Friday, February 24, 2006

The Adversary Culture

The perverse anti-Westernism of the cultural elite
Keith Windschuttle
Address to: Summer Sounds Symposium, Punga Cove, New Zealand
February 11 2006

"For the past three decades and more, many of the leading opinion makers in our universities, the media and the arts have regarded Western culture as, at best, something to be ashamed of, or at worst, something to be opposed. "

Read the whole article Here!

This is well worth the read, even if you do not agree with much of the content. Some of the reversals in opinion that the author details make me think that an analysis of the power micro-relations at play (which would reveal many academics and 'experts' selling out their overall ideals and culture for short term noteriety and the irresistable urge to be contrary) is more likely to explain their actions than anlysing these opinions as such.

Monday, February 20, 2006

God-related Games

Here is the link that I promised to post to the The Philosophers' Magazine online games. There are two listed, the best of which is Battleground God. It claims to test the rational consistency of your answers to various questions regarding religion. This is worth playing if you are a philosophy student at any level, but is especially applicable to those studying Reason and Religion, or who have an interest in the Intelligent Design debate.

Battleground God

These are just a few of the games offered by TPM online, the rest can be found here .

Feel free to post your scores (and your comments obviously) as comments.

Separation of Church and University?

How much should a secular, and in theory independent institution endorse (or appear to endorse) the views of a particular religious group?

I asked myself this as I sat at the official welcome for students in the Faculty of Education and Arts here at Newcastle. This function consisted in the Assistant Academic Registrar, Heads of School(s), Program conveners and the Pro-Vice Chancellor giving speeches to the mass of incoming students covered by this faculty(we accounted for 35% of the total intake this year). This part of the program was normal enough. At the end usually a representative from NUSA, (the Newcastle university Students Association) gives a quick talk about the support services they offer to students etc.

But between the academics and the NUSA rep, someone (and I know who) allowed two Newcastle Christian Students (NCS) members get up and make a short presentation on why people should become go to their functions and how they want to share Jesus' word etc.

NCS are well known for their activities on campus, and their somewhat conservative views on anything remotely fun. But this incursion gave the message to new and naive students that NCS is a part of structure of this university in the same league as the faculty officials or the student union organisation. It also gave the impression that Newcastle is a majority Evangelical Christian campus, which I would dispute (I think we are mostly apathetic as far as religion is concerned).

If they can get a spot in the official welcome, then we should have too, along with any other club or society that craves the limelight. I have had just about all I can stand of NCS taking every possible opportunity and using every possible resource and connection to promote their message. I think that the 'ignore them and they will go away' strategy that other members have adopted in the past has totally failed and that we should adopt a more aggressive attitude. Would Nietzsche ( a younger one at least) have taken this lying down? No. He would have burst something. ( I know I almost did).

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Question On The Rigour Of Analytic And Humanistic Philosophy

Thinking about responding to Mr Pender’s recent post – ‘On allegory and meaning’ – I considered the use of allegory and analogy (I’ll agree that, as techniques, they have their place, though I often wonder if they are used when other techniques may conveyed their message more precisely [which seems to imply that I think less of them than other techniques, though I can think of no legitimate basis for this position]).

This set me wondering on a different question; why is it that ‘analytic’ philosophy is considered more rigorous? Perhaps this perception is purely subjective (it was part of my initial response to Mr Pender), but their seems to be a general view that analytic philosophy is more intellectually rigorous in its arguments and presentations than ‘humanistic’ (or Continental, if you will) philosophy. Is there that much of distinction – in terms of rigour – between high calibre works in either tradition? Or is it simply a bias on the part of the anglophile/Anglophone analytic tradition?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Pepsi Challenge, Swinging Priests and People Who Clean Up My Messy Links.

Just a few of my favourite things.
Here's a semi-interesting follow up to the previous link I posted....

Don't preach to scientists in evolution row: Kueng

On allegory and meaning

I have been accused, and probably quite rightly, of things along the lines of being to damn mystical, a bloody day dreamer, or a useless hippy loony. These accusations have speued from my interest in literature. But here is my question; if meaning is so unsure as Kripky seems to argue, then why is there any trouble speaking in stories rather than whatever that which is not spoken in stories is spoken in? Surely the practice of saying one thing to mean another was brought in as an attempt to produce clarity. Maybe it is similar to the mathematicians insistence on 'elegance' rather than brevity or simplicity.

Anyway, I like stories, and am intrigued by Camus' use of the sun and the sea as antitheses that have very strong crossovers in their nature. Both give and take life, and make on feel alive and jealous of their life. So they cannot really be true antitheses in the logical sense, but nonetheless, this is how they are held up. So i object to the claim that speaking in stories means a lack of logical rigourand instead claim that it is useful still once logic has ceased to be. It is said that philosophy began in wonder, and I think tis is where it should stay, as a means of framing questions, and only answering tem in order to ask a different question. Anyway, that's my story; what do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Advice For The Freshers …

It is, allegedly, O-Week at the University of Newcastle. Perhaps some Freshers, having survived contact with the Philosophy Club stall (if it exists), will find their way to this philoblog. And what will they find here?

Well, they will find a link to some advice that I have long admired.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Regarding ‘Benedict Takes The Pepsi Challenge’, Roman Catholicism and Science

[The speech that started the discussion, ‘DISCORSO DI SUA SANTITÀ BENEDETTO XVI AI PARTECIPANTI ALL'ASSEMBLEA PLENARIA DELLA CONGREGAZIONE PER LA DOTTRINA DELLA FEDE’, is available in Italian.]

I’d like to address the first issue – the compatibility of Roman Catholicism and scientific thought.

Firstly, Peter, the easy position is that if the Pontiff claims that Roman Catholicism and science are compatible then they are, due to pontifical infallibility (the Pontiff is infallible on theological matters; within limits now-days). It is an easy position, but can be set aside for the purposes of this discussion.

Secondly, the more complex theological position (as I understand it, and considerably oversimplified). Drawing from the non-literal interpretation of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures that is current in Roman Catholic theology, science has been assumed into the Roman Catholic worldview. (You have to remember that this is the Church that hosted and canonised Aquinas, Anselm, and Abelard, and that gives the Jesuits the capacity to build large radio telescopes. It is also the Church whose spiritual leader was well aware that Galileo was right about planetary motion at the time of excommunicating him.) To clarify, in a series of pontifical encyclicals, the Church has adapted doctrine to accord and accept scientific development/discovery. For example, a theologically acceptable version of Darwinian evolution is now taken as part of Church teaching, with the opening of ‘Genesis’ being viewed as a creation myth used to explain the process of how the world and its populations came to be. Further, there are no points of difference between Church teaching and current physics. In this theological system, God is relegated to the purely metaphysical – a figure outside the scope of possible scientific knowledge. It is within this framework that the Church position on miracles – an issue debated here last year – holds that a miracle is something that cannot be explained by rational and sceptical science.

The basic point is that the Roman Catholic Church is prepared to accept any position that is considered scientifically acceptable. The point of difference is that Roman Catholic dogma postulates the existence of God, and insists that this deity exists outside the realm of the scientifically knowable.

[I probably should have stated up-front that it has been a good few years since I dealt with any of the relevant material, so I’m far from infallible on these points. Further, should anyone feel like really engaging on this topic – you know to whom I refer – you might want to spend some time reading the various encyclicals and doctrinal documents prepared on the relationship between science and Roman Catholicism before you comment, but I – personally – think that none of the regular contributors to this blog are in any position to treat this particular issue at the moment. I am even prepared, having dealt with the topic to this extent, to say that to go further is beyond me – and I, of us all, should know the material having been educated in Catholic schools.]


Post Script; His Holiness is actually trying to extricate himself from involvement in the Intelligent Design debate. He made comments last year that were viewed – by some commentators – as being out of sync with the position articulated by his predecessors and which were criticised accordingly. Essentially, he made a comment that, translated into English, could have been taken as a support of ID, which was seen as challenging the acceptance of evolution. Further, the Pontiff is in no position to relieve the pressure in the states; ID is a Christian issue, NOT a Catholic one. As I’ve pointed to, Catholics are pro-evolution.

Benedict Takes The Pepsi Challenge

Some recent comments by the pope suggests that he's not afraid of those 'other' ideas.

In light of our recent discussions this might hold some interest. I think the two most notable issues here are 1) whether the pope is right in his claims and science is actually compatible with his faith and 2) it looks like the pope is attempting to alleviate some of the unrest in schools (especially the in the U.S.) over the creationism vs. evolution debate.

Any thoughts?

Yahoo News piece.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Justification

I have a question. How does the justification of justification run?

Now, if justification does not require a justification then any demand for justification is unjustified, thus hypocritical.

If justification does require justification then how is this done without begging the question?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Brief Methodological Note Regarding ‘February 1, 2006’ in ‘A Question For The Theologists’

A comment made on ‘A Question For The Theologists’ has come under methodological criticism, and I think it better to state my defence here rather than in that strand of discussion because I would rather that strand continue discussing the theme than methodology.

Michael set out several charges against my comment. He charged that I added nothing, that I accused him of misapplying a word, and that I alleged that no other positions were being advocated. I am prepared to admit guilt on all three charges, but would like to present a brief defence.

Firstly, I am aware that my comment made no substantive contribution to the debate in comparison to the eristic presentations that had been going on. I have taken a methodological view that, though eristic may look impressive, it is not good philosophical practice. I would rather add nothing, in substantive terms, than advocate a position in an area that I am not entirely competent in. In such cases, I try to be somewhat Socratic in my method.

Secondly, I have in fact charged Michael with misapplying a word. This was not my intent. Michael stated at ‘January 31, 2006 3:33 pm’ that he was confused – probably in response to an earlier post – and then presented the following question “Now if you think, but are not sure, that god doesn't exist, and it matters, is this not agnosticism, rather than atheism?” From this I read that Michael had misunderstood the concept of agnosticism and wanted that concept clarified. It has been made apparent that I was wrong to read his comment in such a way, and that my response was inappropriate.

Thirdly, I did make the observation that no other positions were being advocated. I stand by that observation. The way I have been reading the strand of comments takes Michael as advocating a certain position that others have been attempting to critique. Yes, they have been doing this from their repsective positions, but it had been some posts in the thread since anyone else had advocated, as I take the term, a position.

Having answered my critic, I would like to make a few other comments and replies. Perhaps these should be located in the comments on ‘A Question’, but I will set them out here.

Firstly, I persist that Michael is using a poor conception of agnosticism. As he apparently ‘defined’ it, in the aforementioned question, it holds only a vague similarity to the concept as I defined it, which I assume to be the more common definition. This is only an assumption, but I’m yet to come across an agnostic who holds a Michael type view. Secondly, Michael, I have read Hicks. I dare say that Samuel has as well. The Philosophy of Religion, Second Edition is an introductory text on the philosophy of religion – not language – that has been on the PHIL1020 reading list, as well as on the Reason and Religion reading list. Thirdly, you may feel that imposing dictionary definitions on terms used in a discussion is poor form, but I take it to be good form because the terminology of your discipline is highly reliant on its practioners being able to understand each other. If you want to challenge a conventional concept, you need to establish that convention and then set out why it needs to be changed. This is how philosophy is practiced, not by simply asserting your prefered definition and hoping that all will accept. Chances are that they will not.

I wish to conclude with a proposal on how the discussions on Dialectic should be set out in the future. Having observed the practice of commenting, I think that in future comments should be limited to questions and clarifications of a specific post. Positions and critiques of posts should be presented as a new post. These posts should have a heading of the type ‘RE: ‘A Question For The Theologists’ I’ (or similar … I’m not fussy, and it is no longer my place to expound editorial policy). This would enable the advocacy of positions to be more apparent, and issues of clarification to carry on alongside discussions. The Becker-Posner Blog may be a model that can be adapted. How, and whether, this proposal works is entirely reliant on the practice of the contributors and the conventions that should evolve.

[I feel that I may be charged with excess for this post, or that some may claim it as a victory. To those who would charge the former, it probably is. To those who would charge the latter, you’ve not understood the post at all.]

Friday, February 03, 2006

An argument to be held in stories.

An illustration of the relation between theism, atheism, agnosticism, skeptics and irreligious.
There are two giant birds flying, and between them hangs a rope that each grasps in it claw. On the back of each bird ride many people, but riding in the bird’s back between the wings so that they can see neither the other bird nor the rope nor the fall to the ground. Across the rope also many people wander back and forth, seemingly lost. They want to leave the rope for it is round and they fear to fall, but they can’t bring themselves to choose either bird over the other, so they remain on the rope. Far below is the ground. On the ground are many people: among them are those who have never looked up and wondered what it is like to fly, and those who have but have dismissed it a mere dreaming.
The one represents theism, the other atheism The rope represents agnosticism. Those on the ground that don’t look up are the terminally irreligious people, while those that do I think are cynics.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

25th Philosopher's Carnival

The Uncredible Hallq is Hosting the 25th Philosopher's Carnival.

I have not gotten through all the contributions yet, but Jerry Monaco on Category Mistakes is probably worth a look.