Yesterday on a message board an atheist assaulted me with a little essay on philosophy that I find most depressing. It's depressing because it basically confirms all the most alarming and anti-human aspects of modern thought I have accused the New atheists of harboring, it affirms in an unabashed, proud and defiant manner as though they are so obvious that to state them is prove them. Yet what's being is proving is basically that none of us have the right to think apart form affirming the ideology handed down form the atheist hierarchy. This "atheist hierarchy" is basically scinece. Not that I think science is an atheist hierarchy, I think that's what the new atheist think it is. I am leaving the interlocutor's name out, because I don't him to feel put on the spot. I'll just call him:
Existentialism is an unfortunate example of how philosophy gets side tracked by bad ideas. Existentialism essentially destroys any meaningful conception of knowledge and resorts to subjectivism to explain the human experience. It's not any better than the Idealism it wished to criticize, simply because it just offers the other extreme as a solution.Meta: Right away we have what I consider to be pure evil. The vilification of existentialism, if it is not centered around the pretentious nature of his French exemplars, will probably be base upon the desire to control the thinking of others. Existentialism rebelled against imposed structures that filter our understanding of world for us and force us to think in prescribed ways. The criticism made here asserts that to undersatnd reality by understanding our own perceptions of it is a mistake can only mean that the author feels that the prescribed and contorted version of reality is the only one that counts as knowledge. In other words, he wants someone to do his thinking for him. He continues with several several misconceptions about Kierkegaard:
Kierkegaard describes religion as a matter of individual subjective passion, unmediated by others. The reason he favored Christianity was because he lived in a Christian culture. His argument for faith is, even by his own admission, absurd. He denies all reason in it and treats it as something that can never be understood, through experience, by others, which more or less means that the study of human psychology is completely fruitless. He just says faith is a miracle, so there. That's not philosophy, it's art at its best and lazy thinking at its worst. He was a product of his time, and utilizes the same inaccurate theory of mind that rational idealists and empiricists of the time had to rely upon, which explains why all three philosophies are incredibly problematic.Meta: First of all, as always pointing out that "he's a Christian because he lives in a Christian culture" is just not meaningful to someone who thinks God is working in all cultures. It's no different than saying "he's only a Christian because that's the tradition that speaks to him." You see the contradiction in his thinking here. He says the kind of thinking that recognizes the power of the individual to perceive reality and not be forced a prescribed way of thinking is invalid when it challenges the atheist fortress of facts, that's scinece and science is the only form of knowledge, because it backs atheism (supposedly) but religious belief is based upon a prescribed set of premises then that's proof that it's not true. Yet by his way of thinking the cultural norm should be seen as truth a priori, the individual's understanding of what's true should be shunned a violation of the relationship between perceptions and knowledge (as he talks about above). Wait, the difference is with religion it's not coming through his prescribed form of knowledge (science) so it must be wrong either way. Very convoluted way of thinking.
Moreover, his understanding of SK is sophomoric. SK did not mean that faith is irrational in the sense of being stupid and unjustified. That's a standard misconception. He's just saying that logic is hypothetical and unless faith is experienced, the presence of God first hand, it's not real. He disparaged Cartesian coordinates on the basis that unless doubt is real then faith is not real (by this I mean his philosophical coordinates). Doubt is not real when it's a philosophical exercise and one doesn't really doubt. Therefore, it is not establishing faith to overcome phony doubt with hypothetical. New atheist dread the subjective. They are scared to death by experience. My guess is they are aware of the power of religious experience to convict and turn people to God. The first thing they have to crush is the validity of experiencing God.
He goes on to give a lot phony talk about the history of philosophy which I don't he understands:
This theory of mind I'm talking about is the nineteenth century paradigm that sees the mind relating to the environment through sensory perception, so experience is seen as passive and observational. Experience can only be described as participatory action with one's environment, which is something that the rational idealists, empiricists, and existentialists failed to recognize. Empiricism grasped the spirit of the modern age, but it lacked the teeth to actualize it. Rational idealists like Kant and existentialists like Kierkegaard understood empiricism to be destructive to knowledge and went in separate directions, the former relying on a transcendental realm of Being that is responsible for absolute truth to restore knowledge and the latter retreating into subjectivism in the personal sphere.
Meta:"Experience can only be described as participatory action with one's environment," I think if I put my mind to it I could describe experience in other ways. What he's really doing there is setting up a the need to actively control things as the basis for knowledge. Anything that doesn't imposes an ideology of atheism is not knowledge. The only proper knowledge is the imposition of control. Defining experimentally based philosophy as a passive reception of sense data is a mistake in understanding the nature of experience. That does not mean, however, the only alternative is the impossition of a pre coincided view.Now to undersand his comments fairly we should probaly think of what he is saying as an active hands-on search for what's out there rather than the imposition of control. Yet what he's prescribing is control because it assumes a set of percipience steps that the only valid steps and screening out of all else that is not part of ht steps (hence the dread of subjective experience). I can relate the notion of knowledge as an active search but why must it be limited to his active search and other those of others? Why just scinece and not all forms of knowledge? Why must it always be active search why can't it be a dialectics where passive gathering of sense data and informed watchful reception is combined with active searching in a global way rather than a prescribed way?
All of these notions, by today's standards, ought to be considered silly.Meta:In other words, "all of these notions" existentialism, Phenomenology, experience, individuals thinking for themselves perhaps? Very silly.
All deny, implicitly, the role of intelligent practice in acquiring knowledge. Sensory perception is merely a stimulus to action, it is not knowledge. Knowledge results from the intelligent modification of habits in relation to environmental stimuli. Knowing is not a matter of passively observing reality, it is a manner of interacting with it... probing it, controlling it, etc.Meta:Probing it hu? Seriously, this statement confirms all my worst fears. It's a frank admission that it's talking about control. The future belongs to us! How about this definition, knowledge results form "intelligent modification of habits in relation to stimuli " In ohter words knowledge is not about knowing things Perish the thoguht, who would ever think that? Knowledge is about knowing what i want you to know. It's about being trained to look at the world the way we want you to see it. But of course we should just accept that it's all meant for he best, those wonderful science wouldn't do anything wrong would they? They weren't any scientists developing racial scinece for Hitler were there? It's ok to erase the ability of the individual to think for himself, and to decliar everything opposed to out ideology as "non-knowledge." That's just that philosophy stuff that can't get us in any trouble.
This understanding of mind, which is scientifically current, offers a solution to the major criticism of empiricism. The need for transcendental realm of Being in order to have knowledge of the world is gone, which was only needed when the thought was that experience was atomized instead of unified through the very necessities of life.Meta:What did he just say now? He said the current understanding of mind, which what? According to most new atheist the current understanding of min is that there is none. That mind is just an illusion or a side effect (if it's anything at all) brought on by brain chemistry and it means nothing. So in other words the idea we can erase the mind and thinking of ourselves as deterministic robots is solution to the problem of knowledge. Of cousre it is. There's no problem of knowledge if you dont' seek to know anything. After all his definition of knowledge leaves out the idea that knowledge is about knowing things. Of course he asserts hat transcendental stuff is just an old fashioned for things we don't have any more because scinece has replaced the need. That need was born of pretending that truth is somewhere out there and we have to seek it in ways that are not prescribed by the ideology. So course we course we don't need that now because we have the ideology. Because the ideology frees us form needing it the potential reality of it just goes away. There is no reality in transcendent realm because we we don't need it with the ideology telling us what to think. Yet the worse is still to come:
The absolute subjectivity of human experience disappears because knowledge exists as real interactions... one can judge whether their actions are ones informed by knowledge or not.Meta:
Subjectivity disappeared? Our qualia and sense data are no longer subjective? We cut that off an let it go away. It's not there we don't have to think about it. I can see how we can ignore the subjective and pretend that all becomes objective. Yet how do we get your experience of it into my head? you can dictate that I must think as you do but you cannot dictate that I experience what you expedience. my experience is still mind. I still perceive the world though my own perceptions and not yours. Now matter how ardently you seek to pretend that all now share the same perceptions we do not. Subjectivity can't ever go away. That's just the epistemological fallacy. you can't get outside your own perceptions to check them and you can't make them become those of others just by trying to impose the same ideas upon the thinking of others. The subjectivity of human experience disappears. What extreme arrogance and nonsense. We don't all start having the same experiences just becuase one imposes a party line.
While there is still room for authenticity in this view, the notion of it in the existentialist view is overblown.Meta: Room for authenticity where? Where can there be authenticity when subjectivity is gone? There can only be authenticity if we accept that we have different view points and different sets of perceptions. But we he just said subjectivity is gone. After all, like the transcendent, if we don't need it anymore it must go away.
Much of what existentialists refer to as "authentic" is merely a product of culture as opposed to something really authentic to that particular individual. It is true that each individual has his own unique impulses, but how he acts on them is largely a product of the given social environment. Kierkegaard, for instance, decided that Christianity was authentic to him, when in reality it was a product of the habits and customs of his culture.
Meta: So in other words there's still some authenticity but only the bit that agrees with the party line. The bit that doesn't is "merely product of culture." There's that contradiction again. He's supposed to think that knowledge is imposing an active view point where everyone has these objective facts that makes them right and they don't need to wonder about things, anything we have to wonder about is not worth keeping around. We reduce knowledge to just the answers that result from the question we can answer our way. There's some authenticity around but not the kind that disagrees with the party line?
web definition of existentialism:
part 2 on friday.