Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Islamophobia and Anti-semitism - what is, and isn't, bigotry?

There's currently a great deal of talk about Islamophobia and anti-semitism in the UK press. You won't be surprised to hear me say I am very firmly against both forms of prejudice. However, I suspect many would consider me guilty of one or other. I suspect many Muslims or Muslim-supporters would consider me Islamophobic because, say, I consider the religion of Islam one root cause of much contemporary terrorism. On the other hand, I don't doubt some Jews or Israeli-supporters would consider me anti-semitic because, say, I think the attacks on Gaza were disproportionate and unjustified, or because I am broadly sympathetic to non-violent methods of Palestinian resistance, such as their BDS campaign - Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. It may well be that I am just mistaken about what is and isn't Islamophobic/anti-semitic, and I genuinely want to be guilty of neither, so I thought I would arrange various claims according to whether I consider them Islamophobic or not and anti-semitic or not, to get your feedback.

Continues at CFI here...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wittgensteinian Account of Religious Belief - forthcoming in European Journal of Philosophy: pre-publ. draft.



Wittgensteinian Accounts of Religious Belief: Non-Cognitivist, Juicer, and Atheist-minus
                                                                                 
Wittgenstein's views on religious belief are cryptic. We have comparatively few of his comments on religion, and most of what we do have were neither recorded by Wittgenstein himself nor intended by him for publication. Here I aim to assess some of the arguments that have been attributed to Wittgenstein in support of a view about religious belief that I call No Contradiction:

No Contradiction. When atheists deny the beliefs they take to be expressed by such sentences as
   (a) 'God exists'
   (b) 'God created the world'
   (c) 'Jesus rose from the dead'
   (d) 'We will face a Judgement Day'
they fail to contradict the religious beliefs such sentences are used to express.

Often associated with No Contradiction is a further related[i] thesis that I call Immunity:

Immunity. Even if an atheist were successfully to refute the belief they took such a sentence to express (by providing empirical evidence to the contrary, say), they would fail thereby to refute the religious belief expressed.

There are passages in which Wittgenstein does appear to commit himself to something like No Contradiction. Consider:

If you ask me whether or not I believe in a Judgement Day, in the sense in which religious people have belief in it, I wouldn't say: 'No. I don't believe there will be such a thing.' It would seem to me utterly crazy to say this.
   And then I give the explanation: 'I don't believe in ...', but then the religious person never believes what I describe.
   I can't say. I can't contradict that person. Lectures and Conversations p55

Simon Glendinning interprets this and the surrounding text as articulating a criticism of what Glendinning calls the 'modern atheist'. According to Glendinning's Wittgenstein,
the crucial feature of the one who takes an atheist position, the one, for example, who feels obliged on occasion to insist that there will be no Judgement Day, is that he or she does so because (by his or her lights) another person believes the opposite, believes, in this case, that there will be a Judgement Day. (2013, 42)