Humanism is just so obviously right, come on!
So Mr. Grayling has a new book: The God Argument, a case against religion and for Humanism.
I haven’t read the book, and probably never will, but it seems to me, just as it ever seemed to philosophical ethicists the world over, that the humanist is committing a huge question-begging leap; namely: that humanism — or, per Grayling, “[the] philosophical starting point for reflection on how one should live, according to one’s own talents and interests and under the government of respecting others and not doing them harm, allowing them their own quest for an individual good life..” yada yada yada — has even a foundation on which to stand.
You’ll notice that Humanism, when coupled, as it always is — and as it is with Grayling — with naturalism (or the broader materialism), it comes in direct opposition to the is-ought gap (the gap between what ought and what is). Does Grayling think this gap bridgeable, one wonders.
Grayling says the root of humanism is “[t]he tradition of ethical thought stemming from classical antiquity“, and that it apparently “is a thousand years older than Christianity“.
A look at Wikipedia, which’s at least often right, describes humanism, at least to those who lived “a thousand years before Christianity“, thusly:
“[A]ttempt to explain the world in terms of human reason rather than myth and tradition.. [Q]uestioned the notion of anthropomorphic gods and Xenophanes refused to recognise the gods of his time..Other influential pre-Socratics or rational philosophers include Protagoras, known for his famous dictum “man is the measure of all things” [..]The historian Thucydides, noted for his scientific and rational approach to history, is also much admired by later humanists.. In the 3rd century BCE, Epicurus became known for his concise phrasing of the problem of evil, lack of belief in the afterlife, and human-centred approaches to achieving eudaimonia..”
In other words, basically, the modern gist of it is that Humanism teaches we should reject religion, live right, do zero harm to others as is necessary and value scientific rationality, because, well, come on[!], it’s just so obviously the right thing to do! Come on, Obviously Protogoras couldn’t have been wrong when he said “man is the measure of all things!“
It seems this ‘humanism’ of the new atheist cabal merely — and arbitrarily — posits human life as an objective end for reasons they glibly assert are just so obvious, with utter disregard for what their brand of atheism logically entails.
Why should I value your life? Well, because I’m a human! Well, why does that matter? Because humans are ends in themselves! Why are they ends in themselves? Because, obviously they are!
If you think I was merely being facetious in the hypothetical humanist-theist conversation above, you’re wrong. Here below was a real one with no other than Philosophical ethicist Louise Antony, who is, like Grayling, an atheist naturalist and secular humanist:
Louise: “The universe has no purpose, but I do… I have lots of purposes…. It makes a lot of difference to a lot of people and to me what I do. That gives my life significance… The only thing that would make it [sacrificing her own life] insignificant would be if my children’s lives were insignificant. And, boy you better not say that!”
William Craig: “But Louise, on atheism, their lives are insignificant.”
Louise: “Not to me! ..It’s an objective fact that they [her children] are significant to me.”
And it’s an objective fact that to me chocolate is better than vanilla, thus, to use Louis’s logic, chocolate is objectively better than vanilla, and anyone claiming otherwise is objectively wrong!
So, to Grayling and his friends, the universe has exactly zero purpose, nobody has inherent value or dignity, we are all just clumps of matter, albeit organized in a somewhat interesting way, and free-will is very much likely just a useful illusion — being, as we are, just clumps of matter. Yet, by some galactic leap of logic, by some ginormous suspension of disbelief, suddenly, it can actually follow from all that that humans are so valuable (somehow) that we must be, in Grayling’s words, “allowing them their own quest for an individual good life.” And, as if our credulity hasn’t been strained enough, it follows from all that that, according to Grayling, “one’s choices must not be aimed at harming others.”
Well, of course. We shouldn’t be harming meaningless clumps of matter; obviously we are objectively morally obligated to value these meaningless clumps of matter who have no free-will.
If A.C. Grayling and his buddies are right about reality, then all his happy-talk is grounded in absolutely nothing. It’s either he’s too satiated with this whole new-atheism business to realize it, or he’s really that dishonest.