Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2006
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 1A

Introduction to Philosophy

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


PAPER TOPIC I

Drawing on the reading and your own considered opinion and good judgment, answer the question(s) on the following pages. In arguing for your position, think of the arguments that might be made against it, and respond to them. In defending your position, offer what you believe are the most principled arguments you can make.

In thinking of objections to your argument, think of the best possible objections that someone on the other side might be able to come up with, i. e., give yourself a hard time. If you can respond to the other side at its strongest rather than at its weakest point, that can only help to strengthen your own opinion and make it that much more persuasive.

Papers should be between 5 and 6 pages (double-spaced), or longer if you prefer. Please number pages.

We would also like to have two copies, marked COPY # One and COPY # Two.

Papers should be stapled, not held together by a paper clip, glue, gum or origami fold. Papers are due, in class, on Wednesday, October 4th.



THE GREAT DEBATE



"THE GREAT DEBATE"

Imagine that you are invited to sit on a panel with a couple of philosophers, Anthony Flew and R. M. Hare.

ANTONY FLEW pronounced "flu," taught at the University of Reading in England for many, many years. He is a recent winner of the Schlarbaum Prize (2001). He has published a great deal. His writings include HUME'S PHILOSOPHY OF BELIEF and THE POLITICS OF PROCRUSTES. See the complete list of his publications in PDF File Online.

Flew's reflections on the existence of God and the parable of the invisible gardener originally appeared in The Proceedings of the Aristotlelian Society under the title "Theory and Falsification" in 1944-5, and was reprinted as Ch. X of Logic and Language, Vol. I (Blackwell, 1951), and in Flew's Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (Blackwell, 1953). Text Online HERE and from the S.J.G. ARCHIVE.

R. M. HARE, pronounced "hair," taught philosophy at Balliol College at the University of Oxford and is known, primarily, for his work in moral philosophy and, in particular, his books, THE LANGUAGE OF MORALS, FREEDOM AND REASON, and MORAL THINKING. See his complete bibliography online.

If you happen to have a little time on your hands, you may wish to take a Virtual Tour of Oxford University to while away some of that time.

Imagine, too, that you and these two philosophers are scheduled to appear together thirteen days from now, on Wednesday, the 4th of October, to be exact. Imagine that you have been invited to comment on what both Flew and Hare have to say. As a result of careful planning by the organizers of "The Great Debate" you are being given the opportunity to see Flew's and Hare's remarks ahead of time and to prepare your own comments accordingly. You welcome the opportunity to have an "advance" copy of their remarks, since, quite understandably you are a "tad" 1a nervous, never having appeared on the same program with such distinguished guests.

Here then is what Flew and Hare plan to say, plus a brief reply to Hare from Flew:

ANTONY FLEW: Let us begin with a parable. It is a parable developed from a tale told by John Wisdom in his haunting and revelatory article 'Gods'.

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, 'Some gardener must tend this plot'. The other disagrees, 'There is no gardener'. So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. 'But perhaps he is an invisible gardener'. So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. 1(For they remember how H. G. Wells's Tbe Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. 'But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves'. At last the Sceptic despairs, 'But what remains of your original assertion? just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all? 2

In this parable we can see how what starts as an assertion, that something exists or that there is some analogy between certain complexes of phenomena, may be reduced step by step to an altogether different status, to an expression perhaps of a 'picture preference'.' The Sceptic says there is no gardener. The Believer says there is a gardener (but invisible, etc.). One man talks about sexual behaviour. Another man prefers to talk of Aphrodite (but knows that there is not really a superhuman person additional to, and somehow responsible for, all sexual phenomena). 3. The process of qualification may be checked at any point before the original assertion is completely withdrawn and something of that first assertion will remain (Tautology).4. Mr. Wells's invisible man could not, admittedly, be seen, but in all other respects he was a man like the rest of us. But though the process of qualification may be, and of course usually is, checked in time, it is not always judiciously so halted. Someone may dissipate his assertion completely without noticing that he has done so. A fine brash hypothesis may thus be killed by inches, the death by a thousand qualifications.

And in this, it seems to me, lies the peculiar danger, the endemic evil, of theological utterance. Take such utterances as 'God has a plan', 'God created the world', 'God loves us as a father loves his children'. They look at first sight very much like assertions, vast cosmological assertions. 5.Of course, this is no sure sign that they either are, or are intended to be, assertions. But let us confine ourselves to the cases where those who utter such sentences intend them to express assertions. (Merely remarking parenthetically that those who intend or interpret such utterances as crypto-commands, expressions of wishes, disguised ejaculations, concealed ethics, or as anything else but assertions, are unlikely to succeed in making them either properly orthodox or practically effective.)

Now to assert that such and such is the case is necessarily equivalent to denying that such and such is not the case. Suppose then that we are in doubt as to what someone who gives vent to an utterance is asserting, or suppose that, more radically, we are sceptical as to whether he is really asserting anything at all, one way of trying to understand (or perhaps it will be to expose) his utterance is to attempt to find what he would regard as counting against, or as being incompatible with, its truth. For if the utterance is indeed an assertion, it will necessarily be equivalent to a denial of the negation of that assertion. And anything which would count against the assertion, or which would induce the speaker to withdraw it and to admit that it had been mistaken, must be part of (or the whole of) the meaning of the negation of that assertion. And to know the meaning of the negation of an assertion, is as near as makes no matter, to know the meaning of that assertion. And if there is nothing which a putative assertion 6. denies then there is nothing which it asserts either: and so it is not really an assertion. When the Sceptic in the parable asked the Believer, 'Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?' he was suggesting that the Believer's earlier statement had been so eroded by qualification that it was no longer an assertion at all.

Now it often seems to people who are not religious as if there was no conceivable event or series of events the occurrence of which would be admitted by sophisticated religious people to be a sufficient reason for conceding 'There wasn't a God after all' or 'God does not really love us then'. Someone tells us that God loves us as a father loves his children. We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer of the throat. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but his Heavenly Father reveals no obvious sign of concern. Some qualification is made-God's love is 'not a merely human love' or it is 'an inscrutable love', perhaps-and we realize that such sufferings are quite compatible with the truth of the assertion that 'God loves us as a father (but, of course, . . .)'. We are reassured again. But then perhaps we ask: what is this assurance of God's (appropriately qualified) love worth, what is this apparent guarantee really a guarantee against? just what would have to happen not merely (morally and wrongly) to tempt but also (logically and rightly) to entitle us to say 'God does not love us' or even 'God does not exist'?

I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts [panellists] the simple central questions, 'What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence of, God?'

- - - - - - - - -


R. M. HARE: I wish to make it clear that I shall not try to defend Christianity in particular, but religion in general - not because I do not believe in Christianity, but because you cannot understand what Christianity is, until you have understood what religion is.

I must begin by confessing that, on the ground marked out by Flew, he seems to me to be completely victorious. I therefore shift my ground by relating another parable.

A certain lunatic is convinced that all dons want to murder him. 7. His friends introduce him to all the mildest and most respectable dons that they can find, and after each of them has retired, they say, 'You see, he doesn't really want to murder you; he spoke to you in a most cordial manner; surely you are convinced now?' But the lunatic replies, 'Yes, but that was only his diabolical cunning; he's really plotting against me the whole time, like the rest of them; I know it I tell you'. However many kindly dons are produced, the reaction is still the same.

Now we say that such a person is deluded. But what is he deluded about? About the truth or falsity of an assertion? Let us apply Flew's test to him. There is no behaviour of dons that can be enacted which he will accept as counting against his theory; and therefore his theory, on this test, asserts nothing. But it does not follow that there is no difference between what he thinks about dons and what most of us think about them-otherwise we should not call him a lunatic and ourselves sane, and dons would have no reason to feel uneasy about his presence in Oxford.

Let us call that,in which we differ from this lunatic, our respective bliks . He has an insane blik about dons; we have a sane one. It is important to realize that we have a sane one, not no blik at all; for there must be two sides to any argument - if he has a wrong blik , then those who are right about dons must have a right one. Flew has shown that a blik does not consist in an assertion or system of them; but nevertheless it is very important to have the right blik . 8.

Let us try to imagine what it would be like to have different bliks about other things than dons. When I am driving my car, it sometimes occurs to me to wonder whether my movements of the steering-wheel will always continue to be followed by corresponding alterations in the direction of the car. I have never had a steering failure, though I have had skids, which must be similar. Moreover, I know enough about how the steering of my car is made, to know the sort of thing that would have to go wrong for the steering to fail - steel joints would have to part, or steel rods break, or something - but how do I know that this won't happen? The truth is, I don't know; I just have a blik about steel and its properties, so that normally I trust the steering of my car; but I find it not at all difficult to imagine what it would be like to lose this blik and acquire the opposite one. People would say I was silly about steel; but there would be no mistaking the reality of the difference between our respective bliks - for example, I should never go in a motor-car . Yet I should hesitate to say that the difference between us was the difference between contradictory assertions. No amount of safe arrivals or bench-tests will remove my blik and restore the normal one; for my blik is compatible with any finite number of such tests. 9.

It was Hume who taught us that our whole commerce with the world depends upon our bliks about the world; and that differences between bliks about the world cannot be settled by observation of what happens in the world. That was why, having performed the interesting experiment of doubting the ordinary man's blik about the world, and showing that no proof could be given to make us adopt one blik rather than another, he turned to backgammon to take his mind off the problem. 10. It seems, indeed, to be impossible even to formulate as an assertion the normal blik about the world which makes me put my confidence in the future reliability of steel joints, in the continued ability of the road to support my car, and not gape beneath it revealing nothing below; in the general non- homicidal tendencies of dons; in my own continued wellbeing (in some sense of that word that I may not now fully understand) if I continue to do what is right according to my lights; in the general likelihood of people like Hitler coming to a bad end. But perhaps a formulation less inadequate than most is to be found in the Psalms: 'The earth is weak and all the inhabiters thereof: I bear up the pillars of it".

The mistake of the position which Flew selects for attack is to regard this kind of talk as some sort of explanation, as scientists are accustomed to use the word. As such, it would obviously be ludicrous. We no longer believe in God as an Atlas - "nous n'avons pas besoin de cette hypothese." 11.But it is nevertheless true to say that, as Hume saw, without a blik there can be no explanation; for it is by our blik that we decide what is and what is not an explanation. Suppose we believed that everything that happened, happened by pure chance. This would not of course be an assertion; for it is compatible with anything happening or not happening, and so, incidentally, is its contradictory. But if we had this belief, we should not be able to explain or predict or plan anything. Thus, although we should not be asserting anything different from those of a more normal belief, there would be a great difference between us; and this is the sort of difference that there is between those who really believe in God and those who really disbelieve in him.

The word 'really' is important, and may excite suspicion. I put it in, because when people have had a good Christian upbringing, as have most of those who now profess not to believe in any sort of religion, it is very hard to discover what they really believe. The reason why they find it so easy to think that they are not religious, is that they have never got into the frame of mind of one who suffers from the doubts to which religion is the answer. Not for them the terrors of the primitive jungle. Having abandoned some of the more picturesque fringes of religion, they think that they have abandoned the whole thing - whereas in fact they still have got, and could not live without, a religion of a comfortably substantial, albeit highly sophisticated, kind, which differs from that of many 'religious people' in little more than this, that 'religious people' like to sing Psalms about theirs - a very natural and proper thing to do. But nevertheless there may be a big difference lying behind - the difference between two people who, though side by side, are walking in different directions. I do not know in what direction Flew is walking; perhaps he does not know either. But we have had some examples recently of various ways in which one can walk away from Christianity, and there are any number of possibilities. After all, man has not changed biologically since primitive times; it is his religion that has changed, and it can easily change again. And if you do not think that such changes make a difference, get acquainted with some Sikhs and some Mussulmans of the same Punjabi stock; you will find them quite different sorts of people.

There is an important difference between Flew's parable and my own which we have not yet noticed. The explorers do not mind about their garden; they discuss it with interest, but not with concern. But my lunatic, poor fellow, minds about dons; and I mind about the steering of my car; it often has people in it that I care for. It is because I mind very much about what goes on in the garden in which I find myself, that I am unable to share the explorers' detachment.

- - - - - - - - -


ANTONY FLEW: It has been a good discussion: and I am glad to have helped to provoke it. But now it must come to an end: and the [organizers of this panel] have asked me to make some [intermediary] remarks [before (INSERT YOUR OWN NAME HERE) makes his or her own remarks]. . . .

The challenge, it will be remembered, ran like this. Some theological utterances seem to, and are intended to, provide explanations or express assertions. Now an assertion, to be an assertion at all, must claim that things stand thus and thus; and not otberwise. Similarly an explanation, to be an explanation at all, must explain why this particular thing occurs; and not sometbing else. Those last clauses are crucial. And yet sophisticated religious people - or so it seemed to me - are apt to overlook this, and tend to refuse to allow, not merely that anything actually does occur, but that anything conceivably could occur, which would count against their theological assertions and explanations. But in so far as they do this their supposed explanations are actually bogus, and their seeming assertions are really vacuous.

Hare's approach is fresh and bold. He confesses that 'on the ground marked out by Flew, he seems to me to be completely victorious'. He therefore introduces the concept of blik. But while I think that there is room for some such concept in philosophy, and that philosophers should be grateful to Hare for his invention, I nevertheless want to insist that any attempt to analyse Christian religious utterances as expressions or affirmations of a blik rather than as (at least would-be) assertions about the cosmos is fundamentally misguided. First, because thus interpreted they would be entirely unorthodox. If Hare's religion really is a blik, involving no cosmological assertions about the nature and activities of a supposed personal creator, then surely he is not a Christian at, all? Second, because thus interpreted, they could scarcely do the job they do. If they were not even intended as assertions, then many religious activities would become fraudulent, or merely silly. If 'You ought because it is God's will'*asserts no more than 'You ought', then the person who prefers the former phraseology is not really giving a reason, but a fraudulent substitute for one, a dialectical dud checque. 12.If 'My soul must be immortal because God loves his children, etc.' asserts no more than 'My soul must be immortal', then the man who reassures himself with theological arguments for immortality is being as silly as the man who tries to clear his overdraft by writing his bank a checque on the same account. (Of course neither of these utterances would be distinctively Christian: but this discussion never pretended to be so confined.) Religious utterances may indeed express false or even bogus assertions: but I simply do not believe that they are not both intended and interpreted to be or at any rate to presuppose assertions, at least in the context of religious practice; whatever shifts may be demanded, in another context, by the exigencies of theological apologetic. 13.

One final suggestion. The philosophers of religion might well draw upon George Orwell's last appalling nightmare 1984 for the concept of doublethink 14.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The party intellectual knows that he is playing tricks with reality, but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfied himself that reality is not violated' (1984, p. 220).

Perhaps religious intellectuals too are sometimes driven to doublethink in order to retain their faith in a loving God in face of the reality of a heartless and indifferent world. But of this more another time, perhaps. 14.

- - - - - - - - -


Notes:

1a. A "tad," is. "a small amount"; frequently used as an adverb. in the expression "a tad, a little, slightly."

Colloquial (originally and chiefly North Amererican ).

1940 Amer. Speech XV. 448/1 Tad, a very small amount. 'I want to borrow a tad of salt.'

1969 L. MICHAELS Going Places 159, I tried to smile. 'You come back later, baby. I'm a tad indisposed.'

1976 Time 27 Sept. 39/2 'Pull 'er up a tad, please, mister,' said the nonchalant teen-ager pumping gas.

1977 Time 14 Mar. 28/3 White House watchers also think they can glimpse a tad of arrogance showing through the good ole boy pose.

1977 Globe & Mail (Toronto) 15 Dec. 8/2 Things are a tad hectic.

1979 D. ANTHONY Long Hard Cure xv. 116 Why don't we sit here on the veranda? There's a tad of breeze. 1980 N.Y. Times 12 Aug. A18/1 The Mayor's pitch is a tad exaggerated both on the law's certainty and on the roominess of New York's prisons.

1 A "bloodhound," is "a large, very keen-scented dog (Canis sanguinarius), formerly much used for tracking large game, stolen cattle, and human fugitives. There are three important breeds, the English, Cuban, and African."

2 A. Philos. One who, like Pyrrho and his followers in Greek antiquity, doubts the possibility of real knowledge of any kind; one who holds that there are no adequate grounds for certainty as to the truth of any proposition whatever. Also, often applied in a historically less correct sense, to those who deny the competence of reason, or the existence of any justification for certitude, outside the limits of experience.

B. One who doubts the validity of what claims to be knowledge in some particular department of inquiry (e.g. metaphysics, theology, natural science, etc.); popularly, one who maintains a doubting attitude with reference to some particular question or statement. Also, one who is habitually inclined rather to doubt than to believe any assertion or apparent fact that comes before him; a person of sceptical temper.

C. spec. One who doubts, without absolutely denying, the truth of the Christian religion or important parts of it; often loosely, an unbeliever in Christianity, an infidel.

3 Aphrodite is the Greek mythological figure, Venus. She is "the goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture." See Description Online

4 "Tautology," means, most simply, "the repetition (esp. in the immediate context) of the same word or phrase, or of the same idea or statement" and is usually "applied to the repetition of a statement as its own reason." In modal logic, somewhat fancily put, a tautology is "a compound proposition which is unconditionally true for all the truth-possibilities of its elementary propositions and by virtue of its logical form."

5 "Cosmology is a (A,) "science (a.) or theory of the universe as an ordered whole, and of the general laws which govern it. Also, a articular account or system of the universe and its laws. So, too, (B) Philos. That branch of metaphysics which deals with the idea of the world as a totality of all phenomena in space and time.

6 "Putative" means "supposed": that is such by supposition or by repute; commonly thought or deemed; reputed, supposed.

7 "Don" or "Dons." R. M. Hare uses the expression "don" which not be familiar to some of you in his "reply" here to Flew. A "don" has various meanings, among them, "A respectful name for) a high-ranking or powerful member of the Mafia." But this is not what Professor Hare has in mind. Although it somes from a similar root expression, i.e., a "don,.a distinguished man; one of position or importance; a leader, first class man," also "a don at something, i.e. an adept.," Hare is thinking of the colloquial use of the expression in English universities, where it has come to mean "a head, fellow or tutor of a college."

8 A "blik" or "bliks" is something "coined" by R. M. Hare and has made it into some dictionaries. The Oxford English Dictionary is one of them, which reads: "R. M. Hare's word for a behavioural or affective tendency which influences one's interpretation of experience, a personal slant (on something); a conviction, esp. a religious one."

1950 R. M. HARE in Flew & Macintyre New Ess. Philos. Theol. (1955) 100 Let us call that in which we differ from this lunatic, our respective bliks. He has an insane blik about dons; we have a sane one.

1972 D. A. PAILIN in Cox & Dyson 20th-Cent. Mind III. iv. 135 Hare calls these structures 'bliks' and, probably unfortunately, describes them in terms of a lunatic's conviction that 'all dons want to murder him'.

1976 J. HICK Death & Eternal Life 30 A 'ptolemaic' faith can have the triumphant invulnerability of what R. M. Hare has called a blik, a comprehensive interpretation which no evidence is allowed to threaten because it interprets all the evidence from its own standpoint.

1976 P. DONOVAN Religious Lang. iii. 25 R. M. Hare agreed with Flew that religious statements were factually empty as statements, but then offered an account of their meaningfulness as what he called bliks, i.e. as principles by which one lives and in accordance with which one interprets experience.

IBID. 28 There may be..factual assumptions behind the adoption of a blik, even though the blik itself is not an assertion of fact.

9 .Hare uses the expressions "motor-car" and "bench-test" which may not have all that a familiar ring to them. "Motor-car" probably causes little trouble. It is an English expression and not commonly used in the United States. To be precise, a "motor-car" is "a road vehicle powered by a motor (usually an internal-combustion engine), designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers, and usually having two front and two rear wheels, esp. for private, commercial, or leisure use; an automobile or car." In the United Kingdom. Road Traffic Act 1988 c. 52,

10 .Hare in his remarks here refers to the game of backgammon, a game played on a board consisting of two tables (usually united by a hinge), with draughtmen whose moves are determined by throws of the dice.".

11 Hare also throws in a little French when he says "we no longer believe in God as an Atlas -'nous n'avons pas besoin de cette hypothese.'" Most of you probably can figure out what this means in your own language. In English it means simply "we are no longer in need of such an hypothesis." The OED defines Atlas, used in reference to Atlas, the God, as "One who supports or sustains a great burden; a chief supporter, a mainstay. Hence someone or something that holds up someone or something in need of support because it cannot stand on its own.

12 Flew in his reply to Hare uses the expression "dud checque" by which he means what one might mean in the United States by the expression "bad check" (A "dud," i.e., "a counterfeit thing, as a bad coin, a dishonoured cheque; in the war of 1914-18 applied specifically to an explosive shell that failed to explode; subsequently applied contemptuously to any useless or inefficient person or thing").

13 Near the end of his reply Flew uses the word "exigencies," by which he means "that which is needed or required; demands, needs, requirements.

14 "Double-think is another one of those words coined by an author, in this instance, George Orwell, and that has found its way into the language. The O.E.D. has it as "the mental capacity to accept as equally valid two entirely contrary opinions or beliefs as originally found in

1949 'G. ORWELL' Nineteen Eighty-Four I. iii. 37 "His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy."

- - - - - - -


You are admittedly a bit puzzled why you were chosen to comment on these two philosophers' views on the nature of belief in God. You suspect it may have something to do with the fact that you have been taking a course in Philosophy at Brandeis in which you have been doing some reading about arguments for the existence of God and had some discussion about God and religion, but the Philosophy course is introductory and you think to yourself "who am I to go up against such formidable allies or opponents?"

Even more puzzling is the fact that, if your memory serves, R. M. Hare has been dead for a few years now. Hare lived from 1919 to 2002 and here we are four years later. Is Hare really going to appear on the panel in one week's time? You ask the organizers and they ask you to imagine that you, Flew and Hare - a completely healthy, fully resurrected Hare with all his wits about him - are scheduled to appear together in about seven days, at 12:10 PM on Wednesday, the 4th of October in Pollack Lecture Hall on the campus of Brandeis University for "The Great Debate," as it has been billed. The organizers of this debate ask you not to waste too much time thinking about Hare's health, adding, if for any reason Hare cannot make it, someone very much like Hare will come in his stead.

In any event there is little time to reflect upon this strange state of affairs and even less time to waste. Your remarks need to be written out in just a "tad" less than thriteen days! You decide to knuckle under..

The organizers of the panel have asked you to put on your (recently acquired) philosopher's cap and respond to the debate as it unfolds between Flew and Hare. They have asked you to speak "dead last," that is at the very end. Indeed it appears that you are expected not so much to sum up their respective positions, but to say which of the two, Hare or Flew, you believe has the better argument or if you believe that both are wide of the mark, to offer your own view, that is, your own reasons for believing or not believing there is a God. To speak last is a great honor, although you are not sure you are happy, all that happy, about the organizer's description of the thrid position in the order of speakers as the one that is "dead" last. Indeed you are feeling very much alive, although you privately have to admit to yourself that you find the task of commenting on Flew and Hare and of stating and defending your own opinion a bit anxious-making.

You know from talking with the organizers that they are hoping for a lively debate, but you are not sure if you understand what Flew and Hare are saying, let alone whether you agree or disagree with either of them or not.

From your own experience of the first couple of weeks of "doing" philosophy, you have come to the conclusion that, whatever else it involves, philosophy appears to involve the construction and evaluation of arguments. But while it is helpful, surely, to have the remarks of Flew and Hare in advance, you are not sure if they are making several distinct arguments for believing and/or not believing in God or whether one or another of their so-called arguments ought to count as an argument at all. Or insofar as you can tell Flew is arguing against a belief in God and Hare is arguing for such a belief, are they each making the best case for their side of the debate? Might there be a better, clearer, more convincing way to put what Flew and Hare are saying? From your (brief) exposure to philosophy, you have come to notice that philosophers do not just argue with one another - although they do seem to do an awful lot of arguing - they also examine the assumptions we make about ourselves and the world. Yes, yes, philosophers spend a lot of time arguing. But they also spend a lot of time clarifying questions and concepts, so they will know what they're supposedly arguing about and they devote some time, too, to seeking to uncover the assumptions and preconceptions of a given argument in order not to be led astray. Flew and Hare seem to start with different assumptions, to have different ideas of what it might mean to believe in God in the first place.

Flew, for instance, seems to be saying that a belief in God and religious practice involve at least some "truth" claims, i.e., some statements that are testable, that is, that could be checked to determine if they are "true" or "false." Hare, on the other hand, seems to think there is more to believing in God than simply a set of propositions about what is or is not the case. But what "more" is that? And do Hare's examples really make his point or do they obscure more than they reveal?

You decide to look back over some of the reading you have been doing in Introduction to Philosophy Class to get yourself thinking. All the readings included in the Feinberg/Shafer-Landau text (see Table of Contents Online) under the heading "Reason and Faith," pages 97-123, seem to touch upon issues raised by both Flew and Hare and may help you, or so you think, to craft a response to their remarks. Indeed, the essays by William James (1842-1910), "The Will To Believe" [excerpt]" in R+R, pp. 101-110, and Kelly James Clark, "Without Evidence or Argument," in R+R, pp. 110-14, seem to tip in the direction of Hare's or a Hare-like position and the essays by W. K. Clifford (1845-1879) , "The Ethics of Belief" in R+R, pp. 97-101, and Simon Blackburn , "Miracles and Testimony" in R+R, pp. 118-23, seem to tip in the direction of a view like Flew's. But there are other essays in REASON AND RESPONSIBILITY that also might come in handy and then there are the handouts. "A few of the handouts might come in handy, you think to yourself. "Handy handouts," you mutter to yourself under your breath, "that's nice, if a bit redundant."

But enough procrastination. It's time to adjust your philosopher's cap, settle in, and deliver the goods.

Here is the question the organizers of "The Great Debate" have put to you:

Drawing on your reading in the philosophy of religion and your own considered judgment, whom do you think, Flew or Hare, has the better view or, in other words, whose side are you on, Flew's or Hare's, and on what grounds? Or if you find that neither are persuasive or even close to a view you might care to defend, where do they both "go wrong" or "steer wide" of the mark? And what then might be your view for believing or not believing in God? Think of the strongest possible objections that might be made to the view(s) you have chosen to defend, and respond to them.

In thinking of objections to the view or views you choose to defend,, whether they be Flew's, Hare's, someone else's or your own, the organizers of this Debate suggest that it would be useful to think of the best possible objections that someone with a point of view other than your own might come up with. Indeed you might consider, if you, say, object to Flew's line of reasoning, how Flew himself might best respond. Or if you object to Hare's approach to belief in God, how Hare might reply. If you can respond to the other side, they say, at its strongest rather than at its weakest point, sounding very much like Professor Teuber from the Introduction to Philosophy that you are taking at Brandeis in the fall, that can only help to strengthen your own case and make it that much more persuasive as well as make the subsequent discussion from the floor all the more satisfying.

You realize that you first have to sort out in your own mind whether you agree or disagree with all or a part of what Flew and Hare have to say. This is what you both love and hate about philosophy. To paraphrase what one very good contemporary philosopher, J. R. Lucas, has said:

"Philosophy has to be self-thought, if it is to be thought at all. It is an activity rather than a set of positions. You need to think out the problems and solutions for yourself, and although another person's philosophizing may help you in your own, you cannot accept their conclusions, or even understand their arguments, until you have already argued a lot with yourself."

GOOD LUCK!



 

HANDOUTS AND LINKS:

 

GUIDES TO READING AND WRITING PHILOSOPHY

 

 


[PHIL S-4] [Syllabus] [Handouts] [Home] [Bio] [CV] [PHIL DEPT.] [E-MAIL]

Send comments to: Andreas Teuberr
URL:   http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~phils4/
Last Modified: 03/16/04
Instructor's Toolkit
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College