Sense and Goodness Without God: Final thoughts

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 10, 2010 in Reviews

I’m blogging my way through Sense and Goodness Without God, Richard Carrier’s handy worldview-in-a-box for atheists. (See the post index for all sections.)

It is now time to give my final thoughts on Carrier’s book.

Carrier’s book is a godsend to fresh new atheists who know they were wrong about God and now aren’t sure how everything else is supposed to fit together without a God in the picture.

Carrier’s particular version of naturalism will not appeal to – or sound reasonable to – everyone, but it is one fully-formed alternative that will help people begin to explore the relevant issues.

But those who are seeking a naturalist’s version of Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview will not find it here. That book has not yet been written. Carrier’s book does not defend naturalism with so much depth and precision, but because of this Carrier’s book is more readable and enjoyable.

My favorite parts were those on Carrier’s personal story, on cosmogony, and on history, while I confess the part on morality left me confused.

Luckily, Carrier spends a lot of time on his blog clarifying his views and responding to critics, and has extended the themes of this valuable book in his many articles, and also in his super-awesome chapters in The Christian Delusion.  (See also my interview with Carrier here.)

It is not perfect, but there is no book I recommend more highly to anyone who has lost his or her religious faith in the past few years. Go read Richard Carrier’s Sense & Goodness Without God.

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Gimpness August 10, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Funny to see we both enjoyed the same parts of the book. I did find it rather helpful especially the history and cosmology section

BTW Think you mean cosmology and not cosmogony (sounds like prejudice/discrimination to the universe)

  (Quote)

lukeprog August 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Gimpness,

No, I meant “cosmogony” – the study of the origins and evolution of the universe. Cosmology is the broader field of study devoted to the physical universe in its totality.

  (Quote)

G'DIsraeli August 10, 2010 at 11:46 pm

So an excellent more deep philosophical companion would be “Good and Real: Demystifying Paradoxes from Physics to Ethics” to Carrier’s book?

I got it yesterday, sadly it seems uncompromisable for my level of education.
I’m planing to get “Introduction to Logic” by Harry J. Gensler, which I understood is good for self-study.
In the mean time, “Sense & Goodness Without God” seems like an good start into a coherent secular “world view”.

By the way, have you heard of “Reason and Practice: A Modern Introduction to Philosophy” (1971) by Kai Nielsen?
According to Jim Farmelant from naturalism.org is an excellent defense of naturalism. I’m considering of getting with Carrier’s.
He also published, “Naturalism and Religion” (2005) and “Naturalism Without Foundations” 1996?
If you are familiar with his work, would you recommended it as time & money well spent?

Thankful, as usual, G’DIsraeli

  (Quote)

Jacopo August 11, 2010 at 3:30 am

Luke, do you think anyone is ever likely to write these naturalistic/atheistic equivalents (as in truly equal in depth and scope) to the Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview, or The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology? If not, do you think it’s the lack of money, or a lack of a sense of a common cause, lack of readers, or some other thing, among naturalistic/atheistic authors?

If you don’t fancy answering that in the comments then maybe add that to ‘Ask the Atheist’. Thanks.

  (Quote)

lukeprog August 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm

G’Disraeli,

The Drescher book is awesome, but there are parts of it that go over my head.

I’ve not read any Kai Nielsen.

  (Quote)

lukeprog August 11, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Jacopo,

I don’t know. I don’t see them coming anytime soon. I don’t think people see much of a need for them. I suspect a person who calls himself a naturalist is likely to be more educated in science and philosophy than the average religious person, already.

  (Quote)

Al Moritz August 11, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I suspect a person who calls himself a naturalist is likely to be more educated in science and philosophy than the average religious person, already.

In science, probably, in philosophy, doubtful.

  (Quote)

Al Moritz August 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm

My favorite parts were those on Carrier’s personal story, on cosmogony, and on history, while I confess the part on morality left me confused.

For cosmogeny, see my recent comments on the relevant thread, linked to above by Luke.

  (Quote)

Al Moritz August 11, 2010 at 5:44 pm

The Drescher book is awesome, but there are parts of it that go over my head.

Yes, it’s a tough read, and I am not always sure about Drescher’s didactic capabilities and judgment. But I am biting my way through it. I have now understood chapter four about quantish physics, and I get the gist of the argument in the last chapters (I have read the book to the end now). But I have to go over chapters 5, 6, 7 one more time.

  (Quote)

Gimpness August 11, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Oh my bad. Clicked the link as well and didn’t find the word mentioned, must remember to google words I have yet to come across as to not look the fool.

  (Quote)

G'DIsraeli August 11, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Al Moritzm,

I really never identified with the “divine revelation” (actually “mystic” experience, named big. Nothing too mystic about it, just amaze and neurons). I never ‘felt’ god, and I heard of people reporting this feeling from Led Zeppelin concerts to Deep Purple ones :)
It seems like wishful thinking in a mantle of “experience”. After all we have no “god spot” (actually utilizes some of the social parts of the brain, god is a dude after all).
And all religions (and good music fans) feel this, are all them feeling there god too? Blackmore would love to know he has a supernatural part to him.
Obviously not all religions are true, and you want only yours to be (or else it’s false), since in different circumstances everyone would have there own pal.
So rationally can help with this.
It’s simply a filler (“I feel god”), in case rationality does not suffice or a backup when it fails.

I feel god when I listen to Stravinsky’s music, but its man written, probably just like the other gods.
Abductive reasoning would work to polytheistic gods if you lived in the Sumer trying to explain (according to there knowledge) why the river overflows. Theistic explanations simply seem to me, to be arguments from ignorance.
And it involves a probability (god) after probability (personal god) probability (god cares) etc.
As in other fields (biblical studies, history) this standard does not suffice.

  (Quote)

Al Moritz August 12, 2010 at 1:07 am

G’DIsraeli,

I have never ‘felt’ God (at least not in a sense that I would characterize as an objectively reliable experience). Keeping my faith and rejecting atheism is a rational choice for me.

  (Quote)

Al Moritz August 12, 2010 at 4:11 am

BTW, I like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Stravinsky (especially the late, serial stuff).

  (Quote)

John D August 12, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I think Penelope Maddy’s book Second Philosophy is a good exploration of (a variant of) naturalism. It’s more about naturalistic method than it is about naturalistic conclusions. Her background is in the philosophy of mathematics and she is very Quinean.

Read the review over at NDPR:

http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=11903

Many of the papers that form the basis of the book are available for download at her website:

http://www.lps.uci.edu/home/fac-staff/faculty/maddy/

  (Quote)

lukeprog August 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm

John D,

Excellent recommendation. I’ll have to interview her some day!

  (Quote)

John D August 13, 2010 at 3:51 am

That would be cool.

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment