Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Life Without God (Update 2)


It's been a while since I pondered about my "coming out" as an atheist. It always helps for me to write stuff down in order to reflect on my progress. The last time I talked about my de-conversion was July of last year. This is what has happened since then.

I must admit that the most insight I get from the religious is through my social media. Oftentimes, I will look on my home page on Facebook and see a plethora of Bible verses and bumper sticker sayings. Perhaps this is why I feel that it is important for me to talk about my story and discuss how blind I once was.

If there are religious people who are curious enough to read this post, whether it be my friends or someone else, I have a message for you: when I talk openly about my atheism or mock a certain religion, I do so as a philosopher first and not as an atheist. There is a problem with many atheists today; they are so concerned about appearing superior to the religious that all of their comments are made with the purpose of vilifying them. But for me, as a philosopher and as a freethinker, all ideas can be discussed and either accepted and built upon or dismissed and critiqued. No idea is in a position above skeptical scrutiny. Absurd ideas (which can be demonstrated as such) deserve to be mocked. This does not mean that I am attacking the person, but I am saying that those certain beliefs are unfounded.

As of now, I cannot get enough of the questions that deal with the existence of a creator. I will take any second I can to listen to thinkers debate points on both sides. Ironically, I feel as if I knew more about the Bible now than I ever did when I was "saved." I can see, in retrospect, my ignorance about what was in the scriptures and how I was taught how to ignore those "unpleasant" verses that loom in the background to any happy verse that has been cherry picked by most preachers.
My skepticism does not allow me to take claims as facts without supporting evidence like I once did. I truly think that my formal logic class really opened up my ability to judge how people phrase arguments and claims. Classes that stress such virtues as reasonable inquiry have helped me develop my skills in determining what is reasonable and what is not.

Thanks for reading. 



   

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Science as a Necessary Tool for Morality

Science and the search for objectivity are important aspects to take into account when trying to make sense of morality. Many consequentialist systems (such as utilitarianism) depend on analyzing the action and its effects. Although, contemplation within moral frameworks is strengthened and magnified by scientific discoveries: strengthened by taking the implications of empirical data and using them to infer new ways of moral behaviors; magnified by looking at moral issues through the lens of theoretical objectivity with more precision than if one chose to ignore them.

I say that science is a necessary tool. I do not mean that it is a sufficient one. All that is gained from utilizing scientific knowledge in morality is by all means pragmatic. The question regarding absolute truth does not need to be taken into account because science (and morality) are seemingly human inventions. They both exist for our own benefit; this is why we have them.

It is foolish to claim that science is the only tool that can lead us to a coherent and adequate moral system. Logic, for example, is another important thing to consider. Some philosophers say that even emotions could serve a role for this mission. But this is talk for another time.

 

Friday, March 15, 2013

An Inquiry: Is Life Sacred?


I thought that I needed to finally write a blog about the claim that life is sacred. Hopefully, I can reasonably draw a conclusion that follows logically. My blog post range from a broad range of philosophical topics, but I wanted to use this opportunity to blog in the form of a traditional inquiry. Starting from the metaphorical clean slate of reasoning (or something hopefully close to it), I will attempt to logically conclude whether life is sacred. How liberating it is to see my own rational journey laid out in front of my eyes!

The term sacred must be defined before developing any logical steps. There are many definitions of the term. These are the definitions from Merrian-Webster:

1. Dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity
2. Worthy of religious veneration; holy
3. Of or relating to religion; not secular or profane
4. Archaic
5. highly valued and important

Of these five definitions, I do not wish to address 1, 3, or 4. The purpose for this inquiry is not to critique religion, although it is highly dubious and problematic. I do, however, want to address definitions 3 and 5. By saying that life is holy and that it is worthy of religious veneration seems to be an entirely different claim apart from merely criticizing religion; this is also the case in definition 5. 

When people say that life is sacred (when using definitions 3 and 5), they are making a claim that requires a certain kind of evidence about the world. People might say that because life is beautiful, it is holy or important in some kind of religious (or secular) sense. They might also claim, moreover, that life is highly valued due to its rare occurrence within the universe. Are these claims logically consistent? 

By saying that something is beautiful, one makes a valued judgment about a particular phenomenon within the universe. How, then, is life beautiful? Of course, there are many beautiful things about life that are beautiful, e.g. experiencing a moving spectacle of a morning sunrise or noticing the wondrous use of a technique within a piece of art. But do mere instances of beauty directly lead to the supposed truth that life is either holy or important? It does not seem to be the case. For just as someone could say that "X is beautiful," someone could say that "Y is not beautiful." So it does not make sense to say that life is sacred because it is beautiful. However, if all aspects of life could be proven as beautiful in the specific sense of the term (which is highly trivial), then it would make sense to say that life is beautiful and therefore sacred using definition 5.

Now, the other question is whether life is so rare in the universe as to render it holy and thus sacred. With our current knowledge of science, the universe is more vast than ever imagined. The vast nature of the universe makes it highly improbable that there are not any alien lifeforms somewhere within it. So this does not seem to hold any weight to the sacredness of life. However, if science progressed to the point that it discovers no alternate alien lifeforms, then the claim that the rarity of life is holy would be much more convincing. 

With this small inquiry, it is safe to say that there are many conflicts within the claim that life is sacred. It seems necessary to err on the side of skepticism than to make claims with a sense of certainty. Perhaps technological innovations will provide more answers in the future, but it makes no sense to say that "life is sacred." 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vanity

Is it all in vain -
trying to change the way
society views ignorance?

I cannot let pass
those who simply challenge
loyal open mindedness.

The way of certainty,
how vast is their knowledge.
And me? I know nothing.

To say that you know
is to understand all things.
How appearances madden.

They admit that they
sit within the security
of great contentment.

This path I envy.
The contentment of
mind is complacent.

So on I will go
through the valley
of uncertain ones.

Here I will remain,
'til the universe
confesses itself.   


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sentimentality and Its Uses

Sentimentality has received much praise and blame when it comes to philosophical inquiries. Many rationalist thinkers claim that philosophy is no place for feelings and emotions. On the other hand, proponents of the care ethics movement, mostly led by feminist philosophers, believe that sentimentality must be used in order to come to a broader understanding of the world. In this post, I just wanted to make some comments involving this idea of sentimentality.

By sentimentality, as might be deduced from my previous elaboration, I mean the implementation of emotions and feelings into something. My interest in this topic was propagated when reading Hegel in my lecture. Specifically, this passage stood out: "If [consciousness] wishes to remain in a state of unthinking inertia, then thought troubles its thoughtlessness, and its own unrest disturbs its inertia. Or, if it trenches itself in sentimentality, which assures us that it finds everything to be good in its kind, then this assurance likewise suffers violence at the hand of Reason, for, precisely in so far as something is merely a kind, Reason finds it not to be good" (Phenomenology of Spirit).
Hegel implies that there are some people who practice a type of sentimentality that remains radically optimistic at all times. This sort of naive emotional stance is detrimental to human dignity. There are simply things within this world - numerous things - that are harmful and detrimental to human capacities. It would be absurd to remain constantly sentimental in this way.

However, sentimentality seems to be required in many relationships. Emotional bonds connect people to one another, especially in monogamous situations. This is an area where sentimentality is condoned by most western societies. And, I must admit, there is a certain euphoria that comes with the ability to express such feelings and emotions. Here, love acts as an intoxication, and what a wonderful inebriation it is.

But in arenas that require sober reasoning, I would argue that sentimentality is damaging to many endeavors. Where would science be if the scientists have so much sentimental investment in their experiments? Bias would reproduce tenfold and would unavoidably lead to botched conclusions. The same problem seems to exist within analytical philosophy; feelings and emotions might sway the thinker into making rash and irresponsible claims.