After reading my response I thought it might be a good idea to explain a little more about the absence of absolute proof. This is how I imagine such a conversation going:
Theist: You can't prove that there isn't a god.
Atheist: True, because nobody can prove anything. What we do is provide reasonable justification for our beliefs, but beliefs in deities lack reasonable justification, so it is unreasonable to believe in them.
T: Wait, what do you mean "nobody can prove anything"? I can prove I have two hands, see (waving their hands in your face)? We can prove lots of things.
A: Well, how do you know you have two hands? Your senses might be failing you, and you can't prove that they are not. Can you prove that you are not asleep at this very moment?
T: Well then doesn't that mean that we can believe whatever we want?
A: Not if you want to be taken seriously. We might not be able to prove we are awake, but there is some pretty good reasoning we can do to support our belief, and this is all we can ever do to come to rationally justified beliefs. A belief in deities is just like believing that we are still asleep even though we can hear trucks honking their horns at us and feel the breeze of the cars going by when we are sitting on the side of the road. The qualities of the experience make it so unlikely that if we did not act with the full power of our convictions that we are indeed presently awake, we might think all kinds of absurd things and suffer some pretty terrible consequences.
Well, that was fun! Kind of makes your head spin in circles though, doesn't it? I think I need to sit down now. :-)
I welcome any insight as I have no fancy philosophical degree, just a deep interest in it, and I think the best way to learn is to converse with those in the field of interest with more expierence.
Cool, glad to be of some service. I just like to work out the arguments and it's much better when someone forces me to explain it to them so that they will understand it.
To come back on topic, is/can atheism be just a simple lack of beleife or does it have to have a prerequisite philosophy attached to it?
Atheism does not need any other philosophical positions attached to it to be proper atheism. You had asked the reverse, if existentialism was necessarily an atheistic perspective, and while that is not necessarily the case either, there is at least a conceivable argument that one cannot be a proper existentialist without being an atheist. I have no idea if that argument works though. The reverse is clearly not the case. In fact, one might go so far as to say that belief in all manner of crazy things is perfectly consistent with a lack of belief in deities. One could perhaps say without contradiction that they do not believe in deities (and is therefore an atheist) but does believe in fairies and unicorns and flying spaghetti monsters and leprechauns, etc. ad infinitum.
I view existentialism as a school of thought in of itself thus a philosophy, perhaps I sould ask if Atheism itself is a philosophy, based on it's position on naturalism. (oh my I can see how this can go on)
I don't think it is necessary that atheism be based on naturalism. One could potentially get to atheism in a great number of ways, some better than others. No, I think it's simple - there are good atheists, those that get there using reason and empirical evidence and a holistic approach to their worldview, accounting for many different perspectives and arguments and opinions, and then there are bad atheists who get there by faulty reasoning, deficient reasoning, by an unconsidered approach, etc. All that is necessary to be an atheist is not to believe in any deities, regardless of how or why you come to that belief. So atheism by itself doesn't really tell you much, which is why I had started this discussion: http://www.atheistnexus.org/forum/topics/atheism-is-an-unfortunate-...
very nice thread! yeah I combed over to see if this were mentioned in the philosophy section, I missed that one some how.
I however don't mind the term "atheist" I disslike generalisations as well as stereotypes, however the term does accuretly describe me. I suppose the long winded description of me would be a "Seculer Humanistic Rationalist" but the short hand "Atheist" is o.k. for laymen's terms.
Yeah, I agree, I'm very cool with the label "atheist". Gets right to the point.
Atheism has no inherent meaning except that we ignore the supernatural claims made by theists
Existencialism is a fundamental realization regarding being human, but it's not a COMPLETE humanist philosophy in the sense that it doesn't offer wholesome alternatives or moral or humanist guidelines for living the 'good life'.
Zen Buddhism is a complete humanist philosophy in my opinion.
So is Epicureanism.
They start off with existentialist realizations but they build from there, with the understanding that humans have an inherent drive to seek happiness, and then with guidelines as to how to accomplish this.
Epicureanism should be made a vital part of our culture, and of atheist discourse in our generation. It was very progressive even in its day, Epicurus discussed philosophy in his Gardens with women and slaves as equals which was unheard of, and he proposed
. no component is more important to happiness than having wholesome true friends with whom we can blend our minds: one can suffer through almost anything with them by our side
. hedonism, not as understood today after centuries of xtian propaganda (enslavement to our senses) but in the epicurean sense: finding happiness in the simple things, enjoying them thoroughly
. gods are not necessary to happiness. Epicurus was indifferent towards them.
. he also favored the empirical method of acquiring knowledge, which is the precursor to modern science, accepted the theory of the atom, and was of a scientific mindset
... and much more. Most of Epicureanism is contained in his work 'Principal Doctrines', and other writings by him. Epicurus is by far my favorite Greek philosopher, and I do think it's time that the relevance of his teachings be brought to light in the movement atheistic movement because it's such a deep, longstanding WESTERN tradition whereas Buddhism (although profound and insightful and should be studied also) is Eastern.
Epicurus is part of our legacy.
I agree, Hiram, that Epicurus was a great Greek philosopher (not my personal favorite, I prefer Aristotle), and I am a big fan for all the reasons you say. I also enjoy Buddhist thought as well. The only thing I might differ with you on is that either might be "complete philosophies". Actually I don't know that such a thing exists. They are holistic, they cover a lot of necessary ground to be sure, but as a student of ethics I wouldn't say that they answer all the important questions. Ethics itself is too deep, no philosophy I have studied has provided everything I think a philosophy of ethics should have, nor has any answered all the important existential questions either, leaving open what defines the good, what defines justice, what defines the pursuit of happiness and purpose and meaning in our lives. These philosophies provide good foundations, but I wouldn't say they are anything close to "complete".
I would agree that there is no complete philosophy, that knowledge and experience constantly increase.
Maybe the more appropriate way to say this is that there are layers of knowledge and experience and, in fact, Epicureanism suffers from arrested development. If the Gardens hadn't been closed and burnt down by Xtians, Epicurean schools would have been prominent societies of progressive scientists and philosophers. Their theory of the atom would have evolved with our scientific understanding, etc.
I do think that Epicureanism should be made relevant. I think there is so much more that we know today about happiness, **how it occurs in the brain**, the role that tryptophan and serotonin play in happiness, the types of relationships and foods that favor happiness, all of this would render a new meaning to Epicurean values, concerned as they are with ethical hedonism.
Raw cacao, for instance, the stuff that chocolate is made from, is an anti-depressant (people may overcome depression with no big pharma products, only eating raw cacao and dark chocolate and other healthy foods daily), and today we know that also yerba mate, goji berries and berries in general, in fact the live-foods movement and lifestyle in its entirety with its focus on certain superfoods, have A LOT to add to the Epicurean ideas on how to live the good life, and to Epicurean ideas on simplicity.
Historically Epicureanism came to be associated with fine wine and fine food, particularly because Christian propaganda reduced philosophical hedonism to one among its catalog of sins. I think that we need to rescue Epicurean ideas on eating and on the good life because we now know that the stuff that we eat affects our moods and states of mind, that there are certain foods and experiences that inhibit or encourage the production of tryptophan, serotonin, anandamide and other feel-good hormones and that there are ways to scientifically advance happy states of mind through diet, exercise, a healthy sex life, etc.
All of this is, or should be, part of the science and philosophy of Epicurus. If Epicurean Gardens had operated to this day without interruption, certain these are matters that would be of particular interest to them and would be part of the educational curricula of all Epicureans.
And so no, there is no complete philosophy, there are layers of knowledge that are accumulated and upon which we can continue to build.