So, I’m new here. Haven’t nosied around too much. Don’t really know what to expect, posting this, not really sure what I think of it myself.
I hope I’m genuinely open and curious about this stuff I’m dipping my toe in (podcasts, philosophy…) and want to know your thoughts on this please -
I’m not really a fan of facile ad hominem attacks from a defined political position, even in the guise of satire. I also don’t think any ideological standpoint “owns” philosophy. One of the redeeming features - or challenges - of an honest journey through logic, reason and epistemology are the extent to which one’s own default positions are necessarily challkenged and often undermined. My gut feeling was that this wasn’t really a universalist defence of the humanities, but more of a distinct political position which presupposes the authority of certain cultural figures. But as I said, I am not much of a joker and probably have an under-developed sense of humour .
In a debate a few months ago I asked the person I was talking to if they thought it was even possible for anyone to adopt a different position from them on the basis of a principled or reasoned approach, so even if they disagreed strongly they could at least allow for the fact that an opposing viewpoiint could be held by someone with a comparable level of personal integrity. And they couldn’t accept this.
I find this default mode more often now. That some people hold their preferred position to be impossible to disagree with without it representing a moral failing - as in ‘no reasonable (ie. good, decent) person would possibly question this, so if you do it means you are clearly not reasonable’. This legitimises the kind of instant, horrified outrage you see when any particular perspective is even gently questioned.
In the comic the way the women ‘win’ the argument is basically by beating up the men. So with my lack of a sense of humour and my inability nto appreciate satire, it just made me think about that kind of absolutist position about those you disagree with. And I think I would have felt the same if it was atheists beating up evangelists, or most combinations.
As an example, is it possible for someone to come to a genuine belief in intelligent design as a result of careful enquiry to the best of their ability, without it implying a hidden evangelical agenda? I think so, even if I suspect there might be some logical fallacies and perhaps some cognitive bias embedded in there. Equally, is it possible for someone without a religious belief to feel that abortion isn’t a simple issue, that based on normative moral principles there is a difficult balance between individual liberty, ownership of one’s body, and the protection of life, including the definition of what ‘life’ is? That also seems possible, even if there is certainly room for debate about where the lines might be drawn. And as a last example, could you accept that someone might argue for violent revolution based on a genuine desire for a better society and a honestly-held belief that some destruction of the status quo was a necessary price to pay to acheive a greater good? I think this is possible also, although clearly a robust exploration of utilitarianism and trolley problems would be a good starting point to finding any flaws in the thinking behind this - and i’ve seen this work with real people who realised that “collateral damage” could apply in many situations, and if it was wrong in one it was porbably wrong in another.
I don’t think ‘new atheists’ are above criticism and they certainly don’t seem to hold back on criticising each other as well as everyone else. I don’t see any particular barriers to arguing strongly against “scientism” or any particular proponent, so if that’s your bag then go for it But I don’t see that philosophy itself is necessarily antithetical to ‘scientism’ or any new atheist positions - it may provide some rhetorical tools, but - apart from some specifc postmodern branches of European existentialism - much of philosophy is generally bound up with methodological enquiry, rigour and logic, all of which are integral to science. Just because scientists don’t always acknowledge this doesn’t actually change that.