Humankind's oldest argument?
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01-10-2013, 09:26 PM
Humankind's oldest argument?
Forgive me if this has been discussed previously. I looked in the archive threads and didn't see it. How far back in written human history does the debate between theists and skeptics go? I'm wondering if a supportable argument could be made that this is mankind's oldest dispute. Does anyone know if agnosticism is mentioned before the Greek writers? For example, is the topic raised in Egyptian, Assyrian, or Chinese writings? Any (coherent) thoughts would be appreciated. This forum is full of very bright people and I love to learn. Again, if this ground has been plowed direct me to the thread and I'll explore it.
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02-10-2013, 04:08 AM
RE: Humankind's oldest argument?
Well we have skeptical people today. And not just atheists, just take a visit to the conspiracy section...
So I guess there's no reason to not assume people have always been skeptical, it's just human nature (in some).

But as for actual known people to have the argument, I have no idea. I think the ancient Greeks would be your best bet.
I'm not sure the ancient Egyptians kept that sort of record, just more wall carvings etc.. People that questioned the Pharaoh were probably just killed.

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02-10-2013, 04:22 AM
RE: Humankind's oldest argument?
I would guess that it goes back to the invention of the first god(s).

And that would go back to to the first fear-ridden (pre?)humans who saw agency in things they did not yet understand and came up with animism.

I would further suggest that this happened before anyone invented writing.

So... around <pick a number> BCE

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02-10-2013, 06:43 AM
RE: Humankind's oldest argument?
Nah, the oldest argument concerns either eating or fucking. Or both. Drinking Beverage

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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02-10-2013, 07:07 AM (This post was last modified: 02-10-2013 07:11 AM by absols.)
RE: Humankind's oldest argument?
there were never humankind argument

religions always meant humans as souls out of beings to seek being saved from satanism extreme cruauty in god slavery, no individualism as it is explained in all scriptures being the essence of evil

philosophers like plato or socrates..were questionning everything rights and themselves but they were meaning the self more not humanity

so i guess the oldest argument would b the opposition between the self and gods concept

like the issue is what being positive could concern possessions that mean existing and being free wills of positive too

u cant mean smthg and accept the opposite, so mean possessing positive and accept being possessed as positive thing

that is why i resolved the issue immediately as i saw it or meant it

positive is freedom not reality

when reality is positive in truth it is about same living free sense, so same positive mean
while self realisation is also about that, getting as a free conscious a consequent positive sense of being real, bc it is about realizing objectively the same mean as constant being like the free

that it is the issue of truth and evil

if all freedom were true any individual present would keep meaning freedom rights to positive it sense ...

but of course that wont b bc evil is the opportunism of truth knowledge as the positive drive mean
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02-10-2013, 07:58 AM
RE: Humankind's oldest argument?
(01-10-2013 09:26 PM)Chopdoc Wrote:  Forgive me if this has been discussed previously. I looked in the archive threads and didn't see it. How far back in written human history does the debate between theists and skeptics go? I'm wondering if a supportable argument could be made that this is mankind's oldest dispute. Does anyone know if agnosticism is mentioned before the Greek writers? For example, is the topic raised in Egyptian, Assyrian, or Chinese writings? Any (coherent) thoughts would be appreciated. This forum is full of very bright people and I love to learn. Again, if this ground has been plowed direct me to the thread and I'll explore it.

Setting aside speculation the earliest attested doubt regarding the existence of deities in the Western tradition is Protagoras of Abdera. In his On the Gods Protagoras' expressed an agnosticism and that was sufficient to have him expelled from Athens and have his book burnt in the Athenian agora --according to Philostratus writing about 200 years after the alleged event. Philostratus speculates that Protogoras acquired his agnosticism from the Persians but his rationale is somewhat strange (read it for yourself).

From the archaeology and history of classical Greece--aside from Philostratus' account--the Greeks were very religious. Ancient Greece had many temples and the central figures of classical Greek thought, viz. Plato and Aristotle, were theists. Aristotle's Metaphysics is founded on the idea of a god as the "original cause". From reading Aristotle and Plato I conjecture they would have thought atheism to be absurd and that is consistent with Protagoras expressing merely a lukewarm agnosticism.

I don't know of any ancient Persian or ancient Egyptian agnosticism and both of those cultures were steeped in religion so it seems unlikely to have emerged from those milieux. I am relatively ignorant of the Far East so I can't offer you anything in that regard but I am doubtful.

Is theism vs atheism humankind's oldest argument? I don't think so because religiosity is a human universal. There are no known areligious cultures and most of the world population today is theistic. I don't know of any primitive tribes that have been discovered where there is argument about religiosity. If anything the cargo cults suggest the opposite. In the broad sweep of human history it would appear that serious and numerically non-trivial commitment to agnosticism and atheism is a relatively recent phenomenon, i.e. c. 17th century coincidental with modernity (see chapter 2 of The Cambridge Companion to Atheism).

More broadly I don't think there is any "oldest argument" of humankind. Most of the ideas that make possible widespread dissension regarding established tradition are modern, e.g. general literacy, universal suffrage, knowledge acquistion via experiment and observation (e.g. it wasn't until the 16th-century that Vesalius demonstrated that contrary to Galen's speculation men have the same number of ribs as women; to us it seems absurd that Galen didn't just cut open and compare or why Aristotle didn't just count women and mens' teeth rather than speculate but that wasn't obvious to them), classical liberalism, etc. It is too easy to make an anachronistic error and assume that our worldview was shared by our ancestors.
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02-10-2013, 11:20 AM
RE: Humankind's oldest argument?
Thanks for your feedback, everyone. You all make some valid points that I agree with. It is probable that, as Chas points out, the first contentions were over primal motivations, and it's not difficult to imagine the first shaman or whatever that tried to explain (at the time) unexplainable phenomena being met with some doubters, like DLJ says. We would have to speculate that people in ancient Egypt who didn't go along with the idea of the kings being divine were eliminated or banished, but the actions of powerful people throughout recorded history would certainly imply that. As Chippy asserts, we have to resist the temptation to apply a modern sensibility to historical matters, but we are talking about human beings here, and can evaluate the past in light of what we now know about sociology, brain science, etc. That's one of the things that makes history both compelling and fascinating to me. Also, I think agnosticism goes further back that the 17th century c.e. Remember that one of the supposed crimes Socrates was accused of was blasphemy against the gods.

I guess it would be more accurate to say that the "debate" between theists and atheists is one of the oldest arguments in the history of civilizations.
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02-10-2013, 11:39 AM
RE: Humankind's oldest argument?
I highly doubt that the argument woulda gotten off the ground before say... the end of the ice age. Think that the average tribal chappie was probably quite happy to take gods as self-evident - after all he had the whole natural world to run around in, people to fuck and fight, animals to eat, plants too... nothing made much sense... Anyone with a brain woulda been damn careful not to piss off the local spirits just on principle. And the average tribe woulda probably regarded the shaman as an asset and not grudged him his fair share of food. After all, he protected their souls.

So yeah, would probably have had to wait for the advent of sillivization for any real chance of someone thinking that those fat priests were raking off a hefty sum for not much work, but by then the local chiefs woulda figured out that adhering to religion was a helluva mutually beneficial plan for them and the priests, so doubters would probably find themselves taking a short trip over the nearest cliff... it's a legitimate means of debate Tongue So I doubt if there was really an *argument* per se (other than "Yaaaaaaaaaargh!") for quite a long time, possibly right up until the time of they no good Greeks.

That's how I envision it at least... prolly reality was different...
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07-10-2013, 06:26 AM
RE: Humankind's oldest argument?
Who takes out the trashTongue But really maybe this one. Who gets on top. The bible in one of its many incarnations tells the story of Lilith who was created as equal to Adam. They had disagreements who should be on top and Lilith wanted to be on top but god wouldn't have that so she was cast out to spawn demons and what not. Such a stupid argument, its best to take turns. There are two creation stories in the bible one where that male and female were created equally and one where adam's rib formed eve. I think those are the remnants of lilith. With adam and eve their is no question that Eve was supposed to be subordinate, also another example is that she ate from the tree of knowledge and then gives it to adam. See a pattern? So yes who gets on top is an oldest argument and is answered in the bible.
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