Is Atheism a chiefly liberal or conservative philosophy?

I know this may seem like a bit of an odd question but I’ve been wondering about it for the past few days and for some reason I can’t escape the feeling that it (atheism) would be a rather ‘conservative’ point of view (that is, at least in title), and yet I’m constantly being called a liberal because of my social and political leanings. I'm just wondering what your views are on this.

 

PS: I’ll be gone for a few days but I will catch up with this thread when I return.

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W,

AY'er maybe, but garden variety?! Now, that upsets me. For the record, I find Objectivists (capital O) as dogmatic as you are calling me, but I do not believe I am blinding myself to anything. It's all about intellectual honesty, which I claim to have a great deal of. I believe morality is only relevant as it concerns a moral consciousness (a singular brain). The group can be a value, but it doesn't have rights. Only individuals have rights. Also, the O'ists really bug me when they talk about freewill. Oh and they are irrational when they speak of the role of women in society, and of the soul.

 

Also,  I don't find it useful to question things I consider valid knowledge, do you? Skepticism fails, imo. Questioning assertions, sure. But questioning well integrated noncontradictory knowledge is not useful.

I see you only rehashing the same points made by others of your ilk, so you certainly fit a mold. What do O'ists say about free will, the soul, or the place of women in society that you take issue with? Sorry, I haven't been keeping up with the O'ist culture for a long time now.

The egoist, atheist, determinist mold? If someone holds these convictions, I would call them intellectually honest, rational and knowledgeable, and not an AR follower. AR often used the concept of the soul as if it is a real part of reality, bothers me. She wrote that a women should be able to be president, but shouldn't want to because any man she has a romantic relationship must be looked down at. That men should properly be in a position of power. That the attraction between men and women is somehow dependent on the power struggle between them. Her description of choice is convoluted and based on what she calls a form of natural causation which is not fully determined. Rather than throwing away freewill she talks about volition, the will to focus or not, being an initial force that is uncaused. When challenged about this unmoved mover in the brain, an Objectivist will likely say something like, if freewill didn't exist, then you would have been determined to be challenging it and had no choice to do so and therefore you must have freewill.

Part of my debate a few years ago about choice/freewill with a die-hard O'ist:

 

Me: Are the choices we make not solely determined by the existing state of our brains?

BC: No. Such an idea is an over generalization from science. The choices we make are the consequence of something called "consciousness," which has free will.

Me: The future structure of the world (including decisions made by humans) isn't determined already, but will be, solely based on its existing structure and causality.

BC: No, this isn't true, and please note that if it WERE true, your having pointed it out would be impossible and meaningless, because your act of pointing it out would just be an auto-response over which you had no control. It is worse than a Sherlock Holmes story, this determinism nonsense.

Michael,

Wasn’t Objectivism the cornerstone philosophy of Any Rand’s? Secondly, wasn’t it The Objectivist Party’s’ goal to promote Ayn Rand’s philosophy? Third, wasn’t it you who earlier said “I am an egoist and therefore a libertarian. Of the Ayn Rand type”, whereas many libertarians (at least those that I’ve known) find much disagreement with Objectivism, which means you’re not exactly of the “Ayn Rand type”. And finally, one thing I would like to say is that (at least in my opinion) skepticism, much as you say it may fail, is still the sign of a healthy intellect, after all many religions institutions would also feel that their ideologies are matters of “non-contradictory knowledge”.

DM,

Yes, yes and yes. In regards to politics I believe AR was right on about the importance of individual rights politically and I believe as AR wrote mostly herself: "A state must not intervene in the intellectual or moral life of its citizens. It has no standards to uphold and no benefits to confer in regard to education, literature, art, science, sex (if consensual between adults) or philosophy. Its function should be to protect freedom, not truth or virtue. The goal of a proper society, accordingly, is not to compel truth or virtue, but to make them possible by ensuring that people are left free. A proper government offers freedom from coercion, not from the responsibility of self-sustenance." That being said, I think she fell short in several areas and I do not wish to be associated with every aspect of her philosophy. I love the idea of objectivism, but she named her personal philosophy Objectivism. So, I might say that I am an objectivist, but not an Objectivist. Being skeptical of opinions, theories, conjecture, guesses and assertions is just fine and I think a necessary part of a healthy mind. But once something has been integrated contextually without contradiction we can safely call it knowledge and to consider it suspect without evidence is ineffectual and irrational. Questioning the necessity of EMR, in the visible light range, for photosynthesis is useless. And the religious thinking their knowledge bases are noncontradictory is one, funny as hell, but also, not evidence for the lack of validity of contextually certain knowledge. 

This seems to be the crux of your argument. That I am selfish and you define selfish with the non-selfish nonessential quality of pushing other people down or exploiting them. Selfishness entails serving one's self, not essentially, and not necessarily at all, at the expense of anyone else. You are adding arbitrary meaning to the word. You also imply that I am sure and that that means I am not right. Again, neither of the facts that I believe I know the truth and that I am proud of being selfish, mean I am wrong. Being able to state and frame the issue cleanly and simply is also not support for falseness, but a demonstration of the issue without arbitrary convoluted arguments. Instead, why don't you attempt to address the singular nature of mind and the necessary egoistic nature of ethics and individual nature of rights. Or why, in order for those who wish the government to run our lives to get what they want, they need to do it by, first and foremost, violating individual rights with the very real threat of physical force, quite literally at the point of a gun, which they will point at you if you simply refuse to give up your hard earned money? You want fairness? Is that what you're after? Or equality of salary, healthcare, education, strength, power? 1984. What's fair about taking people's money against their will? So that other people who don't make money can spend it on a tattoo or new shoes instead of health insurance (I see it every day I work in at least 30 percent of my patients at one hospital)? Is some unknown to me 10yo's education more important than my ownership of my own life? The only equality you can have in reality is the equality of individual rights. Everyone owes every body else the same mutual respect and benefit, and that is to not remove the ability to choose from someone else, except in protection of one's self.

 

“The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty or action of any of their number is self protection.”

---On Liberty, John Stuart Mills, 1859

I'm having a hard time figuring out who this response is directed towards. Just the lousy way Nexus groups work, I guess.

W,

You. 

Okay I see it now. So you want a direct democracy where everyone should be able to choose 100% where their tax money goes. And you think this will turn out just fine, and that my worries of society turning into a plutocracy where only the rich and powerful have the means to getting a good education, good health care, etc. are unwarranted? And this will not turn out to mean that opportunities afforded to the rich will far outweigh opportunities to the poor, who could just go where there is work for them and be productive without any government or private interference? And the rich will not abuse their power out of the goodness of their hearts? Is this what you are saying?

W,

Democracy should only be in place to choose those that will be in charge of the monopolization of force. We do not need taxes for this. So, no, I do not think that people should choose where their involuntary tax money goes, but if it is a voluntary tax, then yes. In a free land, anyone is able to do what they can to get the power to have an education and healthcare without having other people take from them or directly violate their right to their own life. It is not the successful's fault that others may not be successful. I think it is sad when people suffer. But it is part of nature. The rich people did not design reality to require one to think and work to live. And not you or anybody else has a moral right to place that blame on them. Our government can enact laws to protect people from direct harm so that they may make their own way. That is fairness, not trying to force equality of life with the threat of incarceration. This cannot work. It will only foster addiction to the welfare state, by rewarding need instead of work. Needs of others should be addressed peacefully or not at all. Once you need to hold a gun to my face to get my help, you no longer deserve it. Make your own way. 

@ MT: No, the Libertarian, Objectivist mold. It is nice to hear that you disagree with Objectivism and Ayn Rand on some points, however. I am also a determinist (and obviously an atheist), but I wouldn’t call myself an egoist. I am much closer to being an egoist than virtually anything else, but the fact that you believe that one is either an egoist or an altruist shows that your understanding of ethics is narrow (and borrowed entirely from Ayn Rand). Perhaps you do have some differences from her philosophy, but it is nearly identical. And it should ring some bells that you have taken nearly your entire philosophy from just one person. My philosophical opinions in ethics, politics, or just about any area of inquiry are taken eclectically from a great variety of sources. I suggest you broaden your horizons.

Perhaps you have read more Objectivism than I have, but I don’t recall her ever using the concept ‘soul’ as if it were a real thing. I agree with you that this would be disconcerting, and I also agree with you that her views on male-female relations were off-kilter. She did justify her cheating on her husband, after all (and on the basis that she was acting out of self-interest, which should also give you pause about the implications of her ethics). Though I can actually sort of see what she means about romantic/sexual attraction having a lot to do with relative power of each partner… And I also agree with you that her view of “volition” is wrong. So we are not so dissimilar after all (I always like to look for common ground and see how far different viewpoints can be reconciled).

I definitely see a problem with your assertion that either your political or ethical views can safely be called knowledge. I have no problem with scientific truths being called knowledge, but if you are implying that anything else you have said (and that does seem to be your intention!) is in any way secure knowledge, then you are way WAY off-base. Also, although most religious people do exhibit contradictions in their reasoning, it is entirely logically possible for a person to be religious and still be contradiction-free. I know a guy whose beliefs are vastly different from my own, but it is greatly difficult to point out any contradictions he makes. This is largely because he bases his beliefs in faith, so he can justify virtually anything. Maddening, and irrational, but not illogical.

You say:
“In regards to politics I believe AR was right on about the importance of individual rights politically and I believe as AR wrote mostly herself: ‘A state must not intervene in the intellectual or moral life of its citizens. It has no standards to uphold and no benefits to confer in regard to education, literature, art, science, sex (if consensual between adults) or philosophy. Its function should be to protect freedom, not truth or virtue. The goal of a proper society, accordingly, is not to compel truth or virtue, but to make them possible by ensuring that people are left free. A proper government offers freedom from coercion, not from the responsibility of self-sustenance.’”

And:
“A person does not have a right to a job. That is something they must get themselves. It is not the responsibility of a company to make a nice pretty job for someone to have. If a company's working conditions aren't good or if the pay is not good or the managers are mean, then don't work there!”

A state has the responsibility of looking after its citizens, true, but this need not necessarily be restricted to protection of personal freedom (i.e. property). If a people decide that they want to make laws respecting the idea that all of its members should be granted some basic social benefits, such as education, literature, art, science, and philosophy (or shoot, even sex!), then it is within the power of such a people to empower its government to see this through. If a people decide that this means that the functions of government should include compelling truth and virtue, then they may do so. Of course, this may easily be done poorly, and I agree with you that this could be very dangerous indeed. I disagree with you that it cannot be done well or rightly and in the best interests of its people. Further, if such an enlightened people decide that a basic social service should be gainful employment, this is also within the powers of a people, and may also be done rightly and well (or wrongly and poorly). There may be delicate balances which must be struck, but to outright dismiss these possibilities as morally wrong is dogmatic. And as for the O’ist argument that if you don’t like where you work, go somewhere else, tell that to the unemployed! You think it is just a matter of going where there is work? This is so terribly simplistic. And it takes a knowledge of what life is like for the poor or the sick to understand why, which you seem to have no interest in discovering.

And going back to what you said in one of your earlier posts, I wonder why it is you think the government is corrupt? It certainly isn't corrupt because the poor have any influence over it. I suggest you rethink this premise, because the obvious conclusion that government corruption occurs on behalf of private, rich and powerful interests is inescapable.
Thanks JD!

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