*edit* "Attitude" is probably the wrong word, philosophy may be the word I'm looking for...
There have been prominent existential thinkers who are both very religious and very non-religious. Of course, I think if you want a really deep and powerful set of existential beliefs, one that makes sense and is not ultimately false or asks you to make completely unwarranted assumptions, then you want the atheistic version. Existentialism is great, I love it, it is a wonderful blend of ethics and psychology, and of course you can do all these things without appealing to the supernatural.
Yeah I agree with you entirely, I suppose it's rattling around the noggen of mine as a result of a discussion I had with a deist who postulated the good ol' pascal wager to me... so lol, it's been an excersise in mental gymnastics trying to figure out his position...
Hah, yeah that is generally the case with, wait, did you say deist? That's an odd position all on its own. So he doesn't proscribe to any particular religion, right? Pascal's wager is kinda absurd. Supposing I told you I had a dream that an evil demon came to me and told me that he had created the universe and that all religions and beliefs in a benevolent god were lies that he started to trick people so that they would be devastated for his own amusement when they found out the truth, and that it would be pretty silly to question this premise or entertain any of the possibilities that would arise by doing so because if you dared to question this premise he would make your afterlife that much worse for having done so. Would this motivate you enough to change your entire worldview so that you could never think things through for yourself? Of course, your deist would say that these were different because there really might be a god, at which point you need only point out that there is just as much evidence for the one as the other and dismiss his beliefs as such, as Hitchens used to say, what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
well his "evidence" is a near death expierence wich would apply to youre dream analogy only to him it was real. Yheah he's a real psychological odd ball, beleives in the supernatural, rejects conventional god claims, and insists science isn't the end all be all of knowledge, "that some greater truth" is there. I just said "well I need extrodinary evidance to backup extrodinary claims until then we'll agree to disagree". The bad part is I've never met the guy and he'll be at my friend's wedding (where I'm the best man) lol...that'll be fun. hope there's booze....
Lol, yeah definitely need to get liquored up for that one! I would argue that I agree, scientific knowledge isn't the only kind of knowledge we can have, but certainly supernatural beliefs do not count as knowledge. We also have experiential knowledge, which is just to say that we have knowledge of internal, subjective types of experiences which have their basis in reality in the physical world, which can be explained only scientifically, but that does not mean that our passions or consciousnesses or intuitions are only explainable objectively. What I mean is that we can explain our experiences in two ways, one by explaining them in their objective senses, which is to explain them scientifically, and one by explaining them subjectively, which does not by any means trump the objective (quite the opposite), but it does add to it. When someone has a subjective experience, it is also objectively true that he has, so subjective experiences make up a whole world of objective facts which depend on objectivity for their existence, but cannot be explained in a wholly objective sense without missing half the story, and in this case, the more important half. So what this allows us to do is to talk about things like justice, or ethics in general, and the politics that relies on our understanding of our ethical frameworks, or meaning and purpose, i.e. existentialism, or aesthetics, or different states of consciousness, or poetry, or literature, and probably a lot of other things as well that stand to benefit from this dual approach. I don't think you can really do existentialism from a purely objective, scientific point of view. And then this allows you to understand and explain to the "spiritual" person what it is that they are experiencing, that they do not have access to an "astral plane" or any other such garbage, they do not have access to any different planes of existence that are inaccessible to anyone else, and all those kinds of experiences fit perfectly well into a naturalistic, rational explanation of the world without them having to be purely rational themselves. I agree with Hume that "reason is the slave of the passions", that we use reason and rationality and science and objectivity as means to the ends of our desires, and so while our passions are objectively explainable we also need to be able to speak about them in the language of common experience. I hope this is clear, if so I won't go on and on, if not, I'd be glad to try again!
I do agree (I think), science is meerly a tool and is subject to fault like anything else. The more abstract concepts of "ethics" or more curiously "empathy" are meerly the definitons of the emotional condition of the brain. It transcends science in the same way a painting transcends math am I too far off base with this?
No you're not, I think you got it. It's a lot like the sciences themselves, where physics relies on math, chemistry relies on physics, biology relies on chemistry, psychology relies on biology, sociology relies on psychology, and so on. Each relies on what comes before it for it's existence, but is understood almost entirely on its own terms. So subjectivity relies on objectivity, but is understandable to a large degree on its own terms.
I like your examples, ethics and especially empathy must be experienced to be really understood, and cannot just be known by their objective descriptions alone. Another good example often used in philosophical circles is that of colors. The objective description of a color is merely it's wavelength, but unless you can see you cannot actually experience "redness", etc. Try explaining colors to a blind person by telling them that light bounces off of an object at differing wavelengths, and they would be capable perhaps of understanding of differences of degrees, like shades of grey, but that would hardly convey the experience of colors, would it?
A story that might amuse: In college (TCU, 60s), our philosophy professor, brother of the then-famous Nils F. S. Ferre', taught his course with special emphasis on metaphysics. When we reaced the end of the first semester, he realized he'd covered about three of the six chapters we were to read and thus, to finish the course in time, would have to skip over two of the chapters. When I raised my hand and asked why he was omitting existentialism, he said, "Oh, it's not important." I only later realized that I should have read Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky extensively, along with every other author Prof. Ferre' was trashing.
Philosophers are an odd bunch to be sure. They all have their own pet ideologies, their own favorite and not so favorite ideas. My teacher for 19th century philosophy was, in truth, a bit of a fruitcake, but he was right about some things that I have really come to like about continental philosophy. Meanwhile all the analytic philosophers didn't take him seriously, but then I didn't like how one-sided they were either. And my ethical theory teacher taught her class as if her deontological bent was true, which angered and frustrated me and caused me to do poorly in her class. I've since spent a good deal of time constructing arguments specifically against her position. I hope one day, after I have made it big, I see her again and deflate her giant ego.
Yeah existentialists are pretty awesome, lots of people, even (or maybe especially?) philosophy professors, don't know what the hell they're talking about.
Just so my position is clear, While science deals with objectivity, philosophy comes in to deal with the subjective aspects. I disagree with ascribing mysticle notions to these aspects. I akin it to theoretical physics as applied to science, in that it deals with abstract ideals that may/may not be relavent to applicable science.
So Science is a methodical approach to a conclusion while philosophy attempts to describe "color" (excellent analogy @wanderer) My point of contention is the whole "well I don't know, you don't know, I say it's god" thing.
Hopefully this came out coherrent enough (it's late for me)
Philosophy does not deal with just subjectivity, if that is what you meant. You are of course right about not believing there to be anything "mystical" about anything in reality, we are all atheists here! :-) But that is not what I had said. What is true is that those things which people take to be mystical can be perfectly explained to them from a naturalistic perspective if you are able to understand the language, the subjectivity of it, and show them what those concepts are really about. What people take to be spirituality, for example, is, to me anyway (I've put a lot of thought into this and am writing a book on ethics that hopefully explains these sorts of experiences well), nothing more than "motivation". People "feel" especially motivated by certain things, often they feel it as a sort of force within themselves that gives them power/motivation and they cannot find the words to describe it, so the notion of a spirit, a very old notion indeed, steps in and provides them with a handy description of their experience.
This is all I mean about philosophy being able to take subjectivity into account. In science, you can't rely on subjective testimony, people will say for example that they feel a burning in their throats and then the dr. has to do an objective evaluation of the throat, he can't just prescribe medicine based on subjective feelings. Philosophy deals with objective reality, but it is able to incorporate subjective experience into it in a way that no other discipline is capable of. Many different disciplines take one or the other into account more or less than others, for example literature and poetry deal with these subjective experiences to a much higher degree than even philosophy perhaps, but they have to sacrifice a lot of objectivity to do it. There is still much we can say about these objectively, but it is not a rigid methodology like science is and like philosophy needs to be in order to be successful.
The thing is, we do know that there isn't any such things as deities. And when we are able to have a rational discussion about the sorts of things that give rise to such beliefs, and we use reason to analyze the arguments for and against, we can give perfectly reasonable justifications for our beliefs, whereas theirs fail. They simply rely on being as unreasonable as possible, they use confusion and misdirection to their advantage, etc.. And they take the fact that there is no such thing as an absolute proof of anything (even in science nothing is absolutely true, it is only tentatively true until we are proven wrong) to say well, you can't prove me wrong. But this is essentially meaningless, because of course we can't prove them wrong any more than we or they could absolutely prove anything. If this is their criteria for relinquishing their hold on absurd beliefs, then they are being completely intellectually dishonest and I feel free to let them them know this.
So you are getting it, philosophy isn't the easiest subject in the world, and explaining why we still need philosophy to people who have accepted science as the only way we come to understand our world is very difficult in itself because, as this discussion has edified for me, you first have to explain that philosophy also follows (if it is done right!) a rigid methodology that goes "beyond" what science is as yet capable of, though in theory science should be able to handle much of this stuff by itself, given the right tools (to be able to read minds in particular). Really science is a philosophy, as are religions, as you can't have a set of theoretical beliefs without a philosophy. So yeah, I am still struggling to give a solid answer to these questions, and I've got my degree in philosophy, so it takes a lot of work. It's not easy. But it can be done!