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Austin Cline

Agnosticism Basics: Strong Agnosticism vs. Weak Agnosticism

By February 10, 2013

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Agnosticism may simply be the state of not knowing whether any gods exist or not, but people can take this position for different reasons and apply it in different ways. These differences then create variations in the ways in which one can be an agnostic. It is thus possible to separate agnostics in two groups, labeled strong agnosticism and weak agnosticism as analogs to strong atheism and weak atheism.

 

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Comments
October 31, 2007 at 7:21 pm
(1) Ron says:

AUSTIN!
Just when I thought it was clear to me what I am, you had to go and stir up the sediment!

November 1, 2007 at 5:43 pm
(2) tracieh says:

Pantheists are always a good group to keep in mind. I have actually seen their god. I just call it “universe” rather than god. But it certainly exists.

It’s always a good idea to get people to explain what they’re talking about when they say god. What manifestation are we examining?

If there’s not a manifestation to examine, then whatever we’re talking about is not any different than “nothing.”

This generally leads to: If you believe–you’ll get your manifestation, which creates an interesting Catch-22 for the atheist and also implies that one can just “believe” in things that aren’t supported by evidence or logic. In other words, if I wanted to, I could just “believe” fairies exist. I in no way subscribe to this. I can _pretend_ fairies exist. But pretending and believing aren’t the same.

November 1, 2007 at 8:25 pm
(3) David says:

Tracie, yeah that Catch-22 has gotten real old for me. It’s like a dirty cop interrogating an innocent man and trying to coerce a confession: “If you just admit that you did it, the details will come back to you.”

November 1, 2007 at 10:01 pm
(4) Marc L. says:

Agnostics claim that Atheism is unjustified because we can’t know for sure whether gods exist, but then the Agnostic turns around and makes the assumption that he knows for sure – somehow – that one can’t know for sure whether gods exist. It seems to me that Agnostics should apply Agnosticism to Agnosticism itself: since one can’t know for sure that there exists no means allowing one to know whether gods exist, one should refrain from assuming that such a means does not exist and therefore one should reject Agnosticism.

November 2, 2007 at 9:53 am
(5) MaxB says:

> Agnostics claim that Atheism is unjustified because we canít know for sure whether gods exist

Agnosticism is about knowledge, atheism is about belief – one does not exclude the other.

In other words, agnostics (in general) can’t claim that atheism is unjustified unless they are theists because agnostic can be either a theist or an atheist – there is no middle ground – either you “have” a personal god, or you haven’t.

Also, no one *really* knows whether any god exists, ergo all people are agnostics, just some of them believe that they “know” or can know (usually theists). I know this comment probably isn’t valid, but maybe you understand where I was going with this.

November 2, 2007 at 5:40 pm
(6) tracieh says:

MaxB: I wouldn’t call the comment invalid, but I would say that “knowlege” is a word that is flexible. It’s very important when talking to people to pin down what constitutes “knowledge” in Discussion-X.

Most people will interchange “pretty sure” for “know” in conversation–and it’s totally acceptable. If my husband says he went for breakfast at I-Hop, and someone asks, “Do you know where your husband had breakfast this morning?” I’ll likely say, “Yeah–I-Hop.” And unless they say, “Actually, I saw him coming out of Denny’s,” We’ll both accept that we “know” where my husband had breakfast.

Likewise, I’m about to leave work. If someone asked me if my brakes are working OK on my car, I’d say, “yes”–but I haven’t driven it since this morning–so I’m assuming nothing has gone wrong with my car.

For the most part things that can be taken for grated as having a high probability of being an accurate reflection of objectively verifiable existent reality are said to be “knowledge.”

Even at this forum, I’ve seen germ theory discussed. It is often used (and I’ve used it myself) as an example of a “theory” that is taken as “knowledge.” I once read an interesting quote once, however. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it was attributed to the researcher who came up with germ theory. It said something like (paraphrasing): “If I had it to do over again, I’d state it more like this: that it is not transmitted pathogens that cause illness, but the status of the immune systems of the organisms that encounter those pathogens.” The point being that some organisms get sick when exposed to X-pathogen, while other organisms don’t. So, the organism has more impact than the pathogen in most situations.

What this illustrates is that even a solid grasp of a great theory and an excellent real-world working model–something we take as “fact”–might not be fact. But we don’t know it until it’s exposed as being potentially problematic. So, we think we “know” it–but we may not.

But we can’t move forward in life unless we go on certain assumptions–and the better and more accurate our assumptions, the more successful our choices will be–in most cases. So at some point–even if there is no such thing as “knowledge” (and I’m not saying there is or isn’t, but that even IF that were the case…) we have to ACT as though some things are trustworthy. But what things should be trusted and what things should not? Where do my assumptions cross a line into gullibility? And where are they reasonable?

I may well be a “brain in a jar”–but I still don’t like the sensation I get from someone punching my head–even if my head is a false perception. So, even if I am a brain in a jar–I’m left with wanting to avoid the “imaginary” blow to my “imaginary” head. So, I operate in this as my reality–and whether it is or not is of no real consequence because it’s only speculative. Yes, I might be a brain in a jar–but is there any reason I should think that’s a reasonable assumption to be making? I have no way to falsify or test that claim–so it’s really a useless claim. Something that can’t be verified is no better than nothing.

And a thousand tangents from there that I don’t have time or desire to go into, as I’m already so far derailed off the topic, I can’t imagine I’m not boring everyone to death…

Say “Good-bye,” Gracie. ;-)

November 9, 2007 at 5:14 pm
(7) John Hanks says:

I’m fairly sure that God comes from a gland.

November 13, 2007 at 10:13 am
(8) DamnRight says:

tracieh, you have never managed to bore me… I sometimes wonder if you are even capable of being boring :)

February 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm
(9) Cousin Ricky says:

Richard Dawkins has coined two phrases analogous to weak and strong agnosticism, respectively: temporary agnosticism in practice, and permanent agnosticism in principle. Check the acronym of the latter phrase to see what he thinks of it.

February 11, 2013 at 1:01 am
(10) Cande says:

Welhave you seen the demons???? You must have…because u dont have god…good luck with that…

February 11, 2013 at 7:59 pm
(11) Austin Cline says:

Welhave you seen the demons???? You must have because u dont have god

Sorry, no.

No gods and no demons. They are all just figments of people’s imaginations.

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