Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Definition Wars

My last post recommended an essay by Theodore Drange. Although the essay was interesting I was having some trouble agreeing with his definitions of atheism and agnosticism. I prefer the definition described in Matthew's essay here. I thought I would ask Matthew his opinion but there didn't seem to be any contact information. So I decided to e-mail the only other atheist Matthew active online that I know of, Matt Dillahunty, who is president of the Atheist Community of Austin. (Check out their podcasts and videos!)

It ends up they are not the same Matthew, but Matt D. was kind enough to write me a detailed critcism of Drange's essay. I will take the liberty of quoting a small section of his e-mail here with regard to the proposition "God Exists" (ignoring the first option of noncognitivism):

2. The individual accepts the proposition
3. The individual does not accept the proposition.

Note that this does not mean that the individual accepts the contradictory proposition. That proposition is separate. I do not believe that any other option exists. Someone can BE noncommittal, by refusing to state what their position is - but they either accept the proposition or they don't. There is no other option.

So I will continue to use "atheism" to mean "non-theism", because that term is more useful. I also think it is more politically expedient to make atheism an umbrella term including all non-believers.

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