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Agnosticism is not a logical stance

  1. Nov 28, 2004 #1
    I used to claim I was simply agnostic, but I realized this is not logically possible.

    When asked the question, "Do you belive in God?", one cannot answer "I don't know". If you do not explicitly express a belief in God, then you are an atheist. There is no middle ground on a yes or no question. You can be a strong or weak atheist, or even an agnostic atheist. Agnosticism pertains to believing that the concept of God can be proven or not. There are agnostic theists and agnostic atheists.

    Any thoughts?
     
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  3. Nov 28, 2004 #2

    Les Sleeth

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    I don't know if you are talking semantics, or trying to describe how people feel. As far as I'm concerned, a person can be anywhere they are in terms of belief. All of us are trying to translate the current state of our certainty into words.

    God, that is a tough one.

    My current opinion is a feeling, not a mental state. I feel there is something more than physical processes. I have not had the privilege of being able to observe the details of what that is. I don't know what it is capable of. I am not fully certain of what its role is in creation.

    Sometimes when people ask "do you believe in God," they are asking if you believe in some religion's model of God. But we aren't required to say yes or no to that. We can say we don't know about THAT concept of God, but that we feel there is something more (or not) than physical processes involved in creation.

    Is that agnostic or atheistic? Does it matter if we have a word for where we are in terms of our sense of something more?
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2004
  4. Nov 28, 2004 #3
    You're right. We must define God into certain terms in order to ask the question "Do you belive in 'x'?". What I'm saying is that when a question is asked liked that, you cannot logically say "I don't know" and have that as an answer. If you don't know if you believe something, you do not believe it. Beliefs are a positive statement, while negating those beliefs do not have to be an affirmation, although they can be.

    If I asked, "Do you believe that the earth is flat?", unless you said "yes", logically is would be understood that you do not have that belief.

    I haven't taken philosophy or anything, these are just my own thoughts.
     
  5. Nov 28, 2004 #4

    Les Sleeth

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    I think you are correct. I didn't understand that you were asking a logic-semantic question. If you ask someone if they "believe" and they say I don't know, then they don't believe, just as you say.
     
  6. Nov 29, 2004 #5

    honestrosewater

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    This is not how atheism is usually defined. Atheists *deny* the existence of God. Agnostics *do not deny* the existence of God.
    If you asked an agnostic, "Do you deny the existence of God?" they would not answer, "Yes." Thus they are not atheists. Only a person who answers, "Yes" is an atheist. If you have any doubt, theists also would not answer, "Yes." and certainly theists are not atheists.
    ____
    Actually, I think the problem is here:
    True, either you are or are not a thiest, that is, a theist or a nontheist. This doesn't mean that all nontheists are identical.

    An object is either a circle or noncircle, but the set of all noncircles can contain more than one object (squares, trees, people, etc.). This is logically permissible.
    A object is either a theist or a nontheist, but the set of all nonthiests can contain more than one object (atheists, agnostics, chairs, etc.). This is also logically permissible.
    A square can be neither a tree nor a circle since "tree" does not mean the same thing as "noncircle."
    A person can be neither an atheist nor a thiest since "atheist" does not mean the same thing as "nonthiest."

    Does that help?
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2004
  7. Nov 29, 2004 #6
    If an agnostic is asked; "Do you believe in God?" then logically he cannot answer the question directly with a simple yes or no. In that you are correct. However, that does not make being an agnostic illogical. If he must answer then he can only say that his belief is that the question of God is not yet proven or disproved and he has not made up his mind one way or another. Remember that not deciding one way or another is also a valid decision. Not every question can be answered yes or no.
     
  8. Nov 29, 2004 #7
    I can argue that all the positions are off base.

    Atheism: It's not a specific enough position. Do you mean that only material stuff exists? If so, then you are a materialist and we have no need for the atheist title. If you are a non-materialist and still an atheist, then how do you know non-material things exist? In fact, how do you know anything of anything that is ontological-based?? It seems agnosticism is all anyone can be about anything. So, scratch atheism and call yourself an agnostic materialist.

    Theism: Again, it's not specific enough position. Do you mean that material stuff is not the ultimate reality? Then you are an idealist or platonist. Which one? If you think only God exists, then you are an absolute idealist. And, like above, how do you know anything of anything? I think if you are the least bit humble you acknowledge that you can't prove the existence of anything (even yourself), and therefore you are either an agnostic idealist or an agnostic platonist.

    Agnostics: Since everyone in the world has to profess some form of agnosticism, why not just admit that the description is utterly useless! Say what you think, and stop taking pride in the fact that you don't know - who the hell does?? If you don't even want to take a guess, then why the hell are you talking about ontology in the first place?? Just say to everyone "you are wasting your time" and go back to your calculator.
     
  9. Nov 29, 2004 #8
    I'm always very unsure about the defintition of agnosticism. :confused: If its definition is the belief that there's no proof for the existence of God, then agnostic theist can also exist too!
     
  10. Nov 29, 2004 #9

    honestrosewater

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    Theism, atheism, and agnosticism deal strictly with the concept of god(s). An atheist can still believe in, for instance, duality of mind, and so not be a materialist.
    There are also differences within these groups. Like pantheism, panentheism, etc. Agnostics can take several stances; we don't know, we can't know, we can't know if we can know, etc. The thing to remember is just that they deal strictly with the concept of god(s).

    You do raise an important problem with our communication: Humanity has more concepts than words. This is especially bad for philosophy, where concepts become more nuanced, complex, and are often defined imprecisely and inconsistently. Even the concept of god doesn't have clearly established limits, like a minimum set of required properties.
    If you can think of a way to solve the problem, let everyone know :smile:
     
  11. Nov 29, 2004 #10
    The assumption is that one must either belive in God or not. That is the common logical principle of bivalence, every statement is either absolutely true or absolutely false.

    It is however possible to build other logical systems based on probability, like fuzzy logic.

    Then an atheist is one who assigns 100% probability to God does not exist and 0% to God exist. A theist is the opposite. An agnostics is someone who assigns other values than 0% and 100%.
     
  12. Nov 29, 2004 #11

    honestrosewater

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    See the post right above this one. Agnosticism can mean different things. Not all agnostics believe there is no proof for the existence of any god. What they all share is a suspension of belief. Theists believe in some kind of god. Yes, some theists believe in their god without needing proof, some even believe despite proof against their god.
    Agnostics don't believe in god(s), theists do. Agnosticism and theism are logically incompatible. You can see previous posts in this thread for further clarification.
    The designation of theist, atheist, or agnostic is only one part of the story. Like the designation of male or female is only one part of describing a human.
     
  13. Nov 29, 2004 #12

    Les Sleeth

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    I think most of what everyone has said about atheism, agnosticism, and theism makes sense. However, I don't know if anyone but Royce addressed what Jameson put forth.

    I asked him if his was a logic-semantic question and he answered, "What I'm saying is that when a question is asked liked that, you cannot logically say "I don't know" and have that as an answer. If you don't know if you believe something, you do not believe it. Beliefs are a positive statement, while negating those beliefs do not have to be an affirmation, although they can be."

    To me it seems clear that his is a logic-semantic challenge to those who respond to the question of belief with "I don't know." A proper logical answer for an agnostic might be, "I don't believe in God, and I don't disbelieve in God."
     
  14. Nov 29, 2004 #13

    honestrosewater

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    Fuzzy logic, that's great :biggrin:
     
  15. Nov 29, 2004 #14
    The question itself, "Do you belive in God?" is not specifically defined, and thus it is left to the individual to define his/her understanding of the term.

    Now, unless someone states otherwise, I think it's safe to claim that there are forces in life at work. In fact, one can define various forces. Anhow, these forces can be defined as powers in nature or powers in life. Nature and life being existence.

    So, from the above, one can ask the following questions:
    --Is there a hierarchy of power?
    --Does said individual profess an awareness to these powers?
    --Does said individual believe in a higher power other than oneslef?
    --What is the highest power said individual can perceive?
    --Is this perception an understanding of God if the term "God" was to be defined as a higher power?
     
  16. Nov 29, 2004 #15

    Les Sleeth

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    True, but I think that was Jameson's point; granted, it's not a very significant point. :wink: But he seems right that technically an ambiguous answer to the question of belief is not very logical since to believe or not believe implies certainty. It is the inclusion of the word "believe" that screws up the logic of the answer.
     
  17. Nov 29, 2004 #16

    honestrosewater

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    Granted, and I didn't comment on that point because it had already been resolved. But I couldn't ignore the rest of it:
    In fact, I just noticed this, but I disagree with Royce here:
    (Unless, by "directly", Royce means "fully.") Answering "No" to the above question is not the same as answering "Yes" to the question, "Does God exist?" This is the question an agnostic cannot answer with a yes or no, and claiming that "yes" and "no" are the only answers is a false dichotomy. Yes or no? :biggrin:

    ____
    :yuck: To clarify: The claim that a person can only be decided either for or against something leaves out the other available option of undecided.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2004
  18. Nov 29, 2004 #17
    What I mean is that a true agnostic cannot answer the question; "Do you believe in God?" because he doesn't know. He does not truly believe in God and he does not truly not believe in God. He doesn't know. He has not yet made up his mind what to believe or what not to believe. The question of existence and of belief is still open, undecided. The question therefore has no answer or meaning to him. He is undecided in what he believes and, as I said, that too is a valid, logical choice but not a direct answer to the question.
    Not all questioned can be answered yes or no. There are also valid answers of I don't know :redface: , maybe:uhh:, sometimes :tongue2: , duh :confused: and huh :yuck: :rofl: .
     
  19. Nov 29, 2004 #18
    I'm Agnostic and I can answer your question. Do I believe in God? I do not believe in God. I believe in the possibility of God existing. I do not hold it true that God exists but I do believe it is possible. I believe in possibilities. Agnostism is a much more logical faith than Atheism. Atheism is like a scientific theory that is held true - someone illogical denies the small possibility that a theory is wrong. There is not enough logic to discern whether or not God exists.
     
  20. Nov 29, 2004 #19

    honestrosewater

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    On this I agree with you, (it's called a false dilemma if anyone wants to google). And I would add another valid answer:
    But my point is that, "I do not believe in a god" is the correct description of an agnostic's beliefs. It seems:
    We agree that, "Agnostics believe in god" is not true, right?
    I'm saying the same thing:
    and, if an agnostic is speaking,
    Is that clear? Have I misunderstood your view?
     
  21. Nov 29, 2004 #20

    honestrosewater

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    That depends on how you define god, but that discussion would need another thread.
     
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