Poll: What best describes those agnostic about God
This poll is closed.
Gutless Atheists 8.33% 2 8.33%
Dreamers 0% 0 0%
Off track and annoying 4.17% 1 4.17%
Deeper Thinkers 8.33% 2 8.33%
Other? 75.00% 18 75.00%
Uneducated 4.17% 1 4.17%
Total 24 votes 100%
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Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
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13-08-2015, 08:27 AM
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
Meaning that while a belief may be a proposition I privately hold as true and which may influence my behaviour, but knowledge is a belief I can effectively transmit to another person by means of sound argument?

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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15-08-2015, 01:58 PM (This post was last modified: 16-08-2015 05:12 AM by Matt Finney.)
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
(13-08-2015 08:19 AM)Chas Wrote:  
(13-08-2015 08:07 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  The more times this topic comes up the more I move towards a rejection of the notions of gnosticism and agnosticism. I find it harder and harder to see "knowledge" as a meaningfully distinct category to belief. I think belief is perhaps the only meaningful category to be found in this space.

Belief is something I can make truth claims about. I can say that I believe x. I can say that I can lack the belief x. I can say I believe a converse of x. These are all meaningful statements that convey information about how I will act in the future. I can also state degrees of belief or degrees of confidence in a belief.

But can I say any of the same things about knowledge? Can I say that I "know" x and have my claim mean anything more or anything different than the claim that I "believe" x? Is there a meaningful distinction to be drawn in practice in the real world between those statements?

So I tend to reject the traditional four quadrant chart describing the cross product of theism and gnosticism. On the question of a specific God claim I could be drawn into a three way split between belief in the truth of the claim, belief in the falsehood of the claim, and the lack of any belief about the truth value of the claim. We could describe these positions as theist, atheist and agnostic but I feel those labels are a poor fit for multiple reasons.

Matching theist to having a belief in one or more God claims is not too troublesome, but to my mind the sheer number of a available God claims acts to make any distinction between agnostic and atheist moot as a single individual is likely to be a mix of the two positions depending on the claim being tested.

So if the two non theist positions are themselves the same category in practice then to me the most appropriate label is the clearest one. "Atheist" clearly identifies an alternative to the active belief in god claims, whereas "agnostic" says something fuzzy about knowledge. I choose "atheist".

I'd say knowledge and belief are not synonymous, but that knowledge is a subset of belief.

Knowledge is belief derived from and backed up by strong evidence.

So, if a person believes that all of his beliefs are backed up by strong evidence, then it follows that such a person would believe all of his beliefs meet the criteria of knowledge, making the distinction somewhat meaningless for that person. One distinction I do see is that knowledge requires truth. You can have false beliefs, but you can't have false knowledge. We've all at one time or another been wrong about something we thought we knew. In those cases we would say that we didn't know it. We thought we knew it, but we didn't. In other words, we believed it, but we didn't know it. So for the person who believes his beliefs are well justified, the distinction is only retro-meaningful, and only applicable when he finds out he was wrong about something.
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15-08-2015, 04:41 PM
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
(15-08-2015 01:58 PM)Matt Finney Wrote:  
(13-08-2015 08:19 AM)Chas Wrote:  I'd say knowledge and belief are not synonymous, but that knowledge is a subset of belief.

Knowledge is belief derived from and backed up by strong evidence.

So, if a person believes that all of his beliefs are backed up by strong evidence, then if follows that such a person would believe all of his beliefs meet the criteria of knowledge, making the distinction somewhat meaningless for that person. One distinction I do see is that knowledge requires truth. You can have false beliefs, but you can't have false knowledge. We've all at one time or another been wrong about something we thought we knew. In those cases we would say that we didn't know it. We thought we knew it, but we didn't. In other words, we believed it, but we didn't know it. So for the person who believes his beliefs are well justified, the distinction is only retro-meaningful, and only applicable when he finds out he was wrong about something.

That's why there is the truth quality distinction in philosophy going back to Plato where knowledge is coined as "justified true belief." I think it relates again well to a situation of agnosticism/gnostic

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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16-08-2015, 04:51 AM (This post was last modified: 16-08-2015 04:58 AM by Hafnof.)
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
I think we can hold beliefs for a spectrum of sound and unsound reasons, as you might say justified or unjustified. Our beliefs may also reflect external reality to differing degrees. So we might classify justified true belief as knowledge. But these words seem deceptive to me in that they imply each is a binary and that the result is binary.

To me devising these binaries is at the root of why we have these unending arguments about knowledge. What is the criteria for judging whether a belief is justified? What is the criteria for judging a belief to be true? Is a belief that falls just below one person's criteria for "justified" therefore unjustified? Is the concept of truth reasonably accessible to us in a way that allows is to judge the truth of any claim?

I accept that we have means to investigate external reality that help us hone in on truth and discard fiction. I accept that we have ways of judging specific arguments to be persuasive to differing degrees. I accept that truth and justification are not arbitrary, but I'm sceptical of and binary classification along either axis.

I'm sceptical of any binary classification between knowledge and non knowledge, and I'm doubly sceptical when a claim about that binary is used as a self identifying label on a given topic. I just don't see how "I know this to be true" and "I believe this to be true" meaningfully differ as truth bearers. Doesn't everyone think their beliefs are true and to some degree want to let go of false beliefs? Doesn't everyone think their beliefs are justified?

To me the whole argument rings of infinite thinking - that in order to know something we must have proven it true in all possible universes. Or otherwise it requires we set some reasonable standard for describing a claim as knowledge. But if we are only looking for a reasonable standard then isn't that the same as the reasonable standard we would apply to believing something in the first place?

Does anyone really have a distinct pair of standards, one they apply to classify a belief they hold and another to classify knowledge they hold?

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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25-08-2015, 08:04 AM (This post was last modified: 25-08-2015 08:38 PM by Matt Finney.)
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  I think we can hold beliefs for a spectrum of sound and unsound reasons, as you might say justified or unjustified. Our beliefs may also reflect external reality to differing degrees. So we might classify justified true belief as knowledge. But these words seem deceptive to me in that they imply each is a binary and that the result is binary.

I can see what you're saying, but for me, it is binary. I don't really care to what degree you are certain, what I want to know is whether or not you're certain. If you're certain, then you're certain, if you don't consider yourself to be certain, then you would by default have to be uncertain. As uncertain includes everything < certain.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  To me devising these binaries is at the root of why we have these unending arguments about knowledge. What is the criteria for judging whether a belief is justified? What is the criteria for judging a belief to be true? Is a belief that falls just below one person's criteria for "justified" therefore unjustified? Is the concept of truth reasonably accessible to us in a way that allows is to judge the truth of any claim?

I would say a belief is justified when it is reached by deductive reasoning.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  I accept that we have means to investigate external reality that help us hone in on truth and discard fiction. I accept that we have ways of judging specific arguments to be persuasive to differing degrees. I accept that truth and justification are not arbitrary, but I'm sceptical of and binary classification along either axis.

Still, I would say that every claim is either true or false, and I would say that it is ether consistent with sound deductive reasoning or not.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  I'm sceptical of any binary classification between knowledge and non knowledge, and I'm doubly sceptical when a claim about that binary is used as a self identifying label on a given topic.

I would say 2 things are required for a belief to be knowledge.

1. The belief has to be true.
2. The belief can't be the result of a lucky guess, i.e. it must be formed through deductive reasoning.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  I just don't see how "I know this to be true" and "I believe this to be true" meaningfully differ as truth bearers. Doesn't everyone think their beliefs are true and to some degree want to let go of false beliefs? Doesn't everyone think their beliefs are justified?

I can definitely see where you're coming from here. I don't want to believe something if I don't know whether or not it is true. What I find surprising, is that it seems a lot of the membership here doesn't seem to agree with that approach. For example, a lot of members believe that god doesn't exist, but they also admit that they don't know whether or not that belief is true. Seems strange to me, but I'm sure a lot of people think my ideas are strange. Cool

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  To me the whole argument rings of infinite thinking - that in order to know something we must have proven it true in all possible universes. Or otherwise it requires we set some reasonable standard for describing a claim as knowledge. But if we are only looking for a reasonable standard then isn't that the same as the reasonable standard we would apply to believing something in the first place?

Yes, I don't want to believe something that I don't know.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  Does anyone really have a distinct pair of standards, one they apply to classify a belief they hold and another to classify knowledge they hold?

All good questions. For me, because I don't want to believe something I don't know, the distinction is only meaningful if I find out something I thought I knew, turns out to be wrong. In those cases I would have to say that I didn't have knowledge of "x", but I believed "x".

It would be interesting to here from some members who know that they don't know "x", but believe "x" anyways.
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25-08-2015, 11:10 PM
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
(25-08-2015 08:04 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  
(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  I think we can hold beliefs for a spectrum of sound and unsound reasons, as you might say justified or unjustified. Our beliefs may also reflect external reality to differing degrees. So we might classify justified true belief as knowledge. But these words seem deceptive to me in that they imply each is a binary and that the result is binary.

I can see what you're saying, but for me, it is binary. I don't really care to what degree you are certain, what I want to know is whether or not you're certain. If you're certain, then you're certain, if you don't consider yourself to be certain, then you would by default have to be uncertain. As uncertain includes everything < certain.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  To me devising these binaries is at the root of why we have these unending arguments about knowledge. What is the criteria for judging whether a belief is justified? What is the criteria for judging a belief to be true? Is a belief that falls just below one person's criteria for "justified" therefore unjustified? Is the concept of truth reasonably accessible to us in a way that allows is to judge the truth of any claim?

I would say a belief is justified when it is reached by deductive reasoning.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  I accept that we have means to investigate external reality that help us hone in on truth and discard fiction. I accept that we have ways of judging specific arguments to be persuasive to differing degrees. I accept that truth and justification are not arbitrary, but I'm sceptical of and binary classification along either axis.

Still, I would say that every claim is either true or false, and I would say that it is ether consistent with sound deductive reasoning or not.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  I'm sceptical of any binary classification between knowledge and non knowledge, and I'm doubly sceptical when a claim about that binary is used as a self identifying label on a given topic.

I would say 2 things are required for a belief to be knowledge.

1. The belief has to be true.
2. The belief can't be the result of a lucky guess, i.e. it must be formed through deductive reasoning.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  I just don't see how "I know this to be true" and "I believe this to be true" meaningfully differ as truth bearers. Doesn't everyone think their beliefs are true and to some degree want to let go of false beliefs? Doesn't everyone think their beliefs are justified?

I can definitely see where you're coming from here. I don't want to believe something if I don't know whether or not it is true. What I find surprising, is that it seems a lot of the membership here doesn't seem to agree with that approach. For example, a lot of members believe that god doesn't exist, but they also admit that they don't know whether or not that belief is true. Seems strange to me, but I'm sure a lot of people think my ideas are strange. Cool

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  To me the whole argument rings of infinite thinking - that in order to know something we must have proven it true in all possible universes. Or otherwise it requires we set some reasonable standard for describing a claim as knowledge. But if we are only looking for a reasonable standard then isn't that the same as the reasonable standard we would apply to believing something in the first place?

Yes, I don't want to believe something that I don't know.

(16-08-2015 04:51 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  Does anyone really have a distinct pair of standards, one they apply to classify a belief they hold and another to classify knowledge they hold?

All good questions. For me, because I don't want to believe something I don't know, the distinction is only meaningful if I find out something I thought I knew, turns out to be wrong. In those cases I would have to say that I didn't have knowledge of "x", but I believed "x".

It would be interesting to here from some members who know that they don't know "x", but believe "x" anyways.

I don't know that my girlfiend hasn't cheated on me but I believe she hasn't... I don't know that my boss called this other place I asked her to call, but I believe she has made that call by now... etc.

There are plenty of things one person can belief but not have a justified reasoning to proclaim they know it.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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25-08-2015, 11:34 PM
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
(25-08-2015 08:04 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  I would say a belief is justified when it is reached by deductive reasoning.
I would accept a belief as justified if it is consistent with my epistemology.
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26-08-2015, 07:13 AM (This post was last modified: 26-08-2015 10:33 AM by Matt Finney.)
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
(25-08-2015 11:10 PM)ClydeLee Wrote:  
(25-08-2015 08:04 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  I can see what you're saying, but for me, it is binary. I don't really care to what degree you are certain, what I want to know is whether or not you're certain. If you're certain, then you're certain, if you don't consider yourself to be certain, then you would by default have to be uncertain. As uncertain includes everything < certain.


I would say a belief is justified when it is reached by deductive reasoning.


Still, I would say that every claim is either true or false, and I would say that it is ether consistent with sound deductive reasoning or not.


I would say 2 things are required for a belief to be knowledge.

1. The belief has to be true.
2. The belief can't be the result of a lucky guess, i.e. it must be formed through deductive reasoning.


I can definitely see where you're coming from here. I don't want to believe something if I don't know whether or not it is true. What I find surprising, is that it seems a lot of the membership here doesn't seem to agree with that approach. For example, a lot of members believe that god doesn't exist, but they also admit that they don't know whether or not that belief is true. Seems strange to me, but I'm sure a lot of people think my ideas are strange. Cool


Yes, I don't want to believe something that I don't know.


All good questions. For me, because I don't want to believe something I don't know, the distinction is only meaningful if I find out something I thought I knew, turns out to be wrong. In those cases I would have to say that I didn't have knowledge of "x", but I believed "x".

It would be interesting to here from some members who know that they don't know "x", but believe "x" anyways.

I don't know that my girlfiend hasn't cheated on me but I believe she hasn't... I don't know that my boss called this other place I asked her to call, but I believe she has made that call by now... etc.

There are plenty of things one person can belief but not have a justified reasoning to proclaim they know it.

Belief is a little to strong for me in those cases.

I would say that I hope my wife's not cheating, and that I hope that my boss made the phone call ect..., but I know that my hope in those things doesn't affect the truth value of them.

I would also guess that these things are true, and I would act as if they are true until I have some reason (evidence) to believe otherwise, but I can't really say I believe it because we all know that there is so much uncertainty when talking about future events. None of us can even know that we'll be alive in a few hours, let alone make any guarantees about tasks we'll perform.
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26-08-2015, 07:35 AM
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
(26-08-2015 07:13 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  
(25-08-2015 11:10 PM)ClydeLee Wrote:  I don't know that my girlfiend hasn't cheated on me but I believe she hasn't... I don't know that my boss called this other place I asked her to call, but I believe she has made that call by now... etc.

There are plenty of things one person can belief but not have a justified reasoning to proclaim they know it.

Belief is a little to strong for me in those cases.

I would say that I hope my wife's not cheating, and that hope that my boss made the phone call ect..., but I know that my hope in those things doesn't affect the truth value of them.

I would also guess that these things are true, and I would act as if they are true until I have some reason (evidence) to believe otherwise, but I can't really say I believe it because we all know that there is so much uncertainty when talking about future events. None of us can even know that we'll be alive in a few hours, let alone make any guarantees about tasks we'll perform.

But 'hope' isn't the right word as it adds an emotional component not present in 'believe' or 'know'.

The everyday use of 'belief' includes those things that one has no good reason to disbelieve. It is equivalent to not believing the opposite, e.g. Clyde has no reason to believe that his girlfriend has cheated on him.

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28-08-2015, 06:20 PM
RE: Are Agnostics gutless Atheists?
The discussion shows the difficulty that arises when definitions of terms are unclear. For me, an agnostic is a person who holds no opinion as to whether or not there is a god, while an atheist is a person who believes there is no god. However, for some folks, an agnostic is someone who believes that firm knowledge on the subject is impossible. My parents were atheists by my definition but called themselves agnostics because they followed the other definition. Some folks call themselves agnostics because they are not willing to admit publicly that they believe there is no god, and these may be called gutless. But there are others who honestly hold no opinion. Of course, the issue is further confused by the lack of any universal definition of "god." It's common in western cultures to assume "god" means the god of the Jewish and Christian Bibles and/or the god of the Qur'an. But I know plenty of people who believe in other conceptions of god. And those range from slight modifications of the Jewish or Christian god (e.g. making god female) to entities that would be unrecognizable as "god" to people from mainstream western religions. Lots of people say they believe in "something," but are unwilling to be more specific. One friend of mine says he has "faith," but adamantly refuses to apply the term "god" to whatever it is that he has faith in. It's easier to just say that all religion is bullshit than to try to get specific about terms like god, atheist, agnostic, etc.

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