A Metaphysical Train Wreck is Music to Skeptical Ears
It’s interesting that Joe brings out the “no true atheists” trope in his first post, claiming that atheism is ultimately “incoherent” (at least as much as it implies the lack of a “non-dependent reality”). Charity bids me to assume that, instead of simply dismissing his opponents’ beliefs out of hand, as it might appear to anyone who’s been around these sorts of discussions long enough, Joe has in fact solved one of the most difficult and persistent antimonies, as Kant called them (this was actually one of his antimonies of pure reason), of western philosophy, namely whether the world (universe, reality, whatever) has its origin in something non-contingent (uncaused, etc.), or is in fact eternal and without a first cause. I look forward to his description of his solution. If he is simply denying the existence of his opponents’ position, well, I guess we all know how much is likely to come from this debate.
By the way, you know you’re in for a fruitless debate on religion when one of the debaters uses the phrase “unconditionally non-dependent” (which is sort of like saying “obesely fat”), the other doesn’t recognize the idea of “non-dependence,” which is pretty much central to Christian philosophy (it’s usually described as non-contingent these days, though, and it’s at the heart of both the ontological and one of the two major versions of the cosmological argument), and the comments begin with a debate about whether modus tollens is true (with one of the deniers of modus tollens, a lawyer no less, confusing it with “affirming the consequent”), though I guess this last bit is not surprising. Seriously, this is a mess.
I get in a few somewhat inept punches myself. Do they strike the mark? Well, I think they do. But they’re not worth talking about at the moment, and anyway, I’ve tried in the past never to comment in threads with more than a hundred responses.
Oddly, while everyone in this trainwreck of a thread somehow manages to make themselves look foolish at the same time and to the same degree to everyone else, somehow we all pass for non-fools in our ordinary lives. I’d even venture to say that every last person there is well above average intelligence, fairly well-read, and generally counted either a scholar or at least a gentleman.
How on earth do we manage? As Voltaire made one of the wiser characters say in Candide:
I find that all in this world is set the wrong end uppermost. No one knows what is his rank, his office, nor what he does, nor what he should do. With the exception of our evenings, which we generally pass tolerably merrily, the rest of our time is spent in idle disputes and quarrels, Jansenists against Molinists, the Parliament against the Church, and one armed body of men against another; courtier against courtier, husband against wife, and relations against relations. In short, this world is nothing but one continued scene of civil war.
It’s long been a favorite sentiment of mine. Short of some hope for another world, metaphysics has very little to offer except folly. Taking it too seriously is one of the traps in the life of the mind. Better that it be in words alone, I suppose, rather than with fire and the sword like in the good old days.