With All I Am: Against Scorns

Think“Philosophy is hard.” wrote Peter van Inwagen, “Thinking clearly for an extended period is hard. It is easier to pour scorn on those who disagree with you than actually to address their arguments.”(van Inwagen 2006, 61-2)

It is easier to lump opposing views together and dismissed them even without carefully examining the arguments offered. It is also easier to circle the wagons and shout slogans. It is equally easier to discredit an opposing view by attack the character (ad hominem) or the group an individual is associated with (guilt by association) of a person offering it. It is easier to offer ridicules and scorns.

Van Inwagen put it better:

And of all the kinds of scorn that can be poured on someone’s views, moral scorn is the safest and most pleasant (most pleasant to the one doing the pouring). It is the safest kind because, if you want to pour moral scorn on someone’s views, you can be sure that everyone who is predisposed to agree with you will believe that you have made an unanswerable point. And you can be sure that any attempt your opponent in debate makes at an answer will be dismissed by a significant proportion of your audience as a ‘‘rationalization’’ — that great contribution of modern depth psychology to intellectual complacency and laziness. Moral scorn is the most pleasant kind of scorn to deploy against those who disagree with you because a display of self-righteousness—moral posturing—is a pleasant action whatever the circumstances, and it’s nice to have an excuse for it. (ibid, 62)

With All I Am blog believes that ideas matter. Though committed to classical reformed Christian theism, I (Prayson Daniel) believe different views should be fairly presented and discussed out in an open marketplace of other competing ideas with gentleness and civility. I believe atheists and theists, reformed and non-reformed Christians, Protestants and Catholics can be open and tolerate each other, even when we strongly disagree.

With All I Am blog believes we can restore the capacity to dialogue with those holding different and opposing views, by addressing each other’s difficulty but honest critiques in a respectable manner.

With All I Am blog believes you (readers) can present more than your mere personal opinions by concisely comment where you think the authors are uninformed, misinformed, illogical or incomplete.

With All I Am blog believes it is possible to hold strong views on a particular subject yet be open and committed to honestly listening and critically evaluating opposing views.

It is time we listen. It is time we reason together. Think. Reason. Follow

Van Iwagen, Peter (2006) The Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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About Prayson Daniel

Prayson Daniel is a Tanzanian, married to Lea and a father to Eloise. Reformed theology, philosophy of religion, apologetics and church history are areas he enjoy reading, pondering and sharing with a motto "when love comes first, disagreement follows at its right and proper place".

4 comments

  1. I know they were not his initially, but Keller and Carson suggested one great rule along these lines that has been very helpful to me in achieving this type of listening and dialogue. He says, when presenting an opposing viewpoint, you should be able to express it in such a way that the person holding that viewpoint would be able to say, ‘yes – that’s precisely what i believe” before you even begin to offer any critique. This is so – for one reason anyways – b/c how can we critique something that we have not rightly understood to begin with?

    • Very true. Trevin Wax put it this way: “At the very least, love for neighbor should lead us to try to understand people with whom we disagree.” and “Misrepresentation of another’s beliefs is self-defeating. In our zeal to persuade someone else to the truth, we must be careful not to present untruth about the opposing point of view.”

      • I agree and you state it well.

        Tolerance is a good cornerstone on which to build human relationships. When one views the slaughter and suffering caused by religious intolerance down all the history of Man and into modern times, one can see that intolerance is a very non-survival activity.

        Religious tolerance does not mean one cannot express his own beliefs. It does mean that seeking to undermine or attack the religious faith and beliefs of another has always been a short road to trouble.
        Philosophers since the times of ancient Greece have disputed with one another about the nature of God, Man and the universe. The opinions of authorities ebb and flow: just now the philosophies of “mechanism” and “materialism” — dating as far back as Ancient Egypt and Greece — are the fad: they seek to assert that all is matter and overlook that, neat as their explanations of evolution may be, they still do not rule out additional factors that might be at work, that might be merely using such things as evolution. They are today the “official” philosophies and are even taught in schools. They have their own zealots who attack the beliefs and religions of others: the result can be intolerance and contention.

        If all the brightest minds since the fifth century B.C. or before have never been able to agree on the subject of religion or anti-religion, it is an arena of combat between people that one would do well to stay out of.
        In this sea of contention, one bright principle has emerged: the right to believe as one chooses.
        “Faith” and “belief” do not necessarily surrender to logic: they cannot even be declared to be illogical. They can be things quite apart.

        Any advice one might give another on this subject is safest when it simply asserts the right to believe as one chooses. One is at liberty to hold up his own beliefs for acceptance. One is at risk when he seeks to assault the beliefs of others, much more so when he attacks and seeks to harm them because of their religious convictions.

        Man, since the dawn of the species, has taken great consolation and joy in his religions. Even the “mechanist” and “materialist” of today sound much like the priests of old as they spread their dogma.
        Men without faith are a pretty sorry lot. They can even be given something to have faith in. But when they have religious beliefs, respect them.

        The way to happiness can become contentious when one fails to respect the religious beliefs of others.

        The above passage taken form thewaytohappiness.org and is #18 of 21 Precepts of The Way To Happiness.

        • This is why religion is inculcated in the young, when the mind is most vulnerable to abuse.
          This is why radical Christian sects such as ACE insidiously worm their way into society so as to corrupt children.
          No rational emotional stable adult would likely consider religion as a life option if it weren’t for the inculcation they were subjected to as children.

          And it is heartwarming that non belief among humans is now ranked third behind Chrarianity and Islam.
          And is growing every single year.
          What a wonderful feeling.

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