Tag Archives: Peter Van Inwagen

Roy Abraham Varghese: ANTONY FLEW, LOGICAL POSITIVISM, AND THE REBIRTH OF RATIONAL THEISM (Ricky Gervais video from office)

Discussion (3 of 3): Antony Flew, N.T. Wright, and Gary Habermas

David Brent on Guitar – Free Love Freeway – The Office – BBC

The Kalam Cosmological Argument (Scientific Evidence) (Henry Schaefer, PhD)

Published on Jun 11, 2012

Scientist Dr. Henry “Fritz” Schaefer gives a lecture on the cosmological argument and shows how contemporary science backs it up.

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FLEW, LOGICAL POSITIVISM, AND THE REBIRTH
OF RATIONAL THEISM
Here’s the paradox. By defending the legitimacy of discuss-
ing theological claims and challenging philosophers of
reli-gion to elucidate their assertions, Flew facilitated the
rebirth of rational theism in analytic philosophy after the dark days
of logical positivism. A little background information will
be of value here.
Logical positivism, as some might remember, was the
philosophy introduced by a European group called the
Vienna Circle in the early 1920s and popularized by A. J.
Ayer in the English-speaking world with his 1936 work Lan-
guage, Truth and Logic. According to the logical positivists,
the only meaningful statements were those capable of being
verified through sense experience or true simply by virtue
of their form and the meaning of the words used. Thus a
statement was meaningful if its truth or falsehood could
be verifi ed by empirical observation (e.g., scientifi c study).
The statements of logic and pure mathematics were tautol-
ogies; that is, they were true by definition and were simply
ways of using symbols that did not express any truth about
the world. There was nothing else that could be known
or coherently discussed. At the heart of logical positivism
was the verification principle, the claim that the meaning
of a proposition consists in its verification. The result was
that the only meaningful statements were those used in
science, logic, or mathematics. Statements in metaphysics,
religion, aesthetics, and ethics were literally meaningless,
because they could not be verified by empirical methods.
They were neither valid nor invalid. Ayer said that it was
just as absurd to be an atheist as to be a theist, since the
statement “God exists” simply has no meaning.
Today many introductory works of philosophy associ-
ate Flew’s approach in “Theology and Falsification” with
Ayer’s kind of logical positivist assault on religion, since
both question the meaningfulness of religious statements.
The problem with this picture is that it does not in any
way reflect Flew’s own understanding of the matter then or
now. In fact, far from buttressing the positivist view of reli-
gion, Flew considered his paper as a final nail in the coffin
of that particular way of doing philosophy.
In a 1990 presentation I organized on the fortieth anni-
versary of the publication of “Theology and Falsification,”
Flew stated:
As an undergraduate I had become increasingly
frustrated and exasperated by philosophical debates
which seemed always to revert to, and never to move
forward from, the logical positivism most brilliantly
expounded in . . .Language, Truth and Logic
. . . . The intention in both these papers [the versions of “The-
ology and Falsification” first presented at the Socrat-
ic Club and then published in University] was the
same. Instead of an arrogant announcement that
everything which any believer might choose to say is
to be ruled out of consideration a priori as allegedly
constituting a violation of the supposedly sacrosanct
verification principle—here curiously
maintained as a secular revelation—I preferred to offer a more
restrained challenge. Let the believers speak for
themselves, individually and severally.
The story is taken up in the present work, where Flew com-
ments again on the provenance of his celebrated paper:
During my last term at the University of Oxford, the
publication of A. J. Ayer’s book Language, Truth and
Logic had persuaded many members of the Socratic
Club that the Ayerian heresy of logical positivism—
the contention that all religious propositions are
without cognitive significance—had to be refuted.
The first and only paper I ever read to the Socratic
Club, “Theology and Falsification,” provided what I
then considered to be a sufficient refutation. I be-
lieved I had achieved a total victory and there was
no room for further debate.
As any history of philosophy will show, logical positiv-
ism did indeed come to grief by the 1950s because of its
internal inconsistencies. In fact, Sir Alfred Ayer himself,
in a contribution to an anthology I edited, stated: “Logi-
cal positivism died a long time ago. I don’t think much of
Language, Truth and Logic is true. I think it is full of mis-
takes. I think it was an important book in its time because
it had a kind of cathartic effect. . . .But when you get down
to detail, I think it’s full of mistakes which I spent the last
fifty years correcting or trying to correct.”1
At any rate, the departure of logical positivism and Flew’s
new rules of engagement gave a fresh impetus to philosophi-
cal theism. Numerous major works of theism in the analytic
tradition have since been written by Richard Swinburne,
Alvin Plantinga, Peter Geach, William P. Alston, George
Mavrodes, Norman Kretzmann, James F. Ross, Peter Van
Inwagen, Eleonore Stump, Brian Leftow, John Haldane,
and many others over the last three decades. Not a few of
these address issues such as the meaningfulness of asser-
tions about God, the logical coherence of the divine attri-
butes, and the question of whether belief in God is properly
basic—precisely the issues raised by Flew in the discussion
he sought to stimulate. The turn toward theism was high-
lighted in a Time magazine cover story in April 1980: “In a
quiet revolution in thought and argument that hardly any-
one would have foreseen only two decades ago, God is mak-
ing a comeback. Most intriguingly this is happening . . . in
the crisp intellectual circles of academic philosophers.”

Does God Exist?: William Lane Craig vs Antony Flew

Uploaded on Dec 16, 2010

http://drcraigvideos.blogspot.com – William Lane Craig and Antony Flew met in 1998 on the 50th anniversary of the famous Copleston/Russell debate to discuss the question of God’s existence in a public debate. Unlike Richard Dawkins, Flew was one of the most respected atheist thinkers of the 20th and early 21st century (his scholarly works on David Hume are still studied today, and his “presumption of atheism” argument is still used by atheists). He became a deist* shortly before he died in April, 2010 (although he was an atheist when he debated Craig). The debate was transcribed into a book: http://www.amazon.com/Does-God-Exist-…

* – Flew’s conversion has caused quite a scandal. Dr. Craig comments on it here: http://www.rfmedia.org/blog/index.php…

Antony Flew has comments on some of the controversies over his book and his conversion:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CViBlN…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcdsRe…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUmZQh…

We welcome your comments in the Reasonable Faith forums:
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/

Follow Reasonable Faith On Twitter: http://twitter.com/rfupdates

Add Reasonable Faith On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/reasonablefai…

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