Because if no such factual description, however rich and subtle, and theologically sophisticated, could even be germane to further confirming the claim "God exists" for a believer, then it could never be reasonable for him to believe in God's existence.[15]. Such a project is beyond the scope of this paper, but it does seem that if the matter of justifying a presumption of atheism comes down to producing explanations of this sort of phenomenon, then significant progress in philosophy will have been made, because these will be explanations that are essentially social and psychological. The Presumption of Atheism. The other argument, presented in the second objection, is not one that purports to be a direct disproof of theism. rule, what Flew calls "the presumption of atheism": if the theist cannot prove his case, the decision shall go to the atheist by default. Here Hanson reminds us that: [P]roof of the non-existence of X usually derives from the fact that there is no good reason for supposing that X does exist.... [T]he lack of any formal deductive proof that God does not exist provides no reason whatever for supposing that God does exist.... [A] proof that God does not exist turns on no more than the demonstration that there is no good reason for supposing that he does exist.... [I]f atheism is erroneous, it is so in the manner of claims like "Boston is south of Miami" and "Eagles outweigh elephants".[14]. £7. Flew defines positive atheism as "the assertion that there is no such being as God." And therefore Copan has failed to show that atheism is presumptuous. All Hello, Sign in. [REVIEW] J. Lipner - 1977 - Religious Studies 13 (3):366. Clearly, unburdened positive atheists should explain why they need not bear any such burden of proof. In 1971, Flew published The Presumption of Atheism. It is simply to proceed under a presumption of atheism that entails a burden of proof exclusively for theism. In his 1962 book Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (especially in chapter 1) Popper explains forcefully that he meant for it to be used a means of demarcating the class of statements that can belong to science from the class of statements that couldn't belong to science. It cannot be one's epistemic obligation to justify not having a belief that p merely because one does not have the belief that p. This point, Flew explains, follows from the usual distinction between true beliefs and knowledge. Arguing a case under a presumption of innocence does not mean assuming at the outset that the accused is innocent. For example, the accused is not required to concede at the outset, e.g., that he/she could have committed the crime, that he/she knows anything about the crime, that a crime of some sort occurred, etc. Then refute those arguments. Long before Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris began taking swipes at religion, Flew was the preeminent spokesman for unbelief. This meaning can be made precise by comparing the meanings of other terms that have the same prefix, e.g., "atypical," "asymmetrical," and "amoral." Similar Items "The presumption of atheism and other philosophical essays on God, freedom and immortality" by Antony Flew by: Ogden, Schubert Miles 1928-2019 Published: (1977) ; The tergiversation of Antony Flew: a review and assessment of "There is a God" by: Wilsey, John D. Published: (2011) Moreover, Flew points to the fact that there is an ancient and ongoing controversy even among the most sophisticated of philosophers and theologians over whether the term "God" has an intelligible meaning. The Presumption of Atheism and other Essays. Even if one accepts the claim that demonstrating the lack of evidential support for theism provides some justification for atheism, there is still some point to the demand that the positive atheist also provide other, distinct reasons for atheism given that this burden has been placed on theists. The reply to the first objection proceeds by trying to show that one of the premises (if God were to have existed, no evil would have been encountered in the world) is false. Later, he cites "person without a body" as another example of a candidate for ultimate incoherence only to withdraw this choice on the grounds that tension apparent in applying this term to human beings might be overcome in the special case of God. Antony Garrard Newton Flew (1923-2010) was a British philosopher, and formerly a noteworthy advocate of atheism, until his 2004 change of mind (see There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind). [REVIEW] J. Lipner - 1977 - Religious Studies 13 (3):366. One who does that would more properly be called an immoralist. Is this the same procedure as the one Flew means by adopting a presumption of atheism? But Hanson clearly thinks that some factual data would be relevant to confirming the claim that God exists, and he even gives some (vivid) examples of events which, were they to occur, would go a long way toward confirming this claim for him. Antony Flew is remarkable in being one of a vanishingly small number of intellectuals who have moved from a position of atheism to the support of the existence of some kind of "god". Many anthologies and textbooks included it, and continue to include it today. An amoral person is someone who has no grasp of morality in the sense of culturally embedded customs and practices. The Presumption of Atheism and Other Essays. Last, argue for theism. Flew argued for a return to the original meaning of the word “agnosticism” that was first introduced by Thomas Huxley (1825 –1895). Antony Flew and the Presumption of Atheism, Part 1. After all, that is one his main reasons for preferring a stance of negative atheism for debating purposes. It is, however, another source of reasons that justify the kinds of doubts about the semantics of "God-talk" that I have suggested makes negative atheism a tenable epistemic stance. Or, that anyone who understood "p" would be able to state some conditions in which p would be false? The theist in question is Thomas Aquinas. Flew does clear things up somewhat when he writes: [F]ollowing the present degenerate usage, an agnostic is one who, having entertained the proposition that God exists now claims not to know either that it is or that it is not true. Examples of defenses of naturalistic metaphysics include arguments for purely physicalistic theories of mind, as well as arguments that naturalism is more likely to be true than antinaturalistic metaphysics given the fact of the evolution of all life forms by natural selection. EDITOR'S NOTE: For the last half of the twentieth century, Antony Flew (1923-2010) was the world's most famous atheist. Consequently, the theist in the debate should bear the entire burden of proof in the debate, "first to introduce and defend his proposed concept of God; and, second, to provide sufficient reason for believing that this concept does in fact have an application."[9]. Everything one can say about God is vacuously true if the concept of God is contradictory. All of these facts support the interpretation that Aquinas adopts a presumption of atheism as a methodological procedure. However in 2004, he shocked th Before you dismiss, please consider making a donation. However, as I have suggested, the features of theological discourse that may have this effect also provide one with reasons that justify having such doubts. What it is, and why it matters At the beginning of Book X of his last work The Laws, Plato turns his attention from violent and outrageous actions in general to the particular case of undisciplined and presumptuous behaviour in matters of religion: [22] This principle is one that is to be used in comparing the merits of alternative explanations of the same facts. Sponsors: Prince Otchere, Daniel … One may add a concern to Drange's objections. Jos teisti eli jumalauskoinen ei pysty tarjoamaan tällaisia perusteita, ateismi pitää pintansa ainoana järkevänä lähtökohtaoletuksena. Copyright ©2020 Charles Echelbarger. An amoral person is neither moral nor immoral in the sense just presented. [16] Flew, God, Freedom, and Immortality, p. 15. Raising that issue with regard to those specific assertions does not necessarily mean that Flew was then assuming that falsifiability was the criterion of factual meaning or even a necessary condition of factual meaning. Indeed it might be regarded as an expression of the very opposite, a modest teachability. He points out that, in Aquinas' second objection, the specimen atheological argument makes use of a principle of postulational economy and that by introducing this principle into the dialectical exchange, "Aquinas ... indicates a reason for adopting" a presumption of atheism. Perhaps the comparison of "atheist" with "amoral" is more helpful than it initially seems to be. Of course, Hanson thinks that they do not succeed and that they have been so thoroughly discredited (even by many theologians) that atheism is the only reasonable alternative left. But the answers I have suggested are not entirely satisfactory, and Flew's comments on Aquinas' second objection reveal the reason why these answers will not do as they stand. Another example of such a doubt would be a doubt as to whether the statement has any definite truth-conditions. Theodore M. Drange has objected to Martin's version of negative atheism in the following way: First, it is not completely clear that the correct translation of the Greek prefix The atheist debater should only be presented with ample opportunity to destroy the arguments of the theist and, thus, turn back attempts to defeat the presumption of atheism. (Summa Theologica I, Q2, art 3). Disagreement, Oxford: Oxford University Press. I will return to this suggestion later in this paper. If there is no evidence which points to a particular claim, although some general background considerations make it not too unlikely that something like this should be true (Loch Ness monster, mile record broken twice in 1980) we should say there is some general support for the claim, we shall say it is wholly unfounded if there is no evidence for it in particular and no general considerations in its favor and disprovable if it implies that something would be the case that is definitely is not the case.... [B]oth 'unfounded' and 'disprovable' correlate with atheism.... Antony Flew (11 februari 1923 – 8 april 2010) was een Brits filosoof die vooral bekendheid verwierf door zijn werk binnen de filosofie van de religie.Flew studeerde klassieke talen aan de Universiteit van Oxford.Hij was in het begin van zijn carrière een prominent pleitbezorger van het atheïsme en een aanhanger van het evidentialisme. [6] Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1990). "[10] To allow the legitimacy of only positive atheism in a debate about the existence of God is, therefore, to concede more than the atheist ought to be required to concede because positive atheism presupposes that the concept of God that the theist operates with is a legitimate concept. What the protagonist of the presumption of atheism, in my sense, wants to show is: that the debate about It has to be shown, in each case why one ought to have this or that belief. Hello Select your address Best Sellers Today's Deals Electronics Gift Ideas Customer Service Books New Releases Home Computers Gift Cards Coupons Sell This part of Flew's position on the use of the idea of falsifiability is tolerably clear. The presumption requires us to begin by examining any proposed or presupposed conception of God as if we were meeting it for the first time; considering, that is to say, whether it is coherently applicable and, if so, inquiring what evidencing reasons would be necessary and sufficient to establish that it does in fact have application.[21]. He argues at length, for example, that the notion of a disembodied or bodiless person is either flatly contradictory or unintelligible. The so-called "presumption of atheism" was formulated by philosopher Antony Flew. Antony Flew and Alasdair McIntyre (London, UK: SCM Press, 1955): 96-98, p. 98. It seems to me that they could be both justifying reasons and causally explanatory reasons. Theist debaters should, therefore, bear the entire burden of proof by presenting arguments for the existence of God. Close. Antony Flew – His Central Work Previously, in his central work, The Presumption of Atheism (1976), Flew argued that the "onus of proof [of God] must lie upon the theist." If I am right about this suggestion, then it is altogether fair and reasonable to approach the issue of the existence and activities of God, as Flew did seventy years ago, by beginning with the question to theists of what would have to happen to make anyone logically and rightly conclude that God does not love us or that God does not exist at all. Belonging to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought, he was notable for his works on the philosophy of religion. Why, it will be asked, should theists have to do all of the work in the debate? But evil is encountered in the world. It may be pointed out in response to this suggestion that these are not arguments justifying doubts about a concept's intelligibility—they are psychological explanations of how one's doubts have been caused. [21] Flew, "The Presumption of Atheism," pp. (Summa Theologica I, Q2, art 3). Antony Flew (11. helmikuuta 1923 – 8. huhtikuuta 2010) oli brittiläinen filosofi.. Antony Flew tunnetaan etenkin muotoilustaan periaatteelle, että ateismi on alkuoletus, josta tulee luopua vain riittävän hyvien perusteiden vuoksi (Flew 1966). Prime. Hence, he cannot be required to prove that there is no God, even when he is engaged in the debate. 454. £7. So, the tautology in question merely states that it is necessarily the case that any conditions in which a proposition is true are the same conditions in which the negation of its negation are true. You may need to download version 2.0 now from the Chrome Web Store. Jun13 by Eve Keneinan. There are many cases of people who believe radically different things about the meaning of key religious terms, even though they may be equally rational and highly advanced in their learning, and they are well aware of each other's beliefs and doctrines. There are those who classify themselves as atheists on the grounds that all Or, was he saying that anyone who knew what it would be like for p to be true must know what it would be like for p to be false? These reasons need not be reasons that reflect philosophical naïveté. George L. Goodwin Thus, a negative atheist is simply one who is not a theist, or someone without a belief in God. To take the stance of negative atheism, Flew has stated, is to proceed in the debate as if one simply lacked a belief in God. Instead, “atheism” should be defined as a psychological state: the state of not believing in the existence of God (or gods). Statements that are unfalsifiable may have this property for more than one reason. We might say that what Aquinas does in the objections is to display specimens of atheological arguments in order to make it clear what sort of task faces a theist who wants to show that theism is more reasonable than atheism. But to speak of an ostensible incoherence between the traditional theistic idea of creator and the traditional idea of his creatures is quite different from speaking of an ostensible incoherence in the meaning proposed for the term "God." It is conceding more than an atheist should be required to concede to grant (even tacitly) that "even the would-be mainstream theist is operating with a legitimate concept which theoretically could have an application to an actual being. Flew, Antony, 1972, “The Presumption of Atheism,” Canadian...or atheism.This defence may well be implicit in Flew’s famous “The Presumption of Atheism” (1972).It...Scriven’s Primary Philosophy (1966, ch 4). Canadian Journal of Philosophy: Vol. [2] Apparently, Flew is claiming that one can give reasons why negative atheism deserves a presumption in a debate. In chapter 3, "The Religious * Antony Flew, The Presumption of Atheism and Other Philosophical Essays on God, Freedom and Immortality (New York: Barnes & … Given his negative version of atheism, the atheist has no belief to defend. Flew maintains that in a debate about the existence of God there should be a presumption of atheism. Hello Select your address Best Sellers Today's Deals Electronics Gift Ideas Customer Service Books New Releases Home Computers Gift Cards Coupons Sell So, Flew's position is that the very conditions of a fair debate fully justify taking a position of negative atheism and, by that very fact, placing the whole burden of proof on theism. Rather, our normative principles need to be developed in such a way as to at least capture our most strongly held moral judgments about particular cases of actions or circumstances. In the first objection, he presents an argument of the modus tollens type that purports to be a direct refutation of theism. All of us lack an enormous number of beliefs but we are certainly not required to justify each and every one of these doxastic absences. If atheism in regard to the existence of Basic God is justified, then atheism in regard to the God of classical theism is, he claims, certainly justified. Atheist Antony Flew has said that the “onus of proof must lie upon the theist.” 1 Unless compelling reasons for God’s existence can be given, there is the “presumption of atheism.” Another atheist, Michael Scriven, considers the lack of evidence for God’s existence and the lack of evidence for Santa Claus on the same level. But the atheist in my peculiar interpretation, unlike the atheist in the usual sense, has not as yet and as such conceded even this.[8]. Skip to main There is some resemblance in that Aquinas certainly does not endorse the arguments stated in the objections. When Flew uses the word "atheism," he does not use the word as many theists do, as … Jun13 by Eve Keneinan. Flew's defense of negative atheism and the justification of its presumption is in great need of this sort of supplementation. Comments Share this page. It is one thing to reject demands for deductive proofs of atheism. [11] Michael Scriven, Primary Philosophy (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1966), p. 100. This viewpoint is expressed in his work,The Presumption of Atheism. One may instead have reasons for doubting whether a given statement expresses a proposition at all, without presenting these reasons as premises of an inference to a conclusion that the statement does not express a proposition. Part of this burden is to explain that the concept of God is coherent or intelligible. : Philosopher and former atheist Antony Flew set the agenda for modern atheism with his 1950 essay "Theology and Falsification," which became the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last half century. [1] Unless compelling reasons for God’s existence can be given, there is the "presumption of atheism." Hints that this had happened began emerging around 2001, but by 2004 he made it … [25] Antony Flew, "The Case for God Challenged" in Does God Exist: The Great Debate ed. Propositional inconsistency is possible only when the propositions in question are at least capable of having truth-values. He defines negative atheism as having a meaning that results from the prefixing of the Greek particle "a-" to "theism." Antony Flew's "Theology and Falsification" has become one of the most widely discussed articles on contemporary philosophy of religion. Conceptual incoherence is not to be confused with propositional inconsistency. . Antony Flew. Unlike Flew, I will try to construct an enhanced version of negative atheism that does not have such consequences. 451-452. Atheists defending the ‘presumption of atheism’: Antony Flew —Theology and Falsification Don McIntosh —The Presumption of Naturalism and the Probability of Miracles: A Reply to Keith Parsons (2011) Michael Scriven —The Presumption of Atheism William Rowe —Does God Exist: The Craig-Flew Debate Richard Norman —On Humanism (Thinking in Action) His books God and Philosophy (1966) and The Presumption of Atheism (1976) made the case, now followed by today's new atheists, that atheism should … Flew imagines a variation on Aquinas' specimen atheological argument from evil that refers to "possible difficulties and incoherencies in the meaning proposed for the word 'God.'" The proofs are then presented as replies to these objections. - Volume 13 Issue 3 - J. Lipner Recalling that to get even a little evidential support for the existence of a Being with supernatural powers will require that the little be of very high quality (little does not mean "dubious"), we see that the failure of all the arguments, that is, of all the evidence, will make even agnosticism in the wide sense an indefensible exaggeration of the evidential support. Similarly, Flew maintains, no atheist should be required to concede at the outset of a debate that there might be evidence for the existence of God, that theism is at least possibly true, or even that there is a legitimate concept of God. [8] Flew, God, Freedom, and Immortality: A Critical Analysis (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1984), p. 14. Archived. Books Division. 2, No. Flew's argument has been tremendously influential among skeptics, and has presented no small challenge to people of faith. He did not mean for it to be used to distinguish cognitively significant from cognitively meaningless statements and argued against doing so. Flew proposes a procedure called a presumption of atheism that demands ^ Letter from Antony Flew on Darwinism and Theology Philosophy Now, issue 47. Still, one may share Drange's misgivings about construing atheism as a negative concept. This proposition, put forth in his book The Presumption of Atheism, is a huge idea that has completely shaped what atheism is and how it is defined. It is an argument that theism is not the only reasonable explanation of what may be observed in the world, and that another explanation of the observable facts, one available to naturalistic atheists, may appear to be sufficient to account for the same facts. 3 years ago. But Aquinas' strategy seems to be the following: Begin by presenting the strongest known arguments for atheism without actually endorsing those arguments. The negative atheist is simply one who lacks belief in God. Stephen Toulmin and Harry Woolf (Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1971): 309-331, p. 311. . Try. Flew's case would be supported much better by leaving Aquinas' specimen arguments behind and illustrating some convincing examples of ostensibly incoherent concepts. An important connection between the issue of coherence and falsifiability would seem to be that statements involving incoherent concepts would be unfalsifiable, for the obvious reason that there can be no conditions under which they would be true. I will return to this point much later in this paper in regard to the status of theological statements. The University of Chicago Press. A negative atheist is also someone who knows very well that he/she lacks such a belief. He is not imagining a task of simply presenting theological arguments to a person who just lacks a belief in God. Or you can dismiss until our next donations drive (typically at the beginning of October). Belonging to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought, Flew was most notable for his work related to the philosophy of religion.During the course of his career he taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading, and at York University in Toronto. [18] Flew, "The Presumption of Atheism" in A Companion to Philosophy of Religion ed. It should go without saying that any atheist debater will have plenty of work to do just in making effective replies to the arguments for theism. According to my suggestions, the policy of this presumption need not be one that is demanded by one who is using a purely self-serving pretense adopted for the special purpose of a debate about the existence of God, or by one who is simply ignorant or naïve. Performance & security by Cloudflare, Please complete the security check to access. He coined the phrase "No True Scotsman" to describe a particular kind of fallacy. Unfalsifiability results from the degree of ad hoc qualification made for God-statements by theists. Flew is not the only philosopher in the literature of the philosophy of religion attracted to negative atheism. However, they do not do so for the same reasons that Flew gives. [20] Flew, "The Presumption of Atheism," p. 452. But vacuous truth is not the same as unfalsifiability. Thanks! This may be called a noncognitivist version of atheism, and it may also be said to be a version of negative atheism. Thus, a kind of justification for the stance of negative atheism is possible even though it is not an argument for the proposition "God does not exist." Was Flew saying that anyone who knows what the conditions are in which p is true must know what the conditions are in which p would be false? The Presumption of Atheism and other Essays. It may indeed be a problematical view of the nature of creation. Aquinas' replies to these two objections are of two sorts. "[16] However, he warns the reader that debating under a presumption of atheism for the reasons he presents "puts the whole enterprise of theism in a fresh perspective that makes it even more difficult and precarious than it did before."[17]. Thus only he must give reasons for it. ANTONY FLEW'S CONCEPT OF THE PRESUMPTION OF ATHEISM According to Flew, when discussing the existence of God, one should adopt as a starting point the position of atheism and "the onus of proof must lie on the theist." Presumption of Atheism and Other Essays: Flew, Antony: If you are at an office or shared network, you can ask the network administrator to run a scan across the network looking for misconfigured or infected devices. But it seems to be a useful method to begin by inquiring into the possibility of falsifying a statement and then diagnosing the reason of its being unfalsifiable. . He was well-respected and well regarded by his fellow atheists up until it became evident that Flew had abandoned atheism for deism. It would from my point of view have been better had this first objection referred to possible difficulties and incoherencies in the meaning proposed for the word "God." Skip to main If one says that "God" is a contradictory concept, then, whatever one says about God will be vacuously true if it has the form "(x) (x=g→p)" because the antecedent will be necessarily false. Atheist Anthony Flew has said that the "onus of proof must lie upon the theist." He/she does not specifically reject morality. 3 It is important to remember that we are trying to give arguments or good reasons for God’s existence — not "proofs," which imply a … [22] Flew, God, Freedom, and Immortality, p. 29. "[25] Flew even goes so far as to charge Nielsen with having been "reckless" for not having protected himself against the charge that enormous numbers of people have not known what they were talking about when they used the word "God." Hanson finds it altogether peculiar and puzzling that so many people seem willing to admit that there are no rational grounds for theism but then, in apparent triumph, issue a challenge to atheists to prove that God does not exist. It is plausible to interpret Aquinas as trying to make his case for theism even more powerful than it would be if he simply presented his supposed proofs. Indeed, if I am right, Flew's own position implies this approach to adopting negative atheism. [2] Flew, "Theology and Falsification" in New Essays in Philosophical Theology ed. 29-30. He is also known for the so-called Flew-Wisdom Parable, which embodies his arguments against Intelligent Design.