Jump to content

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

R. S. Martin

Resources For A Secular / Nonreligious Belief System

Recommended Posts

So often I've seen people come here and say they know what they don't believe but they don't know what they do believe. How about a thread where we list our favourite resources that helped us develop a secular belief system. This could be books, DVDs, CDs, websites, public speakers, etc.

 

Philosophy is pretty much the secular sister of theology, for those of us who are hung up on world view and metaphysical ideas, and can suggest a new way of seeing the universe without a God-did-it mentality. Here are three websites I can recommend:

Sample Quote: Metaphysics is supposed to answer the question "What is the nature of reality?"...But we cannot answer this question without first understanding what is the meaning of metaphysics, if any, and in what respect metaphysics differs from science, which tries to answer similar questions but through more concrete methods. http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/METAPHYS.html

Sample Quote: Invariably people want to know why we define ourselves in terms of naturalism instead of better known terms like atheism or nontheism. Simply put, naturalism represents a broader philosophical position about what sorts of things do and do not exist. Atheism, the position that there (probably) are no gods, is simply an incidental consequence of naturalism. http://www.infidels....html#naturalism

Sample Quote I: The goal of metaphysics...is to develop a formal ontology, i.e., a formally precise systematization of these abstract objects. Such a theory will be compatible with the world view of natural science if the abstract objects postulated by the theory are conceived as patterns of the natural world. http://mally.stanford.edu

 

Sample Quote II: As we saw earlier, a notion of acceptance (as “faith”) is the sort of thing that a fideist might want to appeal to against those who say that one can't just decide to believe that p in the face of strong opposing evidence. A moderate fideist, by contrast, might argue that we are only permitted to accept that p if we lack strong evidence on the question either way. This is still consistent with our having weak evidence for not-p, and even a (weakly held) belief that not-p. (From the article "Ethics of Belief" @ http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-belief)

 

Edited to add that if you want to post quotes, it is important to abide by the copyright rules at the top of every page. As we used to say in university: Document your sources. And don't copy whole articles; say it in your own words and give the name of the author...I'd just hate to see someone get kicked out because of posting in this thread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good idea S.R.!! A book I am reading that is totally changing my thinking.....Awesome stuff!!

 

A Guide to the Good Life

 

The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine

 

http://www.amazon.ca/Guide-Good-Life-Ancient-Stoic/dp/0195374614

 

Description: One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives.

 

In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. Irvine looks at various Stoic techniques for attaining tranquility and shows how to put these techniques to work in our own life.

 

As he does so, he describes his own experiences practicing Stoicism and offers valuable first-hand advice for anyone wishing to live better by following in the footsteps of these ancient philosophers. Readers learn how to minimize worry, how to let go of the past and focus our efforts on the things we can control, and how to deal with insults, grief, old age, and the distracting temptations of fame and fortune.

 

We learn from Marcus Aurelius the importance of prizing only things of true value, and from Epictetus we learn how to be more content with what we have. Finally, A Guide to the Good Life shows readers how to become thoughtful observers of their own life. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Debate at Veritas Forums: Is God Necessary for Morality? (Shelly Kagan vs William Lane Craig)

 

A Yale philosophy professor, Shelly Kagan, is sharper than William Lane Craig. It is a pleasure to watch him cut through Craig's rhetoric.

  • Video 1 Kagan's Opening Statement
  • Video 2 Kagan's Opening Statement continued
  • Video 3 Kagan concludes. Craig introduced at 2:11
  • Video 4 Craig's Opening Statement continued
  • Video 5 Craig concludes at min, 3:00. Questioning btwn Craig & Kagan
  • Video 6 Questioning btwn Craig & Kagan continued
  • Video 7 Questioning btwn Craig & Kagan concluded. Questions from audience begins at 5:25.
  • Video 8 Questions from audience continued
  • Video 9 Questions from audience continued
  • Video 10 Questions from audience concluded

There is a period between the opening statements and questions from the audience that Craig and Kagan ask each other three questions. The moderator collects cards with questions from the audience, that he then asks the speakers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An oldie but goody, the early dialogues of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno and Phaedo. Socrates was the first and the best skeptic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Debate at Veritas Forums: Is God Necessary for Morality? (Shelly Kagan vs William Lane Craig)

 

Good debate. I think Craig presented his case quite well up until the cross section. At that time, he started getting torn apart by Kagan. Very enjoyable indeed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good topic, R.S.! Like Margee and Llwellyn, I have gotten a lot of value from Greek philosophy. I like the philosophy of Epicurus. He taught that the basis of reality is atoms moving at random through the void. The universe (the atoms) is eternal. Gods exist (they're bundles of finer atoms than we, and people see them sometimes) but they have nothing to do with our experience. Death is nothing to us, because we're alive and then at some point there is no "we" anymore. So there is no subject to experience loss after death. Epicurus announced his philosophy as practical, for it removes what he thought were the two greatest fears: fear of the gods and fear of death. Friendship and joy are very much at the center of the Epicurean conception of pleasure, which they held was the chief thing that we seek. A quotation like an idea that was mentioned on a topic of Margee's a few days ago comes from Lucretius, an Epicurean poet. He writes of the "divine pleasure and shuddering" that comes when he contemplates the vast expanses and beauty of nature - all the atoms forming things as they combine and fly apart in infinite time. People think "Epicurean" means eating fancy foods, etc. but really they led simple, harmonious lives.

 

Here's a good website about Epicureanism:

 

http://www.epicurus.net/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An oldie but goody, the early dialogues of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno and Phaedo. Socrates was the first and the best skeptic.

 

Socrates cosmology in Phaedo was very interesting, I kept wondering if he actually believed it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Naturalism Without Foundations, by Kai Nielson, Prometheus Books, 1996.

 

This, finally, is a philosopher who describes the world, life, and humanity the way I see it. There really is a legitimate way of seeing the entirety of life and the universe without God in it--a way that does not see the human as a mere automaton but in all the fullness of human emotional, mental, and intellectual capacity. And someone before me has already laid it all out and described it in coherent philosophical manner.

 

Introduction

 

From Christians, one sees much condemnation for naturalism. In the debate Is God Necessary for Moralality by William Lane Craig (WLC) vs Shelly Kagan in 2010 I saw two different kinds of naturalism. WLC described one that reduces the human to mere physical functions of the nervous system, flesh, bones, etc. Kagan described one that includes the entire spectrum of human feeling and intellect--in other words, accepts the human as humans are.

 

In the first chapter of his book Naturalism Without Foundations (1996), Kai Nielsen aligns himself with a batch of naturalists who see the human like Kagan does. He contrasts his naturalism with that of the Christian philosopher Alasdair McIntyre.

 

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

 

McIntyre's naturalism looks exactly like what WLC described. Apparently, Bertrand Russell subscribed to that idea. Russell was a prominent atheist philosopher at the time when WLC was getting his education so maybe WLC can be excused for thinking all atheists subscribe to Russell's thinking.

 

However, though people continue to be influenced by Russell, Russell is not the messiah and his books are not the bible, nor is his philosophy the atheist standard. If Christians don't all want to be judged for Vatican II perhaps it is time they stop judging all atheists for one man's philosophy of naturalism.

 

Scientism

 

It seems we can also thank Russell for scientism--the belief that "what cannot be known by science--and particularly by the "hard" sciences---cannot be known" (Nielsen, 26). As shown by Kagan in the video above, not all atheists think that way. Williard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000) may have agreed with Russell but that does not mean all the rest of us do.

 

I most certainly don't because it so obviously isn't true. Humans are more than their physical components. Also, much more of the human neurological functions can be mapped today than was possible in Russell's time. Or even when Nielsen was writing in 1996.

 

I would like to suggest that Russell saw humans much the same as I do, but that his purpose was to get rid of ideas about souls and/or spirits that go to heaven or hell for eternity, and that Christians then twisted his words to mean something else. I'm thinking that in order to underscore his meaning he emphasized that only that which can be studied by science is real, but that he never meant for anyone to discard the reality of human feeling, etc. After all, we know that in this life a body is requisite for human feeling and intellect, and nobody can prove that there is another life. I think such an argument would have been justified in his day.

 

However, I haven't read Russell's works so I may be wrong in this. Whatever the case, major erroneous ideas grew out of his philosophy.

 

Nielsen and McIntyre

 

Quotes from Nielsen:


  • The naturalalism Maclntyre describes is indeed a scientistic metaphysics and should be rejected (p. 47)

Referring to his own naturalism, Nielsen says:


  • it is...a nonreductive naturalism for it does not claim that all talk of the mental can be translated into purely physicalist terms, such as neurophysiological terms or behaviorist terms or macroscopic descriptions of bodily movements. Very frequently mentalistic talk in terms of feelings, thoughts, beliefs, desires, and the like is not only useful, but indispensable if we are to make sense of human life and of the interactions between people (pp. 25-26)

 

In a footnote he references this with works by P. F. Strawson, Richard Rorty, Donald Davidson, and Simon Evinine.

 

This latter agrees with my observation of human life, interaction, and behaviour.

 

If naturalism really were what Russell seems to have believed--and could not be anything else--I would condemn it, too. Since it is so much more--and accepts humans as fully human along with the rest of the observable universe, I am not sure on what basis Christians condemn it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re my Post 3 above about the Shelly Kagan vs. William Lane Craig debate. The old links no longer work.

 

Here is the new set that seems to be the same material in 6 videos:

 

 

While this may be old hat for those of us who have been around for a long time, I'm thinking it may be helpful for newly deconverted folk. I find Shelly Kagan says what most of us only think in the privacy of our own heart of hearts. Craig thinks he refutes the atheist--and so do most Christians. The problem is that the Christians dictate what atheists "must believe." They thereby build flimsy strawmen that are easily blown over with the first puff of wind that blows. Kagan makes no bones telling him so. He just uses more polite language. I find it so encouraging and affirming that I think it might be helpful for others, too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow thanks! Very helpful resources. I'm drawn to Metaphysical Naturalism..I'm wondering if anyone has read Richard Carrier's book Sense and Goodness Without God? I'm thinking it might be my next read, but would love to hear if it has helped anyone here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the Humanist Manifesto for a not-too-long summary of a naturalist source of ethics. Here's version III:

 

http://www.americanhumanist.org/humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a bit longer, more specific and political, but makes for a nice bullet-point list of ethical things:

 

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good idea S.R.!! A book I am reading that is totally changing my thinking.....Awesome stuff!!

 

A Guide to the Good Life

 

The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine

 

Good book! I recently finished it. It's definitely a modernized version of stoicism but the basic ideas are still intact (and very relevant to to modern readers).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good idea S.R.!! A book I am reading that is totally changing my thinking.....Awesome stuff!!

 

A Guide to the Good Life

 

The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine

 

http://www.amazon.ca/Guide-Good-Life-Ancient-Stoic/dp/0195374614

 

I just finished reading this book. I've practiced some of the techniques and held most of the attitudes written about for several years and they've served me well. The idea is to curb your desires, lest they get out of control and rule you, and control your emotions.

 

Irvine suggests creating challenges for yourself, but this past year, I haven't had to seek them out: they found me. I kept going, glad I was (usually) able to go to work and (probably) didn't have anything that would kill me. (An allergic reaction to a medication made me wonder if I'd wake up the next morning. Would I have heart failure? Probably not. Would I die of anaphylaxis? It probably would have happened if it was going to. I went to bed instead of a hospital.)

 

Later this year, I had to make food that was low carb, soft or liquid, that I could make with my left hand only (my teeth were injured and my right arm was in a sling due to an accident.) I got on with it and posted my recipes on my blog. I was happy I didn't have a head or neck injury and didn't break a bunch of teeth. I was glad that everything could be repaired; in days of old, I'd have had to have two or three teeth yanked out. And I was glad to be on two good legs. I didn't worry about paying for my medical care. Since Stoicism discourages accumulating lots of stuff and acquiring finicky (read: expensive) tastes, my savings were sufficient.

 

My father also uses some of these techniques, especially not worrying about the past or tilting at windmills. He and my mom have buried four children; my father has had a few strokes. In spite of these things, he's not a crotchety, complaining old man. And he's a pretty happy person. My point here isn't to brag about how tough we are, but to show that the Stoic philosophy can limit suffering and help you live a happier life.

 

Think more stuff, less work and being one of the cool kids will make you happy? The road to tranquility doesn't run through Debtville, Whiny Town or San Groupie. Think about the people you know who've chased those things.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just got an email about a new book that sounds really good. The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and For Humanism, by A.C. Grayling. See the book review by David Chivers here http://americanhumanist.org/HNN/details/2013-09-book-review-ac-graylings-ithe-god-argument-the-case.

 

Chivers is very open about the fact that for most modestly read humanists there is probably not too much new material. The book is organized in two parts: arguments against religion, and arguments "explaining why humanism is an appealing alternative to God-based religious thought." He says:  By combining the arguments against God with the arguments for humanism, Grayling has made available to the general public in one, single volume a rationale and a pathway to a new way of viewing one’s lifestance and personal philosophy.

 

It's available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/The-God-Argument-Religion-Humanism/dp/1620401908/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378418564&sr=8-1&keywords=The+God+Argument%3A+The+Case+Against+Religion+and+For+Humanism
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.