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epistemology: naturalists vs. anti-naturalists

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  • twclark2002
    Greetings, Just to let folks know the CFN newsletter is out, including an exchange
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 13, 2008
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      Greetings,

      Just to let folks know the CFN newsletter is out, including an exchange with two theists, Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro, who've written a book critical of naturalism that I reviewed  recently. I've come to the conclusion (nothing particularly new) that the primary disagreement between naturalists and anti-naturalists is epistemological. Goetz and Taliaferro think that uncorroborated first-person experience (e.g., about the existence and nature of the soul and free will) is a reliable guide to what's objectively the case, and of course I don't. Further, they aren't bothered by the fact that they have no explanation for how the soul influences/controls the brain and behavior (the old problem of  mental-physical interaction). Why don't they think this counts against the adequacy of their view?

      The ball is in their court, but I'm not holding my breath for a further response. There just doesn't seem to be a good answer available to them that could justify what I call their epistemic laxity. If there isn't, it suggests that one difference between naturalists and anti-naturalists (at least of their theistic, dualist variety) is the importance placed on reliable routes to objectivity and on explanatory transparency.  These are at the top of the list for naturalists, but for theists other things are more important, such as defending god. Or so it seems to me.

      best,

      Tom

    • Alessandro Gagliardi
      Greetings Tom, I m currently reading the (Christian) Bible (following the One Year Bible curriculum--it s the only way I would ever finish it) and I m also
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 13, 2008
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        Greetings Tom,

        I'm currently reading the (Christian) Bible (following the One Year
        Bible curriculum--it's the only way I would ever finish it) and I'm
        also reading a bit of Jung here and there (currently working through
        his Answer to Job) and trying to put myself in the mind of someone who
        really believes this stuff. I gave up on Christianity when I was
        about 10, so it's hard for me to relate in that way. But I only
        abandoned supernaturalism a couple years ago, so in that sense, the
        mythical world view is not so distant from me. For my entire adult
        life, I looked at religion using the lens of Eliade, Jung and
        Campbell, so far as I was able to understand them, anyway. And all of
        them distinguish a sort of sacred/psychological/mythic reality from a
        profane/historical/literal reality. And while they take pains to
        emphasize that the one should not be confused for the other (i.e. none
        of them would say that the historical Jesus was literally born of a
        physical virgin) at the same time the believed that the
        sacred-psycho-mythic reality was the more important. As for Jung, he
        was a clinician of the mind, so he was motivated by very practical
        concerns of what would bring a state of mental health to the patient.
        From that angle, he may well have had a point. Understanding the
        subtleties of evolution may not help much with troubling dreams of
        angry parental figures. Contemplating the psychology of Yahweh might.

        The problem, as I see it, is when supernaturalists try to drag the
        rest of the world into their dream (or nightmare, as the case may be).
        It's all fine and good to live in a world of salvation and rapture,
        but when that effects your policy decisions on foreign policy and
        environmental concerns, then we have a real problem. The mythical
        reality is personal, but the material world, no matter how profane, is
        the ground reality in which we all must live and get along. And to
        force your myth on others is narcissistic at best,
        paranoid-schizophrenic at worst.

        I was about to say that I don't think most people are at the level of
        sophistication to understand this dichotomy, but on second thought, I
        think most do get it on some level, even if not consciously. The New
        Atheists seem to think that the literal interpretation (conflating the
        psychological with the historical) is the only coherent one and that
        the people who maintain both world views are entertaining a cognitive
        dissonance that must eventually break down. But I think the opposite
        might be the case. The literal interpretation seems to be the
        psychologically unstable one. People who believe in a young Earth are
        in the minority and the only way to maintain such a view requires the
        kind of logical acrobatics normally seen in conspiracy theorists. For
        the people who maintain both views, a belief in an interventionist God
        as well as a belief in the validity of science, reality is much more
        coherent because experience typically fits into one or the other. It
        is only the professional priest or the professional scientist that
        must bring one world view to the fore and either suppress, deny, or
        some how account for the other. So most priests don't spend too much
        time thinking about science, and most scientists don't spend too much
        time thinking about religion. Those that do either become rabid
        atheists or naturalist pantheists. Of course, I'm oversimplifying
        here. I'm generating this as I write it, so I'm probably making all
        kinds of horrible generalizations.

        Thoughts?

        -Alessandro

        On Sat, Sep 13, 2008 at 4:27 PM, twclark2002 <twc@...> wrote:
        > Greetings,
        >
        > Just to let folks know the CFN newsletter is out, including an exchange with
        > two theists, Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro, who've written a book
        > critical of naturalism that I reviewed recently. I've come to the
        > conclusion (nothing particularly new) that the primary disagreement between
        > naturalists and anti-naturalists is epistemological. Goetz and
        > Taliaferro think that uncorroborated first-person experience (e.g., about
        > the existence and nature of the soul and free will) is a reliable guide to
        > what's objectively the case, and of course I don't. Further, they aren't
        > bothered by the fact that they have no explanation for how the soul
        > influences/controls the brain and behavior (the old problem of
        > mental-physical interaction). Why don't they think this counts against the
        > adequacy of their view?
        >
        > The ball is in their court, but I'm not holding my breath for a further
        > response. There just doesn't seem to be a good answer available to them that
        > could justify what I call their epistemic laxity. If there isn't, it
        > suggests that one difference between naturalists and anti-naturalists (at
        > least of their theistic, dualist variety) is the importance placed on
        > reliable routes to objectivity and on explanatory transparency. These are
        > at the top of the list for naturalists, but for theists other things are
        > more important, such as defending god. Or so it seems to me.
        >
        > best,
        >
        > Tom
        >
        >
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