Post Reply
Page 1 of 2  •  1 2 Next
Switch to Forum Live View Your favorite non-theistic philosophy
2 years ago  ::  Feb 04, 2012 - 9:05AM #1
Saadaya
Posts: 63
Keeping in mind that:

1. philosophy is to atheists what religion is to theists

2. the science of ethics, as a philosophical field of study and set of theories, originated among polytheist, and sometimes atheistic, Greek philosophers who had absolutely nothing to do with the religious groups who today claim a monopoly on morals and ethics,   

It seems like there should be ample reason for atheists to be having a discussion on what is the good life and what are ethics at the level of maturity that the ancients did, particularly when we are so critical of religious systems of ethics that rely on supernatural interpretations of righteousness and often do not welcome rational input. 

In addition to the very generalized 'humanist' philosophy that many atheists embrace, I want to add to create a discussion here on what philosophies satisfy us and would like to start by proposing the two that are most satisfying to myself (and leave those of you interested in the subject to look into them and share your own).


1. Zen Buddhism - the most scientific and empirical of religions.  A non-theist, Buddha said 'Do not believe everything you hear' and encouraged personal emancipation through discernment.

2. Epicureanism - this is truly a gem and a rich part of our legacy as secularists and Westerners: everyone should study Epicureanism.  It should be required subject for all students on Earth.  Epicurus' philosophy is gathered in his "Principal Doctrines", he embraces empiricism, science, and used to relate to slaves and women in his garden where they all discussed philosophy as equals.  This was considered extremely progressive in his day. 

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” - Epicurus, my favorite Greek philosopher



   
Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Feb 05, 2012 - 7:23PM #2
Namchuck
Posts: 10,784

Anyone influenced by the humanist spirit - the spirit common to classical antiquity, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the modern scientific revolution - would most likely nominate individual liberty, the pursuit of knowledge, the cultivation of pleasures that do not harm others, the satisfactions of art, personal relationships, and the sense of belonging to the human community, as the elements of the good life.


The above is what I list when asked what offers people their best chance of fulfilment and, equally importantly, to live a life directed by knowledge and reflection.


And 'fulfilment' can never be understood as meaning some thin, vacuous species of 'happiness' that could be produced by a pill, or by acceptance of a system of falsehoods and illusions, or by any other means of limitation and ignorance.

Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Feb 05, 2012 - 9:36PM #3
JCarlin
Posts: 5,971

Please Welcome Saadaya


to the atheism boards.
Thanks for joining us. 


You might also want to check out the Discuss_Atheism board, it is a bit contentious.  But can be fun.  



Feb 4, 2012 -- 9:05AM, Saadaya wrote:

Keeping in mind that:

1. philosophy is to atheists what religion is to theists.  


I quit philosophy as it had nothing to offer me as an atheist.  It was interesting enough but learning canned, usually ancient, philosophies that have absolutely nothing to do with living in a modern world just did not seem worth the time.  I read them certainly, just like I read the Bible and other myths as philosophy and myth offer many truths that have stood the test of time. 


However, for living in a world encompassing good medicine, contraception, and educated, economically productive women, few of the old rules and philosophies apply at all.  Over the years in part by trial and error but with support of a enlightened family that was radical by the standards of the day, I have found an ERSSG that provides me with moral standards that work and a group of people that share them and can discuss them intelligently. 


Roughly, the mores include full humanity for women and fully shared responsibily for any children resulting from non-contraceptive sex.  The negotiations involved in losing the contraceptive are complex and usually long, children are usually long after puberty and always the result of a conscious decision to accept responsibility for them.  It includes radical respect for all who do not actively forfeit it; a committment to work for the betterment of the ERSSG however that might be accomplished by the individual; and an indifference to belief systems, although most have none.  There are others but those are the biggies. 

J'Carlin
If the shoe doesn't fit, don't cram your foot in it and complain.
Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Feb 09, 2012 - 1:41AM #4
Namchuck
Posts: 10,784

'Philosophy' - derived from a Greek word literally meaning 'love of wisdom', but better and more accurately defined as 'enquiry' or 'enquiry and reflection' - is essential to the well-rounded, educated, and thoughtful athiest.


Considering that most philosophers, including most of the ancient ones, were preoccupied with that most vital of all questions - how does one go about living the 'good life'? - their investigations and the answers they proffered to this question is as relevant today in the modern world as ever it was in the ancient one.

Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Feb 09, 2012 - 10:52PM #5
JCarlin
Posts: 5,971

Feb 9, 2012 -- 1:41AM, Namchuck wrote:

Considering that most philosophers, including most of the ancient ones, were preoccupied with that most vital of all questions - how does one go about living the 'good life'? - their investigations and the answers they proffered to this question is as relevant today in the modern world as ever it was in the ancient one.


Possibly in some areas there is much to learn.  However the world has changed considerably since then, especially with respect to women and children.  Old men with excess leisure discussing the good life might reach some strange conclusions for anyone who is not an old man with excess leisure. 

J'Carlin
If the shoe doesn't fit, don't cram your foot in it and complain.
Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Feb 11, 2012 - 1:36AM #6
Namchuck
Posts: 10,784

Feb 9, 2012 -- 10:52PM, JCarlin wrote:


Feb 9, 2012 -- 1:41AM, Namchuck wrote:

Considering that most philosophers, including most of the ancient ones, were preoccupied with that most vital of all questions - how does one go about living the 'good life'? - their investigations and the answers they proffered to this question is as relevant today in the modern world as ever it was in the ancient one.


Possibly in some areas there is much to learn.  However the world has changed considerably since then, especially with respect to women and children.  Old men with excess leisure discussing the good life might reach some strange conclusions for anyone who is not an old man with excess leisure. 




The world has indisputably changed a lot, JCarlin, but the question as to what constitutes the good life is, as I've already suggested, as vital as ever.


The wrestling with and contemplation of that question can still benefit immeasurably from an acquaintance with the minds of those who preceded us and who gave themselves over to persistently seeking its answer.


Even generally speaking, it's hard to to say anything on any but the most specialised of matters that some Greek many centuries ago didn't say better. If any people ever knew life and lived it well and fully, it was the great minds among the Greeks.

Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2012 - 11:17AM #7
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,156

I'm a little surprised at J'Carlinbin's trashing of philosophy.  Philosophy was one of my undergraduate majors.  I thought it was good mental practice.  The goal was to be exposed to arguments and systems of arguments, to understand how they worked and then to critique them.  While the discipline hearkens back to the Greeks - with special emphasis on Plato and Aristotle - it certainly doesn't end there.  A two-semester survey course takes you from classical philosophy to scholasticism, then to continential rationalism, Britism empiricism, the so-called modernists like Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein and the postmodernists whose work continues today.


JC may be expressing a thought my best friend expressed when he said, "Intellectualism is dead."  There comes a point when professional philosophy becomes soulless, where the aim isn't really to find  answers so much as to win some kind of chess match.  I had an Ethics professor who accused me of being as much when I told him Aristotle's Golden Mean was a tautology (To argue that virtue lies between the extremes, you must first define what is extreme, but to define what is extreme, you must first know what is virtuous).  


I still think I was right (Aristotle's Golden Mean is a tautology) but experience has led me to conclude that my professor was, perhaps, right in defending Aristotle, even if he had to insult me to do it.  Zealots are almost always purists who think of virtue in linear terms.  Unwilling to compromise their virtue, they build an altar to it, and allow it to either destroy other virtues or at least rob the other virtues in what is inevitably an act of self-destruction.  Take a virtue like bravery, the absence of which produces cowardice but whose extreme becomes recklessness.  Take love, the absence of which may be indifference.  Taken to an extreme, mother love becomes smother love.  There is, quite certainly, an element of balance to virtue.  More is not necessarily better.  Aristotle was on to something.


I've found Aristotle's Golden Mean, or the Buddha's Middle Path, to be endlessly useful, even in diet and exercise.  Some diets promise quick results in weight loss.  Even setting aside the fact that so much of this is just water, or lost muscle mass, I've found that the more radical the change, the shorter its halflife.  Short-term changes produce short-term results.  The only lifestyle change worth pursuing is one you can stay on for the rest of your life.  On the other hand, when you lengthen the period of lifestyle change, the changes involved become much more feasible.  The very act of overeating is based on insecurity and overcompensation.  As Goldilocks discovered, while breaking into the Bear Family residence, there's something to be said about staying away from "not too much" and "not too little" but finding what is "just right."


The study of ideas is neither worthless nor insincere.  At least it doesn't have to be.  JC may be right, in the sense that the loss of faith is not necessarily a shift directly to the field of philosophy, or even the adoption of a specific philosophy.  I remember getting into an argument with a Marxist colleague who recoiled at my own reductionism in suggesting that philosophy, itself, is something of an industry.  As in the scientific-corporate-industrial complex, somebody runs with a fresh paradigm, followed by lots of me-too proponents who rush to fill in the gaps, until there are enough established issues to produce a critical mass from someone hawking a promising antithesis.  The process then proceeds in the opposite direction, though much the same way, until someone reinvents the game somewhere else.


This is where my old friend concluded, "Intellectualism is dead."


But again, "intellectualism" is not the same as using intellect to find your own answers.  It's easy to get caught up in a kind of filing system, where you're sorting out various family trees of philosophical systems, which is all very nice and well, but not really a journey toward anything.  To me, much of academia is a game.  The university is, in its own way, an expensive version of Disneyworld, where you tour the big complex, visiting the different sections.  Even when you settle on a major, you are still "taking the tour" within that particular department or school.  As far as the university is concerned, that's what's going on.  The administration is constantly looking to put out fires and solicit new money.  The faculty are all competing for better digs - more money, better recognition, tenure.  The students, themselves, want to be recognized and awarded with a ticket to  grad school or a high-paying job.  It's all very much a game, an ecosystem built on interconnected, overlapping self-interest.  


An old professor of mine was asked to give the invocation at a graduation ceremony.  Looking out upon a sea of black caps and capes, with tassels set to go from left to right, he said, "Here we stand in the robes of a false priesthood."  


That he was never asked back is a mere footnote to the fact that he had nailed a marvelous truth: Much of what we did in religion, we do elsewhere, though under different names and titles, and with a different management.  The caps and gowns of graduation are just a secular imitation of the caps and gowns of medieval monasteries, whose drafty lodgings necessitates the caps, hoodies and sweaters we've come to associate with academic life.  Universities are not just academic cities; they're monasteries, where we remove ourselves from the very world we aim to study.  Much of this book learning, in these "ivory towers," involves a certain political programming and indoctrination, as we connect up with the right people.  In the meantime, the Catholic system imitated a Jewish system, which imitated systems in Babylonia, Persia and Egypt.


Most of what we deal with or deal in is begged, borrowed or stolen from somewhere else, if not in form then in substance.


I had an interesting discussion with my wife, about how the Book of Abraham - Joseph Smith's five-chapter translation of Egyptian papyri - proved what he was and what he was about.  Of all the  documents Joseph Smith pretended to translate - from the Golden Plates to the "inspired" translation of the Bible, to the "Parchment of John," Joseph Smith claimed to have seen in a vision - the Abraham papyri are the only ones whose existence is beyond question.  Michael Chandler really did have a set of four mummies he was touring with, and with those mummies were four sets of papyri in Egyptian.  Because they were sold to a museum, after the death of Joseph Smith, and thought to have been burned in the Great Chicago Fire, it was long thought that this book, like all the others, was based on records unavailable to anyone but the Mormon "prophet, seer and revelator" who served them up as scripture.


But scholars tracked the papers down, and showed them to be nothing more exotic than the Book of Breathings/Book of the Dead thrown into every sarcophagus.  Mormon apologists have since suggested that the Book of Abraham must have been based on "other" papyri not found.  In that sense, it's ironic.  Most Mormon writings are based on plates or parchments unavailable for scrutiny.  Now that something has survived, something Joseph Smith claimed to translate, something a group of qualified Egyptologists could examine and analyze, Mormon apologists can only wish such records were similarly unavailable.


Still, the damage is done.  While defenders of the faith scramble to imagine more and unattainable records, the truth of Joseph Smith stares back at us from the facsimiles of drawings he attempted to translate.  Even without any other, lost records to speak of, the facsimile translations preserve in amber what Joseph Smith was all about.  Acting at a time when Egyptology was in its infancy, Joseph Smith dared to make detailed translations and commentaries of three facsimiles found with the papyri.  He also went so far as to make his own glossary or lexicon of Egyptian characters, though that project is unnecessary to reveal the nature of this one.  Not envisioning the day when actual Egyptologists would be able to critique his work - using, as their reference, the vast collections of photographs, manuscripts, objects and tombs now available to the field of Egyptology - Joseph Smith stuck his neck way out.  It's one thing to say you saw God and Jesus in the woods behind your house.  Who was there to say you didn't?  It's one thing to saw you had a vision of an Indian prophet, floating above your bed.  Who can verify such a claim up or down?  But when Joseph Smith undertook to translate Egyptian characters, with the characters and translation preserved for future generations to scrutinize, he was winding up a giant eggtimer, one that would eventually count down to truth.


Had Joseph Smith been what he claimed to be, the Book of Abraham would have been marvelous proof.  When, for example, in translating and explaining the scene in Facsimile 3 - and its five figures, with two behind a man sitting on a throne, with two standing before him and one standing behind them - it would have been an uncanny and undeniable confirmation of Mormon belief if Joseph Smith had actually gotten it right.  Instead, Joseph Smith described it as Abraham sitting on a throne, sporting a scepter, symbolic of his power and priesthood.  Behind him, as Joseph Smith saw it, was the Pharaoh himself.  In front of him was the Pharaoh's son and his servant.  At the end was Olimlah, a black slave.  At the time Joseph Smith gave his "translation," there wasn't a soul anywhere nearby, who could raise an objection.  Early Mormons were mesmerized by the prophetic prowess of the prophet.


How nice it is, then, to live at a time when Egyptologists could weigh in on the translation.  As facsimiles like this are a dime a dozen in a field where thousands have been recovered - and the field has long since moved past its infancy - it should come as little surprise that Egyptologists have reached such an easy consensus as to the real translation: The man on the throne is Osiris, judge of the dead.  Behind him is Isis, sporting her Ankh.  Before them is Maat, the goddess of justice, leading the deceased.  Behind them is Anubis, the god of embalming.  Their identities are established, not just by their functions in a funerary text (where the deceased is brought before the judge of the dead to have his soul weighed) but by the clothing and headgear they wear.  


If any doubts should linger, the inquiring mind might look at the captions written above their heads:

  • "Isis, the great, the god's mother."
  • "Rescitation by Osiris, Foremost of the Westerners, Lord of the Abydos, the great god forever and ever."
  • "Maat, mistress of the gods."
  • "The Osiris Hor, justified forever."
  • "Rescitation by Anubis, who makes protection, foremost of the embalming booth."

Joseph Smith couldn't read Egyptian any more than I can read Chinese.  He attempted to do so here, and got away with it because there was nobody qualified to call him out on it, but science eventually caught up with the prophet, proving that he was either deluded or an utter fraud.  In five chapters, Joseph Smith outted himself for what he was - and in a way that is so beautifully plain and mathematically sure.  One could doubt his visions and visitations, but never prove the negative.  One could wonder at all of the incidents and accidents - including the arrests, the failed Kirtland Bank, the secret polygamy amidst all the categorical denials, the excommunication of critics and rivals (even of Oliver Cowdery, who wrote the Book of Mormon, and Martin Harris, who paid to have it printed) - or even the propriety of the 22 other wives he had, including the 14-year-olds, the twins (Basil) and the wives of other men (including faithful Mormon men).  


There was always a trail of incidents and accidents but Facsimile 3 is perfect.  It's as clear and unambiguous as a simple equation.  As Orwell's character, Winston Smith, so succinctly observed in 1984, "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."  In this case, the verifiable fraud of Facsimile 3 proves the fraud of all else.  Whatever hesitation one might have in calling out the questionable, it's impossible to ignore the certainty of Facsimile 3.


If Mormons do ignore Facsimile 3, and not simply out of ignorance or stupidity, it's because religion is a delivery device for a certain kind of bliss, and Mormonism is no slouch in this department.  People go to church for the same reason other people go to rock concerts or do drugs: It feels good.    As someone who spends his tithing money at restaurants and movie houses, I'm a big fan of feeling good.  My habit may challenge my efforts to stay lean and mean, but at least it doesn't make me go through life with my eyes closed, in the hopes of getting a refund at the end.


The study of philosophy is useful, as is philosophical thinking - up to a point.  When reduced to word games, philosophy can become a pastime with a life of its own.  David Hume was a big fan of taking syllogisms and running them to absurdity.  Even then, as Hume, himself, once observed:


“Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.” 

Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2012 - 2:16PM #8
farragut
Posts: 3,910

Brilliant, Bill. Thank you.

Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2012 - 7:50PM #9
JCarlin
Posts: 5,971

Feb 12, 2012 -- 11:17AM, BillThinks4Himself wrote:

JC may be expressing a thought my best friend expressed when he said, "Intellectualism is dead."  There comes a point when professional philosophy becomes soulless, where the aim isn't really to find  answers so much as to win some kind of chess match.


Not quite, but worshipping intellectualism or philosophy as truth is a pretty silly way to spend ones time at the university.  Much better to learn the culture of rational and questioning thinking that a good university provides in the classroom, campus and even the parties. 


Side note:  Bill, you might find it interesting to read a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass alongside a copy of the Book of Mormon.  I did. 




J'Carlin
If the shoe doesn't fit, don't cram your foot in it and complain.
Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2012 - 10:13PM #10
MSaraTemp
Posts: 800

Feb 12, 2012 -- 7:50PM, JCarlin wrote:


Feb 12, 2012 -- 11:17AM, BillThinks4Himself wrote:

JC may be expressing a thought my best friend expressed when he said, "Intellectualism is dead."  There comes a point when professional philosophy becomes soulless, where the aim isn't really to find  answers so much as to win some kind of chess match.


Not quite, but worshipping intellectualism or philosophy as truth is a pretty silly way to spend ones time at the university.  Much better to learn the culture of rational and questioning thinking that a good university provides in the classroom, campus and even the parties.


Just dropping in to say Hi and to check your email but whilst I'm visiting, I just have to say you reply was spot-on. :)


Side note:  Bill, you might find it interesting to read a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass alongside a copy of the Book of Mormon.  I did. 


Is that anything like doing mushrooms and listening to Abbey Road played backwards or something to do with Pink Floyd and The Dark Side of the Moon? ;)
If so, it sounds .... deep. ;D

Quick Reply
Cancel
Page 1 of 2  •  1 2 Next
 
    Viewing this thread :: 0 registered and 1 guest
    No registered users viewing
    Advertisement

    Beliefnet On Facebook