Apr 24, 2015

Analysing Agnosticism

Hey Team 2015!

Take the next quote analysis assignment on a scathing remark made by Peikoff on agnosticism. Analyse the author's point of view, her argument and hence construct your arguments in favor and/or opposition. To view previous quote analyses read here.

"The agnostic miscalculates. He thinks he is avoiding any position that will antagonize anybody. In fact, he is taking a position which is much more irrational than that of a man who takes a definite but mistaken stand on a given issue, because the agnostic treats arbitrary claims as meriting cognitive consideration and epistemological respect. He treats the arbitrary as on a par with the rational and evidentially supported. So he is the ultimate epistemological egalitarian: he equates the groundless and the proved. As such, he is an epistemological destroyer. The agnostic thinks that he is not taking any stand at all and therefore that he is safe, secure, invulnerable to attack. The fact is that his view is one of the falsest—and most cowardly—stands there can be.
- Leonard Peikoff, The Philosophy of Objectivism lecture series, Lecture 6

Analysis by Nihar Kulkarni & Abhishek Dedhe

Note- *no. assigned to arguments, (*no.) denotes to what argument the current argument is opposing., ...for supporting a pt.

Argument of Peikoff:

  • P1- Acceptance of Agnosticism is to avoid being antagonistic toward any belief.
  • P2- Considering 2 antagonistic claims equal involves allotting equal possibility of being true to the false proposition as well.
  • P3-Considering 2 contradictory propositions simultaneously true is irrational
  • C1-Agnoscicism is irrational.( P1+P2+P3)
  • P4-Agnosticism a concept in epistemology as it is defining a limit to epistemological reach i.e. impossible to `know` whether the god exists or not.
  • P5-Epistemology exists to reach a valid & sound conclusion through reasoning & available evidence.
  • P6-Agnostics consider to reach a conclusion to be impossible.
  • P7-Agnostics deny certainty of available evidence.
  • C2-Agnostics harm epistemology. (P4+P5+P6+P7)

 Counter Argument:

  • Assumption wrong – P1.*1
  • Currently person – Diff of support for any 1 claim=negligible(P4)
  • Waiting for more evidence for one.(P5)
  • Rationally chosen indecision.*2
  • Can the result of a rational method be irrational? (C1)
  • Agnosticism, Atheism & Theism are related with an individual.*3
  • Allotting values to different claims depends on that individual.
  • No right to any other individual to judge the allotting. (P2)
  • Why not aim of epistemology Search for a conclusion rather than reach it?*4
  • Also, as the assumption P1 is wrong the quote is wrong.*5
  • As agnosticism allows theism & atheism i.e high level of tolerance of both.
  • Wouldn’t world be more peaceful if more people were agnostics?*6

  • Counter to counter arguments:

  • If the claim is that there may be something you do not know, how do you know that that something exists.
  • Rational stand is to have a conclusion from what you know.*7
  • Is the stand to reject changing the beliefs for the sake of individuality correct?
  • Growth of individual & society hampered.
  • Result of rational method applied to a consideration starting from an irrational claim can be irrational.*8
  • In reality 2 kinds of agnostics-
  • A)Temporary Agnostics-Confusion whether to choose theism or atheism, but they do choose at some point of time.
  • B)Permanent Agnostics-They choose not to arrive at any conclusion.
  • Every person consciously choosing a belief system was a temporary agnostic at some point.
  • Opposition is to permanent agnostics for the reasons mentioned in *7 & *8.....*9.
  • Plenty of reasoning for Atheism & no reasoning nor evidence for theism.
  • Pt of negligible diff for any claim meaningless.(*1)
  • Once you decide to reach no conclusion at all despite evidence & reasoning, no longer the decision is rational *9. (*2)....C1
  • Different isms exist because every belief tries to portrait reality in the way they see.
  • The picture of their reality could only be complete & absolute truth when others do not hold any other contradictory reality to be true.
  • Involving others in our beliefs a fundamental part of any ism.
  • So existence of uninfluenced individual beliefs unrealistic.(*3)
  • Also, if the agnostics become powerful enough they may start opposing theists & atheists.
  • The basic claim is that it is impossible to know the existence of god.
  • The people claiming possible in opp to them. (*6)
  • The aim of all kinds of sciences including philosophy is to reach certainty at the fundamental level possible.
  • Epistemological methods are a mean to do so.
  • Though searching for a more fundamental certainty an inseparable part of epistemology,
  • the search for next fundamental certainty starts by holding the current one as basis.
  • i.e. at each step, you have to choose one most rationally reasoned & evidential possibility by eliminating others.
  • Not choosing one means not being antagonistic with any other...P1,(*1)
  • Agnostics refuse to do so i.e. they do not apply epistemological methods,
  • though limit the reach of epistemology.
  • This stance is misleading & harm the epistemological reasoning of the individuals who hold Agnosticism to be a righteous epistemological stance...C2. 

Chosen Side –Supporting Peikoff.