Perception of Atheists

Dec 2009
19,933
"Fallacious straw man" is a little strong. I have no objection to the point that Gnostic and Agnostic are not antonyms, but it remains a fact that the word "gnostic" has a broader range of meanings than the very restrictive definition you gave in post 238. It's always good to make sure you're being precise about technical terminology when criticising others for being imprecise in their use of technical terminology, I find.
I happen to be perfectly sure that fallacious straw man is a categorical qualification without degrees, perfectly exact in the present case, certainly including my still exact post #238.
 

Clodius

Ad Honorem
Jun 2011
2,701
I happen to be perfectly sure that fallacious straw man is a categorical qualification without degrees, perfectly exact in the present case, certainly including my still exact post #238.
Well, post 238 could be nuanced and rendered more exact by a broader definition of "gnostic".
 
Oct 2012
802
Bristol, England
It's fairly easy to provide sources that state gnosis means 'knowledge' and that agnosticism means 'without knowledge'. It's less easy to find sources that confirm that agnostic doesn't mean 'not a Gnostic' in the same way as it is difficult to prove that cat does not mean caterpillar. But to tell the truth, I'm tired and I''ve rather lost the thread of what we're arguing about!
 

Sicknero

Ad Honorem
May 2012
4,407
Here to Eternity
Just according to your personal interpretation on the personal opinion of Freethinker.

As long as anyone here could make any more a twister tongue from the religious jargon here and would like to overlap oranges with apples with bananas too.

BTW, can't help but note that no references have been presented here to support such purported "strcit definitions"; i.e. they are still just fallacious bare assertions, both from you and from Freethinker.

In fact, I would love to see Freethinlker's definition of "Gnostic" in any regular encyclopedia or dictionary.

As elemenemtary English dicitonaries go, here's the contribution from Merriam-Webster:

Here are the definitions of the same term in several other dictionaries; Gnostic - definition of Gnostic by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.nowhere can the nice Freetinker's personal definition be found.

And fo course, "Atheism" and "Theism" do not cover all possible alternatives., because there are non-theistic religions URL="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontheistic_religions"]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontheistic_religions[/URL] which are of course neither theistic nor atheistic.

That said, please just of course use all these terms any way you like; then, pray God (any God) that they may be understood the way you may like by whoever might read them :) :) :cool:
I won't be baited by your accusation of interpreting sources to suit my own point of view or your attempt at emotive debate (e.g. ".. nice Freethinker.. ")

I posted the Freethinker link as it contains a diagram of the 2-axis concept of Theist-Atheist and Gnostic-Agnostic, not because of any comments that were added to it. Try this one - Atheist or Agnostic? I'm Both | Atheist Revolution - it contains a minimum of discussion, just the relevant diagram.

Your Mirriam-Webster link defines only the noun 'gnostic' which of course applies to its use re- the heresy. Following your own link to the Free Online Dictionary gives us the adjective - "1. gnostic; Of, relating to, or possessing intellectual or spiritual knowledge." The prefix "a-" means absence of, as in asexual and amoral, thus agnostic (as coined by Huxley) gives us absence of intellectual or spiritual knowledge.

Or - Gnostic | Define Gnostic at Dictionary.com - "pertaining to knowledge", "possessing knowledge, especially esoteric knowledge of spiritual matters."

The Theist-Atheist axis describes a belief, a world view. (As you say, this does not cover all circumstances but this thread is about atheism so that's what I'm discussing.) At one extreme is the theist who believes in one or more gods. At the other end is the atheist who believes that there are no gods. A person can also place their personal beliefs at any point along this axis - for instance I could be close to the theist pole and believe that there is probably a god. Or close to the atheist pole and believe that there is probably not a god. Or in the middle where I think "Maybe, maybe not. I'm undecided." Which is not the same as agnosticism.

The Gnostic-Agnostic axis descibes the person's attitude to knowledge and certainty. At the gnostic pole, I believe that it is possible to know/prove that God or gods exist. Or, that it is possible to know/prove the non-existence of same. At the agnostic pole, I believe that it's impossible to prove or disprove the existence or non-existence of God or gods.

So with a little thought it's easy to see how these axes are not mutually exclusive and that a person can situate their own world view anywhere between the four poles. For instance as an agnostic atheist I don't believe in God or gods, but neither do I believe that I can ever know this for sure, I can never prove the non-existence. Or I might be a gnostic atheist and say that I don't believe in God(s) and that I believe that it can be known with certainty. An agnostic theist would believe in god(s) but also know that their belief cannot be proven or disproven. And so on.

The independence of the gnostic-agnostic axis from theist-atheist can easily be appreciated by the fact that it can be applied to any area of thought that requires belief. Reincarnation for instance. Parallel Universes. Magic. The Tooth Fairy.

I certainly deny your implication that I use all these terms in any way that I like to support an argument - these usages are well established in philosophical and religious debate.

Gnosticism*[Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

Agnosticism

Dictionary of Philosophy

Philosophical Dictionary: Ghazali-Godwin

To add further dimensions we can also talk about strong atheism, strong agnosticism etc, but this will do for now as I see the debate has moved on since I started typing.

Gnosis means knowledge. Agnostic means 'without knowledge', it doesn't mean 'not a Gnostic'.
Yes you're quite right that semantically agnostic is not the opposite of gnostic, or atheist the opposite of theist. My meaning was that for the puroses of this illustration, they exist at opposite poles of an axis.
 
Dec 2009
19,933
I won't be baited by your accusation of interpreting sources to suit my own point of view or your attempt at emotive debate (e.g. ".. nice Freethinker.. ")

I posted the Freethinker link as it contains a diagram of the 2-axis concept of Theist-Atheist and Gnostic-Agnostic, not because of any comments that were added to it. Try this one - Atheist or Agnostic? I'm Both | Atheist Revolution - it contains a minimum of discussion, just the relevant diagram.

Your Mirriam-Webster link defines only the noun 'gnostic' which of course applies to its use re- the heresy. Following your own link to the Free Online Dictionary gives us the adjective - "1. gnostic; Of, relating to, or possessing intellectual or spiritual knowledge." The prefix "a-" means absence of, as in asexual and amoral, thus agnostic (as coined by Huxley) gives us absence of intellectual or spiritual knowledge.

Or - Gnostic | Define Gnostic at Dictionary.com - "pertaining to knowledge", "possessing knowledge, especially esoteric knowledge of spiritual matters."

The Theist-Atheist axis describes a belief, a world view. (As you say, this does not cover all circumstances but this thread is about atheism so that's what I'm discussing.) At one extreme is the theist who believes in one or more gods. At the other end is the atheist who believes that there are no gods. A person can also place their personal beliefs at any point along this axis - for instance I could be close to the theist pole and believe that there is probably a god. Or close to the atheist pole and believe that there is probably not a god. Or in the middle where I think "Maybe, maybe not. I'm undecided." Which is not the same as agnosticism.

The Gnostic-Agnostic axis descibes the person's attitude to knowledge and certainty. At the gnostic pole, I believe that it is possible to know/prove that God or gods exist. Or, that it is possible to know/prove the non-existence of same. At the agnostic pole, I believe that it's impossible to prove or disprove the existence or non-existence of God or gods.

So with a little thought it's easy to see how these axes are not mutually exclusive and that a person can situate their own world view anywhere between the four poles. For instance as an agnostic atheist I don't believe in God or gods, but neither do I believe that I can ever know this for sure, I can never prove the non-existence. Or I might be a gnostic atheist and say that I don't believe in God(s) and that I believe that it can be known with certainty. An agnostic theist would believe in god(s) but also know that their belief cannot be proven or disproven. And so on.

The independence of the gnostic-agnostic axis from theist-atheist can easily be appreciated by the fact that it can be applied to any area of thought that requires belief. Reincarnation for instance. Parallel Universes. Magic. The Tooth Fairy.

I certainly deny your implication that I use all these terms in any way that I like to support an argument - these usages are well established in philosophical and religious debate.

Gnosticism*[Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

Agnosticism

Dictionary of Philosophy

Philosophical Dictionary: Ghazali-Godwin

To add further dimensions we can also talk about strong atheism, strong agnosticism etc, but this will do for now as I see the debate has moved on since I started typing.



Yes you're quite right that semantically agnostic is not the opposite of gnostic, or atheist the opposite of theist. My meaning was that for the puroses of this illustration, they exist at opposite poles of an axis.
It's easy to understand what Freethinker wanted to mean; it's a nice model but sadly the word "gnostic" is already used with other meanings; needless to say, there's nothing anyone of us could do about it.

Now, if instead of his personal unlinguistic use of the term "gnosis" you may simply use the perfectly valid term "non-gnostic" (i.e. either theist or atheist) the opposition is perfectly valid :) :) :cool:

Even so, I tend to disagree with your aforementioned interpretation of Freethinker's diagram, because IMHO he was trying to make this already confuse issue clearer, not even more confusing.

IMHO the idea of his diagram is a continuum of a whole spectrum of degrees between poles, not the inevitably confusing and hardly ever helping overlapping of such poles.

All that said, again if you may truly like regular uninitiated mortals to understand this theological jargon, IMHO it seems far better to simply call apples the apples, oranges the oranges and bananas the bananas.

As so eloquently shown by the last posts of this thread, any bizarre overlap of "agnostic atheism" and "atheistic agnosticism" could only result in useless unnecessary gratuitous confusion :) :) :cool:
 

Sicknero

Ad Honorem
May 2012
4,407
Here to Eternity
Sylla it is not "Freethinker's diagram", as I hoped to demonstrate by providing an alternative link for you. It's a very commonly used illustration that you will find almost anywhere that you find this debate.

And this concept of two axes is not new either, indeed it's well over a hundred years old and followed almost immediately Huxley's coining of the word 'agnostic'.

As I've said above, this use of the word gnostic (as an adjective) is also valid in this context as the opposite pole to agnostic. It is not a 'personal unlinguistic use', it's one that's been accepted as valid usage for many decades by many thinkers and writers on this topic.

I don't see what's so complicated or confusing about a diagram that has two axes and four poles. Would a compass be less confusing if we took away East and West and only had North and South? Possibly, but then we would lose two valuable reference points.

Neither are these terms "theological jargon". Philosophical jargon perhaps, but hardly complicated or difficult to follow.

What you call "bizarre overlap", I call a very useful extra dimension which allows us to understand a person's view on the existence or non-existence of god(s) in more than one dimension. You might find this to be an "unnecessary gratuitous confusion" but thinkers and writers for the last century have not.

Agnosticism is not a point somewhere in between theism and atheism, but a point in a separate dimension which describes a person's view of the theism/atheism issue, as well as their views on many other subjects.
 
Dec 2009
19,933
Sylla it is not "Freethinker's diagram", as I hoped to demonstrate by providing an alternative link for you. It's a very commonly used illustration that you will find almost anywhere that you find this debate.

And this concept of two axes is not new either, indeed it's well over a hundred years old and followed almost immediately Huxley's coining of the word 'agnostic'.

As I've said above, this use of the word gnostic (as an adjective) is also valid in this context as the opposite pole to agnostic. It is not a 'personal unlinguistic use', it's one that's been accepted as valid usage for many decades by many thinkers and writers on this topic.

I don't see what's so complicated or confusing about a diagram that has two axes and four poles. Would a compass be less confusing if we took away East and West and only had North and South? Possibly, but then we would lose two valuable reference points.

Neither are these terms "theological jargon". Philosophical jargon perhaps, but hardly complicated or difficult to follow.

What you call "bizarre overlap", I call a very useful extra dimension which allows us to understand a person's view on the existence or non-existence of god(s) in more than one dimension. You might find this to be an "unnecessary gratuitous confusion" but thinkers and writers for the last century have not.

Agnosticism is not a point somewhere in between theism and atheism, but a point in a separate dimension which describes a person's view of the theism/atheism issue, as well as their views on many other subjects.
Again, as anyone could easily verify, irrespectively on how may you understand whatever Freethinker may have liked to say, as long as one wouldn't like to use just any purely private cryptic language (irrespectively if the etymology of any personal neologism may seem to make any sense) in the daily language of the real world the opposite of "Agnostic" is simply the perfectly valid "non-Gnostic", naturally meaning those people who have no doubts about the existence (or lack of it) of any deity, either Theists or Atheists.

So even in that point Freethinker's diagram is simply misleading; if one pole should be "Agnostics", the other pole must be "Theists plus Atheists".

As anyone could easily verify, that's the way it is (easy as that)and there is nothing anyone of us could do to unilaterally modify the language even if someone of us would like to.

All that is just if you expect anyone else to understand what you are writing, of course; otherwise there's no reason why any of us wouldn't use the language at the own pleasure.
 

Sicknero

Ad Honorem
May 2012
4,407
Here to Eternity
The opposite of agnostic is ... non-gnostic?? I think we need some sleep Sylla :D

I've already said that the Freethinker link was to show a diagram which I've also said can be seen in plenty of other places. I don't know why you think that continuously harping on any comments that particular page might contain invalidates the points that I'm putting forward here.

If you want to use "non-agnostic" in place of "gnostic" (which I'm guessing is what you meant in your first paragraph) then that's fine with me. It doesn't invalidate the view of that axis as being separate from Theist-Atheist. What it does invalidate is your high-ground on the usage of these terms, as the usage that I've put forward here is one that's been accepted for many decades now.

Your suggestion that theists and atheists should both be placed on the opposite pole to agnosticism just misses the point completely. Your conception is one-dimensional and allows no subtlety for, for example, a person who believes in God but also believes that God is ultimately unprovable compared to a believer who thinks that God can be proved. Simpler maybe, but one-dimensional and allows no space for the nuances and complexities of human nature and variety of thought.

"As anyone could easily verify..." Who? When? I challenge you to find people who a) understand what you are trying to say, and b) agree with you.

"... expect anyone else to understand ..." Well, I'll let the readers of this thread be the judge of that. I don't think we're discussing anything particularly complicated here, and I think I have outlined the points fairly clearly.

No doubt there's plenty more to say on the subject, but it's 5am here so I'm off to bed but I'll happily pick up this enjoyable topic next time.
 
Dec 2009
19,933
The opposite of agnostic is ... non-gnostic?? I think we need some sleep Sylla :D

I've already said that the Freethinker link was to show a diagram which I've also said can be seen in plenty of other places. I don't know why you think that continuously harping on any comments that particular page might contain invalidates the points that I'm putting forward here.

If you want to use "non-agnostic" in place of "gnostic" (which I'm guessing is what you meant in your first paragraph) then that's fine with me. It doesn't invalidate the view of that axis as being separate from Theist-Atheist. What it does invalidate is your high-ground on the usage of these terms, as the usage that I've put forward here is one that's been accepted for many decades now.

Your suggestion that theists and atheists should both be placed on the opposite pole to agnosticism just misses the point completely. Your conception is one-dimensional and allows no subtlety for, for example, a person who believes in God but also believes that God is ultimately unprovable compared to a believer who thinks that God can be proved. Simpler maybe, but one-dimensional and allows no space for the nuances and complexities of human nature and variety of thought.

"As anyone could easily verify..." Who? When? I challenge you to find people who a) understand what you are trying to say, and b) agree with you.

"... expect anyone else to understand ..." Well, I'll let the readers of this thread be the judge of that. I don't think we're discussing anything particularly complicated here, and I think I have outlined the points fairly clearly.

No doubt there's plenty more to say on the subject, but it's 5am here so I'm off to bed but I'll happily pick up this enjoyable topic next time.
If some sleep is required to understand such an elementary concept, be my guest.

I seriously doubt there's too much else to say on the issue, as the same arguments have been repeated again & again.

Not that the semantic issue itself would be particularly relevant either; the Rose by another name...

"Gnostic" is used for what it means, not for what you (or me, for that matter) would prefer it to mean; just check out any dictionary... the same as any of your eventual readers would do to decipher your texts, BTW.

English is English; if you would like to try here or elsewhere your own personal language, that's your choice, and at your own risk.

Happy dreams :) :) :cool:
 
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