Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Daily Quiz Jan21

Baggini ch1-2
Bring your written answers to class, we'll swap and grade them. 
You get a run just for taking the quiz, and if you ace it with six correct answers you'll get another. There's no penalty for missed questions, you've got nothing to lose. The three exams (at the end of February, March, & April) will be drawn from the quizzes, so these questions are part of your growing study guide.
Supplement my quiz questions with your own, in the "comments" section below, and earn a run.
Your correct answers to others' supplemental quiz questions count.
You can also earn additional runs, up to five per class, by posting relevant comments, questions for discussion, links to articles and videos etc.
Note in your dated personal log if you took the quiz, who graded it, if you aced it, if you posted any comments, questions, or links, or did anything else you think entitles you to a run.

1. How do critics who conflate physicalism with eliminative materialism mis-portray atheists?

2. Why isn't atheism parasitic on religion?

3. Does Baggini agree that absence of evidence is never evidence of absence?

4. What did David Hume point out about our tendencies of belief?

5. Give an example of an abductive argument supporting atheism.

6. Why isn't atheism a faith position?

Discussion Questions

  • Were you raised by "Bible thumpers," indoctrinated mildly or rigorously, given compelling reasons to believe the claims of a particular faith tradition, etc.? How do you compare your religious experience with Baggini's?
  • Do you have any "dark preconceptions" about atheists or theists that you're willing to put aside, in our class? Are you willing to try the Rawlsian "Veil of Ignorance" thought experiment, and pretend you don't yet know if you're a theist or an atheist? Are you willing to follow Spinoza's example in trying to understand other points of view rather than dismiss or ridicule them?
  • What's your view of eliminative materialism? Can something be real but not strictly physical or "stuff"-like - love, for ex.?
  • Are you annoyed by "Honk if you love Jesus" stickers?
  • Can you give an example of evidence for naturalism that is NOT at the same time evidence for atheism?
  • Are people at funerals who say "he/she is in a better place" being gullible? What better word(s) would you suggest?
  • Do you agree that Plato (for ex.) is guilty of perpetuating a "collective myth" about knowledge and certainty? (24)
  • Do you agree that to explain something is inherently to naturalize it?
  • Comment: "Belief in life after death is contrary to the wealth of evidence we have that people are mortal animals." (32)
  • Comment: "Our fear of hell should be pretty small." (34)
  • If you're not 100% certain that atheism is true, should you be an agnostic?

Monday, January 18, 2016


Let's introduce ourselves, Spring 2016 Atheism & Philosophy collaborators.

I invite you all to hit "comment" and reply by posting your own introductions telling us who you are and why you're here, and to ruminate as well in response to any or all of these questions:
  • Do you subscribe to belief in an "afterlife"? 
  • What does that mean, to you? 
  • Do you think people who believe in the possibility of continued personal existence after physical death are happier, kinder, or likely to lead more "meaningful" lives than those who reject or suspend such belief?
[These are questions we posed last time this course was offered, two years ago: What problems of "meaning" do you and your fellow humans encounter? Do you think they're harder problems for atheists, humanists, secularists and other god-deniers? Do atheists (etc.) miss out on something valuable? (As Steve Martin and his bluegrass band sing, "Atheists Ain't Got No Hymns"...) Is "reality" an objective phenomenon? What is "religious experience"? What is "scientific experience"? Are either, or both, legitimate and respectable instances of human experience? Can an atheist live a good life AND die a good death?]

Our first class meeting will consist mainly of introductions. We'll not spend much time going over the syllabus or talking course mechanics, there's plenty of time for that later. But do peruse the site and syllabus (linked in the right margin) and let me know what's unclear.

I'm Dr. Oliver. I live in Nashville with my wife, younger daughter, dog (Angel), and cat (Zeus). Older Daughter is a film student in another state.

My office is in James Union Building 300. Office hours are TTh 11:15-12:45 & by appointment.

I've been at MTSU since the early '00s, teaching philosophy courses on diverse subjects including atheism, childhood, happiness, the environment, the future, and bioethics.

My Ph.D. is from Vanderbilt. I'm originally from Missouri, near St. Louis. I was indoctrinated as a Cardinals fan in early childhood, so I do understand the nature of religious zeal. My undergrad degree is from Mizzou, in Columbia MO. (I wish my schools weren't in the SEC-I don't approve of major collegiate sports culture or of violence in football, but don't get me started.)

My philosophical expertise, such as it is, centers on the American philosophical tradition of William James. Last year a student asked me to respond to a questionnaire. I did, and have continued to reflect on its excellent questions. "It was an honor..."

I post my thoughts regularly to my blogs Up@dawn and Delight Springs, among others, and toTwitter. I'll also continue experimenting with podcasting as a course tool this semester. Follow me if you want to. But of course, as Brian Cohen said, you don't have to follow anyone. (Extra credit if you get that reference... and real extra credit if you realize that my "extra credit" is usually rhetorical.)

Enough about me. Who are you? (Where are you from, where have you been, what do you like, who do you want to become,...?) Why are you here? (On Earth, in Tennessee, at MTSU, in philosophy class)? What intrinsic or voluntary meaning does your existence entail or imply? What are your thoughts on the other questions posed at the beginning of this post?

Hit "comments" below and post your introduction, then read your classmates'... and bear in mind that this is an open site. The world can read it. (The world's probably busy with other stuff, of course.)