I would like to put out the question as to what people think is the most reasonable account we can give of the world we are aware of: atheism, theism, or agnosticism. By ‘reasonable account’ I mean a reductive genetic hermeneutic, which is a reduction of the phenomena we are aware of to their cause or causes, a further grounding to the origin of those causes, and an explanatory account or interpretation of said phenomena, cause/causes, and ground as such and as a whole.
This is what I currently believe, but I would like to hear from people with differing perspectives.
Well, people who identify with those three words do argue
about their meanings, in my experience. Personally, I consider
myself an agnostic Secular Humanist. I reach back to
Thomas Huxley, he basically committed to being open-minded about
the natural and super-natural. Humanism was described and
argued very well by Colliss Lamont in
_The_Philosophy_of_Humanism_ as combining ideas such as
naturalism, empiricism, monism, pragmatism, and other
ideas in a non-dogmatic living philosophy that holds human
potential and achievement up high, higher than even the gods.
In the book Lamont draws a line between dualism and monism,
trying to clarify the choice between the two, and saying,
“This Life Is All and Enough”. If you really are interested
and want to dig deep then read the book, it is very good.
(I find that most atheists are trying to stretch the word
atheism to include some of the ideas of Humanism, and so you
atheists might be interested in understand Humanism better
by reading that book.) Paul Kurtz added Secular in front of
Humanism because there have been many prominent versions of
Humanism over the centuries and he is distinguishing from most
of them by focusing Humanism onto the natural world rather
than the supernatural, as I understand him.
So what is the value of naturalism and empiricism? We all
know that our senses (and by extension our technologies) are
fallible, we have all had optical illusions, auditory illusions
(echos), taste illusions (when your sinuses are stuffed, then
doesn’t the food taste quite differently?), touch illusions
(does that mentholated rub really raise the temperature of
your skin?), balance illusions (have you ever been dizzy?), and
smell illusions (the chemicals in manufactured fragrances don’t
necessarily come from flowers, forests, or fruit), which leads
to the problem that if the senses are not necessarily real then
how real are they? Could almost all of reality be an illusion?
Descartes famously handled this problem by positing, “I think
therefore I am.”, thus eliminating the senses and relying on a
deeper anatomy, the brain. But, I prefer a different approach.
Our senses (and any part of humanity) is not perfect and I
am okay with that. When our senses are fallible, we still
have good knowledge to rely on and other people with senses
to verify that knowledge. You wouldn’t say that a deaf
person ceases to exist, would you? Collectively, humanity
knows many ideas, repeatable experiments can demonstrate and
verify knowledge. Imperfect, incomplete, not always reliable
knowledge is still valuable real knowledge. The Earth can be
knocked out of orbit from the Sun by a very large rogue object,
then preventing the Sun from rising the next day—but still,
we can be confident that the Sun will rise tomorrow because
that event is improbable. Christoper Columbus did find his
way half-way around the world and back without knowing about
two continents in the way. Is there anything that we do that
we know perfectly well how it will turn out? If all knowledge
is imperfect, you won’t feel paralyzed, freeze up, and stop
taking action will you? Similarly, when Humanity’s collective
senses can normally inform us about reality, we can take
confidence in them, as imperfect as they may be. To conclude,
what we can collectively sense is real, it is also natural
not supernatural, and examination by the methods of empiricism
and science does inform our collective knowledge of reality.
So from the Humanist and empiricist point-of-view I ask,
what can we sense about the gods and the supernatural?