Philosophy: Epistemology and and Dissemination of False Beliefs
While it is true words do not have inherent meaning, they do have usages. My blog is about showing the most commonly understood usage on philosophy, not what a word may or may not mean to atheist activist groups such as American Atheist or Atheist Community of Austin. Their stimulative usages of words are not often in accordance with how certain words are used in the philosophical literature leading to extensive amounts of confusion and confabulation.
I will be doing a multi-part blog with some of the most common things many atheist have confusion or more specifically a false belief on when comparing what they hear from various YouTube channels and what is found in the total collective of philosophical literature.
False belief #1: Atheism and Theism are Dichotomous.
In philosophy, a dichotomy is something where only two choices are ontologically possible, jointly exhaustive and mutually exclusive containing an affirmation and a denial. For example: Given a jar of gumballs, assuming no broken ones, “it is the case that the number of gumballs are even” or “it is not he case the number of gumballs are not even” which is represented by p V ~p were p=“the number of gumballs are even”. This is an actually dichotomy as it is either the case the jar contains an even number of gumballs or it is not the case that the jar contains a even number of gumballs. But even and odd are contraries which is a relationship between the two groups which are necessary, and also binary for a whole number of gumballs. For example all integers are either even or odd, with none being both and none being either (zero is in fact an even number).
This dichotomy of p V ~p is also a tautology meaning that p V ~p = T for the any propositional content of p (that isn’t a contradiction such as p and ~p both T) or regardless of the value of the atomic parts in molecular sentence:
p v ~p
In either case where p is T or F then p V ~p will always return a value of TRUE thus proving it is a tautology.
Given p V ~p if we instantiate p with the proposition of theism (p=”at least one God exists” assumes or has ever existed) then we have the dichotomy of “theism” or “not theism” or more specifically: “It is either the case that at least one God exists or is not the case that at least one God exist.”
p V ~p
Theism or not Theism
It is the case that at least one God exists or it is not the case that at least one God exists.
Atheism and theism however are not a dichotomy. They are what are known as “contradictories”. Contradictories are when one of the two direct positions on a proposition must be T and the other must be F, and it can not be that both are T or F at the same time. (As opposed to contraries which can one is T and the other is false, both can not be T but both can be F or class relationships such as hot/cold or good/bad). Atheistic and theistic beliefs can be contraries (Oppy 2017). Christianity vs Islam are contraries. If one is true then the other must be false…or both can be false, but both can not be true. This follows from ontology as in regards to the state of affairs of the universe there can only be two ontological conditions: There is at least one God that exists or there is not at least one God that exist…and it can not be both or neither are case.
However, theism and atheist are epistemological positions with respect to ontology. They are asking a person what their belief is with respect to the proposition. It is commonly held that there are generally 3 possible epistemic states with respect to a proposition. Belief (acceptance), disbelief (rejection), and lack of belief either way (suspension of judgment). Disbelief as rejection being the assertion of the negation will be addressed in atheist false beliefs #2, and I ask one accepts arguendo this is the case for the purposes of this false belief #1.
In this schema then theist will believe (affirm) the proposition (acceptance, believes p or Bp), atheist will disbelieve (rejection, believes not p or B~p), and agnostics will lack a belief either way (suspension of judgment or ~Bp ^ ~B~p). Here it is clear that this is not p V ~p but what is know as a disjunction p v q where p=theism and q=atheism. Read as it is either the case theism is true or it is the case atheism is true and by elimination:
p V q : Theism or Atheism
~p : not Theism
:. q: Theism
But notice with a disjunction there are clearly other belief positions with respect to p and q. Just like if I said: “Do you want chicken or fish for dinner?”
p V q : Chicken or Fish
~p : not Fish
:. q: Chicken
Here it is obvious that we do not have a dichotomous situation as it is quite ontologically possible to have something other than chicken or fish for dinner. Beliefs are similar here. If we have p V ~p and we predicate with belief we have:
Bp V B~p
This is congruent with our initial statement of theism is the belief p is true (Bp) and atheism is the belief that p is false (B~p). But it is again obvious that there are other possible belief cases. One can believe neither is true (~Bp ^ ~B~p) or not care either way which logically is also (~Bp ^ ~B~p) but clearly epistemically different than someone who actually has pondered the proposition and failed to reach a position on it.
Where confusion often lies is the atheist confusing Bp ^ ~Bp (believes p or does not believe p) with Bp ^ B~p (believes p or believes ~p). One can intuitively see that if it is the case someone holds to B~p they, by entailment, do not believe p which is I write for shorthand (metalogically) as B~p ⊨ ~Bp | ~Bp ⊭ B~p) (Read as I believe not p entails I do not believe p, but I do not believe p does not entail I believe not p). By insisting the relationship between theism and atheism should be thought of as Bp ^ ~Bp they are making it such that atheism is equivalent to “not theist”, effectively eliminating any possible other position or “middle ground”. However, as seen above atheism is not synonymous with “not theist”, but merely is a type of “not theist”. Given then if theism is Bp and atheism is B~p then we clearly do have room for other positions as beliefs are not dichotomous and one can remain agnostic on p or ~Bp ^ ~B~p.
This false notion being promulgated by many atheist that theism and atheism are a dichotomy needs to stop as it indicates that they are not familiar with the actual literature on the topic nor the difference between two things being dichotomous (theist V not theist) vs being contradictories (theist V atheist). This is demonstrably a false belief of some atheist.