Azar Gat could learn a thing or two from Miller. But then Miller could also learn a thing or two -- about spending less time on the obvious and moving Azar Gat could learn a thing or two from Miller. But then Miller could also learn a thing or two -- about spending less time on the obvious and moving on to interesting and controversial subjects earlier in a book, especially such a short one.
Too cursory for much of the book. Mildly interesting towards the end, but that is primarily because Mill goes into polemic mode and reveals his cards and thus exposes his reasons for the way the book was constructed. He does not think over-enthusiastic criticism of the nation-state system is warranted and he believes it is our best chance at stability. Need to read his more detailed works before any comment can be made on how effective his defense is. But miles ahead of Gat, I will grant him that....more
"It seems not unreasonable to first ask the agnostic what he understands by “God” before entering into a discussion of whether we can know whether God exists. And one thing is sure. The theistic god as “He” appears to us in the Bible and Qur’an has some definite characteristics we can talk and argue about. If the agnostic does not want to join this debate, fine, but that is more a manifestation of his aversion to the philosophy of religion than an interesting religious or quasi-religious position in itself."
But why not ask the same question of the atheist - to define what he denies? Bit of a double standard, if you ask me.
Cliteur tries to wriggle out of it, but I don't think he succeeds.
"Western atheism may be better understood as the doctrine that the Christian God does not exist.” This is partly true - he says... but which part is wrong then?
Huxley and Russell got the real meaning of the position.
In 1953 he (Russell) gave a clear indication of what he thought was the essence of the agnostic position. He responded to the question of whether an agnostic was an atheist, and said: “No. An atheist, like a Christian, holds that we can know whether or not there is a God. The Christian holds that we can know there is a God; the atheist, that we can know there is not. The agnostic suspends judgment, saying that there are not sufficient grounds for affirmation or for denial.”
From these words it appears that Russell and Huxley were in agreement. Theism and atheism are rejected for the same reasons. Theists and atheists alike pretend to have knowledge about matters one cannot have knowledge of.
It is clear that when two of the most critical minds in the history of freethought – or what is presented here as the secular outlook – prefer the position of the agnostic above that of the atheist, this is cause for serious concern. Agnosticism has always attracted people who scorn the straight- forwardness of the atheist position.
And so on... where are the arguments to refute these stalwarts?
This is the problem with a non-dogmatic 'atheist" - he is an agnostic who wants to call himself an atheist and hence decides to reinterpret the words so as to assign himself more comfortably.
But in the end I like how Cliteur reconciles the issues:
Since agnosticism feels weak, just invent and use different words!
That means that although atheism is a defensible position, the odds appear very much against it. This has brought many people to the conclusion that it may be better to keep the position but to change the name. We find this with A.C. Grayling (1949– ), for instance. He avoids the term “atheism” when he writes: “I subscribe to a non-religious outlook, and criticize religions both as belief systems and as institutional phenomena which, as the dismal record of history and the present both testify, have done and continue to do much harm to the world, whatever good can be claimed for them besides.” So Grayling speaks of a “non-religious outlook.” He also writes: “As it happens, no atheist should call himself or herself one. The term already sells a pass to theists, because it invites debate on their ground. A more appropriate term is ‘naturalist,’ denoting one who takes it that the universe is a natural realm, governed by nature’s laws.”
Another author who avoids the term “atheism” as a designation for his own position is Paul Kurtz (1925– ). Kurtz favors the term “humanism” and speaks of humanism as eupraxophy (good wisdom and practice). By this he means “that humanism expresses a distinctive nonreligious life- stance.”
Holyoake coined the word “secularism.” He did this because he was convinced that “atheism” was in bad repute. He defined secularism as concern with the problems of this world. He summarized his position in the following words:
(1) Secularism maintains the sufficiency of Secular reason for guidance in human duties. (2) The adequacy of the Utilitarian rule which makes the good of others, the law of duty. (3) That the duty nearest at hand and most reliable in results is the use of material means, tempered by human sympathy for the attainment of social improvement. (4) The sinlessness of well-informed sincerity. (5) That the sign and condition of such sincerity are – Freethought – expository speech – the practice of personal conviction within the limits of neither outraging nor harming others.
It does not matter if god exists or not. We may never really know. But we don't need god, so let us not be atheists and waste our time fighting the theists. Let us just take religion out of public life and let people believe what they want! Secularism!...more
Singer looks at Marx, the Philosopher, and relegates Marx, the Economist to the background. This allows Singer to put aside all the 'refuted' aspects Singer looks at Marx, the Philosopher, and relegates Marx, the Economist to the background. This allows Singer to put aside all the 'refuted' aspects of Marx and focus on the key and relevant ideas. Singer discusses alienation and historical materialism in some detail and tracks their evolution in Marx's thought, but the most interesting segment is when he tries to pin down marx's own conceptions of what a communist utopia should be like. Turns out Marx was extremely pragmatic about it and let slip such ideas only in moments of weakness. As I always like to say to anyone discussing Stalinism wrt Marxism -- just because the prescribed treatment turned out to be off the mark, the diagnosis is not to be dismissed (and that is if the Soviet Russia was even remotely Marxist! Marx must have anticipated all this and is known to have cried out in later life: "All i know is that I am not a Marxist!").
Marx is strongest when he is identifying the deficiencies of capitalism, not when he is trying to propose solutions. Those are our responsibility too. After all, we shouldn't leave everything to one man....more
The low rating is not due to any ideological stand-off, but due to the completely haphazard presentation. Not even an attempt at any chronological dis The low rating is not due to any ideological stand-off, but due to the completely haphazard presentation. Not even an attempt at any chronological discussion. Mostly a series of short essays that vaguely treats of human impacts on the environment within a very broad time frame, interspersed with authorial commentary on why the issue is worth looking at... Also, much of it is on how the environment was modified at varying speeds and fashions as we trace human "progress". Hardly any space is devoted to the effect of environment on human history, or on changing perceptions about the environment -- and since that is what I wanted from the book, doubly disappointing....more
This is a series of lectures and in each of them Calvino takes it upon himself to recommend to the next millennium a particular literary value which h This is a series of lectures and in each of them Calvino takes it upon himself to recommend to the next millennium a particular literary value which he holds dear, and has tried to embody in his work. That way this book becomes not only a manifesto on how to write but also a guide to interpreting Calvino’s writings.
1) Lightness: not frivolity but a lightness of touch that allows the writer and reader to soar above the paralyzing heaviness of the world. 2) Quickness: the mental speed of the narrative — he takes the rapid trot of a folktale as his model here. The narrative should pull the reader along and not get mired up in questioning the non-essential parts. 3) Exactitude: the novel should be perfectly proportioned. Calvino says his guiding image when composing a literary work is the crystal — the magnificent complexity of it and the fact that it can be held in one hand and admired despite all that complexity. The only way to capture life might be to crystalize it with rigid rules? 4) Visibility: or the visual nature of the literary work is all important. For Calvino, every story begins as a visual cue, to which more and more images are added until he has to summon words to describe this profusion of images. He worries about what will happen to the originality of the visual imagination in a world supersaturated by external images. 5) Multiplicity: a literary work should try to encompass the whole known world. It should be ambitious beyond measure. Without unachievable ambition among its practitioners, literature cannot survive long. So Calvino exhorts us to soar beyond the most distant horizons we can conceive of and then to look down and see everything and then write everything. This section is a paean to the encyclopedic novel. And lastly, 6) Incompleteness: a good novel would be incomplete, just like this list. No one could locate the last memo. ...more
Ever since I read his Discourse on Method I have had a strange antipathy towards Descartes. I can’t explain it and it is not entirely rational. It is Ever since I read his Discourse on Method I have had a strange antipathy towards Descartes. I can’t explain it and it is not entirely rational. It is visceral and it is more against his personality and his attitude than against his principles, which were products of his time and though far-flung must have made good sense back then. I don’t even likes his face. I am petty, yes.
Also, I have written a whole “method” on how to identify which philosophers deserve your irrational disrespect. I intend to publish it posthumously. Meanwhile, celebrate me!
Anyway, back to our subject — I think he was just a pompous windbag who was very good at PR.
I would grudgingly give him his due in mathematics, where indeed he was a genius (if all his ideas were in fact his own), but in philosophy he bluffed his way into immortality.
One line Summary?
“God is no deceiver.”
(He wouldn't create an inaccessible world -- He won’t make it easy; but he won’t make it impossible either.)
But apparently D’s hero is as good at promising a lot and then indulging in a bit of obscurantism.