3 AM Philosophy

I am confused by Aron Ra and Matt Dillahunty…help?

So recently I did a post about Matt Dillahunty where he told a caller that he was wrong on the callers usage of the word “disbelief”. Now to clarify, in some colloquial dictionaries “disbelief” is described as either not having a belief or believing p is false. It is somewhat ambiguous in general usage, however in epistemology the word “disbelief” is held to be an epistemic status of believing p is false. (see my post “Matt Dillahunty tells a caller he is wrong about “disbelief”…when the caller was right.)

Ok, one could bicker about the semantics here and if someone wants to use a word one way they are of course more than allowed to do so, but I ask they least be consistent about it at the minimum. How can you profess to have a rational view on things if your system is internally inconsistent? Let me explain…

Matt during his phone call expresses to the caller that “disbelief” was “not assuming you’re right” and during a Facebook exchange Aron Ra expressed that “disbelief” was “lack of belief”…so to be clear here:

Matt Dillahunty: Disbelief = “not assuming you’re right”
Aron Ra: Disbelief = “lack of belief” and “A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.” which Aron accepts as “disbelieves” to be understood as “lack of belief”.

I also clarified this with Aron a few times and he even cited what he thought was a philosophical source…

Philosophical basics is not a “philosophical source” and in fact if Aron had bothered to read about the source it clearly points out the person who started the site had no philosophical training:

“A brief history of Philosophybasics.com
This website was originally created in 2008 as a personal project by Luke Mastin. He has no official training in philosophy, and this site is intended as an entry-level resource by a layman for the layman. ” (emphasis added)

This is however just an interesting side note here…the real point of this post was to ask if it is the case that:

Matt Dillahunty: Disbelief = “not assuming you’re wrong”
Aron Ra: Disbelief = “lack of belief”

then is American Atheist using it differently than a member of their board of directors and a regional director?

Aron insists disbelief is “lack of belief” and Matt said it is “not assuming you’re right”. So if we use those for what American Atheist says we end up with:
Atheism is not “lack of belief” and atheism is not “not assuming you’re right”.

So this rather leads me to a confused state. American atheist insists atheism is not a disbelief in Gods, but Aron insists it is the disbelief in Gods and going by Matt’s usage:
Atheism is not “not assuming you’re right” = Atheism is assuming you’re right? (double negative)

So if anyone wants to help clarify this as it seems Matt’s and Aron’s usage is at odds with American Atheists usage let me know. This is why I argue it makes more sense to have more precise use of these terms to avoid such ambiguity. (And in the literature, disbelief is held to be p is false…not merely not believing)

Contact me directly if you think you can sort this mess out…

  1. steve

    It matters that these guys don’t get what belief or doubt apply to. First, they are dispositions toward a state of affairs. These dispositions apply to the verity of the proposition. “A lack of belief in” doesn’t entail “a lack of belief about”.

    The important distinction about disbelief and the absence of any disposition is that one is active relative to the idea a proposition expresses.

    Here, one only assumes in reading into the definition that it means a “lack of belief” and further assumes absence of belief full stop. Disbelief is rightly the belief that P is not true; it is to not believe the verity of P.

    Disbelief is a conscious doubt that denies the truth value claimed by P.

    As theism entails two propositions (there are deity, there are no deity), so does atheism, being the antithesis thereof.

    The theist is one who affirms there are deity and denies there are no deity; in opposition, the atheist denies there are deity and affirms there are no deity.

    Aron’s magical concoction entails that the alpha privative of P defines atheism, not knowing that a lack of belief in “there are no deity”, as an alpha privative is theism just as “there are deity” is atheism, by his mark; entailing the contradiction of an atheist theist.

    That one has to have this ongoing discussion with so-called “brights” and folks of “reason” is remarkable, to say the least.

  2. Sujit

    This reminds me of interactions I have with a co-worker. He’s very political and tends to view issues through a rather biased prism. Sometimes he bloviates on topics that I haven’t personally investigated. Knowing how he can be, I smile politely and say:

    “I don’t disbelieve you; I just don’t quite believe you.”

    In other words, I’m not saying he’s wrong; I just lack confidence that he’s right.

    ‘Disbelief’ entails certainty that he’s wrong, whereas ‘lacking belief’ leaves open the possibility, however remote, that he could be correct.

    As an engineer I prefer “confidence levels” to “belief” or “disbelief”. But I’ve been making that same comment to him for years so I keep it going as a joke 🙂


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Editor's choice