Re: Dubito quia absurdum est.

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sun Mar 12 2000 - 10:07:09 MST

On Saturday, March 11, 2000 10:19 PM Robert Owen
> My intent is not to resurrect an old and contentious
> thread, "Atheism vs. Agnosticism vs Theism", but to
> post my own resolution of this vexed trinity.

But you have done just that -- i.e., resurrect a thread.:)

> The key to proper differentiation is, in my opinion,
> the concept of "doubt" and the "doubtable".

I disagree in this specific case. I define "theist" as "one who believes in
a God or gods" and "atheist" as "one who is not a theist" -- the latter does
not have such beliefs. This is a pure belief view of both. By these
definitions, no epistemology or argument is implied. One could be an
atheist merely because one was never taught about religion. Or one could be
an atheist because one blindly follows on this issue another person who is
an atheist. The same could be said of the theist.

> Regarding any proposition that must be either "true"
> or "false", or any two positions one of which may be
> true but both of which cannot be "true", then if one
> "willingly suspends belief" in either and postpones a
> logical judgment one may be called a SKEPTIC.
> If, on the contrary, one affirms that either but not
> both is true (i.e. one is true and one is false)then
> one may be called a DOGMATIST.

The problem here is Robert is using terms which connote certain things.
Generally, a dogmatist is not one who believes such proposition because she
has to choose, BUT rather one who believes without proper validation.
That's the conventional way the term is used. As such, the term has a
certain connotation -- i.e., that the dogmatist is irrational or, even when
she is right, she's probably right for the wrong reasons.

Likewise, skeptic has certain connotations too.

But the key here is why does someone "suspend judgment"? Just merely having
contrary propositions, such as "it's raining today" versus "it's NOT raining
today" is not enough. The usual reason in this area -- theism vs.
atheism -- is some claim there's not enough evidence to decide. But that
remains to be proven, because I would claim there IS enough evidence to
decide in favor of atheism -- that is, atheism is defensible. Likewise,
many a theist would claim that there's enough evidence to justify theism,
BUT that both sides make such claims is NOT an invitation to skepticism, but
it is an invitation to examine the arguments and evidence. Just that there
are two possibilities does not reduce one to skepticism. There always must
be a basis for doubt.

(See my "Comments on Pancritical Rationalism" at for some more on this.)

> In this sense, the meaning of "Agnostic" is softened
> from asserting that the logical status of a proposition
> is undecidable, to one that implies withholding judg-
> ment given the current state of knowledge. And,
> pari passu, propositions advanced by BOTH the
> "Atheist" and "Theist" must be classified as "Dogmatic".

But by Robert's defintion, that I claim to exist and be conscious now makes
me a dogmatist.:) That Robert claims his view is correct regarding this
classification -- i.e., that his meaning of agnostic is coherent and that
the contrary view that it is not is not true -- makes him a dogmatist. The
terms become nearly useless.

> All this, of course, has the air of the profoundly trivial
> about it. But it does deal with several issues that have
> never been resolved.

The reclassification neither resolves the issue nor does it point to a means
of resolving them. Also, I do NOT think of resolution as convincing others
that a specific view is right or wrong, but by demonstrating that this is
the case -- i.e., not by getting consensus because people can always remain
skeptical for no good reason.

I still agree with George H. Smith's (as given in _Atheism: The Case Against
God_) view that agnosticism is not an alternative to either atheism or
theism. Instead, it is totally confined to the issue of justification of
belief. Therefore, one can be an atheistic agnostic (don't believe in
God/gods, but doesn't think it's possible to justify one's lack of belief)
or a theistic agnostic (believes in God/gods, but doesn't think it's
possible to justify one's belief) -- as well as a non-agnostic of either
stripe (justifies one's belief in either position). Most agnostics I've met
do not claim to be either, but when I get to talking to them I find they are
one or the other -- and most fall into the first category.

Myself? I accept the Stratonician presumption as valid (those who posit a
God or gods must validate Him of them; I don't have to prove a negative) and
the argument from the primacy of existence as Leonard Piekoff states in
_Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand_ (existence is primary over
consciousness, so no consciousness outside of existence is possible). Of
course, these are merely the strongests planks in my justification for my
lack of belief. I've yet to meet an theistic argument (whether argued by a
theist or no) that stands up to scrutiny.


Daniel Ust

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