Sunday, January 18, 2015

Post-intentional problems

Edward Feser addresses R. Scott Bakker's proselytization for post-intentionality:
Bakker tells us that, though he once found the objections to eliminativism compelling, he now takes the post-intentional “worst case scenario” to be a “live possibility” worthy of exploration.  It seems to me, though, that he doesn’t really say anything new by way of making eliminativism plausible, at least not in the present article.  Here I want to comment on three issues raised in his essay.  The first is the reason he gives for thinking that the incoherence problem facing eliminativism isn’t serious.  The second is the question of why, as Bakker puts it, we are “so convinced that we are the sole exception, the one domain that can be theoretically cognized absent the prostheses of science.”  The third is the question of why more people haven’t considered “what… a post-intentional future [would] look like,” a fact that “amazes” Bakker.

Still incoherent after all these years

Let’s take these in order.  In footnote 3 of his article, Bakker writes:

Using intentional concepts does not entail commitment to intentionalism, any more than using capital entails a commitment to capitalism.  Tu quoque arguments simply beg the question, assume the truth of the very intentional assumptions under question to argue the incoherence of questioning them.  If you define your explanation into the phenomena we’re attempting to explain, then alternative explanations will appear to beg your explanation to the extent the phenomena play some functional role in the process of explanation more generally.  Despite the obvious circularity of this tactic, it remains the weapon of choice for great number of intentional philosophers.

There are a couple of urban legends about the incoherence objection that eliminativists like to peddle, and Bakker essentially repeats them here.  The first urban legend is the claim that to raise the incoherence objection is to accuse the eliminativist of an obvious self-contradiction, like saying “I believe that there are no beliefs.”  The eliminativist then responds that the objection is as puerile as accusing a heliocentrist of self-contradiction when he says “The sun rose today at 6:59 AM.”  Obviously the heliocentrist is just speaking loosely.  He isn’t really saying that the sun moves relative to the earth.  Similarly, when an eliminativist says at lunchtime “I believe I’ll have a ham sandwich,” he isn’t really committing himself to the existence of beliefs or the like.

But the eliminativist is attacking a straw man.  Proponents of the incoherence objection are well aware that eliminativists can easily avoid saying obviously self-contradictory things like “I believe that there are no beliefs,” and can also go a long way in avoiding certain specific intentional terms like “believe,” “think,” etc.  That is simply not what is at issue.  What is at issue is whether an across-the-board eliminativism is coherent, whether the eliminativist can in principle avoid all intentional notions.  The proponent of the incoherence objection says that this is not possible, and that analogies with heliocentrism and the like therefore fail.

After all, the heliocentrist can easily state his position without making any explicit or implicit reference to the sun moving relative to the earth.  If he needs to, he can say what he wants to say with sentences like “The sun rose today at 6:59 AM” in a more cumbersome way that makes no reference to the sun rising.  Similarly (and to take Bakker’s own example) an anti-capitalist can easily describe a society in which capital does not exist (e.g. a hunter-gatherer society).  But it is, to say the least, by no means clear how the eliminativist can state his position in a way that does not entail that at least some intentional notions track reality.  For the eliminativist claims that commonsense intentional psychology is false and illusory; he claims that eliminativism is evidentially supported by or even entailed by science; he proposes alternative theories and models of human nature; and so forth.  Even if the eliminativist can drop reference to “beliefs” and “thoughts,” he still typically makes use of “truth,” “falsehood,” “theory,” “model,” “implication,” “entailment,” “cognitive,” “assertion,” “evidence,” “observation,” etc.  Every one of these notions is also intentional.  Every one of them therefore has to be abandoned by a consistent eliminativist.  (As Hilary Putnam pointed out decades ago, a consistent eliminativist has to give up “folk logic” as well as “folk psychology.”)

To compare the eliminativist to the heliocentrist who talks about the sunrise or the anti-capitalist who uses capital is, if left at that, mere hand waving.  For whether these analogies are good ones is precisely what is at issue.
I am intrinsically dubious about Bakker's ability to construct anything coherent on much simpler grounds. The fact that he could not, by his own admission, understand the metaphor when I pointed out how the rejection of traditional morality by modern SF/F writers significantly reduced their conceptual color palette and left them painting in shades of grey did not testify well concerning his intelligence.

John C. Wright had the likes of Bakker pegged when he wrote: "They think they are smarter than us. These undereducated boobs who cannot follow a syllogism of three steps, who do not speak a word of Greek or Latin, who do not know the difference between Arianism and Aryanism, who have never read ORIGIN OF SPECIES or DAS KAPITAL or THE REPUBLIC and who do not even know the intellectual parentage of all their ideas, these vaunting cretins whose arguments consist of nothing but tiresome talking points recited by rote and flaccid ad hominem, whose opinions are based on fashion, they, of all people, think they are smarter than the rest of the world."

Now, Bakker is far from the worst of the sort; he is at least somewhat conversant with some of the books written on the subject. However, as Feser points out, he's obviously not sufficiently conversant with the relevant material to understand that he is treading ground that has been trod before.

This exchange in the comments was particularly amusing:

Bakker: "How does asserting that I'm presupposing one of the thousands of intentionalist interpretations out there do anything more than beg this question?"

Brandon: "This doesn't seem to be a correct use of 'begging the question'; it's not presupposing a conclusion to point out that you yourself are presupposing the conclusion and don't seem to have any rational way of not presupposing it."

Scott: "Are you really entitled, on an eliminativist view, to talk about "begging the question"? How might you give an account of that logical fallacy with no reference to intentionality? I don't think it's possible, but the point is that even eliminativists acknowledge that it hasn't been done."

Feser: "I don’t know why you keep saying that the incoherence objection begs the question. It does not beg the question. Here’s one way to summarize the objection:

1. Eliminativists state their position using expressions like “truth,” “falsehood,” “theory,” “illusion,” etc.

2. They can do so coherently only if either (a) they accept that intentionality is real, or (b) they provide some alternative, thoroughly non-intentional way of construing such expressions.

3. But eliminativists reject the claim that intentionality is real, so option (a) is out.

4. And they have not provided any alternative, thoroughly non-intentional way of construing such expressions, so they have not (successfully) taken option (b).

5. So eliminativists have not shown how their position is coherent."

If you find the whole thing difficult to follow, Anonymous provides a helpful summary:
What, precisely, do eliminative materialists think they've discovered in science that shows that intentionality doesn't exist?

They failed to discover something that's been intentionally excluded from science to begin with. This, they believe, is great evidence that the thing they've excluded doesn't exist.
And thus we see, yet again, that it is his lack of historical knowledge that bites the atheist in the ass. They are, as Wright observes, boobs who cannot follow, or find the error, in a syllogism of three steps.
  1. If evidence for X cannot be seen or otherwise observed, X does not exist.
  2. I looked in my closet and did not see or observe any evidence of zebras.
  3. Therefore, zebras do not exist. 
I find it both amazing and amusing how so many atheist philosophies, no matter their starting points or authors, wind up chasing their own tails in precisely the same manner. They always wind up concluding that neither the individual nor his actions matter in the slightest. Taken as a whole, they point to a particular conclusion: without God, there is no Man.



Anonymous grey enlightenment January 18, 2015 6:54 AM  

Eliminative materialism does seem valid in countering the recent plethora of dubious pop-social science research (Gladwell,Daniel Kahneman, Ariely, Taleb, etc) that denies individual cognitive exceptionalism - a denial characteristic of liberal egalitarianism and leveling in that no one better than anyone else, and if someone is better it's because of an unfair environmental advantage, not genes. Compare that to Pinker, Murray, and Harris and the like.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler January 18, 2015 7:17 AM  

"Atheist philosophies" is an oxymoron. No atheist can do "philosophy" unless they mimic Plato and Aristotle.

"Philosophy" means "love of wisdom"--someone else's wisdom. The term "philosophy", in the Greek, means to "take up", "imitate" and/or "follow" another's wisdom. It means to be a "friend of wisdom". An atheist, who does not believe in God, can not be any of those. For an "atheist philosophy" means that the atheist is in love with his own thought. That is just plain weird. It makes the term "philosophy" nonsensical. When someone says that an atheist does philosophy, means an atheist is imitating his own ideas. But then where is the wisdom?

I wish people would be more sophisticated and righteous in the use of the term "philosophy". Atheists do sophistry. Only a God believer can do philosophy because as Socrates says, only God is truly Wise, and a philosopher is one who picks up on the wisdom of God. A philosopher is a Friend of Wisdom that is of God.

Blogger ScuzzaMan January 18, 2015 7:36 AM  

I lost interest in Bakker after reading his books. The Prophet of Nothing, iirc. A story that started nowhere, went nowhere, and said nothing. Not even as mildly amusing as a decade of Seinfeld.

OT, but: what's wrong with this picture from BBC's article on esports?

(article here:

Anonymous Jonathan January 18, 2015 7:48 AM  

Are all human actions, then, intentional? If not, don't you need a set of demarcating criteria to distinguish between intentional and unintentional actions? I don't buy that Bakker, and eliminativism, has the answers but it's also pretty obvious than no one has ever been able to explain how intentionality fits into a world of cause and effect.

Hence, Calvinism.

Anonymous VD January 18, 2015 8:19 AM  

Hence, Calvinism.

It is amusing how much, if not most, of the godless philosophizing ends up re-enacting Christian theological debates.

Blogger Nate January 18, 2015 8:22 AM  

nihilists... I mean say what you want about the tenants of national socialism... at least its an ethos!

Anonymous NorthernHamlet January 18, 2015 8:23 AM  

Male ulciscitur dedecus sibi illatum, qui amputat nasum suum

Blogger Nate January 18, 2015 8:25 AM  

one thing I am certain of... it is very important to Mr Bakker that we all think he's super smart.

Anonymous Gusler January 18, 2015 8:28 AM  

but Zebras are NOT supernaturtal.

You might as well claim the Tooth Fairy, Father Christmas, Bigfoot, Zeus, and UFOs live in your closet... or your Bible.

MPAI including Vox.

Anonymous VD January 18, 2015 8:36 AM  

but Zebras are NOT supernaturtal.


it is very important to Mr Bakker that we all think he's super smart.

Mm-hmmm. He appears to have what I think of as "Minneapple" syndrome. It seems he's never recovered from feelings of inadequacy stemming from his rural Canadian roots. He's always trying to make up for it. He's one of those rare people who would actually be happier and less annoying if they'd been born in New York City to a Jewish academic family.

Blogger James Sullivan January 18, 2015 8:41 AM  

Any opinions on Bakker's fiction? I see the books frequently, but something else always ends up grabbing my attention.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet January 18, 2015 8:48 AM  

I must admit that I've thought on occasion that with so many previous folk-theories of the past abandoned in light of science, it may be possible even logic was merely a throwback to our cognitive heritage.

But how would you ever understand a ≠ a?

I do recall some research that showed humans think one letter is less like itself that it is another letter. For example, H is more like N than H itself. Cognitively, we may be far more irrational than we realize is my take.

Anonymous Peter Garstig January 18, 2015 8:56 AM  

Wirhout God, there is no Man...or men without a chest.

Poor souls.

Blogger Nate January 18, 2015 9:09 AM  

" He's always trying to make up for it. He's one of those rare people who would actually be happier and less annoying if they'd been born in New York City to a Jewish academic family."

Billy Corgan Syndrome.

Blogger luagha January 18, 2015 9:12 AM  

On Bakker's Fiction: First he creates a main character who has super neuro-linguistic powers as the hero. With a glance, he can size up the personality, psychology, and past history of any human and say exactly the right thing to them which they cannot resist because gosh darn it the message is right and targeted for them.

He then creates an interesting secondary character, with powers, abilities, and flaws, to interact with him.

The main character has a conversation with the interesting secondary character and uses his neuro-linguistic powers to solve all his problems with a conversation and show him the error of his ways. The secondary character must admit that he is wrong and the main character is teh awesome, because the main character has the power to size someone up and always say exactly the right thing to 'fix' them. Thusly, the secondary character now joins the hero's group, except one, there is no friction between the main character and the secondary anymore, and two, the secondary character just miraculously transcended his flaws right there as a result of the super neuro-linguistic conversation so there's now nothing interesting about the secondary character any more.

So I mean, I would like these secondary characters if they had a story arc and there was something to root for them to achieve, or if they had a personality that they could exemplify, but after they talk to the main character, there's nothing interesting about them any more.

Second, as villains he creates these human sorcerers who as one gradually learns from hints in the first book and then into the second (trigger warning, spoiler warning) get their powers by sucking demon cock and drinking demon ejaculate. Said demons are of course manipulating societies through these 'gifts' of power, using it like dealers of a degrading, addicting drug and holding it over the sorcerers, who are the leaders of their society.

It is a tribute to his lack of writing skill that I, a gay man, was bored by his execution of this concept.

Anonymous a January 18, 2015 9:25 AM  

" Six nominations for a tribute to a guy who killed 200+ people in an illegal war.
Zero nominations for actors of color."

Who said it... R. Scott Bakker or Saladin Ahmed?

Blogger Nate January 18, 2015 9:31 AM  

"It is a tribute to his lack of writing skill that I, a gay man, was bored by his execution of this concept."

Well this has to be trolling because we're reliably informed that no gay people ever read Vox or comment on his blog. McRapey says so.

Blogger James Sullivan January 18, 2015 9:34 AM  


Thanks for the information. The demon/ejaculate issue notwithstanding, it seems like his protagonists are far too Mary/Sue for my liking.

Anonymous a January 18, 2015 9:53 AM  

Luagha... as a gay man do you enjoy the books of Saladin Ahmed -- even though Saladin Ahmed would drop a wall on your head for being gay? Or are you a racist?

Blogger luagha January 18, 2015 10:09 AM  

Never heard of him.

Anonymous Pete January 18, 2015 10:47 AM  

Vox: not sure if you still follow #GamerGate, but this has to be the biggest story this week:

Blogger wrf3 January 18, 2015 11:13 AM  

Can someone help me out, here? "Intentionality" seems to be a property assumed to be exclusive to "mental" states, as if there's something "special" about mental states.

So, for the philosophers who hold to "intentionality" (which I'm not saying is wrong -- but I'm also not saying is right), can you help by showing whether or not the term applies to the following, and the basis for each answer:

1. Vectors have direction, and some directions are more "preferred" than others, e.g. F = G * m1 * m2 / d2. That is, is the direction of attraction in a gravitational field intentional or not?
2. Random events, when taken in large numbers, exhibit non-random properties (the "law of large numbers"). E.G. a single coin flip results in heads or tails randomly (but with 50% probability for either result), but the ratio of heads to tails approaches 1/2 as the number of flips increases. Is this intentional or not?

Anonymous VD January 18, 2015 11:45 AM  

Any opinions on Bakker's fiction? I see the books frequently, but something else always ends up grabbing my attention.

They start out fairly interesting with a crusade of sorts, rapidly get tedious, and eventually devolve into nothing much happening on the plot side while demons rape men, women, and children to death as kings get hand jobs from their elderly mothers. I didn't make it to the third book.

Bakker is actually pretty good on the technical side, but he has absolutely no idea what to write or how to tell a story. He's also more than a little bit sexually obsessed.

Anonymous VD January 18, 2015 11:47 AM  

Who said it... R. Scott Bakker or Saladin Ahmed?

Leave it, a. There is a post concerning that tweet coming later. And that construction doesn't conceal the fact that it's OT.

Blogger James Sullivan January 18, 2015 12:08 PM  

Thanks Vox

Blogger Mindstorm January 18, 2015 12:13 PM  

Isn't the general intent of lifeforms to propagate themselves?

Anonymous Jack Amok January 18, 2015 12:46 PM  

"Minneapple" syndrome... yeah. Any time I read something as obtuse as "the one domain that can be theoretically cognized absent the prostheses of science" I'm pretty sure I'm dealing with a mid-wit at best. It's similar to the quote attributed to Mark Twain "I apologize for writing such a long letter, I didn't have time to write a short one." If you really understand the concepts, you can write about them in straight-forward language.

Intelligent people who wish to communicate ideas don't write or speak like that.

Anonymous Jonathan January 18, 2015 1:09 PM  

It's been over five hours without any attempt to provide demarcating criteria between intentional and unintentional acts. About a year and a half ago Nate and I were discussing the concept of free will and he ended up in the position that all human behaviors are uncaused and entirely the product of free will - which is where you always end up when you hold intentionality without demarcating criteria.

Blogger WhiteKnight January 18, 2015 1:28 PM  

I just want to say that the correct conclusion of your final syllogism is "Therefore there are no extant zebras in my closet". That is, the thing that I'm looking for isn't where I was looking for it.

Anonymous Salt January 18, 2015 1:42 PM  

One demarcation between intentional and unintentional is that area one passes through between wakefulness and slumber, from conscious thought to argumentative nightmare.

Blogger Shibes Meadow January 18, 2015 1:50 PM  

S is for their silly, stupid word games;
O their logic Obviously fails.
P is their Pedantic way of speaking
H the Hubris that such men entails;
I -- Incomprehensible and boring
S -- and also Sexually obsessed!
T -- the Telos desperately ignoring
R -- Ridiculous and risible at best; but -- when you ask them
Y they have no answer;
no wisdom in their pretty words at all
So shun these posers should you get the chance, Sir --
And be Justice done although the heavens fall!

Anonymous Jonathan January 18, 2015 2:01 PM  

@ Salt

That's not a criterion. You need a criterion or set of criteria where you can look at any particular action performed by someone and say "yep, that was intended" or "nope, that was not intended". It has to be universally applicable.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet January 18, 2015 2:03 PM  

It's been over five hours

Five whole hours?! Good God, man... Don't you know some of us have drinking and socializing to do on Sundays? Macallan 18, Nate.

A criteria of intentionality? As a definition, I'd say purpose with motive. This requires linguistic utterances. Therefore, we must have an ideal speaker.

Anonymous kh123 January 18, 2015 3:05 PM  

"...these vaunting cretins..."

...always lie! Unintentionally. On their bellies. Or something.

"...between wakefulness and slumber, from conscious thought to argumentative nightmare."

"That's not a criterion. You need a criterion or set of criteria where you can look at any particular action performed by someone and say "yep, that was intended" or "nope, that was not intended"."

A more pressing issue is what are Poles doing in a round room with empty light fixtures. And where the hell's that train anyhow.

Blogger Markku January 18, 2015 3:17 PM  

Ok, wow.


You kinda have a vague idea about what a word might mean, such as intentionality. And then it turns out to be something that to even summarize would require at least ten pages long wall of text, and that has absolutely NOTHING to do with the english word "intention" but rather comes from Latin intentio which in that context means concept.

Here's what it is.

So, what is it for? It is for solving such obscure problems in philosophy that it will make any normal person go "you have GOT to be kidding me!". Allow me to quote:

Another related puzzle is the puzzle of how identity statements can both be true and informative. It seems clear that Ava could not doubt that ‘Hesperus is Hesperus’ expresses a truth. But it seems clear that she can—in fact she does—doubt that ‘Hesperus is Phosphorus’ expresses a truth. In fact, when she learns that ‘Hesperus is Phosphorus’ does express a truth, she is surprised. How can it be? (See Richard 1990 and Salmon 1986.)

Frege (1892) offered a very influential solution to both puzzles. This common solution is based on his famous distinction between the reference (or Bedeutung) and the sense (or Sinn) of an English proper name. The sense, which is the mode of presentation of the reference, is presumably something abstract that can both be instantiated by a concrete individual and present to, or grasped by, a mind. This distinction is in some ways reminiscent of the distinction between extension and intension and is inconsistent with John Stuart Mill's (1884) view that proper names have a denotation and no connotation.

The reason (3) and (4) can, on Frege's view, have different truth-values is that the embedded sentences or ‘that’-clauses in (3) and (4)—namely (5) and (6)—do not express one and the same proposition. They express different propositions (or thoughts). Frege uses the German Gedanke for ‘thought.’

Hesperus is shining.
Phosphorus is shining.

How can (5) and (6) express different propositions? Unlike non-ordinary contexts such as (3) and (4), in which they are part of an embedded ‘that’-clause, in ordinary contexts such as (5) and (6), ‘Hesperus’ and ‘Phosphorus’ have the same Bedeutung (or reference). But they have different senses (Sinn) or different modes of presentation of their common reference.

Yeah. THOSE are the kind of puzzles these guys are fighting over.

Anonymous Jonathan January 18, 2015 3:25 PM  

@ NorthernHamlet

"Purpose" and "motive" are merely synonyms for "intent", in this context, so your criteria is tautological. Look, what I am asking for is a verifiable criterion. Let's say I claim the water in the stream by my house is 50 degrees. To verify that we take a thermometer, stick it in the stream and verify whether or not the water is 50 degrees. I want a metric where we can look at any particular action performed by any particular person at any particular time and verify whether it was done intentionally or not.

@ kh123 & Markku

If I can't distinguish between something done intentionally and something done unintentionally what is the point of the concept of intentionality? BTW, Frege just selected Hesperus/Phosphorus to avoid references in which people had a vested interest, such as "what does morality mean?"

Blogger Markku January 18, 2015 3:28 PM  

Jonathan: Again, intentionality has absolutely nothing to do with intention or unintention. Quoting the link above:

Why is intentionality so-called? For reasons soon to be explained, in its philosophical usage, the meaning of the word ‘intentionality’ should not be confused with the ordinary meaning of the word ‘intention.’

OpenID malcolmthecynic January 18, 2015 3:35 PM  

I read a lot of conservative authors, but I will always have a soft spot for Dr. Feser. His work ripping apart gnu objections to the Five Ways are one of the biggest reasons I didn't end up becoming an atheist. With apologies to our host I've never seen anybody blend rhetoric and dialectic as effectively as Dr. Feser.

Blogger Markku January 18, 2015 3:37 PM  

To put it shortly, denying intentionality doesn't mean denying beliefs, love and so forth. Rather, it means denying that these are RELATIONS in a very particular, involved philosophical framework explained in the link, that should then behave in a similar manner as certain, different relations in philosophy. It is ridiculously involved, and makes you think that you should expect to see this debate in Monty Python, not in real life.

Blogger Markku January 18, 2015 3:45 PM  

It seems to me that the eliminatist belief is Alexander's solution to the Gordian knot, but I'd have to confirm this by reading a similar treatise on it. But what I strongly suspect it is, is saying "screw it. These are emergent phenomena that don't behave according to the same laws at all, but rather in their own fuzzy way that we don't know jack shit about, like is typical for neural networks."

Blogger Markku January 18, 2015 4:13 PM  

To me the situation looks somewhat like this:

First, there is a long tradition behind this. That's why it is so impossible to summarize intentionality. But the history looks something like:
-So, what do we make of this love thing, and whatnot?
-Well, we could try THIS
-No, that doesn't work, as THIS example demonstrates
-Ok, but what if we define THIS concept like THIS
-Well, that seems to improve things a bit, but perhaps rather like THIS
-Jolly good, my old chap, jolly good, but what about THIS

Then, eventually in comes an iconoclast. He sees the construct that the traditionalists are quite satisfied with, and says "dudes, that's epicycles upon epicycles! A sky-high pile of junk. Here's what _I_ think. I think we don't know shit."

Anonymous NorthernHamlet January 18, 2015 5:02 PM  


Take another read of my comment to see why yours isn't relevant.

You even display my criteria in your comment.

Anonymous kh123's "Apologia" January 18, 2015 6:31 PM  

"Then, eventually in comes an iconoclast."

From plumber to poet
This robe's making rounds
Professing pan-wisdom
They's all gots the Downs
"How dost thou knoweth?"
"Forsooth, I am 1337!"
And from hence doth I know
That knowest thou sheet.

Anonymous BigGaySteve January 18, 2015 6:37 PM  

"Well this has to be trolling because we're reliably informed that no gay people ever read Vox or comment on his blog"
"as a gay man do you enjoy the books of Saladin Ahmed -- even though Saladin Ahmed would drop a wall on your head for being gay? Or are you a racist?"
Never heard of him either, a quick look at his web page suggests his books are set in the land of sand ni66ers. To answer your next question I don't believe evolution stopped at the neck. There is actually a website for gay conservatives the most recent posts are about moslem savagery and black savagery on white/gay attacks. There is also a gay gun group called Pink Pistols so Amend would be the one dropping.

Anonymous Mudz January 18, 2015 7:02 PM  

Any opinions on Bakker's fiction? I see the books frequently, but something else always ends up grabbing my attention.

I've only read a sample of Prince of Nothing, so all I can really comment on is first impressions. The very beginning with the Understanding Man putting on an Atlas Shrugged routine of being so transcendentally wise that the stupidity of others literally baffles the omni-regular perfections of his brain - was a bit too strong a dose of wishful pretentiousness for me to buy it. Literally.

But that's just the main character. Other than that, I don't know. Maybe it's a great book. I'll read it one day.

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Anonymous rho January 19, 2015 2:45 AM  

Yeah. THOSE are the kind of puzzles these guys are fighting over.

Dialectic over rhetoric. The best and simplest response would be, "shut up, nerd," followed with an atomic wedgie. Rhetoric over dialectic.

Anonymous Clark Bianco January 19, 2015 12:13 PM  

I would phrase it this way:

1) If evidence for X cannot be seen or otherwise observed, no evidence for X exists.
2) I looked in my closet and did not see or observe any evidence of zebras.
3) Therefore, no evidence for zebras exist, and I should not presume the existence of zebras until presented with sufficient empirical evidence to make that conclusion.

Anonymous Heaviside January 21, 2015 8:43 PM  

>It is amusing how much, if not most, of the godless philosophizing ends up re-enacting Christian theological debates.

Maybe that says more about Christianity than it does about atheism.

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