SECULAR HUMANISM

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SECULAR HUMANISM. PHILIP KITCHER. DEWEY AND JAMES REVISITED. JAMES’ CENTRAL PROBLEM: RECONCILING SCIENCE AND RELIGION FOR DEWEY THIS IS ONE PROBLEM. ONE TASK ARISING WITHIN THE PROJECT OF DEVELOPING A LIBERAL, DEMOCRATIC WORLD-VIEW. A SHARED ASSUMPTION. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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SECULAR HUMANISM

SECULAR HUMANISMPHILIP KITCHERDEWEY AND JAMES REVISITEDJAMES CENTRAL PROBLEM: RECONCILING SCIENCE AND RELIGION

FOR DEWEY THIS IS ONE PROBLEM.

ONE TASK ARISING WITHIN THE PROJECT OF DEVELOPING A LIBERAL, DEMOCRATIC WORLD-VIEWA SHARED ASSUMPTIONBOTH JAMES AND DEWEY TAKE THE PROBLEM TO ARISE BECAUSE BELIEF IN TRANSCENDENT (SUPERNATURAL) BEINGS HAS BECOME IMPOSSIBLE.

THAT IS NOT OUR PREDICAMENT.RELIGIONS JAMES AND DEWEY THOUGHT DISCREDITED FLOURISH TODAY.THE ARGUMENT FROM SYMMETRYBELIEF IN THE EXISTENCE OF TRANSCENDENT BEINGS RESTS ON THE SAME GROUNDS IN ALL CASES.THOSE GROUNDS ESSENTIALLY INVOLVE TRANSMISSION FROM EPISODES OF REVELATION IN THE DISTANT PAST.BUT THE CHARACTER OF THE BEINGS REVEALED IS RADICALLY DIFFERENT IN DIFFERENT CASES.FURTHER THE PROCESSES THROUGH WHICH RELIGIOUS DOCTRINES EVOLVE ARE NOT CONDUCIVE TO THE DELIVERY OF TRUTH.THE PROCESSES THROUGH WHICH PEOPLE COME TO BELIEVE ARE NOT CONDUCIVE TO THE DELIVERY OF TRUTH.RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES ARE FRAMED IN THE CATEGORIES MADE AVAILABLE BY RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS.AGNOSTO-ATHEISMALL THE VIEWS OF THE TRANSCENDENT PROPOSED IN THE WORLDS RELIGIONS ARE ALMOST CERTAINLY FALSE.APPLICATION OF ANY CONCEPT EVEN PERSON, OR MIND, OR CREATOR IS UNWARRANTED.WE CANNOT TELL IF FUTURE DISCOVERIES WILL RECOGNIZE SOMETHING PLAUSIBLY VIEWED AS TRANSCENDENT.THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIONNOT ALL RELIGIONS INVOKE TRANSCENDENT ENTITIES.

NOT ALL RELIGIONS INVOKE THE TRANSCENDENT.

BUT TYPES OF LITERALISM ARE COMMON.EXTREME LITERALISMTHE CREATION STORY IS LITERALLY TRUE.

HENCE ALL THE MAJOR TYPES OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS CAME INTO BEING AT THE SAME TIME.

HENCE THE VIEWS OF COSMOLOGISTS, GEOLOGISTS AND EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGISTS ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE ARE ALL WRONG.LESS EXTREME LITERALISMJESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD IS LITERALLY TRUE.

THAT IS:

THERE WAS A TIME AT WHICH THE BEING WE KNOW AS JESUS WAS LITERALLY DEAD, AND A LATER TIME AT WHICH HE WAS FULLY ALIVE.NON-LITERALISMJESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD IS NOT LITERALLY TRUE; THE SENTENCE EXPRESSES AN IMPORTANT TRUTH ABOUT THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DEEDS AND CHARACTER OF JESUS FOR HUMAN LIFE.

DEFINITE INTERPRETATIONINDEFINITE INSPIRATIONFAITHDOCTRINAL BELIEF IN THE TRUTH OF DOCTRINAL STATEMENTS. (BEYOND THE EVIDENCE???)

ORIENTATIONAL COMMITMENT TO VALUES EXPRESSED (NON-LITERALLY) IN RELIGIOUS TEXTS. DOCTRINES PLAY A ROLE IN REINFORCING THESE VALUES AND IN INSPIRING CONDUCT.DEWEYS COMMON FAITHABANDONS THE TRANSCENDENT.ABANDONS LITERALISM.

COMMITTED TO RELIGIONS AS ORIENTATIONS TOWARDS WHAT IS VALUABLE.RECOGNIZES THE NEED FOR WAYS OF SUSTAINING AND PROMOTING THESE ORIENTATIONS AND VALUES.A NATURAL REACTIONWHAT DEWEY PRESERVES IS TOO THIN TO DISCHARGE THE PURPOSES RELIGION HAS TRADITIONALLY SERVED.THIS IS RELIGION ONLY FOR A COMFORTABLE ELITE.IT CANNOT HOPE TO MAKE HEADWAY IN A WORLD THAT HAS RETURNED TO LITERALISM.YET ONE OF THE MOST OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT RELIGIONS COMMITTED TO THE TRANSCENDENT IS THEIR DIVISIVENESS.SO IT IS WORTH EXPLORING WHETHER DEWEYS HOPE CAN BE FULFILLED.

OPENLY BY GIVING UP DEWEYS PRESERVATION OF RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE IN FAVOR OF FORTHRIGHT SECULAR HUMANISM.CONTEMPORARY ATHEISMSECULAR HUMANISM IS NOT MILITANT MODERN ATHEISM.

IT RECOGNIZES (AS DEWEY DID) THE ENDURING CONTRIBUTIONS OF RELIGIONS TO HUMAN LIFE. I SHOULD LIKE TO TURN THE STATEMENT AROUND AND SAY THAT WHEREVER THIS CHANGE TAKES PLACE THERE IS A DEFINITELY RELIGIOUS ATTITUDE. IT IS NOT A RELIGION THAT BRINGS IT ABOUT, BUT, WHENEVER IT OCCURS, FROM WHATEVER CAUSE AND BY WHATEVER MEANS, THERE IS A RELIGIOUS OUTLOOK AND FUNCTION.

WHY RELIGION?SOCIAL ROLES IN THE EVOLUTION OF THE ETHICAL PROJECT.

FROM COOPERATION TO SUSTAINING REFLECTIONS ON HUMAN LIFE (THE LARGE QUESTIONS)

INSTITUTIONALIZED IN SOCIETIES FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS.RESIDUAL NEEDSDEWEY WAS RIGHT TO SEE THAT THE FUNCTIONS STILL NEED TO BE FULFILLED.

SECULAR HUMANISM APPROACHES THEM MORE OPENLY.

DISCHARGING THEM IS CRUCIAL TO REACHING THE SITUATION FROM WHICH DEWEY THOUGHT HE COULD BEGIN.FUNCTIONSCOMMUNITY

MEANING

DEATH

THE DARKNESS OF THE HUMAN CONDITIONTHE PROBLEM OF THE PUBLIC (AGAIN)IN COMPLEX DEMOCRACIES (AND IN OTHER SOCIETIES, TOO) THERE ARE NO GOOD SURROGATES FOR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS.

SERIOUS DISCUSSIONJOINT PROJECTS

IMITATIONS ARE TYPICALLY FEEBLE.SOCIAL JUSTICETHE PROBLEM IS AMELIORATED IN THE SOCIETIES WHERE THERE IS MORE SOCIAL JUSTICE.

THIS IS EXPECTED, GIVEN THE CORRELATION BETWEEN RELIGIOSITY AND VULNERABILITY.MEANINGTHERE IS NO GENERAL PROBLEM OF RESTORING MEANINGFULNESS IN A SECULAR FRAMEWORK.

THERE ARE PARTICULAR PROBLEMS IN PROVIDING PEOPLE WITH OPPORTUNITIES FOR MEANINGFUL LIVES.THESE ARISE FROM LACK OF OPPORTUNITIES AND LACK OF COMMUNITY.DEATHWHAT IS THE LURE OF IMMORTALITY?

CAN WE ENVISAGE LIFE WITHOUT PROJECTS AND ACTIVE STRIVING?

RATIONAL FEARS

PREMATURE CESSATIONTHE LOSS OF OTHERS.DILUTED LIBERALISMTHIS IS A SATISFACTORY PICTURE FOR COMFORTABLY INTELLECTUALS.

IT IGNORES THE DARK SIDE OF HUMAN NATURE.

BUT THERE ARE KARAMAZOVS.CONCLUSIONSTHE SERIOUS CHARGES DONT SHOW THAT A SATISFACTORY SECULAR HUMANISM IS IMPOSSIBLE.THEY MIGHT BE ADDRESSED BY A SERIES OF EXPERIMENTS (DEWEY WOULD APPROVE).BUT WE SHOULD REMEMBER THAT IT TAKES TIME FOR EXPERIMENTS TO WORK.