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 inhabitors 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 otherwise. Similarly an explanation, to be an explanation at all, must explain why this particular thing occurs; and not something 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. 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. 14.
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 and thinking about arguments for the existence of God and have been engaged in 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 minds?"
Even more puzzling is the fact that, if your memory serves, R. M. Hare is dead and has been dead for a few years now. You dimly recall his obituary in the New York Times "R. M. Hare, British Philosopher, Dies at 82; Looked for Logic in Morals". Hare lived from 1919 to 2002 and here we are six 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 11:00 PM on FRIDAY, the 7th of October, in Golding Room 101, 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 seven 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 and to offer your own view, 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 all that happy about the organizer's characterization of the third position as the one who is "dead" last since you are feeling very much alive.
Privately, however, you have to admit to yourself that you find the task of appearing in public with Flew and Hare and of defending your own opinion quite 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.
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.
See the PDF File of The Pink Guide to Taking Philosophy Classes that presents a somewhat loose-grained picture of doing philosophy, but is of some (slight) help nonetheless. You may wish to glance, too, at Pryor's Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper.
It is certainly helpful, however, to have the remarks of Flew and Hare in advance.
Still 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. Or at least that's how it seems.
Flew, for instance, seems to be saying that a belief in God and religious practice involves 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 the Introduction to Philosophy Class to get yourself thinking. All the readings included in the Perry/Bratman/Fischer text 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 famous essay by William James (1842-1910) . . .
on "The Will to Believe", delivered to the Yale and Brown Philosophy Clubs and in PDF File HERE, seems to tip in the direction of a Hare-like position whereas . . .
"The Ethics of Belief" in PDF File HERE by William K. Clifford appears to tip things in the opposite direction, and then there are the handouts.
"A few of the handouts might come in handy, too" you think to yourself. "Handy handouts," you mutter to yourself under your breath, "that's nice, if a bit redundant."
So, too, you realize that it also may help to take a look again at Bertrand Russell's essay on "Why I am Not a Christian" that is anthologized in the Introduction to Philosophy textbook, appearing there on pages 55 through 58.
A well, perhaps, as "The Wager" by Blaise Pascal also in the Introduction to Philosophy text on pages 51 through 55.
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, who do you think has the better view, Flew or Hare? 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? How might you best defend your view? Think of the strongest possible objections that you believe might be made to the view you've 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 Great 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, the organizers say, at its strongest rather than at its weakest point - sounding very much like Professor Teuber from the Introduction to Philosophy class that you are taking at Brandeis this Fall - that can only help to strengthen your own case and make it that much more persuasive as well as make the 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."
1a. A "tad," is. "a small amount"; frequently used as an adverb. in the expression "a tad, a little, slightly."
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."
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 particular 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 comes 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." See 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."
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 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." (1948)
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