Sunday, December 12, 2004

Update: Antony Flew: "I'm Still an Atheist"

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Blogger Hill Dweller said...

This doesn't seem to contradict

Rather, the posted "rebuttal" seems to be from a time before that referenced in this news item. Rather amusing, the apparent discord in Orthodox Atheismland. How _dare_ Flew stray from orthodoxy!!!

Hill Dweller

December 13, 2004 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Peter Wizenberg said...

The article, dated December 12, 2004, states, "It is still now his latest official position in this regard." I guess the question is what time exactly does "now" refer to, and did Flew most recently indicate this?

Somebody get Flew on the phone!

I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this. ;)

December 13, 2004 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Mike Gorman said...

This controversy does seem strangely personal. 'Rationalist International' seems as concerned as the religious side to put their preferred spin on whatever it is that Flew actually believes now.

As for characterizations of "orthodoxy", i suppose that depends upon the degree of 'positive' or 'negative' quality of the atheistic orientation under consideration. Flew, from his "Presumption of Atheism":

"The presumption of atheism which I want to discuss is not a form of presumptuousness. Indeed it might be regarded as an expression of the very opposite, a modest teachability. My presumption of atheism is closely analogous to the presumption of innocence in the English law; a comparison which I shall develop in Section 2. What I want to examine is the contention that the debate about the existence of God should properly begin from the presumption of atheism, that the onus of proof must lie upon the theist.

The word 'atheism', however, has in this contention to be construed unusually. Whereas nowadays the usual meaning of 'atheist' in English is 'someone who asserts that there is no such being as God', I want the word to be understood not positively but negatively. I want the originally Greek prefix 'a' to be read in the same way in 'atheist' as it customarily is read in such other Greco-English words as 'amoral', 'atypical', and 'asymmetrical'. In this interpretation an atheist becomes: not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God; but someone who is simply not a theist. Let us, for future ready reference, introduce the labels 'positive atheist' for the former and 'negative atheist' for the latter."

I suppose that there are some grounds for saying that his 1991 (and reaffirmed in 1993) "I'm still an atheist" essay remains still his latest "official position". However, he does not sound in his letters as though he would presently be prepared to reaffirm it so categorically, and we are unsure as to what his next "official position" will be in case he ever again settles upon one.

Although no doubt interesting, especially to those who are familiar with Flew's body of work, any further conclusions will almost no doubt be about as personally consequential (to my way of thinking) as the latest grandmaster analysis of some classical lines of chess. Wouldn't Anthony Flew agree?

December 16, 2004 at 9:40 PM  

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