Epistemic momentum

Bruce Charlton writes:

“The root reason why modern atheists are incredulous about Christianity is that they (and my former self) deny the *possibility* of the soul, the supernatural, God/ gods, revelation, miracles, prophecies etc.”

This is basically correct. Yet. It’s more that they have a project. That project is advancing. The project’s core metaphysical assumptions don’t include the soul (and so on). As long as the project advances, so they think, any problems with explanation don’t matter so much in the short term. “It will be sorted out later.” Or, “that’s a pseudo-problem now that we’ve gotten better concepts.” Or, they might believe that they have solved various problems (when they probably haven’t).

Take the soul. We have explained parts of the mind in materialistic terms. So, the thinking goes, we will go on to explain all about the mind and, by analog, the soul, in materialistic terms. There are various problems (the most obvious is probably the ‘hard’ problem of consciousness), but the point is: the unease these unresolved or “perhaps-problems” cause is reduced as long as the project is advancing.

It is like an economy – as long as it is growing, various concerns about the structure of the polity, damage to culture, and so on, move to the back-burner.

2 thoughts on “Epistemic momentum

  1. Bruce Charlton

    There is much in what you say. Essentially this is a matter of distraction.

    Presumably, though, it is also important (in some way or ways) that there is no soul, supernatural, afterlife, God etc.

    And presumably this has to do with the hedonic imperative: life as pusuit of positive feelings, elimination of suffering etc. Religious factors get in the way.

    I do find it remarkable (not least from introspection and memory) that the modern mind assumes with such supreme conviction that these religious convictions are disproved and/ or obviously unneccessary and/ or laughably absurd/ embarrassingly childish.

  2. Pingback: Kreeft, angels, and what’s unscientific | Anthony Burgoyne

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