort to eliminate competition (recall the fate of Hypatia in Alexandria, for example).  Finally the schools were ordered closed by the Christian Emperor Justinian in 529AD because they “taught pagan knowledge.”  The philosophers from Plato’s Academy traveled to Persia and founded the stream of neo-Platonism that emerged later in the Illuminist schools of Islamic sufism.  We know of Aristotle because of the transmission from Islamic Spain, where do you think those medieval philosophers got their information.  Today the church likes to claim credit for preserving ancient knowledge through the dark ages—that is mostly bull, all the church preserved was the basics necessary for collecting taxes and managing estates.  The church was very ambivalent about Aristotle (the proclamation of the bishop of Paris about 1269AD, for example, listed a large number of Aristotelian doctrines that were considered heretical), but the philosophers and theologians of the time managed an uneasy truce (but check the fate of some like Sigurd of Brabent or Roger Bacon).  We know of neo-Platonism not because of neo-Platonic Christians but because it was introduced (along with Hermeticism) by Byzantine refugees from Istanbul (in particular, by a guy named Georg Pletho who visited Florence in 1439 and gave a series of lectures on “Differences between Aristotle and Plato” that were attended by Cosimo d’Medici, who was inspired by them to found a Platonic Academy in Florence.  While this academy was flourishing in Florence, the battle in Rome was between supporters of Plato and conservatives who argued that Christians ought to be forbidden to read him.  Pletho had to leave Florence because of accusations of heresy and worship of the Olympian gods (so he retired to southern Greece and founded a mystery school there). 

The only way that Christianity in the medieval period can be said to have helped science develop is in providing the resistance that required natural philosophers (the arts masters at the medieval universities) to develop studies of hypothetical realities (that is, they could take up and pursue various Aristotelian ideas that were against church doctrine only by framing them as hypothetical speculations unrelated to scriptural reality).  Even Descartes did this (in De Monde, not published until after his death).  The language some of these guys used reminds me of an exhibit of socialist Hungarian architecture I saw about 1990 in Vancouver: the notes describing various architectural designs all said how the work exhibited the blessings of socialism and so on.  The designs themselves were highly individualistic, western, and in complete contradiction with the written descriptions.

I’m not saying that a Christian can’t be a scientist, or vice versa, or that Christianity (Islam, Judism, etc.) can’t co-exist today with science—but they do have to readjust to the point of accepting scientific results that contradict their doctrines (as the Dalai Lama has said for Buddhism, for example.)

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