Thursday, June 23, 2016

'Faith' and 'Hope' are vastly overrated

'Faith' and Hope' are feel-good words with a built-in warm, rosy glow. People who have faith and hope are held up for our admiration and emulation. We are encouraged to be like them - to believe and anticipate that, ultimately, all will be well.
Of course, faith can be good thing. It's good to have a little faith in those around us - to trust in others. Indeed, without at least some faith in your spouse, your bank manager, in other car drivers, and so on, modern life becomes impossible.
Hope, too, can be important  - without at least some hope of success we are unlikely to bother even trying.
Still, faith and hope are vastly overrated.... Continues here at CFI blogs.

Image courtesy wiki creative commons.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

'That may be true for you, but it's not true for me!'

According to the relativist, people who speak simply of what’s ‘true’ are naïve. ‘Whose truth?’ asks the relativist. ‘No claim is ever true, period. What’s true is always true for someone. It’s true relative to a particular person or culture. There’s no such thing as the absolute truth on any issue.
            This sort of relativism is certainly popular. For example, many claim that we ought never to condemn cultures with different moral points of view to our own. Differing moral perspectives are all equally valid. Similarly, some claim that while astrology and Feng Shui might be ‘false’ from a Western, scientific viewpoint, they are ‘true’ when viewed from alternative, New Age perspectives. What’s ‘true’ ultimately comes down to ones point of view.

Continues here at CFI blogs.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Now that's what I call a speech

Go to:

Surprising, and great, speech. 'The way to honour Muhammad Ali is to be Muhammad Ali.' Too much self-serving cowardice from our politicians, journalists, religious leaders, and intellectuals. Too few people of genuine integrity.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Are safe spaces a threat to free speech?

Safe spaces?
Safe spaces are receiving a lot of discussion lately. Universities, for example, are encouraged to be, or to have, 'safe spaces' for students: places where students - particularly LGBT students - can feel safe from being persecuted, harassed, and so on.
However, 'safe spaces' are increasingly being a seen as a threat to free speech. For example, when Maryam Namazie, an ex-Muslim critic of Islam, spoke at Goldsmith's College University of London, her event was disrupted by some Muslim students who shouted 'Safe space!' - they believed that their University should protect them from such speech. Many, myself included, thought this was a ridiculous abuse of the concept of safe space.
So where does acceptable safe space end and unacceptable  threats to freedom of speech begin? Here are a few useful key distinctions.

Continues over at CFI blogs.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How to start a prejudice - in six easy steps!

How to start a prejudice - is six easy steps!

Suppose you want to spread the prejudice that Xs are Ys - e.g. Jews are greedy and money-obsessed; women are terrible drivers, etc. What's a good method?

STEP ONE: Find some Xs that are Ys. That won't be hard. Inevitably, some women are bad drivers and some Jews are money-obsessed. So you will easily be able to come up with a handful of true anecdotes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Islamophobia and Anti-semitism - what is, and isn't, bigotry?

There's currently a great deal of talk about Islamophobia and anti-semitism in the UK press. You won't be surprised to hear me say I am very firmly against both forms of prejudice. However, I suspect many would consider me guilty of one or other. I suspect many Muslims or Muslim-supporters would consider me Islamophobic because, say, I consider the religion of Islam one root cause of much contemporary terrorism. On the other hand, I don't doubt some Jews or Israeli-supporters would consider me anti-semitic because, say, I think the attacks on Gaza were disproportionate and unjustified, or because I am broadly sympathetic to non-violent methods of Palestinian resistance, such as their BDS campaign - Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. It may well be that I am just mistaken about what is and isn't Islamophobic/anti-semitic, and I genuinely want to be guilty of neither, so I thought I would arrange various claims according to whether I consider them Islamophobic or not and anti-semitic or not, to get your feedback.

Continues at CFI here...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wittgensteinian Account of Religious Belief - forthcoming in European Journal of Philosophy: pre-publ. draft.

Wittgensteinian Accounts of Religious Belief: Non-Cognitivist, Juicer, and Atheist-minus
Wittgenstein's views on religious belief are cryptic. We have comparatively few of his comments on religion, and most of what we do have were neither recorded by Wittgenstein himself nor intended by him for publication. Here I aim to assess some of the arguments that have been attributed to Wittgenstein in support of a view about religious belief that I call No Contradiction:

No Contradiction. When atheists deny the beliefs they take to be expressed by such sentences as
   (a) 'God exists'
   (b) 'God created the world'
   (c) 'Jesus rose from the dead'
   (d) 'We will face a Judgement Day'
they fail to contradict the religious beliefs such sentences are used to express.

Often associated with No Contradiction is a further related[i] thesis that I call Immunity:

Immunity. Even if an atheist were successfully to refute the belief they took such a sentence to express (by providing empirical evidence to the contrary, say), they would fail thereby to refute the religious belief expressed.

There are passages in which Wittgenstein does appear to commit himself to something like No Contradiction. Consider:

If you ask me whether or not I believe in a Judgement Day, in the sense in which religious people have belief in it, I wouldn't say: 'No. I don't believe there will be such a thing.' It would seem to me utterly crazy to say this.
   And then I give the explanation: 'I don't believe in ...', but then the religious person never believes what I describe.
   I can't say. I can't contradict that person. Lectures and Conversations p55

Simon Glendinning interprets this and the surrounding text as articulating a criticism of what Glendinning calls the 'modern atheist'. According to Glendinning's Wittgenstein,
the crucial feature of the one who takes an atheist position, the one, for example, who feels obliged on occasion to insist that there will be no Judgement Day, is that he or she does so because (by his or her lights) another person believes the opposite, believes, in this case, that there will be a Judgement Day. (2013, 42)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

John Woodcock MP, and why Labour's 'fucking disaster' reflects badly on Blairites, not Corbyn

The Telegraph reports:

Jeremy Corbyn's PMQ's performance was an 'effing disaster' and David Cameron turned the Party into a laughing stock, according to one Labour MP.
John Woodcock accidentally tweeted out a private message on Twitter, which he has since deleted, saying: "F****** disaster. Worse week for Corbyn since he came in and that stupid f****** list makes us into a laughing stock."
The Prime Minister repeatedly mocked the Labour leader for a leaked ‘list’, which categorises Labour MPs by their loyalty to Corbyn. 

So who does this list incident reflect badly on?

1. Is there anything wrong with a Labour Party member drawing up a list of who can be more or less counted on amongst Labour MPs? Very sensible thing to do, surely. So the list does not reflect badly on whoever drew it up.

2. The list is pretty old, yet it gets leaked now, just as Corbyn gets a rise in the polls, just as the Tories take a very big hit, just before a PMQs when Cameron was likely to be in very serious trouble, and weeks before an election. Cameron flamboyantly waved the list around during PMQs and used it to cause maximum damage to Labour and distract attention away from his own Party's failings.

3. Who is most likely to be deeply anti-Corbyn, and have access to that list? The answer, surely, is a disgruntled Blairite. The list was probably passed around a group, one of whom then passed it to a friend, or had a secretary friendly with someone on the list, or it got attached to an email that was inadvertently copied to someone in the Labour Party that it shouldn't have been.

4. So the balance of probability is very much tipped toward a Blairite deliberately leaking the list at a key moment in order to help the Tories and do as much damage to Labour under Corbyn as possible - to make them 'a laughing stock', as Woodcock puts it.

In my opinion, this incident was indeed a fucking PR disaster, one for which Blairites are almost certainly to blame.

Ironic then that one of the Blairites - John Woodcock MP - privately tweets to a journalist that it's a 'fucking disaster', presumably to further damage Corbyn ('Labour insiders furious a 'disaster' says MP!'). Only he inadvertently tweets publicly so we can all see what he's up to.

There appear to be Blairite MPs who will help the Tory party when it's in trouble in order to cause damage to Labour under Corbyn. As I say, if the party contains such traitors, it seems wise for the Labour leadership to keep a record of who they are.

POSTSCRIPT: OK I am over-egging it when I say 'almost certainly' a Blairite. But still, given the timing suggests a deliberately timed leak by a political opponent and that the opponents into whose hands such a document is most likely to fall are the Blairites, I think the probability is it is a Blairite leak.

Photo and report in The Independent here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Tapescrew Letters - audio recording (parody of Xian apologetics)

I have put up an audio recording featuring my good friend Michael doing the narration. Those familiar with CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters will get the joke from the outset but everyone should enjoy if they have some knowledge of Christian apologetics. Access from my CFI blog here: THE OUTER LIMITS.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Witch Hunters: how shaming accusations of bigotry are used to shut down legitimate debate

One thing we lefty liberals particularly fear is being thought bigoted. Call me dumb, naive, greedy, and selfish if you like - I can take it. But accuse me of being a bigot and I'll immediately collapse into a period of mute soul-searching while I check my privilege. 

Continues here.