Friday, March 19, 2010

Flew et Al - Theology and Falsification

Flew: If we take religious claims to be assertions, there must be something that would count against making such an assertion. In the case of the invisible gardener from Wisdom's parable, the believer's assertion is so eroded by qualification as to no longer be an assertion. Flew's question: just what would have to happen to entitle us to say that God does not exist?

Hare: Let's say a friend believes that all dons are trying to kill him, despite all evidence to the contrary. That in which we differ from this lunatic = our respective bliks. He has an insane blik about dons; we have a sane one. Hume showed us that differences in bliks, which determine our worlds, cannot be settled by observation. Flew makes the mistake of asking for explanation; it is rather "by our bliks that we decide what is and what is not an explanation" (17). Hare introduces the distinction between "minding" and showing "concern:" the explorers in the garden are trying to settle an empirical matter, the lunatic is expressing real care.

Mitchell: Flew makes one error, which is to think that theologians would deny that the fact of pain counts against the assertion that God loves men (18). In fact, it is a real problem for theologians (the problem of evil). Mitchell tells another parable about a resistance member who meets a Stranger who convinces him that he is the head of the resistance. Despite evidence to the contrary, the resistance member continues to believe that the Stranger is who he says he is. But he would simply be insane if he didn't recognize that the Stranger's behavior to the contrary did in fact count against him. Contra Hare, people can admit things that contradict their bliks. The Christian always in danger of sliding into vacuity, where nothing is allowed to contradict their beliefs.

Flew: In Mitchell's story, the case is a bit easier because the Stranger is a man. Shouldn't God's omnipotence, omniscience, etc. prevent him from having to put on the airs the Stranger "has" to? Hare's concept of the blik is interesting but he avoids the question of real cosmological beliefs. If they are not intended as assertions, many religious statements are ridiculous. He concludes by invoking Orwell's concept of "doublethink" and warning philosophers of religion against it.

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