I’m with Massimo

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 11.15.18 AMMassimo Pigliucci has taken a lot of heat for his criticisms of “new Atheists.” Pigliucci accuses NAs of being overconfident scientists who tread naively onto philosophical turf. I’m inclined to agree with him: NA’s are sometimes loudly making basic errors, inappropriately associating their views with “science,” and are sometimes making sophisticated excuses to rationalize their lack of rigor. For those who hope to have correct beliefs, a more cautious approach is warranted.

A few weeks ago, Jerry Coyne published a critique on his blog directed at an essay that Pigliucci published last September, titled “New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheism Movement.” Among the various blogs I read, I’ve generally found Pigliucci’s blog, Rationally Speaking, to be one of the most intellectually satisfying. But Coyne disagrees, saying:

I’ve been put off by [Massimo’s] arrogance, attack-dogishness (if you want a strident atheist, look no further than Massimo), and his repeated criticisms of New Atheists because We Don’t Know Enough Philosophy. (If you substituted “Theology” for “Philosophy” there, you’d pretty much have Terry Eagleton).

The parenthetical phrase made me wince, since it alludes to the Courtier’s Reply argument that can be used as a sophistic excuse for lack of rigor. It is also pretty rude to equate the professional discipline of philosophy with that of theology, which Coyne believes is utterly vacuous. Later in the same post, Coyne made another alarming remark:

Note to readers: when you see the word “nuanced” used in criticism of atheism, run!

This sounds juvenile to me. All mature fields have nuances — “minor distinctions; subtlety or fine detail” — and you can’t just barge into an established field without carefully navigating those nuances. But that’s exactly how NA scientists sometimes sound when they make overreaching philosophical pronouncements.

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For the record: what I think about social justice and libertarianism

391360515I am occasionally called upon to answer for my political views. This post describes my views and their philosophical basis, and should serve as a reference for those who want to know what kind of sneetch I am.

In short, I am center-left with left-libertarian tendencies; see my results from iSideWith.com to see how I fit with the current US political parties. A lot of people associate “libertarian” with the right-wing version that has gained some popularity within the Republican party. It should be noticed, however, that I can manage to have a majority agreement with all the left-wing parties and the Libertarian Party, while still being 95% incompatible with the Republicans. This ought to indicate that there’s more to the story.

This post gets a little philosophical. I’ve encountered a surprising number of people who are expressly anti-philosophical, and some who say they are more interested in “action” than philosophy. I choose to be philosophical because I want to have good beliefs based on good reasons. There are few things more ridiculous than action without reason. My moral and political philosophy is heavily influenced by Kant and Rawls, sort of like the “neo-Rawlsian libertarian” view described in this post by Kevin Vallier at  Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

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