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Ch. 8 - Belief in Belief 
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Post Ch. 8 - Belief in Belief
Ch. 8 - Belief in Belief


Use this thread for discussing Chapter 8...or don't. ::204




Tue Jun 27, 2006 12:45 am
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Post Re: Ch. 8 - Belief in Belief
Okay, so I've burned through the last three chapters of the book, and here are my notes. I apologize for posting them all in one lump.

Eight. Belief in Belief
In this chapter, Dennett shifts more explicitly to the agenda of limiting and, to some degree, denying religion. His point of view is now atheist in the classical sense of "against God". He abandons, however briefly, the conjectural neutrality he established in the early chapters, and he hasn't really provided any justification for doing so.

1. You better believe it
As I read it, the major theme of this section -- and a continuing theme throughout the book -- is that many religionists don't believe the central claims of their religion at all, but rather believe that there is some concrete benefit to belief, and therefore profess belief, regardless of how they genuinely think or feel about those claims. And that is likely true in individual cases, but I'm not sure there's any practical benefit to treating religious belief accordingly. The way that Dennett accepts this assumption is somewhat facile, and he applies it to the determination of policy as though it were certain that those who believe in belief were more numerous or significant than those who genuinely believe in doctrine. This figures heavily in Part III of the book, where the two major justifications for religion addressed by Dennett are both justifications of belief in belief. But in addressing those to the exclusion of other justifications, Dennett fails to address the position of those who belief in doctrine, not in the efficacy of belief. But now I'm getting ahead of myself...

2 God as intentional object
Dennett's shift away from scientific neutrality becomes increasingly clear in this chapter. Don't take my word for it, though. Go through this section yourself and count up the number of times that Dennett compares God to some figure from fiction or contrived for the amusement of children. It's a consistent feature of the section; it's also a rhetorical style, employed to emphasize what Dennett considers to be the absurd features of doctrine or belief in doctrine. It's most effective as a way of closing off rational discussion, and it has almost no place in a presumably scientific consideration of any phenomenon, so it's a bit baffling that Dennett would think it appropriate here. It's worth comparing his treatment of religion in this section to the way he deals in ch. 9



Thu Aug 31, 2006 2:59 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 8 - Belief in Belief
No need to apologize for lumping them all together. I'm still on Ch. 2 so expect some posts from me soon. ::04




Thu Aug 31, 2006 3:07 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 8 - Belief in Belief
This chapter contained a lot of interesting ideas, though there were parts I disagreed with. Here are some random comments.

The first section had a more psychological emphasis, which is fine but was an unexpected shift from the evolutionary perspective of the previous chapter.

As the start of the god as intentional object section, Dennett dismisses the anthropomorphic view of God far too quickly, since in practice many religious people conceive of their god or gods with human-like qualities. The intentional object approach seemed worthwhile, but it begged the question of what's really going on.

The subsequent comparison of physics and religious ideas seemed kind of circular. Dennett never justifies his belief (which I share) that physicists have a better grasp on the underlying reality than religious leaders.

This observation of Dennett's was striking, but I wonder how accurate it is:
...the transition from folk religion to organized religion is marked by a shift in beliefs from those with very clear, concrete consequences to those with systematically elusive consequences.
I didn't get the point of the Druze and Kim Philby tangents.

The Does God exist? concluding section seemed a like a cop-out, since Dennett states his conclusions without providing an explicit argument. Countering Anselm's Ontological Argument and the Cosmological Argument doesn't, by itself, prove atheism.




Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:07 pm
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