Is atheism metaphysical?

Is atheism metaphysical?
hughsmith23
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Posted Feb 7, 2013 - 6:01 PM:
Subject: Is atheism metaphysical?
I don't mean this as a way of judging atheism, but as a way of defining it, and defining the metaphysical. For example, if I spoke to someone about G/god and she simply replied, "I do not understand what you are talking about", she would not be an atheist or a metaphysician. If I spoke to someone about G/god and she replied, "I know what you are talking about but you are wrong." Even if the evidence she used was scientific, her discourse would be metaphysical if it produced the belief that "God does not exist". To hold the belief "God does not exist" is metaphysical. If someone only accepted scientific discourse, there would be no God concept to refute; so atheism is metaphysical. I am thinking of metaphysical as by definition outside of modern science, and as relating to mental laws and concepts. There should be a name for the refusal to address the concept of god; atheism and agnostic are not exhaustive.
On Feb 7, 2013 - 6:14 PM, MrSkeptic responded: Can you define metaphysical?
On Feb 8, 2013 - 5:03 AM, 180 Proof responded: If X is a metaphysical statement (re: deism), then X can't be refuted. If, however, X is an argument with physical premises (e.g. "acts of creation" "miracles" ... re: theism), then disproof of physical premises is not metaphysical.
chazwyman
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Posted Feb 7, 2013 - 6:39 PM:

hughsmith23 wrote:
I don't mean this as a way of judging atheism, but as a way of defining it, and defining the metaphysical. For example, if I spoke to someone about G/god and she simply replied, "I do not understand what you are talking about", she would not be an atheist or a metaphysician. If I spoke to someone about G/god and she replied, "I know what you are talking about but you are wrong." Even if the evidence she used was scientific, her discourse would be metaphysical if it produced the belief that "God does not exist". To hold the belief "God does not exist" is metaphysical. If someone only accepted scientific discourse, there would be no God concept to refute; so atheism is metaphysical. I am thinking of metaphysical as by definition outside of modern science, and as relating to mental laws and concepts. There should be a name for the refusal to address the concept of god; atheism and agnostic are not exhaustive.



Atheism is a dustbin category for anti-theists, agnostics, non-theists, deists. As it relies on the contingencies and vicissitudes of whatever current and local definition of "God" happens to be in the firing line I do not think it warrants any specific label such as metaphysical.

Most commonly, in my experience, atheism is an empirical objection to a fantastical ontological assertion - I really do not think that qualifies as metaphysical. But in its most simple definition it is nothing more than an absence of a belief, a lack; not even an active refutation. A person can be an atheist from neglect or ignorance as easily as from a considered rejection, and rationally identified incoherence in the theist assertion. Metaphysics is at least some form of proposition concerning the underlying nature of reality.
Atheism contains no propositions whatever.


Although what I say above does not entail it; even physics has metaphysical propositions and thus metaphysics is not "outside science". But even if that were the case, then you would be shooting yourself in the foot here I think as many atheists regard themselves as such due to a reliance on quantifiably observable phenomena, and as such their atheism is consequential on that position. Thus by your own rubric atheism is not metaphysical.

Edited by chazwyman on Feb 7, 2013 - 6:45 PM
cLOUDDEAD
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Posted Feb 7, 2013 - 7:02 PM:

Yes, atheism is a metaphysical position if by atheism it is meant to be an active disbelief in God. If you think it is false that God exists, logically there is no other option than to have a non-theistic worldview, whether it be metaphysical naturalism, physicalism, materialism or whatever.
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Posted Feb 7, 2013 - 8:18 PM:

There are a few different understandings of what constitutes metaphysics - I think that I take one that is not the most commonly used, but I'll put that definition here and then I'll answer your question using it.

Metaphysics asks "What is?" and "What is what is like?" This approach doesn't necessarily mean that we can only talk about things that are, however, because it is metaphysical also to speak of the bounds of what is and what falls within or outside of those bounds, and what, of those things that fall within those bounds, actually exists.

In that rawest sense, that sense in which I use it, the position of atheism is a metaphysical question, because it is an answer to the bounds of "What is?" and it tells us of the the universe, what it is like.

However, there is a general usage of 'metaphysics' that not only asks the questions about, but also excludes from metaphysics anything that has a rigorous empirical methodology, making metaphysics that area that falls outside such a methodology. In that case, I would suggest that the position of atheism is not a metaphysical position because it can be determined on the grounds of such a methodology (i.e. to reject theism because it is not implied by evidence within the empirical methodology).

There are other uses of metaphysics, some of which make it nothing more than a list of certain topics - if those topics include God, then atheism would be, I guess, a metaphysical position according to such usage.
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Posted Feb 7, 2013 - 10:16 PM:

If your question is whether or not "God does not exist"--or more precisely, "no gods exist"--is a metaphysical claim, then the answer is straightforwardly "yes." The existence or non-existence of a God or gods is a matter of ontology, and ontology is part of metaphysics.
hughsmith23
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Posted Feb 8, 2013 - 3:56 AM:

chazwyman wrote:



Atheism is a dustbin category for anti-theists, agnostics, non-theists, deists. As it relies on the contingencies and vicissitudes of whatever current and local definition of "God" happens to be in the firing line I do not think it warrants any specific label such as metaphysical.

Most commonly, in my experience, atheism is an empirical objection to a fantastical ontological assertion - I really do not think that qualifies as metaphysical. But in its most simple definition it is nothing more than an absence of a belief, a lack; not even an active refutation. A person can be an atheist from neglect or ignorance as easily as from a considered rejection, and rationally identified incoherence in the theist assertion. Metaphysics is at least some form of proposition concerning the underlying nature of reality.
Atheism contains no propositions whatever.


Although what I say above does not entail it; even physics has metaphysical propositions and thus metaphysics is not "outside science". But even if that were the case, then you would be shooting yourself in the foot here I think as many atheists regard themselves as such due to a reliance on quantifiably observable phenomena, and as such their atheism is consequential on that position. Thus by your own rubric atheism is not metaphysical.


If atheism is an absence of belief, then dogs are atheist; because they ignorant, rather than neglectful, I suppose.
It must contain propositions, otherwise it would have no content; it clearly does; people can talk about their atheism. Isn't the key proposition of atheism that there is no god?

I understand that atheists often use empirical/ scientific evidence (or lack of evidence) to argue their proposition, but the proposition is not empirical; there is no empirical evidence for god. Where do they get the concept of god? Metaphysics, and then they talk about it empirically. (I am happy with the opposition between metaphysics and empiricism here).


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Posted Feb 8, 2013 - 7:57 AM:

hughsmith23 wrote:


If atheism is an absence of belief, then dogs are atheist; because they ignorant, rather than neglectful, I suppose.
It must contain propositions, otherwise it would have no content; it clearly does; people can talk about their atheism. Isn't the key proposition of atheism that there is no god?

I understand that atheists often use empirical/ scientific evidence (or lack of evidence) to argue their proposition, but the proposition is not empirical; there is no empirical evidence for god. Where do they get the concept of god? Metaphysics, and then they talk about it empirically. (I am happy with the opposition between metaphysics and empiricism here).


True, all animals are atheistic. What's the problem? Having no god - is not a proposition - it is a lack of one. To make atheism into a proposition is to validate the very thing you deny. Chris Hitchens used to tell a story about crossing the North/South Ireland border, being stopped by paramilitaries. "Are you Protestant or Catholic?" "Neither, I'm an Atheist." "Are you a Catholic Atheist, or a Protestant Atheist?" If you want to insist that atheist have to have some sort of creed, belief, faith based assumption - then do not be surprised when they tell you to get lost. I do not need to argue against Santa Claus, so why do ~I need to argue against god? In a way, and where I to be kind, I might allow that Theism is metaphysical, though I think that would validate what is little more than a fantasy. I'm not sure you would call Gandalf metaphysical, I think you would call it a fantasy. This being the case I do not think a person who rejects a belief in Gandalf is a metaphysical proposition, so why atheism.
On Feb 10, 2013 - 12:50 AM, andrewk responded: He hated the abbreviation of his name to Chris. He will be frowning with disapproval in Heaven now!
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Posted Feb 8, 2013 - 10:19 AM:

I don't think most atheists would claim that atheism was metaphysical. Metaphysics as far as I know deal with the nature of things, "what is it like?" or, "what is the cause of this/that?" Atheists, at least the one's that I know, stick to all that they know - and all that they know tends to be PHYSICAL, that is to say, what they can point to and say, "this table is real." But, as far as I can tell Atheism is a dead cause/belief due to the fact that what we know about the "table" is something very different than what we thought we knew about the table. Thankfully science seems to be moving in the direction of mystery and that there is more than we do not know about life than we do know. So, I don't think it is correct to dovetail the idea of Metaphysics with the idea of Atheism, because the atheist want the cold hard evidence: that the table is hard, solid, has legs, where fruit can be placed; all that is very well, but it isn't dealing with the metaphysical speculation about the underlying causes and nature of X - which is metaphysics.
hughsmith23
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Posted Feb 8, 2013 - 1:00 PM:

chazwyman wrote:
True, all animals are atheistic. What's the problem? Having no god - is not a proposition - it is a lack of one. To make atheism into a proposition is to validate the very thing you deny. Chris Hitchens used to tell a story about crossing the North/South Ireland border, being stopped by paramilitaries. "Are you Protestant or Catholic?" "Neither, I'm an Atheist." "Are you a Catholic Atheist, or a Protestant Atheist?" If you want to insist that atheist have to have some sort of creed, belief, faith based assumption - then do not be surprised when they tell you to get lost. I do not need to argue against Santa Claus, so why do ~I need to argue against god? In a way, and where I to be kind, I might allow that Theism is metaphysical, though I think that would validate what is little more than a fantasy. I'm not sure you would call Gandalf metaphysical, I think you would call it a fantasy. This being the case I do not think a person who rejects a belief in Gandalf is a metaphysical proposition, so why atheism.


Its not valid to say all animals are atheistic unless you are willing to say all plants are atheist, and then, all objects are atheist. Is mud atheist?

To take a more historical perspective; it is because religion is so widespread, or at least, was so widespread, for so much of human history that disagreement takes an oppositional form; atheists say 'I do not believe in god', they don't say, 'what is god? I don't know what that is so I don't know whether or not I believe in it' (that would be the negative, absence of 'creed belief' you are describing)

I disagree with the idea that having no god is not a proposition; in the Hitchens quote he says 'I'm an Atheist' - this is a positive claim, not simply a negation.

That is why they are different from animals; if a dog could speak, and you asked him if he believed in god, he would not say 'no', he would say 'what is a god?' - how could he say no without knowing what you were referring to? And by knowing what the reference is, atheism is metaphysical, because the reference is.

I admit I am not very clear about defining the metaphysical; for the sake of argument can we agree at least that 'god' is a metaphysical concept.
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Posted Feb 8, 2013 - 1:04 PM:

I would guess that atheism, by making an unverifiable negative claim, is a metaphysical statement. Agnosticism, on the other hand, is non-metaphysical scepticism because it withholds judgement.

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