Archive for the ‘Thomas Nagel’ Category

What atheism doesn’t answer

January 20, 2010

If sub specie aeternitatis there is no reason to believe that anything matters, then that does not matter either, and we can approach our lives with irony instead of heroism or despair.

The Absurd Thomas Nagel. The Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 68. No. 20. Sixty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division (Oct. 21, 1971). pp. 716-727. Journal of Philosophy, Inc.

What Nagel is saying is this: ultimately there is no meaning in life, in the grand scheme of things (from his atheist perspective he is correct) but the statement itself is without meaning. Therefore we can approach this issue with irony.

He may choose to adopt that posture. But his response does not answer a further question we might ask: why do we instinctively rebel against the notion that all of my life is ultimately meaningless? Why do we, moment by moment, actually ascribe significance to what we do?

Advertisements

I must ‘follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so’

December 16, 2009

Thomas Nagel, the prominent philosopher and atheist, agrees in the last chapter of his book The Last Word. He writes that to be sure my mind is telling me what really, truly is out there in the world, I must ‘follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so’. However, according to evolutionary biology laws of reason would have to make sense to us only because they help us survive, not because they necessarily tell the truth. So, Nagel asks:

[Can we have any] continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge about the nonapparent character of the world? In itself, I believe an evolutionary story [of the human race] tells against such confidence.

 

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, Hodder, 2008, p.137

It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God

December 14, 2009

In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehood. I am talking about something much deeper — namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that… My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind.

Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 130-131.