Friday, August 20, 2010

The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion is written for a popular audience; it is explicitly not intended as a work of technical philosophy or to respond to the more abstruse versions theological bullshit. It's explicitly addressed to the billions of people who hold a very specific kind of notion about God and who use a particular set of apologetic arguments, arguments they have mostly received second-hand.

I can't read Dawkins' mind, but I suspect that — besides wanting to make some actual money — there are two reasons he chose to write a popular book. First, he wanted to talk to the sort of people who are not at all interested in works of technical philosophy. Second, I suspect that Dawkins realizes that professional philosophers are mostly complete idiots. Even the ones I more or less like — or for whom I at least don't have utter contempt — are genial buffoons.

With an infinitesimal minority of exceptions, professional academic philosophy is completely intellectually bankrupt. It is at best totally, utterly and completely useless, and I think the profession is actually holding back humanity's intellectual progress. It's simply a waste of a thinking person's time to take any philosopher seriously.


  1. I agree, and when a philosopher makes money at doing it, as in academia, there is no hope for them. Even a slight amount of affirmation makes them incorrigible. Question what they mean by "in and by itself" and you will get a response saying that you left off a few prepositions, none of which will ever be clearly defined. It is the art of bullshit and of convincing others that you know something they don't.

    People like Dawkins who describe things uncontaminated by philosophical jargon are subject to their utter scorn, yet he makes more sense than an entire convention of pro philosophers.

  2. I recall one interview with Dawkins where he said he asked Dennett whether there was something in philosophy that he was missing, and Dennett said, "No." As a philosopher at least Dennett has made an attempt to ground his ideas in other sciences as well, like comp sci and biology. His cross-disciplinarianism has at least made him tolerable to read.

  3. Dennett is the only academic philosopher I have any positive respect for, and I suspect that he's earned my respect despite, not because of, his background in philosophy.

  4. Irrelevant to your post but relevant to 'The God Delusion' subject matter; I always felt that the book was more adequate for tackling fundamentalism and anti-evolutionary agendas rather than religion as a whole.

    And why do you have such a negative perspective on philosophers? Is philosophy as a whole useless to humanity? Why?

  5. And why do you have such a negative perspective on philosophers?

    It's a long story, but that Plantinga and Gutting are respected professionals in their field is a big part of it.

  6. You can add David Chalmers to the list for someone who isn't (I think) a theist. His arguments about p-zombies and "The Hard Problem" immediately reminded me of apologetics when I first heard them (that is, they're only convincing if you already believe what he's arguing for---and since I don't, they sound like utter bullshit to me). Yet he is, by all accounts, quite prominent in philosophy of the mind.

    Needless to say, I wasn't that surprised when I head that he was going around giving lectures about some vague transhumanism stuff as well.

  7. Yeah, Chalmers doesn't exactly knock me out. He's collected some good philosophy jokes, though.

  8. I would regard Dawkins as a philosopher and initially thought the self reference of your article was ironic...

  9. Dawkins is a zoologist. I might call myself a philosopher, but I'm definitely not a professional philosopher.

  10. I appreciate what philosophers have contributed to reasoning and critical thinking, and contributions to the development scientific method - e.g. Popper's falsification.

    They seem to go wrong when they build their own 'philosophy', when suddenly all the wisdom they espouse is thrown out the window, they come to believe their own philosophy uncritically, defending it ruthlessly beyond all reason, while being brutally yet ineffectively uninterested in opposing arguments, or philosophies of their rivals.

    Other than that they're not a bad lot.


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