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The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:52 am

Thanks, Detritus -- a lot to digest there. I knew there was more going on in your first post that I was missing. That said, now I remember why I stopped taking art history courses in college.

Detritus wrote:...there really is no stable set of criteria for appreciating art that could be traced to some essence of art-ness.
I agree completely.
Detritus wrote:Therefore, most philosophers of art have turned to the idea that art is, precisely, a judgement--a way of paying attention, as John Cage would say.
I fail to see how this modern definition is any more or less culture-bound than those rejected to arrive at this conclusion. Besides, I think it's false on its face. In what sense is it meaningful to say that the Lascaux cave paintings ceased being art for 17,000 years simply because nobody was paying attention?
Detritus wrote:I would argue that labeling a given artwork as "great" is not an entirely subjective judgement, at least in the sense of individual or even group taste or simple opinion.
Will all observers of a given work of art agree about its greatness or relative value in relation to other works of art? Obviously, the answer is no, which means such a determination is subjective. It seems strange you would bristle at the misuse of "a technical term in the philosophical discipline of aesthetics" yet don't seem to have any issue fudging the definition of a commonplace word to suit your particular view. By definition, any statement made that is biased by previous experiences or personal preferences is subjective. Being able to qualify or quantify your opinions about a particular work of art doesn't magically transform them into something objective.

Detritus wrote:
Henry Vilas wrote:Pure math is just applied logic. Aesthetics, not so much as cultural influences come into play.
"Pure math" is a cultural concept, and an aesthetic one, to boot.
He's right, Henry. Furthermore, "pure math" has traditionally been set up as being in opposition to "applied math", which often turns out to be merely a temporal distinction. A lot of modern physics and technology comes from the real-world application of what was, only decades ago, considered to be math with no practical use. Mathematicians often chase the "beauty" of their equations without any interest in its bearing on reality (if indeed there is any) and only later do engineers and physicists find useful ways to employ them.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby nutria » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:35 am

Huckleby wrote:
nutria wrote:
Huckleby wrote:Once more, I did not make argument that intelligent religious devotees validate anything. But it does weaken the ignorance theory of religion.
You most certainly did make that argument.And as it is an invalid argument, it neither bolsters nor refutes any idea.
You misinterpreted what I said, and my clarification is perfectly logical. If the best you can do is stubbornly insist I hold a position that I deny, you're out of ideas.


OK, explain to me how this:
Huckleby wrote: But there are many people who are better educated and more intelligent than you who have a totally different view towards religion. So there must be more to the story, something outside of your imagination or perception or nature.

Does not appeal to the fact that intelligent people turn to religion validates religion/spirituality.

Huckleby wrote:
nutria wrote:
Huckleby wrote:I notice you have declared religous devotion an "incorrect idea." I agree with you that religions seem strange, silly even. I just don't completely dismiss them, there could be something to spirituality beneath all the trappings.

A claim to which you are still yet to offer any evidence.
Of course spirituality is something subjective & experiential. It is outside the realm of scientific or rhetorical proof. Spirituality, like friendship and great art, may or may not be real, but it is sensed in ways that can't be easily quantified.


At least we are in agreement here -- there is no proof of spirituality being indicative of anything real.

Huckleby wrote:
nutria wrote: Now, finally, you move on to personal insults...infantile BS
What was your purpose in marking "religous" misspelling with [sic] in my quote? Did you really think others couldn't follow the meaning? Or were you engaged in infantile, petty BS?


You made a mistake, and I corrected it. That's it. Maybe you shouldn't take things so personally.

Huckleby wrote:You entered this conversation with insulting remark:
nutria wrote: Textbook fallacious argument. A perfect example, in fact.
OK, fine. When I explain that I wasn't making the argument that fits your theory, you insist I'm lying. This is not civil conversation.


That is not an insult. That is a statement of fact, which was later backed up by evidence. If the curt manner in which it was offered offends you, perhaps you shouldn't take thing so personally. This would be an insult:
What Huckleby thinks nutria wrote: Textbook fallacious argument. A perfect example, in fact. Which is something a stupid person would do.

See the difference?

Also, you claim that I've insisted you are lying. I've done no such thing. Ironically, now I can insist that.
Last edited by nutria on Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby Detritus » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:40 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
Detritus wrote:Therefore, most philosophers of art have turned to the idea that art is, precisely, a judgement--a way of paying attention, as John Cage would say.
I fail to see how this modern definition is any more or less culture-bound than those rejected to arrive at this conclusion. Besides, I think it's false on its face. In what sense is it meaningful to say that the Lascaux cave paintings ceased being art for 17,000 years simply because nobody was paying attention?

It is less culture-bound thinking of aesthetics as the set of technical practices that go into creating art, because it places them in the creator/viewer/listener as a member of a particular society in a particular place at a particular time, rather than placing them in the work itself. What makes for "good" pre-Raphaelite painting and what makes for "good" Hochunk basketry are different things that are based in the people involved, not in paintings or baskets themselves.

Thinking of aesthetics as a set of theories about art, however, of course you're right: Cage's ideas are every bit as culture-bound as any other. There are plenty of societies in which there is no generic notion of "art," and no articulated theories regarding artworks--just specific activities that have specific functions and contexts. For example, the Lascaux cave paintings--you claim they were art 17,000 years ago, and remained art even when everyone who even knew about their existence was long dead. How do you know they were art 17,000 years ago? Is it because their techniques (color, massing, shading, etc.) resemble European painting techniques that first arise during the Renaissance? That's a different level of aesthetic than the idea of art, though.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
Detritus wrote:I would argue that labeling a given artwork as "great" is not an entirely subjective judgement, at least in the sense of individual or even group taste or simple opinion.
Will all observers of a given work of art agree about its greatness or relative value in relation to other works of art? Obviously, the answer is no, which means such a determination is subjective. It seems strange you would bristle at the misuse of "a technical term in the philosophical discipline of aesthetics" yet don't seem to have any issue fudging the definition of a commonplace word to suit your particular view. By definition, any statement made that is biased by previous experiences or personal preferences is subjective. Being able to qualify or quantify your opinions about a particular work of art doesn't magically transform them into something objective.

I don't think I'm fudging the definition of subjective here, but I will quibble with the idea that any statement biased by previous experience or personal preference is, by definition, subjective. Scientific theories are, by definition, biased by previous experience, are they not? If fact, science is specifically lauded for this bias, isn't it? So I would throw out that part of your definition and work more with the "personal preference" part. I see an implication that "subjective" means "personal," and that is in fact how I used it. But I'm arguing that "personal preferences" in the realm of art are culturally constructed and socially maintained (or, if you prefer, socially constructed and culturally maintained). And therefore, whether the underlying reasons for a given preference are articulated or not, it is a rational judgement, and not simply a limbic response to external stimuli, whether those stimuli are thought of as pure sense perceptions or the aura of some kind of greatness immanent to the work of art.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:02 pm

Detritus wrote:What makes for "good" pre-Raphaelite painting and what makes for "good" Hochunk basketry are different things that are based in the people involved, not in paintings or baskets themselves.
I understand the rationale for making this statement, but I still don't see how it's any less culture-bound. After all, it makes no sense to define an artwork as "pre" anything except in the context of subsequent artistic and cultural development. And I certainly don't think knowing anything about the culture which produced a work of art is necessary for arriving at a personal judgement. In fact, one could even argue that "it's good by pre-Raphaelite standards" is an insult, suggesting that what came after is somehow superior. I like some ancient artworks despite their "limitations" and dislike others irrespective of them. Certainly, ancient Egyptians were capable of painting human figures not turned sideways, they just chose not to most of the time. The reasons why have no bearing on whether someone enjoys the images or not, however, and one can appreciate the artistry of such images even if they are unaware ancient Egyptian culture ever existed. The idea that knowledge about art makes pronouncements about it more valuable is just a bias of people who want to justify all the time they've spent studying it, IMO.

Detritus wrote:For example, the Lascaux cave paintings--you claim they were art 17,000 years ago, and remained art even when everyone who even knew about their existence was long dead. How do you know they were art 17,000 years ago?
Fair enough. I think a reasonable argument can be made that the Lascaux painters had no idea they were creating art. In their minds, perhaps what they were doing was purely functional, and in some sense "real", which is a distinction, I think, most of us make today about what is or isn't art. (The idea being that the painters in some sense believed that the representation of an animal was as much a personification of its spirit as the actual animal itself. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant -- I merely suggest it as one possible example of our modern sensibilities imparting a sense of artistry where none was originally intended.) Along those lines, I would answer your question about whether a sunset is art with "no", because it's just a natural process -- it exists independently of any artistic endeavor. However, an artist can incorporate the sunset into a work of art, and in fact I have a friend who recently did exactly that.

Detritus wrote:I will quibble with the idea that any statement biased by previous experience or personal preference is, by definition, subjective. Scientific theories are, by definition, biased by previous experience, are they not?
No. Their formulation certainly is, but the end product (if you do it right) is objective. That's kinda the whole point, actually. A universal law is only a universal law if everyone agrees on the answer. E=mc² is true no matter who does the measurements, where they are located, or when they exist. It makes no difference what culture you belong to, given a right triangle in two dimensions, a²+b²=c² is a result all observers will agree on. Note that in both cases, those formulae can be rewritten in many different forms, but the answers they yield will still be universally agreed upon. Similarly (if less easy to visualize formally) The Theory of Evolution was as true 5 million years ago as it is today, even absent the cultural trappings which made its discovery possible at a particular point in time.

Detritus wrote:In fact, science is specifically lauded for this bias, isn't it?
I am unclear what you mean by this. Seems to me that science is lauded for its ability to transcend human biases, not because it embraces them. I once again feel I'm missing some subtlety in your argument.

Detritus wrote:I'm arguing that "personal preferences" in the realm of art are culturally constructed and socially maintained (or, if you prefer, socially constructed and culturally maintained). And therefore, whether the underlying reasons for a given preference are articulated or not, it is a rational judgement, and not simply a limbic response to external stimuli, whether those stimuli are thought of as pure sense perceptions or the aura of some kind of greatness immanent to the work of art.
If I'm following your argument here (and I admit I might again be missing your real point as you're clearly better equipped for this discussion than I am) I think this can be refuted with two words: Guilty Pleasure.
That's the phrase people use when they like something which does not fit whatever construction they normally use (either consciously or not) to evaluate art. Similarly, when someone says that a movie or a band is "greater than the sum of its parts" it's an admission that, evaluated rationally, it comes up lacking, but there's still something appealing about it which cannot necessarily be expressed except to say, "I like it."
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby Remember_Me » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:07 pm

God, if you really are real... fucking take me now.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby Detritus » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:11 am

Remember_Me wrote:God, if you really are real... fucking take me now.

Until now, I assumed that colon cleansing was only productive at one end. But you have proven me wrong--congratulations!
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby Detritus » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:39 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
Detritus wrote:What makes for "good" pre-Raphaelite painting and what makes for "good" Hochunk basketry are different things that are based in the people involved, not in paintings or baskets themselves.
I understand the rationale for making this statement, but I still don't see how it's any less culture-bound. .... The idea that knowledge about art makes pronouncements about it more valuable is just a bias of people who want to justify all the time they've spent studying it, IMO.

The non-culture-bound aspect is that if the aesthetic "value" of an artwork is placed in the people rather than in the object itself, then cross-cultural understanding is possible. Otherwise, one is forever finding the artistic productions of other cultures to be weak examples of one's own traditions. I have nothing to say about the value of pronouncements about art--that doesn't interest me--although the process by which those pronouncements become canonized in a given society does interest me.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
Detritus wrote:I will quibble with the idea that any statement biased by previous experience or personal preference is, by definition, subjective. Scientific theories are, by definition, biased by previous experience, are they not?

No. Their formulation certainly is, but the end product (if you do it right) is objective. That's kinda the whole point, actually. A universal law is only a universal law if everyone agrees on the answer. E=mc² is true no matter who does the measurements, where they are located, or when they exist. It makes no difference what culture you belong to, given a right triangle in two dimensions, a²+b²=c² is a result all observers will agree on. Note that in both cases, those formulae can be rewritten in many different forms, but the answers they yield will still be universally agreed upon. Similarly (if less easy to visualize formally) The Theory of Evolution was as true 5 million years ago as it is today, even absent the cultural trappings which made its discovery possible at a particular point in time.

Detritus wrote:In fact, science is specifically lauded for this bias, isn't it?
I am unclear what you mean by this. Seems to me that science is lauded for its ability to transcend human biases, not because it embraces them. I once again feel I'm missing some subtlety in your argument.

I think we are saying much the same thing, but with slightly different emphases. You seem to be taking "bias" to mean "negative bias," and you seem to be taking "subjective" to me "entirely subjective." Neither word has to have that pejorative slant. There is nothing wrong with the fact that science is biased by previous experience--that is, that experimental results in the physical world inform the succeeding cycle of theorizing and experimentation. "Subjective," similarly, does not have to mean "the evil twin of objective," particularly when talking about aesthetics. One's aesthetic opinion of a work of art is of course the result of one's position as a subject perceiving and thinking about the work. That perceiving and thinking doesn't happen in a vacuum--the subject doing the perceiving and thinking is fully embedded in reality, and draws on that reality to make their opinion. That activity is rational, even though it may have an emotional component. Your example of "guilty pleasure" is not a refutation of this process. It's a way of labeling the occasion when your opinion conflicts with the social value given the thing you enjoy. Calling something a "guilty pleasure" is therefore a perfectly rational act acknowledging that someone else, at some point, devalued the thing you value. You can take that guilty pleasure and turn it into the focal point of your enjoyment, so that you enjoy flaunting the guilty pleasure aspect as much or more than you enjoy the work itself. If you do that, you have discovered kitsch.

Final point: just because something cannot be readily articulated does not mean that it does not have a rational basis. All that means is that it cannot be readily articulated. It is possible that it could be articulated given time and a specialized vocabulary. It is also possible that it could be articulated better using some means of communication other than words--music, visual art, gesture.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby Remember_Me » Tue Apr 17, 2012 2:05 am

Detritus wrote:
Remember_Me wrote:God, if you really are real... fucking take me now.

Until now, I assumed that colon cleansing was only productive at one end. But you have proven me wrong--congratulations!


I am the last person spewing shit in this thread.

Continue...
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby Detritus » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:01 am

Remember_Me wrote:
Detritus wrote:
Remember_Me wrote:God, if you really are real... fucking take me now.

Until now, I assumed that colon cleansing was only productive at one end. But you have proven me wrong--congratulations!


I am the last person spewing shit in this thread.

Continue...

Now it's all gone to your head. Maybe it's time you tried rebooting your mind.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:50 am

Detritus wrote:The non-culture-bound aspect is that if the aesthetic "value" of an artwork is placed in the people rather than in the object itself, then cross-cultural understanding is possible. Otherwise, one is forever finding the artistic productions of other cultures to be weak examples of one's own traditions.
It sounds like you're just swapping comparing one culture's art to another culture's art vs. comparing one culture to another. Not sure that distinction is cost-effective.
Detritus wrote:I have nothing to say about the value of pronouncements about art--that doesn't interest me--although the process by which those pronouncements become canonized in a given society does interest me.
I'm certainly more interested in the latter myself, but I think we went from how a person judges art to how an entire culture does, and there's (often) a pretty big divide between them.
Detritus wrote:You seem to be taking "bias" to mean "negative bias" and you seem to be taking "subjective" to me "entirely subjective." Neither word has to have that pejorative slant.
I agree I was seeing negative connotations in "bias" where there need not be any, but I would still quibble over (your quibble about) my use of the word subjective, and that's because yes, I was using the word "objective" in a very strict sense. (And clearly part of our problem is you are speaking in the language of aesthetics while I am mired in the scientific mind -- and it doesn't help that I'm knee-deep in this book at the moment, I'm sure.) Anything less than pure objectivism (E really does equal mc²) I was downgrading to subjective. So my issue with the statement "Scientific theories are, by definition, biased by previous experience..." partially remains, but I'm glad I understand better what you meant now. The formulation of theories is most definitely a process that involves bias (both positive and negative), but the ultimate goal is an end product which is purely objective. (And admittedly, such a hardline notion doesn't apply to the social sciences, much of which would be meaningless stripped of context.)
Detritus wrote:There is nothing wrong with the fact that science is biased by previous experience--that is, that experimental results in the physical world inform the succeeding cycle of theorizing and experimentation.
Gotcha now, and I totally agree. Not only is there nothing wrong with it, it's how science works.
Detritus wrote:That activity is rational, even though it may have an emotional component.
Certainly, yes. And I never meant to suggest that it wasn't rational. My original point to Huck (which I think is where this confusion arose) was that appreciating art -- no matter how you do it -- is a product of brain activity, which is an inherently rational thing, as opposed to (what I thought Huck was saying) something that could never be explained through any rational process and must somehow exist outside our physical brain, involving processes necessarily beyond scientific inquiry.
Detritus wrote:just because something cannot be readily articulated does not mean that it does not have a rational basis.
I agree, and assume you only thought I believed otherwise because of my own deficiencies in explaining myself.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby jonnygothispen » Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:29 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Do you also believe that a lack of faith in the existence of Quetzalcoatl and Athena constitutes a "lack of reason." I highly doubt it. It is perfectly reasonable to disbelieve in the existence of things for which there is no evidence. I disbelieve in the same number of deities as most Judeo-Christians on the planet, with but a single notable exception, and nobody thinks my position on any of the others is unreasonable, despite there being exactly the same lack of evidence for all of them.
It is unreasonable for you to think you created yourself. It is unreasonable for you to believe that your parents specifically ordered you as you are. The evidence that something greater than you exists in that reasoning. You're simply in denial for whatever unstated reason you've decided to latch onto
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:First, you assume that there is some kind of special "life substance" (which you seem to attribute specifically and only to humans, although your language is so vague it's hard to tell), then you claim anyone who cannot explain where it comes from must accept the existence of something "greater than man", the implication being that this something must be if not the God, at least something that can be compared to a god.
There is no basis for the first assumption -- what is the evidence that anything is happening besides standard physical processes to make something alive? -- and even less for the second. And no argument from intuition carries any weight, as the universe doesn't work according to how common sense tells us it should. All you've done is spouted some New Agey mumbo jumbo.
The fact that you're alive is evidence of a life force. All living creatures have souls. Standard physical processes do not exhibit intellectual properties.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Education is but one way to combat irrational religious thinking.
I agree with that. Religion is delusional, and man-made just like your theories.

Would you consider those who have been taken up into heaven as proof?
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby dave esmond » Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:52 pm

jonnygothispen wrote:Would you consider those who have been taken up into heaven as proof?


Prove it.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby jonnygothispen » Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:10 pm

dave esmond wrote:
jonnygothispen wrote:Would you consider those who have been taken up into heaven as proof?


Prove it.
I only respond to people who do not go by their real name, sorry.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby dave esmond » Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:19 pm

jonnygothispen wrote:
dave esmond wrote:
jonnygothispen wrote:Would you consider those who have been taken up into heaven as proof?


Prove it.
I only respond to people who do not go by their real name, sorry.


Well my real name is David if that helps. And you did respond.

I'd love to see you go ahead and prove the existence of heaven to the Professor if that makes you more comfortable.
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Re: The Rise of Atheism in America & Who to Thank

Postby nutria » Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:32 pm

I'll start by saying that I can't tell if you're being honest or not, but what the hell...

jonnygothispen wrote:It is unreasonable for you to think you created yourself. It is unreasonable for you to believe that your parents specifically ordered you as you are. The evidence that something greater than you exists in that reasoning.

The third statement does not follow from the first two. Depending on your meaning of "greater," it is likely false anyway. At best, it is imposing a moral judgement on a physical process. More likely, given the context, it is an assumption of the existence of a metaphysical being.

jonnygothispen wrote:The fact that you're alive is evidence of a life force. All living creatures have souls. Standard physical processes do not exhibit intellectual properties.

You've used a lot of loaded words to make some statements of objective fact. I'll hold off on commenting until you can define:
"life force"
"soul"
"intellectual properties"
While you're at it, because of "alive," you should throw in "life" as well.

jonnygothispen wrote:I agree with that. Religion is delusional, and man-made just like your theories.

By "your theories," do you mean scientific theories like gravitation, QED, evolution, etc.? If not, please let me know. If so, then the statement above is false. Theories like gravitation and QED are not man-made: they are discovered by man.

jonnygothispen wrote:Would you consider those who have been taken up into heaven as proof?

Actually, I really like this question, because it brings to the fore the difference between religious and rational worldviews. As a rational person, I can comfortably answer "yes" to this question. It's the same with everything else: show me proof if you want me to believe you. But the burden of proof is on you. Don't take offense if I'm not holding my breath.

On the other hand, can you honestly say a religious person would disavow the existence of Jesus, Allah, etc., if given concrete evidence to the contrary?
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