On New Blogs and Not So Fine Arguments

Today, via myatheistlife, I came across Eric Hyde’s blog; which, I promptly began following. I did some glancing through a few of his posts, and I came across one to which I wanted to provide a quick response. Eric’s post is from late October, so my response is a little late.

Eric wrote about the Argument from Reason, which he describes as the “finest argument against atheism“. I recommend reading his post, as it lays out the argument well. The reason I would disagree that this is the “finest argument against atheism” is that it has nothing to do with atheism, per se. To some degree, Eric acknowledge’s this when he says:

It should be noted that this is not an argument “for” Christianity, but rather an argument against atheism, specifically that of materialism and/or naturalism. An argument for Christianity would follow a very different set of rules.

However, even in this caveat, Eric skirts the line of equivocation pretty strongly. At best, The Argument from Reason is an argument against reductive physicalism. As such, one is probably safe is using terms like ‘materialism’ or ‘metaphysical naturalism’ as a substitute for reductive physicalism. However, simply saying ‘naturalism’ is to falsely equate less-robust forms of naturalism with the strictly physicalist forms of naturalism. (In another post, Eric calls this “strict philosophical naturalism,” but this seems to be risky wording as well.)

More to the point, none of this speaks to the existence or non-existence of a god. Therefore, none of this speaks to atheism. This cannot be an argument against atheism. Atheism’s veracity is dependent upon whether or not a god exists. If an argument against reductive physicalism is not an argument for theism, it cannot be an argument against atheism. At best, it can be an argument against an atheism grounded on the assumption of reductive physicalism.

So, there’s no reason for an atheist to be troubled by the Argument from Reason.

For those interested, here is a response, from Richard Carrier, to Reppert’s defense of the Argument from Reason.

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4 comments

  1. Eric Hyde · December 12, 2012

    Jeff, thanks for visiting my blog. Just a quick response to your main premise that the argument from reason does not effect atheism since it does not speak to the existence or non-existence of god. Naturalism as the philosophical underpinning for a thoroughgoing atheism, from which the argument from reason is base, is indeed a direct commentary on the existence of god(s).

    You linked an article from the infidels website in which the author agrees fully with my wording and definition and its connection to atheism:

    “He (Reppert) defines naturalism correctly as “the view that the natural world is all there is and that there are no supernatural beings,”

    Since you validated this author’s views by pointing your readers to it, you should find no reservation in validating the AfR as a commentary on atheism. Agreeing with it is another issue.

    Cheers.

    • thecaveatlector · December 12, 2012

      Hi Eric,

      Thank you for the response.

      Carrier’s use of naturalism is of the reductive physicalist sort. He uses naturalism and ‘metaphysical naturalism’ interchangeably, so I might be able to offer Carrier the same critique, but his understanding definition of naturalism is clear.

      As I noted, I agree that the Argument from Reason is worthy of consideration for an atheism that grounds itself in such a naturalism. I linked to Carrier’s response because it is from such a perspective.

      However, my principle issue is that you label the Argument from Reason the “finest argument against atheism.” My issue with this is the argument is not against atheism. It is an argument against a certain form of naturalism. So, you’re having to skirt equivocation to maintain such a lofty title as “finest argument”. Perhaps a qualifier like “materialist atheism” would make the label more solid.

      Regards,
      Jeff P.

      • Eric Hyde · December 12, 2012

        Fair enough. I meant more so that it was “for me” the finest argument against atheism. Much finer than the many ridiculous arguments out there that far too many Christians try to play against atheism.

      • thecaveatlector · December 12, 2012

        And, likewise, fair enough. I regularly end my posts by pointing out that I am being pedantic. In fact, just today a student-worker (I work at a university) compared me to Cliff from Cheers because of my tendency for pedantry. I look forward to your future posts.

        Regards

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