I was reading the webpage "50 top atheists in the world today" (found here: http://www.thebestschools.org/blog/2011/12/01/50-top-atheists-in-th... ).

I came across a name that is unfamiliar to me: Ophelia Benson (born c. 1948).

Reading about her led me to TPM - the philosophers' magazine which, in turn, led me to the webpage: 

All due respect - “Reasonable Atheism” by Aikin and Talisse reviewed (found here: http://www.philosophypress.co.uk/?p=1980 )

The first two sentences was all I needed to find what I keep running into with all but one of the philosophers I have met online (the only way I have met philosophers). I have made bold the text that bothers me in the quote below from the webpage:

This book is aimed primarily at religious believers who think that “atheists must be dishonest, irrational, amoral, untrustworthy, mean, deceitful, delusional, and unintelligent.” Although there’s little doubt that millions of believers do view atheists in this way, it’s safe to say that this is a philosophically unsophisticated bunch.

Most philosophers tend to openly insult the people they disagree with. They use language that implies that the philosopher is much smarter than the person who is disagreeing with the philosopher. They seem to have their own separate little world (even in the Atheist Nexus) in which they discuss complicated ideas with anyone who will listen, but if you do not have exposure to their jargon and ask for clarification, they feebly attempt to explain and if you still don't understand what they mean (or, god forbid, you disagree with them), you are ostracized. They seem to have a religiously obtained superiority. That is what bugs me the most.

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Comment by Cane Kostovski on December 21, 2011 at 1:15am

I am a simple mind. Either it can be known or it can be believed. And I cannot know anything without proof. Anything perceived without proof is believed or not. I can see where that would lead to theories of how, this, that, ten, and now. But I find my simple world solid enough. Glad I could put a smile on your face.

Comment by John Camilli on December 21, 2011 at 1:09am

Lol, I love that you said you will take it on faith that science is based on assumptions. I can just picture all the theists out there who would slobber all over themselves at hearing an atheist say that. We musn't let them hear us :-)

Comment by Cane Kostovski on December 21, 2011 at 1:05am

@John Camill

This means nothing, but you, sir, have been added to my very short list of respected people. Your crash course drives me to ask a thousand questions, and, as you said, the questions never stop. I will take it on faith that science is based on assumptions that are basic to scientific knowledge and leave it at that. 

Comment by John Camilli on December 20, 2011 at 9:20pm



Science would be a 4th tier of philosophy, as it is a subset of empiricism. So by the time we get to the scientific method, we have already assumed the following - that states of existence are related, that states of existence can be described as "here, there, this, that, now" or "then," and that to accurately apply those labels to states of existence requires experiential evidence. Science then goes on to establish the theory of how experiential evidence can be used to accurately label states of existence - and that's the scientific method.


Now, personally, I follow the scientific method, but because I am a pyrrhonic skeptic, I do not consider scientific laws as knowledge. I consider them to be beliefs because sensory evidence can be doubted. I do believe in the laws of science; I believe they are true, I just don't claim to know that they are. This is why you will sometimes see me nitpicking with proponents of science, especially when they attack theists for having silly beliefs. Science is based on assumptions just as theism is. Different assumptions, but assumptions nonetheless.


Anyway, I hope that made some sense to you and gave you a greater appreciation of philosophy. I do understand if it's not on your list of priorities to delve into it more deeply because I have to admit that I have never found any answers in any of its many branches, just different ways of thinking about questions. And lot's more questions :-)

Comment by John Camilli on December 20, 2011 at 9:20pm

If you're receptive, I'll give you a crash course. It can help you distinguish the bullshit artists from legitimate philosophers.


You can think of logic as the top tier of the family tree of human awareness; of sentience. The theory of logic requires three assumptions (because no known proof for them exists, and probably can't because the notion of proof comes after the notion of logic): the principals of causality, locality and identity. Causality establishes that one state of existence is related to another; that each moment of existence is not just random. Either way is possible, but if we don't assume causality, then knowledge is impossible, so we assume it. Identity and locality establish the core linguistic concepts of "this" or "that," and "here" or "there," respectively. Also, causality establishes "now" and "then." And all the rest of language relies on these basic concepts. In scientific terms they are qualia, quanta and tempora. So that's logic.


Once we have logic, we can have information theories. Epistemology is an information theory; it contains theories of knowledge - how it can be obtained and how it can't. Knowledge is defined many ways by various schools of epistemology, but the strictest definition of it is 'an information relationship which cannot be doubted.' Cogito ergo sum is the only known information relationship which qualifies as knowledge under this definition. The loosest definition is 'strong belief.' You can tell right away which of those definitions belongs to academic skeptics and which belongs to theists. Science is somewhere in between, with the definition of 'justified, true belief,' where the justifier is empirical evidence. But that's getting ahead of the tier I'm describing.


So tier 1 - logic, tier 2 - epistemology, and any other information theories (I'm not aware of any others). Tier 3 contains the various knowledge theories of epistemology, which include skepticism, rationalism and empiricism (and there may be others of which I am unaware). There are two types of skeptics - academic and pyrrhonic. Academics believe knowledge is impossible (which has been criticized as a self-defeating paradigm). Pyrrhonics claim not to have any knowledge of which they are aware (you may be able to tell from my language that I fall into this branch of philosophy). Rationalism is the idea that knowledge can be discovered through pure reason (a priori proof), while empiricism holds that knowledge requires experiential evidence (a posteriori proof). There are several branches of each of the latter two, but the one you'll want to know about is scientific theory.



Comment by Cane Kostovski on December 20, 2011 at 4:43pm

I understand your description of philosophy. I don't know enough about philosophy to dispute you on your points. Though, as I have often told others, I am dubious about philosophy being the foundation on which science has been built upon. I have been wrong many times before and I am be wrong again, but I simply have a hard time believing in  or accepting anything that cannot be proven with evidence.

Comment by John Camilli on December 20, 2011 at 4:19pm



I'll have to look Drake up, and take a look at this "definition" he gave you, cause I'm betting I can find a hole in it, no disrespect to him. I do think he was right not to say that philosophy has a scientific basis, as this would be counter-logical. Sciences is a branch of philosophy, so it cannot be the foundation for it. Specifically, science is a subset of empiricism, which is a subset of epistemology, which is a subset of logic. To even get to science and the notion of a proof, one must already have assumed several more fundamental philosophical principals (causality, locality, identity, the JTB description of knowledge, and the reliability of the senses)

I'd like to encourage you to keep looking further into philosophy. It is the deepest rabbit hole humanity has ever dug (far exceding religion, which like science is just another branch of philosophy). All other assertions that have ever been made are reliant on some aspect of philosophy. I would define it as the foundation of all understanding (if such a thing can even be said to exist, which some philosophies will argue it doesn't)

Comment by John Camilli on December 20, 2011 at 4:19pm

I hear what you're saying. I think you described the problem accurately when you said "They either could not or would not give me a simple definition..." and I think it's the former possibility; that concepts cannot be defined, only described. For example, if I were to ask the question 'where are you?' do you think you could answer it? That seems like a pretty simple question, with a pretty simple answer, but even something that simple proves impossible to define, and here's why: you might answer Dearborn, Michigan (I used to live in Royal Oak, btw, so howdy former neighbor), but where is that? In the US...but where is that? On Earth, which is in the system of Sol, which is in the Milky Way, which is in the Virgo supercluster...but where is that? If you look deep enough into the attempted definition, you find out that all you have given is a description of some part of the universe, without having any idea of how that description relates to the whole. This is what philosophers run into all the time, and those who aren't superficially interrested become accustomed to not ever being able to give a straight answer when that answer is looked at closely enough. Since looking very closely into meaning is one of the purviews of philosophy, they are bound to run into that wall if they stick with it long enough.


In my opinion, a definition of anything is impossible until one has a definition of everything. If we assume the principal of causality - the most basic assumption of logic (and it does have to be assumed because it can't be proved), then we assume that the universe is a whole thing, not a collection of disparate things. All of it is interrelated, so parts of it cannot be defined in isolation. For example, if one aspect of gravity theories is correct, then my laptop has a gravitational attraction that extends to all other objects in existence. A definition of it would be incomplete without a description of its affect on everything else in the universe. Likewise, a definition of anything else would be incomplete without a mention of my laptop's affect on it.


For most people, such thorough definitions are not useful. Most people would feel that they had a close enoguh idea of what you meant if you said you live in Dearborn, but close isn't  good enough for philosophers. If it's not precise, it's useless. This, ironically, is why many people view philosophy as a useless endeavor, because it has yet to deliver anything precise, and a philosopher worth his salt will always be up-front about admitting this. Consequently, the good ones come off as flip-floppers who can never make up their mind. But they are really just acknowledging the limits of their own understanding. That this is interpretted as stupidity or indecisiveness can be very frustrating.



Comment by Cane Kostovski on December 20, 2011 at 12:18pm

@John - I had a lengthy conversation with a couple of philosophers that turned into a "confrontation" (That may be too strong of a word, but I can't think of a more accurate word at the moment). We kept repeating what we were saying. I kept telling them what I thought and asking for them to define their terms that they were using. They either could not or would not give me a simple definition for a few of their words such a a priori, a posteriori, knowledge, belief, etc. They kept giving me an explanation not a definition and I could not follow their explanation. Then Drake Everren (for whom I have great respect) came into the mix and gave me what I was asking for. He gave me definitions and, because he understood both science and philosophy, he could speak to me as well as philosophers. What Drake did was to show me why I should respect philosophy, and I do now, but that did not alleviate my discomfort I felt in dealing with the other two or so philosophers. I see philosophy as a description of the parts of the mind that entail the whole and how they interrelate. Drake did not offer nor did he imply that their was a scientific basis to philosophy. After a week or so of discussing philosophy with Drake, he said; "Most philosophy deals with a priori analysis,..." and that convinced me that I will never follow philosophy. You can read our last three comments here:


Anyways, philosophy to me is for those who want to use words in a way that religion uses words which is to convince others the validity of their argument without evidence that what they say is true. That they have a view of belief that a belief can be discounted with logic. I don't see how I can give myself to philosophy when I am such a "believer" in science.

If you want to interact with someone truly intelligent, look up Drake.

Comment by John Camilli on December 20, 2011 at 11:45am

I think the reason philosophers can seem so arrogant is that their area of concern lies on a more fundamental level than most people's. Most people make a lot of assumptions on a regular basis without realizing it. For instance, theists assume the truth of dualism, scientists assume the truth of empiricism, etc. The problem for philsophers is that these assumptions do not lie on sure footing, so they find discussions on that level frustrating. Non-philosophers find it frustrating that philosophers can't seem to have a straight conversation about concerns on their level, and think the philsophers are just being hard-headed, but that's because they don't realize all the assumptions that go into a typical discussion. That's why philsophers seem to nitpick about everything. It's not because they are trying to circumvent a "real" conversation and trip you up with minutia. It's exactly the opposite: they are trying to have a truer conversation than most people are even capable of having; one that does not include a shit-ton of assumptions that end up making the conclusion a mere matter of interpretation and opinion.



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