One Year Anniversary!

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 30, 2009 in News

fireworks

Today, Common Sense Atheism celebrates its one-year anniversary!

See The History of Common Sense Atheism for an overview of what we’ve accomplished so far.

All in all, I’m surprised by how quickly Common Sense Atheism has become one of the major atheism blogs on the web. And yet, I feel like I’ve hardly written anything at all, yet! I haven’t finished some of my earliest post series, and have only just begun others. I haven’t even started several other series I’ve been planning for months. I haven’t covered dozens of topics I want to cover, and my podcast may just now be hitting a tipping point that will allow me to interview most of the big-name philosophers in meta-ethics and philosophy of religion. (I’m really excited about my next guest.)

Thank you all for reading and participating! I look forward to another exciting year.

If you’re new to this blog, then you’ve missed many of my best posts. Six months ago, I shared my favorite posts of the first 6 months of Common Sense Atheism. Now, I can share my favorite posts of the second 6 months (May 31 2009 – Nov. 30 2009):

  1. My Fondest Memories of God
  2. The Enchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality
  3. Open Letter to a World of Believers
  4. On Seeking Truth
  5. The Error in Error Theory
  6. How the Universe Began Without God
  7. Society Without God

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Maher November 30, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Congrats Luke. Keep up the good work my friend.

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Jake de Backer November 30, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Luke

Congrats on the one-year mark, man. I have learned a tremendous amount from this site, your post’s, and several of your more loyal patrons, i.e. Reginald, Jeff H, Hermes, drj, Lorkas (Incidentally, where the fuck have you been?) Fortunana, Steve Carr, Lee A.P., amongst others. I am sincerely grateful to have typed “atheism theism debates” in the google engine last spring. If I can ever be of any assistance, don’t hesitate.

Keep on keepin’ on,
J.

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Jeff H November 30, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Congratumalations on your first year! I’m looking forward to the next one! It’s always a pleasure seeing what you’ve written, and to agree with what Jake said, the comments here tend to be on a higher level than most blogs about this sort of stuff (obviously that’s just because I take it up a notch…lol okay, maybe not).

Here’s to another year!

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Sly November 30, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Keep up the good work. I check this site almost daily.

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Haukur November 30, 2009 at 3:41 pm

It’s a good blog – Luke is a thoughtful and fair-minded person. He is at his most interesting when he’s pointing out weaknesses in atheist positions or when giving the (Christian) devil his due. You don’t get that kind of thing in many places.

Personally, I find the whole desirism thing deeply boring. Could you, Luke, my invisible, wish-granting friend, please convert to moral irrealism next year? That, at least, has a certain edge to it.

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Wellington November 30, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Hey Luke,

I’m not sure if you know this already, but William Lane Craig recently responded to the question you wanted to ask him during his debate with Christopher Hitchens on his website, http://www.reasonablefaith.org. He answered several questions in a lightning round for his weekly Q & A, and you were question #6.

When you get a chance, check it out. I’m anxious to read your response.

Cheers

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Michael Thackray November 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm

your kickin ass luke.

I am sort of on the same journey you are but I’m not doing it nearly as well.

Your impartiality and sincerity and genuine interest in the truth is what I think has made your blog unique and a cut above the rest.

I hope that you can maintain your civil attitude and the values that drive you, and not let yourself become bitter or resentful, because it is oh-so-easy too, and it’s exactly what the believers want to believe about us.

You do this because the truth matters. Thank you for that.

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Sabio November 30, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Excellent site. I’ve watched grow over this year — fun.
You are a good man !

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Rhys Wilkins November 30, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Hi Luke, just letting you know that Dr Craig responded to the question you intended to pose at the Hitchens-Craig Debate at Biola:

“Dr. Craig,

Tonight you’ve argued that objective moral values cannot exist apart from grounding them in the traits and opinions of a particular person. Your choice is Yahweh. That seems like an odd way to get objective moral values, but nevertheless, you’ve elsewhere argued just the opposite: that objective moral values do exist apart from Yahweh.

For example, in your answer to question #61 on your website, you write that abortion is wrong because life has intrinsic moral value that is, moral value within itself, apart from anything outside it, including the opinions of Yahweh. Is this a discrepancy, or have I misunderstood you?”

Good question! My view is that objective moral values are grounded in God’s character. Love is virtuous because God is loving. This is not incompatible with distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic goods. Something has extrinsic value because it can be used for a purpose. For example, a hammer has extrinsic value because of its utility for human agents. By contrast, persons have intrinsic value in that they are not merely means to be used for some end but are to be treated as ends in themselves. So we might well ask, “But why are human persons intrinsically valuable?” and the answer will be because God is personal.

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Bill Maher November 30, 2009 at 5:16 pm

That would be alot better if Craig didn’t use an awful example. Use value of an object is dead and capitalism killed it. Anyone who has ever read Marx would know he was fighting bitterly to restore it. Derrida in “Spectres of Marx” thought that use value never existed, so it is futile. IMHO, One of the crippling weaknesses of Christian Analytic philosophy is that it has no understanding of Continental Philosophy.

I would love to see Slavoj Zizek debate Craig because he would tear him a new asshole. His debate in The “Monstrosity of Christ” is a great example of him beating down religion from a completely unused angle in analytics. Its one of my favorite written debates, right behind Derrida’s absolute destruction of Searle in “Limited Inc”.

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Jake de Backer November 30, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Bill Maher,

Could I trouble you to email me that transcript, if you have it? That sounds quite interesting.

J. de Backer
iamjakeurnot@aol.com

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Rhys Wilkins November 30, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Another gaping hole has been exposed in Craig’s logic.

In a question I asked him, I challenged him with the proposition that causality can only be applied in the space time continuum, and he responded:

I most certainly dispute the reductionistic claim that causation is conditional upon the space-time continuum. Don’t you think that God could have created angelic beings prior to the existence of physical space and time? Or how about causing timelessly certain abstract objects, if such exist?

This is very revealing. He now has admitted that he doesn’t believe premiss (1) of his favourite argument, the Kalam.

Whatever begins to exist must have a cause

Since he has stated many times in his debates that abstract objects do not begin to exist, any reasonable person could infer that since Craig is strictly using the reasoning of the Kalam, abstract objects should be exempt from the laws of causation.

Right?

No!

Read this segment of the quote again:

God could have created angelic beings prior to the existence of physical space and time? Or how about causing timelessly certain abstract objects, if such exist?

Craig has been exposed. He does not give a damn if something begins to exist or not, he just thinks that if something is not Yahweh, it must have been made by Yahweh. If he was really a plain and honest apologist, this is how his argument would go:

(1) Everything that is not God is caused by God
(2) The universe is not God
(3) Therefore the universe was caused by God
(4) Being caused by God entails that God exists
(5) Therefore God exists

It does not take a genius to see that that argument is more circular then the very Platonic essence of a Krispy Kreme donut.

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ayer November 30, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Rhys Wilkins: Whatever begins to exist must have a cause

Since he has stated many times in his debates that abstract objects do not begin to exist, any reasonable person could infer that since Craig is strictly using the reasoning of the Kalam, abstract objects should be exempt from the laws of causation.

From the statement “whatever begins to exist must have a cause” where do you get the conclusion that “whatever exists timelessly must NOT have a cause”? That does not follow.

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lukeprog November 30, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Haukur,

I like to think of myself as 90% a moral irrealist. When reading the work of moral realists I forget that I am a moral realist because I disagree with almost everything other moral realists write.

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Bill Maher November 30, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Jake, I would gladly send you Zizek and Derrida’s debate, but I have them hard copy.

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lukeprog November 30, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Where is the debate in The Monstrosity of Christ?

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Jake de Backer November 30, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Bill Maher,

Oh, no problem. Thanks anyway.

J.

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Rhys Wilkins December 1, 2009 at 1:20 am

“From the statement “whatever begins to exist must have a cause” where do you get the conclusion that “whatever exists timelessly must NOT have a cause”? That does not follow.”

The KCA implies that things can be divided into 2 categories, things that begin to exist, and things that don’t begin to exist. If things that begin to exist require a cause, then it follows that things that do not begin to exist are not necessarily under these same rules. Craig seems to think they are, which undercuts the whole point of the Kalam, which is merely a tinkering of premise (1) of the standard cosmological argument so that it avoided mentioning God as being caused. Thats all I was trying to point out.

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Alex December 1, 2009 at 3:13 am

RW: all that you can infer from Craig’s words is that he believes that *some* (not all) beginningless objects may require a cause. But I think I see your point – once he admits this, he must come up with one or more criteria to determine which beginningless entities require causes and which ones don’t.

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Bebok December 1, 2009 at 3:19 am

Bill,

Are you trying to say that hammers are not useful anymore?

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ayer December 1, 2009 at 4:09 am

Rhys Wilkins: “From the statement “whatever begins to exist must have a cause” where do you get the conclusion that “whatever exists timelessly must NOT have a cause”? That does not follow.”The KCA implies that things can be divided into 2 categories, things that begin to exist, and things that don’t begin to exist.If things that begin to exist require a cause, then it follows that things that do not begin to exist are not necessarily under these same rules.Craig seems to think they are, which undercuts the whole point of the Kalam, which is merely a tinkering of premise (1) of the standard cosmological argument so that it avoided mentioning God as being caused.Thats all I was trying to point out.  

No, Craig has written favorably in the past of the conceptualist argument for God’s existence (which has also been written about by atheist philosophers like Quentin Smith: http://www.qsmithwmu.com/the_conceptualist_argument.htm) under which abstract objects are timelessly sustained in existence as effects of the divine mind, which is the timeless cause (also discussed here: http://doxazotheos.blogspot.com/2006/07/conceptualist-argument.html).

This does not conflict with the kalam, which specifies only that IF something began to exist, that it necessarily has a cause. If something did not begin to exist (abstract objects), it can be the timeless effect of a timeless cause, i.e., God.

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Bill Maher December 1, 2009 at 6:42 am

Bebok: Bill,Are you trying to say that hammers are not useful anymore?  

I am saying that a hammer’s value is not like Craig says it is, judged by use. It is judged by supply and demand. S&D has nothing to do with use. If you argue that the makers intent matters, I would disagree and say that “the Author is dead”. I am a postmodernist though and if you aren’t, then kudos. If you don’t understand postmodernism, then take a class on it because there is no way I could remotely explain it in a good manner over the internet.

lukeprog: Where is the debate in The Monstrosity of Christ?  

The book is a written debate in the for of a series of essays between Zizek and Milbank. Derrida’s debate with Searle is also written.

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Marco December 1, 2009 at 7:57 am

Luke, congrats with this accomplishment! This blog certainly is an internet oddity; a place where both theists and non-theists say to enjoy themselves. I hope you’ll be as productive in the future as you have been lately!

Best wishes from the Netherlands,

Marco H.

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Bebok December 1, 2009 at 9:35 am

Bill,

I argue that there is a demand for hammers because they are useful, so a hammer’s value can be judged by use and S&D has plenty to do with use. That’s pretty trivial. Or have I misunderstood you?
I did take a class on postmodernism, I studied under the alleged greatest derridologist in my country for a while. But all I found in the writings of Derrida and his peers was an utter disdain for logic, utter lack of argumentation, pretentiousness, affectation, futile erudition-bombing, camouflaged trivialities, countless weird terms with no definition provided, countless weird uses of some more familiar terms, celebration of misunderstood “aporia” or “indeterminacy”, flimsy analogies (Žižek’s speciality) and a number of other disgraceful intellectual tricks.
I was enchanted with Derrida for some time, though. He is the greatest champion of fake depth I know. But Žižek? C’mon. I doubt if he takes himself seriously. The charlatanry of the most silly theologians is a trifle in comparison with the charlatanry of Žižek.

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Taranu December 1, 2009 at 11:57 am

Congratulations Luke! Your blog is truly great. I am looking forward to reading more of your inspiring and well written posts in the year to come.

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Bill Maher December 1, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Bebok, I would disagree that the hammer is worth what it is because of use as I would doubt my $800 Black Lotus (M:tg) has such a greater use than a hammer ($2-4) that actually does something. If Use Value meant anything useless diamonds wouldn’t be worth more than food or water. S & D is a tremendous deal in Marxism’s larger scheme of alienation (object are alienated from their “real value”) and I do not think its trivial.

I also think you are casually writing off a school of philosophy that took the boots to analytic thought for 3 decades and someone who almost killed linguistics. Yes, they do have a huge disdain for logic because the project that Plato started led to the situation we are in now: (in their opinion) a desolate meaningless corporate landscape with no escape.

I am not a “real” post modernist but more or less a pessimistic Marxist (and a follower of Langdon Winners) mad because Nietzsche and modernism both killed the “big narratives”. So I am not inclined to defend them past this point.

Although I will say that you are writing the biggest dilemma in philosophy since David Hume off like it is nothing. Although I think he is wrong, philosophy has been in agreement since Plato that words are slippery when they are written down.

P.S. Zizek is a modernist and a very fun guy to read that has contributed alot to reviving optimism in continental thought,

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Bebok December 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Bill,

What means “to take the boots to”? I can’t find it anywhere.
You wrote: “I would disagree that the hammer is worth what it is because of use as I would doubt my $800 Black Lotus (M:tg) has such a greater use than a hammer ($2-4) that actually does something.”
I didn’t say that. I said that a hammer had a value because it was useful and that was why people wanted to buy hammers. People buy things for different reasons – to use them as tools, to eat them, wear them, stare at them, because they are trendy, because they (the people) enjoy the very act of buying, and so on. In a broader sense, all of those things are useful. That some of them are bought on a whim doesn’t mean that other aren’t bought to satisfy some basic needs. I haven’t heard of anyone trying to make his neigbours jealous with his fancy new hammer. To state the trivial truth that a hammer has a value because of its utility you don’t need all that economic context. It’s quite symptomatic for Marxists that they want to explain all the phenomena of this world with economy.
For a period of time I thought that “philosophers” like Derrida don’t give a damn to logic and evidence because they “transcended those limitations” and that logic and evidence are for those who aren’t deep enough. It took me quite a time to state another trivial truth that outside of logic there is only a gibberish.
Žižek is a very fun guy indeed, but a total charlatan and pseudo-philosopher as well.

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Rhys Wilkins December 1, 2009 at 5:02 pm

“No, Craig has written favorably in the past of the conceptualist argument for God’s existence (which has also been written about by atheist philosophers like Quentin Smith: http://www.qsmithwmu.com/the_conceptualist_argument.htm) under which abstract objects are timelessly sustained in existence as effects of the divine mind, which is the timeless cause (also discussed here: http://doxazotheos.blogspot.com/2006/07/conceptualist-argument.html).

This does not conflict with the kalam, which specifies only that IF something began to exist, that it necessarily has a cause. If something did not begin to exist (abstract objects), it can be the timeless effect of a timeless cause, i.e., God.”

Alright fine, you win v(^_^)v

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Scott December 1, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Bill Maher: When you say Nietzsche & the Modernists killed off the “Big Narratives”, which narratives are those? And what exactly is “biggest dilemma in philosophy since David Hume”? I’m not trying to criticize you or anything, rather, I’m just trying to keep up in the discourse, and the pronouns are throwing me off. The posters here are often over my head. It’s a good feeling, though.

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Bebok December 1, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I meant “give a damn about logic”. Damn English.

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Bill Maher December 1, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Scott:
Big Narratives or “Meta-narratives” are overarching world stories, such as Christianity, the Hegelian Dialectic, and Marxism. When Nietzsche said “God is dead” he is taken as meaning “Big Stories are Dead”. In modernist societies, we are not working towards an final goal (teleology), but to be more efficient. If you want to understand it better, check out Jacques Ellul, Nietzsche, and Landgon Winners.

Bebok and Scott:
The biggest dilemma since Hume was Derrida’s idea of differance. For a few decades, no one had a good answer for it. When analytic philosophers, like Searle, engaged him they lost miserably. Check it out in Derrida’s “Limited Inc”. The school of linguistics got annihilated as a result. That is what I meant by taking the books to.

Bebok:
I disagree with you dude. Items are not ranked in regard to their use. Expensive things are frequently useless compared to cheap things in use. If they satisfy a need or not is irrelevant to their value. If items were ranked according to use, useful and necessary items would be worth more than non-necessary stuff.

Also, Zizek is a real philosopher. I am sorry if you see it different than that.

I am sorry, but I can not express my ideas any better than that. If I failed to express these viewpoints articulately and you have any objections, then I apologize for my failures and I ask you to consult someone else.

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Scott December 1, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Is Hegelian Dialectic really that overarching? From what I’ve read about it, it seems really specific to him & can be twisted to apply to anything. Admittedly, I’ve never managed to read Hegel successfully – all attempts end with me flinging him across the room. Few things piss me off more than a brilliant-but-bad writer (I’m lookin’ at you, Kant)

That’s also my problem with Derrida – I can’t tell whether he’s bedazzling me with brilliance or baffling me with bullshit. I’m taking a class in Existentialism & Phenomenology in the spring, so maybe these continental folks will make more sense then…

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ayer December 1, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Bill Maher: Big Narratives or “Meta-narratives” are overarching world stories, such as Christianity, the Hegelian Dialectic, and Marxism.

What about the metanarrative often found on atheist blogs (such as this one) of the ongoing triumph of science as humankind expands it knowledge and is enchanted by the awesome beauty of the universe, marching perhaps toward a “singularity” in which super-robots perfect morality (see http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=1924). I am curious as to the postmodernist take on this grand narrative.

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Bill Maher December 1, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Scott: Is Hegelian Dialectic really that overarching?From what I’ve read about it, it seems really specific to him & can be twisted to apply to anything.Admittedly, I’ve never managed to read Hegel successfully – all attempts end with me flinging him across the room.Few things piss me off more than a brilliant-but-bad writer (I’m lookin’ at you, Kant)That’s also my problem with Derrida – I can’t tell whether he’s bedazzling me with brilliance or baffling me with bullshit.I’m taking a class in Existentialism & Phenomenology in the spring, so maybe these continental folks will make more sense then…  

Yes, Hegel is overarching because he thinks that the Universe is God’s Mind converging with his body. This will be the end of the universe.

Also, it will make alot more sense.

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Scott December 1, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Holy crap – Hegel really believed that God’s Mind & Body were merging into one entity? I know he believed that history was moving towards an end, but damn, that’s some goal.

It sounded like the Big Narratives were some storyline that actually happened in history, like Christianity or Imperialism, not just some Big Idea someone had. Interesting.

My prof loves continental philosophy, so he’s excited to teach it. He loves Heidegger’s ideas (obviously not the man himself, though – my prof also argues for a separation of the man from the work).

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Bill Maher December 1, 2009 at 7:54 pm

scott, I left a good post but it didnt show up. Just think of the big stories as those that have an “end of history”, like the Marxist utopia or Revelations. This is in contrast to evolution, which has no “end”.

ayer, that is interesting. I would say that the general opinion is that is a metaphysical hook, like in pragmatism (in specific Charles Sanders Peirce). But simultaneously they don’t think this is a real goal but something to pragmatically work towards. Most of them don’t even believe we can know things in themselves and we can only study phenomena. Hence “phenomenology”. This tradition really came in its own through Kant > Hegel > Husserl > Heidegger.

Sorry if I am awful at explaining things. I know I did an awful job with Bebok. I have been drunk and celebrating me getting my Bachelors in History and starting grad school soon all day. Whenever I make drunk posts I tend to make an ass out of myself.

I am drinking REAL German beer which is hard to get in the USA.

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lukeprog December 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Lol. As a coincidence, this blog passed the 10,000 comments mark on November 30th, it’s one-year anniversary!

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Bill Maher December 1, 2009 at 8:29 pm

lukeprog: Lol. As a coincidence, this blog passed the 10,000 comments mark on November 30th, it’s one-year anniversary!  

Ill (keep) drink(ing) to that.

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Jake de Backer December 2, 2009 at 2:46 am

Luke,

Do you know precisely which post was the 10,000th? Given Bill’s recent confession, I’m kind hoping it was one of his hammer-face wasted contributions. On a blog aimed toward enhancing the dialogue on one of the most profound and SOBER topics, the sheer poetry would be overwhelming.

J.

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Bebok December 2, 2009 at 5:01 am

Bill,

Searle formulated some strong accusations and Derrida answered to none of them. Instead, he filled his text with “obscure evasions, wails and linguistic puns”, as H-J Glock accurately puts it.
I admit Derrida is perfect in suggesting that he’s so much fuckin’ smarter than his opponents that he won’t engage in any serious discussion with them.
Obviously it’s possible that I’m inadequate to understand him and philosophers like Searle, Chomsky or Quine (who share this view) are inadequate too. But a good reason to believe that there’s something wrong with the postmodernists rather than with me is that they are utterly unable to explain where and how am I misinterpreting them.
When I ask for the clarification of those weird and solemn statements like “the Author is dead”, “Nietzsche killed the Meta-narratives”, “Différance is the biggest dilemma in philosophy” I get another equally weird statements or an advice to go to school, because it’s too complicated and too deep to explain it on the spot.
But I went to school and found out that the “scholarship” is mainly a pious recitation of the sequences of such statements.
As for the hammer, I think you confuse economic and non-economic value. Craig didn’t mean economic value, obviously.
Anyway, Glückwunsch to you. I hope you haven’t shown too much disdain for logic in your thesis.

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Bill Maher December 2, 2009 at 9:33 am

Bebok.
Searle lost because he said that authorial intent mattered and to back up his claim he quoted Derrida’s student who was affirming what Derrida was saying (Searle ‘misunderstood’ him). So Derrida replied (im paraphrasing): if intent matters, then you are wrong because you are basically affirming what I am saying. Searle knew he lost and refused to let Derrida publish his side of the debate so you have to look it up online.

the author is dead is a reference to the hermeneutic double bind (the differance) in which language only defers to language, nothing deeper. Plato first noted that words do something funny when they are written down and take on their own meaning (the Phaedrus I believe). Nietzsche and other philosophers expanded on this concept. Nietzsche’s solution was art, but Derrida has no such solution. Even Jurgen Habermas, the last great modernist, eventually recanted on his objections to this but said we have to “try anyways”

When Nietzsche proclaimed God’s death and the Ubermensch, he proposed individual narratives in which people lived their life like an ideal storybook and created their own values. This meant no more “big stories”.

and I would propose that economic values is part of the rational efficient world view and there is nothing deeper. the only way to quantify stuff is with numbers.

Hopefully that helped. And no, I have not given up on logic. I enjoy doing symbolic logic a great deal and it is one of my favorite classes ive taken :-)

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Scott December 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I absolutely LOVE the idea that authorial intent is irrelevant. If intent is what matters, then what’s the point of criticism? The writer just tells us what to think, and if the author is unknown, then all criticism is moot. There’s also the chance that the author can be wrong about his works; DW Griffith didn’t think Birth of a Nation was racist, but when you make a movie celebrating the Klan, and all black characters are actually white men in blackface, it really is kinda racist…

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Bebok December 3, 2009 at 7:18 am

Bill,

In order to determine whether Searle lost this (generously speaking) debate should we find out where his text was published or if his arguments are sound?
I’ve just read “Limited Inc” once again and once again it has been a startling experience. It’s nothing but whining of a resentful child, puns, obfuscation and sophistry which you are reproducing here.
You wrote: “the author is dead is a reference to the hermeneutic double bind (the differance) in which language only defers to language, nothing deeper” and “When Nietzsche proclaimed God’s death and the Ubermensch, he proposed individual narratives in which people lived their life like an ideal storybook and created their own values.”
You must admit that those clarifications are no less obscure than the claims they are supposed to clarify. In order to clarify, one should at least define uncanny terms and abandon figurative expressions. But it’s obviously impossible in this case, since literal expression is a metaphor that has been forgotten to be a metaphor, the history of readings is a history of misreadings, the différance is such a profound term that it cannot be defined, and so on.
Here, Derrida’s reply would be surely: “I didn’t say that, you don’t understand me”. That’s what Foucault called “obscurantist terrorism”:
“He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying, that’s the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, ‘You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the terrorism part.”
Accidentally, when Derrida’s enthusiasts make summaries of his reasonings, it turns out that they understand him, but when sceptics do that, it turns out that they don’t. You just need to show a sincere willingness to believe Derrida makes sense, and the grace of belief will be given to you.
The fragment of Plato’s Phaedrus you’re talking about (275-6) has been boldly misinterpreted by the philosophers you mention. There is nothing like “words when they are written down take on their own meaning” there. It doesn’t matter though, much of all that sophistry is done to make the impression that misinterpretation is a kind of virtue.
You wrote: “and I would propose that economic values is part of the rational efficient world view and there is nothing deeper. the only way to quantify stuff is with numbers.”
My point was that Craig was perfectly right about the value of utility. So far, you wrote truisms about one things more expensive than other, not related to what I wrote. Now it seems that you have improved your postmodern method and started to balance between truism and nonsense.
Note that formal logic you are enjoying may be also used in practice. This involves premises, inferences, definitions, deduction, induction, making claims about the world that can be valued as true or false, that kind of stuff. Not much like Derrida, but may also be fun.

I didn’t want to be abrasive unnecessarily. I know you sincerely think that those texts make sense. It’s just that under strict analysis they turn out to be a collection of logical fallacies and the claims they contain turn out to be trivial or nonsense.

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Bebok December 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Scott,

I’m still not sure if there is an irony behind your italics… In case there isn’t:
A widespread view is that the point of criticism is generally questioning the truth of criticised claims or the validity of logical links between them. The cases of aesthetic and moral criticism may be a bit more problematic.
It doesn’t matter if “the author is unknown” or what did he or she want to achieve with those claims.
Nobody reasonable denies that people may have different prejudices they aren’t aware of. This has little to do with Derrida’s quirks, though.

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Bill Maher December 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Bebok, I am not trying to sound like a jerk or be pretentious, but I can not help if you understand the terms used. I promise you I am not engaging in obscurantism for the purpose of sounding smart. You are really making postmodernism (and on the larger part existentialism) out to not make sense when it is relatively easy to understand. None of those phrases I said would be confusing to anyone who has taken 19th century philosophy. It is easy to come to the conclusion Searle lost because he more or less admitted he did. I never said Derrida wasn’t an asshole (or even right for that matter), I just said his writing is not something that shouldn’t be casually written off when it caused a huge fervor in the philosophical world for decades. I do not think Derrida was trying to troll modernists, but was simply part of the backlash against modernism in the post-holocaust world.

Personally, I am a postmodernist because I know that the revolution has been indefinitely suspended by the comfort technology provides, not because of Derrida. In this way, the Marxist “big story”, the possibility for the utopia, is dead or postponed indefinitely.

I simply stated that the value of items is not set by utility, but by supply and demand. This not dictated by use value or more expensive items would be the most useful ones. It is dictated by what people want the most.

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Bebok December 5, 2009 at 6:46 am

Bill,

I’m sorry to hear you consider all this a dick showing contest. I don’t feel offended with anything you wrote, though, so sorry for showing mine.
I didn’t charge you with engaging in obscurantism for the purpose of sounding smart. I rather think you are engaging in obscurantism somehow unintentionally.
To explain the dead Author and the différance you’ve introduced “the hermeneutic double bind”, which is not less intelligible for me. Is this bind the same as the différance? I remember Derrida saying the différance cannot be defined. I still don’t know why should we call Christianity, Marxism and Hegelian dialectic “big stories”. That’s pretty weird use of the word “story”. Moreover, those “stories” are called “meta-stories”. Why is that? When X (big or small) is the same as meta-X, we are on a straight way to paradox. Or maybe the use of “meta-” is as weird as the use of “story” here? And why should we think Nietzsche killed those “stories”? Christianity is still doing quite well and recent decline of popularity of Marxism and Hegelianism has little to do with Nietzsche, as far as I know. I remember I tried to find the answers at the fount (Lyotard), but what I found was largely playing with vague terms (narrative, theory, knowledge, progress, totality, reason, mythos, logos) to suggest something like “We’ve found out that some relatively coherent philosophies (the ‘metanarratives’) explain the world in an unsatisfactory way, so we’re now going to make up incoherent ‘stories’ unable to explain pretty much anything, and that will be very righteous of us”. And again, hardly no argumentation. Argumentation has been somehow replaced with a kind of magical thinking, I’ve noticed many of those authors think they literally change the reality with their texts, something like “We proclaim that Nietzsche has made something impossible, and from now on it is impossible, period.”
To be exact, those days I actually thought I had found all the answers, but later I realised that I merely taught myself to recite few pompous phrases.
For a long time I also thought that someone who “caused a huge fervor in the philosophical world for decades”, as you put it, couldn’t have done it without making at least few comprehensible claims, but I was terribly wrong. It was just appealing to the authority of some folks with degrees in literary theory or social studies (in continental Europe even in philosophy). But other folks with degrees said it was bullshit, and some of them were able to describe the mechanism of this charlatanry comprehensively, while Derrida’s adherents, when charged with obscurantism, usually answered with more obscurantism. I think M. Stephens describes this convincingly:
“[Derrida] gave literature professors a special gift: a chance to confront – not as mere second-rate philosophers, not as mere interpreters of novelists, but as full-fledged explorers in their own right – the most profound paradoxes of Western thought. If they really read, if they stared intently enough at the metaphors, literature professors, from the comfort of their own easy chairs, could reveal the hollowness of the basic assumptions that lie behind all our writings.”
Where did Searle admit that he lost? That he refused to publish his part where Derrida wanted him to does not mean that he lost, does it? BTW it’s funny that my text editor underlines “Searle”, but not “Derrida”.
Sorry for being too harsh once again. I just consider this postmodern lunacy far more irrational that any kind of theism I know, so I felt uneasy finding it here.

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Bill Maher December 5, 2009 at 8:04 am

Bebok, I wrote you a great reply but I accidentally highlighted and typed over it.

Yes, I think they are the same and simply put, language only defers to language and nothing deeper. I do not think this is necessarily right though. I also agree that (I know this is an ad hom) Derrida was an asshole, my teacher met him and told me he was a really big prick. Many of the other postmodernists even thought he was full of it. I still think he is important to study in the canon of philosophy though.

Also, by big story, I simply mean a large worldview shared by many people that has a teleological end (such as Revelations or the Marxist utopia). It was misleading of me to say that Nietzsche killed these, but he proclaimed their deaths. Relative thinking (thinking in terms of every day, not a teleological end) is what is killing meta-narratives.

For a good explanation of why, I would read Ellul’s The Subversion of Faith. He is a Christian reporting this in the mid 20th century way better than I ever could.

My postmodernism has nothing to do with Derrida or a hatred of science and logic, but a loathing of cultural nihilism that is humorously shown in Andy Worhol and Fight Club. I unfortunately do not think there is going to be a revolution to overthrow this on a cultural level, but I try to on an individual level.

I honestly did have a much better response, but i deleted it.

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