Seriousness of Life

Is the working title of Sam Norton’s book. Sam provided a link to the drafts of chapters 1 and 2, and I’ve written a commentary so far, and posted it here.

I guess the reason Sam suggested I read it is that is covers a lot of material I’ve blogged about. I remember in a previous exchange with Sam in the “Eudaimonia” thread I concluded by saying we’d be better off starting with a blank sheet of paper than with analysis of lots of existing work we don’t actually agree with, and risk talking past each other attributing quotes as assertions. I have the same unsatisfying view of this draft and review so far – but it’s full of the key issues – so lots to build on. Just need to find those static latches.

2 thoughts on “Seriousness of Life”

  1. Hi Ian,
    Firstly – thanks for taking the time to read it. I think you’re exactly right in saying that it’s covering all the same issues that you’re interested in, from a (very/mildly?) different direction.
    Secondly – it’s specifically addressed at Dawkins acolytes, and you’re quite clearly not one of those, so you’re bound to find a lot of it annoyingly simplistic. But hey ho.
    But some specific comments, on your comments:
    Wittgenstein tightrope walker quote – the whole point (for me) is that I’m arguing that Christian belief is not necessarily irrational (illogical, whatever). If it was a general point about honesty it wouldn’t be worth using!
    Chapter headings – yes, it’s a ‘defensive’ work, undoubtedly (ie I’m arguing with the Dawkins’ etc). In summary I’m wanting to articulate a Christian position in such a way that someone who was a fan of Dawkins could say ‘Ah. Hadn’t looked at it like that before’. After which they can still be free to reject Christianity, but at least it won’t be ‘you’ve abandoned your intellectual integrity’ (or ruder expressions of the same 🙂
    Hierarchically inclusive – yes, I basically see theology in the medieval sense of ‘Queen of the sciences’ (which is actually where we would begin to overlap, I think). The point I would want to make concretely is that theology has a legitimate claim to be included in the wider understandings of life (which is what the Dawkinses reject)
    “Make it so” is a reference to jean-luc picard. the intentional bit is treated at much greater length later in the book – which is why several chapters need to be worked through first….
    Re Witt quotes, fair points, but they still accomplish my purpose, just about. Re the Tractatus, I’m beginning to think that I might have a more positive view of it than you, which is a surprise. That is, on the most important things, Wittgenstein’s view didn’t change (ie about questions of value, and what can be said – the ‘mystical’ stuff).
    “which kinds of reasoning they value” – exactly – this is where I think we can have the most interesting conversations.
    ‘mystery of our existence’ – I think there is more to the mystery of human life than an account (however plausible) of how it came to be. this is the core of the book.
    Dennett – I’ve read Dangerous idea and consciousness explained; yes he’s much better than Dawkins, but he shares the profound ignorance about Christian faith (which is what the book is trying to correct).
    Haven’t read Deutsch, but he sounds interesting.
    Re ID + creationists, where I’m going is arguing that you can’t persuade them out of their point of view by using rational arguments based on science – the disagreement goes too deep. Hence I start digging deeper in chapter 2, into the place of mythology in human thought etc (where I get to is arguing that they’ve got a bad understanding of Christianity – one which has more in common with dennett/dawkins than either party realises)
    The rest of the stuff – yes, you’re familiar with it, so it’s boring etc, but several of my other friends (atheist Dawkins fans etc) found it very radical!! I’m deliberately trying to keep it as simple as I can.
    Bullet points on a sheet of A4 – that sounds really interesting. I’ll have a go tonight.

  2. OK good.

    Working backwards. We agree good argument is more than rational positive logic therefore the IDC vs Darwin debate is pointless on those grounds. I say any argument outside a purely objective scientific domain is pointless on those grounds. It’s my starting point.

    Agreed – a “natural history” of how something came to be is only part of an explanation – but it’s the part logicians normally overlook. (FWIW – I think that “natural history” is the BEST QUALITY argument – still, that is what we are in fact debating.)

    Agreed – Our subject is “reasoning” itself. What makes a good explanation / argument. (Hence your e-mail to me.)

    OK so (as I said in reply to your mail) – you need to say (simply) what theology can legitimately claim, in such a scheme of high quality explanations, whatever that scheme turns out to be.

    Making progress.

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