CPBD 022: Roger Trigg – Religion in the Public Square

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 25, 2010 in Podcast,Politics

cpbd022

(Listen to other episodes of Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot here.)

Today I interview Oxford philosopher Roger Trigg. Among other things, we discuss:

  • should religious values inform public policy making?
  • religion and the foundation of the USA
  • Europe, multiculturalism, and Muslim immigration

triggDownload CPBD episode 022 with Roger Trigg. Total time is 53:15.

Roger Trigg links:

Links for things we discussed:

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Reginald Selkirk February 25, 2010 at 6:37 am
Steve Maitzen February 25, 2010 at 8:50 am

1. Early on, discussing the relation between faith and reason, Trigg says that “God is the ground of reason” and “Reason is grounded in God” — or, at a minimum, he says that theists are committed to those quoted claims. One often hears theologians endorse such claims, or versions of them, but the claims are transparently nonsensical, and so I’m always surprised when I hear a well-educated person utter them. What could it even mean for God to be the ground of reason, for reason to be grounded in God? If the (ontological) ground of X fails to exist, then of course X itself fails to exist. So, supposing that God is the ground of reason, if God didn’t exist, then … then what? What would follow? Would reason exist to determine what follows, or would it not? Surely all sides want to be able to affirm the tautology “If God didn’t exist, then God wouldn’t exist,” but how can we affirm that tautology if God is the very ground of reason? Unless we simply identify God with reason itself — which makes it impossible to regard God as a person, an agent, something capable of being incarnate in a human being, etc. — it’s pious nonsense to say that God is the ground of reason. To repeat what Thomas Nagel says in The Last Word, it makes no sense to suppose that reason could have a ground in anything other than reason itself.

2. Obama’s famous speech on religion starts out well enough, with its insistence on a secular basis for public policy, but it goes downhill from there. A bit later in the speech, Obama takes up the story of Abraham’s attempted murder of Isaac, and he observes that we would promptly arrest anyone we saw acting the way Abraham is portrayed as acting. But here is Obama’s explanation: “We would do so because God does not reveal Himself or His angels to all of us in a single moment. We do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be” (text from The Audacity of Hope, p. 220). So we arrest an abusive father only because we don’t enjoy Abraham’s (self-authenticating?) experience purportedly of God. Obama’s explanation implies that there’s a kind of experience you could have that would make it morally justified for you to act as Abraham did, which is bollocks. Obama missed a chance to condemn this biblical episode as the morally monstrous event that it is.

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Reginald Selkirk February 25, 2010 at 10:50 am

Steve Maitzen: Early on, discussing the relation between faith and reason, Trigg says that “God is the ground of reason” and “Reason is grounded in God” — or, at a minimum, he says that theists are committed to those quoted claims. One often hears theologians endorse such claims, or versions of them, but the claims are transparently nonsensical, and so I’m always surprised when I hear a well-educated person utter them.

These seem to me to be cheap apologetics rather than rational statements. Building the answer you want into your definitions is a form of question begging. This also comes up in morality, when some theists (Kirk Durston, for one) argue that God is the essence of goodness, or some crap like that. They use it as a dodge for the Euthyphro dilemma, etc., but it just doesn’t make sense.

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Jake de Backer February 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Stephen Maitzen,

Huge fan of your material. I’ve poured over as much of your work as I can find and have subsequently recommended it to a lot of theistic friends.

Currently, I have:
1) Ordinary Morality Implies Atheism
2) A Semantic Attack On Divine-Command Metaethics
3) Divine Hiddenness & The Demographics Of Theism
4) God & Other Theoretical Entities
5) Skeptical Theism & Moral Obligation

If it wouldn’t be too much trouble for you, I would love to get a hold of any other material you’ve written, published or not. If you don’t mind indulging a fellow skeptic, please send anything you have available to iamjakeurnot@aol.com.

Thanks!
J.

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Steve Maitzen February 25, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Jake de Backer: If it wouldn’t be too much trouble for you, I would love to get a hold of any other material you’ve written, published or not.

Jake: Many thanks for your interest, kind words, and recommendations. Any stuff I feel comfortable sharing I post on the website where you found those other papers. As time goes by, older articles sometimes get converted to electronic format by the original journals, at which point I post those too. I welcome your comments on any of it. Cheers. –Steve Maitzen

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Leo February 26, 2010 at 1:58 am

Great work again, luke! I really enjoy these interviews.
It would be great if you can interview some of the authors of the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, such as Robin Collins, Tim or Lydia Mcgrew and Alex Pruss.

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Chuck February 26, 2010 at 7:50 pm

It would be interesting to ask Trigg if he feels as passionate about homosexuals being denied their due process as he does about Muslim woman not learning English.

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lukeprog February 26, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Yeah, I didn’t ask about that.

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Chuck February 27, 2010 at 7:17 am

I found his whole case pretentious when he went on and on about Bangladeshi women not learning English as evidence of some sort of major violation of human rights but then endorsed the common appeal to Christian authority in relation to American style liberty. He either is willfully ignorant of the damage done to individuals in the public square by christians using his argument (America is a “Christian Nation”) or he is a liar.

I’m glad you stood up to him in regards to the religious world-view of our founders. You should have reminded him of the stance he said Madison took against organized religion getting tax benefits. It would have been interesting to hear his take on the current tax exempt status of American churches.

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