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As a believer, I think that theism is more reasonable than atheism although I

As a believer, I think that theism is more reasonable than atheism although I think that atheists can have good reasons to believe that their worldview is true. Is this position rational? Put in another way, is it possible for me to claim that my worldview is the correct one while granting that the opposite worldview can be as reasonable as the one I hold to be true?

I hope you are right for I while I am a Christian philosopher (or a philosopher who is a Christian) I believe that many of my friends and colleagues who are atheists or agnostics or who accept Islam or a non-theistic view of God (as my Hindu philosopher colleague and friend) are just as reasonable as I am in the sense that each of them has intellectual integrity and has spent at least as much time intelligently reflecting on their convictions, earnestly seeking the truth in such matters. Still, I think each of us needs to hold that the reasons that justify our different beliefs are not defeated (undermined) by the reasons for incompatible beliefs. An atheist might be able to acknowledge that I am just as reasonable as she is, but she cannot (in my view) think that her reasoning is undermined by the evidence or reasoning that I undertake. Alternatively, consider a Christian-Muslim exchange (something I am deeply committed to). I accept a traditional Christian understanding of God incarnate on the basis of an historical argument and an argument from religious experience (I roughly following the reasoning of the Oxford based philosopher Richard Swinburne in his book on the incarnation). In doing so, I believe that I am committed to thinking that no one had decisive, irrefutable evidence against the incarnation that any reasonable person would or should accept. I can certainly recognize that my Muslim philosopher friend Mohammad is reasonable in only recognizing Jesus as a holy prophet (peace be upon him), but there is a limit here in terms of my not being able to accept that he knows (with certainty, based on irrefutable evidence) that Jesus was only a prophet.

Three other points are worth noting.

First, I believe that the above matter is not special to philosophy of religion, but it runs throughout metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, philosophy of law, philosophy of language, science, and so on. I have two colleagues that are Kantian and one that is Humean. They both cannot be right about the nature and normative status of ethical obligations, but as far as I can telly they are intellectual peers and regard each other as equally reasonable.

Second, it is partly because we do (in the practice of philosophy) believe that colleagues who disagree with us are equally reasonable that we are motivated to engage each other in debate and sustained arguments. Without that assumption / premise, the very landscape of philosophy would look more hostile (in my view) than it currently does.

Third, as a general point, I happen to think that the reasons why philosophers adopt the positions they do is highly complex and historically conditioned. My hypothesis is that philosophers form their views on different matters based on clusters of arguments, their view of certain concrete cases which they interpret differently in light of alternative theoretical commitments, the success or failure of thought experiments, their particular exposure to positions during their graduate education, and perhaps even psychological and sociological reasons. For example, one person might naturally rebel against the perceived status quo which is why he or she adopts a form of phenomenology in a department which is structuralist, whereas another person is an anti-realist about freedom in a philosophical libertarian culture. So, in offering this third suggestion, I suggest that we rarely have a case in which two philosophers disagree about X because they disagree about the evidential force of a single, separate line of reasoning. To give a concrete case, I think Philip Kitcher is just as reasonable as me or probably more reasonable than me philosophically (he is older, has been practicing philosophy longer at an elite university, while I am a mere College professor). I accept a cosmological argument for theism (you can find a good version in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), whereas he does not. Imagine we read the same article. The reasons for our diverging in our assessments probably lies outside of the line of reasoning in the contribution. Kitcher, for example, adopts a form of pragmatism when it comes to ostensibly necessary truths that I think is mistaken. For us to debate the cosmological argument, we would probably need to debate the adequacy of his pragmatism, and then probably move on to ever greater areas of epistemology and metaphysics. Overall, then, I suggest (going back to my original response) two philosophers may be equal in intellectual integrity, equal in focussed, intelligent reasoning, equally in identifying the truth or most reasonable position(s), and yet reach divergent views, partly due to the highly complex, interwoven nature of philosophy.

I hope you are right for I while I am a Christian philosopher (or a philosopher who is a Christian) I believe that many of my friends and colleagues who are atheists or agnostics or who accept Islam or a non-theistic view of God (as my Hindu philosopher colleague and friend) are just as reasonable as I am in the sense that each of them has intellectual integrity and has spent at least as much time intelligently reflecting on their convictions, earnestly seeking the truth in such matters. Still, I think each of us needs to hold that the reasons that justify our different beliefs are not defeated (undermined) by the reasons for incompatible beliefs. An atheist might be able to acknowledge that I am just as reasonable as she is, but she cannot (in my view) think that her reasoning is undermined by the evidence or reasoning that I undertake. Alternatively, consider a Christian-Muslim exchange (something I am deeply committed to). I accept a traditional Christian understanding of God incarnate on the basis...

I was always wondering, is it possible to deliberately chose to be irrational ?

I was always wondering, is it possible to deliberately chose to be irrational ?

Great question. There seem to be cases when a person might rationally chose to act irrationally --as occurs in Shakespeare's play Hamlet when the main character, Hamlet, acts as though he is mad to confuse his father-in-law (and, it turns out, the murderer of Hamlet's father) and this buys Hamlet more time in his contemplating how to avenge his father's death. I believe that USA President Nixon --and I am sure some other world leaders- sought to project to potential enemy states that he was capable of being irrational. There also seem to be cases of when persons deliberately put themselves into states of mind in which rationality goes out the window, as when a person deliberately becomes heavily intoxicated or allows their passions to be so completely unedited that they are in an 'anything goes' mode.

Apart from such cases, there may be a different, more paradoxical case, and perhaps the following is what you have in mind. Imagine a person is deliberating about whether to choose A or B and the person knows that choosing A would be highly irrational (e.g. there are very good reasons that the person knows that choosing A would be 99% certain of being profoundly undesirable and there are very good reasons or she is 99% sure that choosing B would be desirable). Under those circumstances, is it possible for the person to choose A? I think it is if we are using a somewhat narrow understanding of what is rational and irrational. Some philosophers have distinguished between rationality and feelings or intuition or faith. Pascal, for example, once claimed (rough paraphrase) that the heart has reasons that the mind does not understand. Such a remark suggests that one might think of 'rationality' as a primarily intellectual judgment rather than "following one's gut feeling" or something like that. Given such a demarcation between reason on the one hand and gut feelings on the other, I think we can imagine a person deliberately acting in ways that (from an intellectual point of view) are irrational because (from the supposedly "gut level") they have other grounds for their decision.

This juxtaposition between reason and gut feelings actually came out in a USA presidential election. The Goldwater campaign had a slogan: "In your heart, you know he is right." Goldwater's opponents came up with this reply: "But in your guts, you know he's nuts"!

Great question. There seem to be cases when a person might rationally chose to act irrationally --as occurs in Shakespeare's play Hamlet when the main character, Hamlet, acts as though he is mad to confuse his father-in-law (and, it turns out, the murderer of Hamlet's father) and this buys Hamlet more time in his contemplating how to avenge his father's death. I believe that USA President Nixon --and I am sure some other world leaders- sought to project to potential enemy states that he was capable of being irrational. There also seem to be cases of when persons deliberately put themselves into states of mind in which rationality goes out the window, as when a person deliberately becomes heavily intoxicated or allows their passions to be so completely unedited that they are in an 'anything goes' mode. Apart from such cases, there may be a different, more paradoxical case, and perhaps the following is what you have in mind. Imagine a person is deliberating about whether to choose A or B and...

Is there a difference between blind faith and faith? Doesn't faith in a certain

Is there a difference between blind faith and faith? Doesn't faith in a certain sense have to be blind to rational.

Tough question! In a very fine book, The Concept of Faith, Lad Sessions argues that there are at least four different kinds of faith. But setting aside Sessions more ambitious, technical proposals and work, I believe the term "faith" in English can be used either to describe the object of belief (for example one may speak of the Christian Faith) or trust. In the latter sense, faith may involve hope, belief, reason. It need not be "blind" --which I assume means something like 'on the basis of very little, if any evidence.' I suggest faith can be based on tremendous evidence even rising to the level of knowledge. I have faith in my neighbor's integrity as I feel I know him well and have seen him act with integrity when things were highly stressful. In a religious context, one may claim to believe in (for example) God or to have faith in God and this may be a way of disclaiming CERTAINTY or KNOWLEDGE. After all, those who follow some religious traditions are sometimes referred to as "believers" rather than "knowers"! But I do not think this need imply the faith is "blind" or not backed up with good reasons.

If you would like to look into this further, Pennelhum has a good book called Fideism.

Tough question! In a very fine book, The Concept of Faith, Lad Sessions argues that there are at least four different kinds of faith. But setting aside Sessions more ambitious, technical proposals and work, I believe the term "faith" in English can be used either to describe the object of belief (for example one may speak of the Christian Faith) or trust. In the latter sense, faith may involve hope, belief, reason. It need not be "blind" --which I assume means something like 'on the basis of very little, if any evidence.' I suggest faith can be based on tremendous evidence even rising to the level of knowledge. I have faith in my neighbor's integrity as I feel I know him well and have seen him act with integrity when things were highly stressful. In a religious context, one may claim to believe in (for example) God or to have faith in God and this may be a way of disclaiming CERTAINTY or KNOWLEDGE. After all, those who follow some religious traditions are sometimes referred to as ...

Can rationality be explained? Sometimes I think that it can, it is just

Can rationality be explained? Sometimes I think that it can, it is just something like non-contradiction. But sometimes I think it can't, since any explanation of rationality will have to assume it. ?

Great question! Your point about any explanation of rationality will have to presuppose (or assume) it seems right. After all, if our choice is between a rational explanation of rationality or an irrational one, the former seems to have the advantage! Moreover, I am inclined to think that there are basic, not further explainable truths about rationality: it is rational to believe in the law of identity (or A is A or everything is self-identical), but there are extant different accounts of the emergence of rational reflection among humans (and maybe some non-humans) and different theories of rationality. As for accounting for the emergence of rational creatures, some think this can be handled in accord with a thoroughgoing evolutionary account that shuns any reference to theism or Platonism or some other teleological (purposive account). For some of the difficulties facing this approach, see Thomas Nagel's fascinating new book Mind and Cosmos. In terms of the nature of rationality, there are two major views (among others) that are getting a great deal of attention. One is sometimes called internalism, according to which what is rational for a subject depends upon her desires and beliefs. If she desires to go shopping for philosophy books and believes the optimal place to shop for philosophy books is Blackwells in Oxford, she has a reason to get to Blackwells. On an alternative, normative account a subject may have reasons to have certain desires and beliefs, even if she does not have any of the current desires and beliefs. On this view, rationality may involve irreducible norms (irreducible in the sense of not further explainable) to the effect that some desires and acts are right (and one has reason to do them) or wrong (and one has reason not to do them) quite independent of a subject's desires (real or hypothetical). For a defense of the latter, check out Derek Parfit's two volume work On What Matters!

Great question! Your point about any explanation of rationality will have to presuppose (or assume) it seems right. After all, if our choice is between a rational explanation of rationality or an irrational one, the former seems to have the advantage! Moreover, I am inclined to think that there are basic, not further explainable truths about rationality: it is rational to believe in the law of identity (or A is A or everything is self-identical), but there are extant different accounts of the emergence of rational reflection among humans (and maybe some non-humans) and different theories of rationality. As for accounting for the emergence of rational creatures, some think this can be handled in accord with a thoroughgoing evolutionary account that shuns any reference to theism or Platonism or some other teleological (purposive account). For some of the difficulties facing this approach, see Thomas Nagel's fascinating new book Mind and Cosmos. In terms of the nature of rationality, there are two...

Despite the fact that philosophy is based on rationality, are there any

Despite the fact that philosophy is based on rationality, are there any philosophers who embraced the irrational side of man or irrationality in general, and how could they justify this except by contradicting themselves by using rational arguments?

Good question and good suggestion! Beginning with the last point, there are philosophers who love self-refuting arguments, the most famous being the Cartesian (and Augustinian) proposal that claims such as "I do not exist" have a habit of self-destructing. But some philosophers (and not a few poets) have sometimes introduced a narrow conception of 'rationality' in contrast to the emotions or experiences that seem to defy easy rational analysis, e.g. experiences that are moral, aesthetic or religious. So, when Pascal claimed that "the heart has its reasons whereof reason knows nothing" he was still appealing to reason but in contrast with what you might call abstract, emotionless rationality. This is probably best seen, not as a philosopher recommending we be irrational, but that we not be restricted to a narrow concept of the rational. On this point, a follower of Pascal might be in the same company with romantic poets such as Wordsworth or Coleridge and Blake or even St. Thomas Aquinas. All these thinkers resist narrow notions of reason, and allow for faith or insights that go beyond scientific rationality or passionless reason.

Two philosophers or philosophical theologians who come close to recommending the irrational are Tertullian, a third century Christian who is often quoted as claiming he believes Christianity because it is absurd, and the 19th century Danish, Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who is sometimes understood to hold that, from the stand point of reason, Christianity cannot be true. I suggest both cases turn out to be less exciting, and that Tertullian only meant that Christianity only appears absurd from a pagan point of view and Kierkegaard that Christianity is only impossible from a certain kind of Enlightenment use of reason, whereas a broader point of view would show faith to be more reasonable than doubt. Nietzsche may be your best bet for a thinker who seeks to throw off a concern for "objective truths" discernible by reason. In a very early essay on history, Nietzsche suggests (or he may be understood as suggesting) that truth itself (or at least the truths in history) need to be subordinate to the value of life itself.

One other modest point may be worth making: many philosophers recognize that occasions can arise when it is rational (or reasonable) to appear to be unreasonable or irrational. Think of the figure Hamlet in Shakespeare's famous play: he wisely pretended to be crazy in order to not arose suspicion that he suspected the King of killing his father. There is a good, recent book on such matters: Appearances of the Good; An Essay on the Nature of Practical Reason by Sergio Tenenbaum (Cambridge University Press), especially the last three chapters

Good question and good suggestion! Beginning with the last point, there are philosophers who love self-refuting arguments, the most famous being the Cartesian (and Augustinian) proposal that claims such as "I do not exist" have a habit of self-destructing. But some philosophers (and not a few poets) have sometimes introduced a narrow conception of 'rationality' in contrast to the emotions or experiences that seem to defy easy rational analysis, e.g. experiences that are moral, aesthetic or religious. So, when Pascal claimed that "the heart has its reasons whereof reason knows nothing" he was still appealing to reason but in contrast with what you might call abstract, emotionless rationality. This is probably best seen, not as a philosopher recommending we be irrational, but that we not be restricted to a narrow concept of the rational. On this point, a follower of Pascal might be in the same company with romantic poets such as Wordsworth or Coleridge and Blake or even St. Thomas Aquinas. All these...

Consider a person who wants to go jogging in order to improve their health, but

Consider a person who wants to go jogging in order to improve their health, but never seem to actually be able to go out and jog, despite having lots of free time and, in many cases, nothing better to do. Some might call this laziness; but what is laziness? Is the person effectively choosing/wanting not to go jogging, and their belief that they want to jog is actually a misinterpretation of the simple feeling that they should jog, even if I don't want to? Or is the person choosing to jog, or truly wanting to jog in a relevant sense, and yet somehow failing to do so? If the latter, how can we conceptualize this failure to do something we want to do without any meaningful physical, organizational, social or institutional restrictions on our behavior? If a person has free will and nothing is standing in their way (neither the laws of nature nor their schedule), how can they fail to do things they truly want to do?

That is an excellent question that has fascinated philosphers from the beginning in the west. Socrates seems to have equated knowing an act is good with desiring it, and reasoning that if someone desires X they must (on some level) both think it good and do the act or try to do it (unless constrained internally by an injury, for example or some external constraint, e.g. chains). From a Socratic point of view, the person who seems to be in the situation of thinking jogging is good but electing not to jog (without good reason) must (on some level) think that jogging is not (or not always) good. For he or she to remain watching TV rather than go running, the person must think something like: in this case, it is ok because running can be dangerous and I might be hit by a car or [whatever]....and so it is perfectly fine for me to wait until tomorrow to go for a run. The greeks called this apparent liability for us not to do what we think we should akrasia, a term that is usually translated as "weakness of will" but could also be translated as "incontinence." Although some scholars disagree, I believe Plato and Aristotle basically accepted Socrates' position. Perhaps the most famous literary case on the other side would be St. Paul who in the New Testament confesses to doing the very thing he thinks is sinful.

Personally, I think akrasia is still an open issue philosophically! There may be a middle position, though, between Socrates and St. Paul: perhaps Socrates is right that on some level your wanna-be jogger has to consciously think it is ok for him or her not to jog, but there is some self-deception in play, and deep down (sub-consciously?), the person realizes that failing to run is wrong? Maybe Socrates and his student Plato and his student's student Aristotle got the conscious narrative right, but Paul was right about what lies beneath the surface?

That is an excellent question that has fascinated philosphers from the beginning in the west. Socrates seems to have equated knowing an act is good with desiring it, and reasoning that if someone desires X they must (on some level) both think it good and do the act or try to do it (unless constrained internally by an injury, for example or some external constraint, e.g. chains). From a Socratic point of view, the person who seems to be in the situation of thinking jogging is good but electing not to jog (without good reason) must (on some level) think that jogging is not (or not always) good. For he or she to remain watching TV rather than go running, the person must think something like: in this case, it is ok because running can be dangerous and I might be hit by a car or [whatever]....and so it is perfectly fine for me to wait until tomorrow to go for a run. The greeks called this apparent liability for us not to do what we think we should akrasia, a term that is usually translated as "weakness of...

How do you know if you are reasonable?

How do you know if you are reasonable? I'm arguing with my boss when she says something stupid. I know in my gut it's stupid. But I also know that my emotions are elevated and that she might be right--maybe what I think is stupid is really just evidence that I haven't grasped her perspective. So I try opening my ears to figure out what she meant. I figure out her perspective, and suddenly she seems to be making perfect sense, and everything I'd said before was stupid. Fast forward an hour. The argument is over, and I'm trying to work on a project. But something is bugging me and I can't figure out what it is. Suddenly I realize I never made my argument clear to my boss. I adopted her perspective, figured out where she was coming from, and abandoned my perspective. But now I'm realizing that for one reason or another, I was right all along. Her perspective was more narrowly focused than mine. Mine was better the whole time. And dagnabbit, she walked away having won the argument despite it...

Great set of questions. In any community (whether on the job or in a family) it can feel quite unfair if one party is having to do all the work or at least more work to understand the other person's point of view (using more empathy, imagination, listening more). Ideally, one expects that each party will be equally open to being persuaded by the other. Actually, political philosphers today are spending quite a bit of time on this topic. For example, this is Joshua Cohen's description of ideal deliberation:

"Ideal deliberation aims to arrive at a rationally motivated consensu -to find reasons that are persuasive to all who are committed to acting on the results of a free and reasoned assessment of alternatives by equals."

I suppose you are not equals with the "boss" but Cohen would probably argue that from the point of view of fair deliberation, one should be on an equal footing even if (at the very end) the boss decides on (for example) what policy should be followed. For further technical work on discourse and inquiry, you might check out Jurgen Habermas's Between Facts and Norms.

Putting aside the technicalities of work on fairness, I suggest two things: even when faced with conditions in which one person is doing more work in terms of empathy, imagination, trying to see it from other points of view, etc, that does not give one reason to abandon the efforts. You are being more open and inquiring, and that can't help but lead to better (more reasonable or wise) results. Second, I think your frustration is very natural and common when we are honest with ourselves and arguing about matters that are truly controversial (matters when reasonable, non-stupid people can disagree). I think there may not be a better solution to this vexing difficulty than patience, patience both with yourself and those around us.

Great set of questions. In any community (whether on the job or in a family) it can feel quite unfair if one party is having to do all the work or at least more work to understand the other person's point of view (using more empathy, imagination, listening more). Ideally, one expects that each party will be equally open to being persuaded by the other. Actually, political philosphers today are spending quite a bit of time on this topic. For example, this is Joshua Cohen's description of ideal deliberation: "Ideal deliberation aims to arrive at a rationally motivated consensu -to find reasons that are persuasive to all who are committed to acting on the results of a free and reasoned assessment of alternatives by equals." I suppose you are not equals with the "boss" but Cohen would probably argue that from the point of view of fair deliberation, one should be on an equal footing even if (at the very end) the boss decides on (for example) what policy should be followed. For further technical work...

I think that anyone who knows how to hold a grudge knows what it's like to wish

I think that anyone who knows how to hold a grudge knows what it's like to wish to remain angry at someone. I mean something like the following: 1. You're angry at someone. 2. Since you're angry, you'd like to punish or otherwise get back at this person. 3. But you know that this can't happen if your feelings cool and you lose your edge. 4. So part of your plan for revenge consists precisely in remaining angry. 5. In this way, anger takes itself as an objective. Accordingly, there is an odd feeling of disappointment you get when you inevitably calm down ("Don't give up! Stay mad!"). Is there something irrational about thinking this way?

Fascinating line of reasoning! One thing to question is premise two. Granted if you are angry at someone, it follows that you are judging that the person has done something wrong (wether to you or to someone or something you identify with or value). But it does not follow that you would like to see the person punished or seek to "get back at this person." Imagine you love the person you are angry with and all you really want is an apology or a request for your forgiveness or perhaps you desire a material compensation (the person smashed your car and you want compensation plus replacement of the car). Also, the link between 2 and 4 may need some re-considering. We typically distinguish between revenge and retributive justice. The latter is measured and impersonal: so, in retributive justice when someone wrongfully causes a given harm, there is a proportional penalty (so, assault may call for one year of incarceration and lots of communiity time afterward). But revenge is often personal and without proportion: in a case of revenge, someone who has been midly wronged may actually desire to torture and kill the wrong-doer and his family and maybe even his villiage. So, I suggest that you can wind up with your conclusion that it is good to stay mad only if revenge is good. But revenge seems to not at all be a virtuous or good.

But perhaps two qualifications need to be added: Maybe a commitment to justice requires anger, though not one that seeks revenge. We might think a people are not at all deeply committed to justice unless injustice makes them angry or passionate about the wrongs done. In that sense, maybe we do have a reason to sustain anger. Another time we might see value in sustaining anger is in the case of a victim who has so low a view of her or himself that they are constantly being taken advantage of, even violated in a criminal manner. I am thinking of the abused wife or child who submits to the abuse without resistance. It may be good for that person to sutain anger as part of their sustaining their self-respect and integrity. Perhaps the anger will lead them to report the abuse to police or to otherwise escape the trap they find themselves in.

Fascinating line of reasoning! One thing to question is premise two. Granted if you are angry at someone, it follows that you are judging that the person has done something wrong (wether to you or to someone or something you identify with or value). But it does not follow that you would like to see the person punished or seek to "get back at this person." Imagine you love the person you are angry with and all you really want is an apology or a request for your forgiveness or perhaps you desire a material compensation (the person smashed your car and you want compensation plus replacement of the car). Also, the link between 2 and 4 may need some re-considering. We typically distinguish between revenge and retributive justice. The latter is measured and impersonal: so, in retributive justice when someone wrongfully causes a given harm, there is a proportional penalty (so, assault may call for one year of incarceration and lots of communiity time afterward). But revenge is often personal and without...

What justification could I have for entering a committed, long-term romantic

What justification could I have for entering a committed, long-term romantic relationship? It's probable that I would enjoy many aspects of the relationship. But it seems counter intuitive to say that I should enter a loving relationship as a means to promote my self-interest. So self-interest cannot be a justification for entering a loving relationship. The relationship might also benefit my partner. But there are lots of people who could benefit from being a relationship with me. No one would suggest that I find the person who most needs a relationship and pledge myself to them. Most people select long-term partners based on beauty or compatibility, not on neediness. Besides, few people would appreciate being in a relationship with a person who was only in the relationship out of pity. One could say that I should enter a relationship because it benefits me and my partner. But a combination of two bad reasons is rarely a good reason. Finally, one might suggest that my partner deserves a committed...

Some philosophers have indeed wondered about the basis for family and romantic relations --from Plato to Abelard and Heloise to Bertrand Russell. I wonder, however, whether your worries about a foundation for a romantic, committed relationship wouldn't apply to any number of different relationships such as a non-romantic friendship or even non-committed romantic relationships (whom should I seek romance with tonight?), and the like. In any event, I wonder about the extent to which love is really under one's control. Isn't the situation often as follows: you meet someone whom (for whatever reason: beauty, wit, interests, history, philosophy, theology, athletic ability) you find attractive. You come to know and appreciate her as a good person and (idealy) vice versa, and this naturally leads to a desire for union (what is sometimes called unitive love). Isn't it more common for matters of justification to arise when one considers why one should not continue toward commitment? In other words, isn't the more natural case one in which the burden of proof (so to speak) is on someone not wishing to consumate the relationship in terms of commitment than on someone who is considering a commitment? I suspect that it is because of this, that some of your language strikes me as a little (please forgive me) on the cool side. If I fall in love with Skippy (a made up name) I would not talk or think in terms of whether to commit myself to "the the service and assistance" of him/her. The latter sounds like the language of a client-server than the language of love. In any case, I think you admirably identify possible problems that arise in terms of committed relationships. There is, indeed, the problem of:

Only seeking self-interest

Being with someone out of pity

Only basing a relationship on beauty (alas, beauty may be only superficial and may be passing...)

Based on serving the ugly

Out of these, I suspect that there has to be some perceived, mutual beauty in a romantic relationship (otherwise one would be taking 'the attractive' out of 'the romantic') and some mutual gratification (the relationship brings gratification and good to you both that you commit to long term as a goal). It appears that romance and gratification and the goods of long term commitment (fidelity-trust over years, deeper affection over time, perhaps shared sustained goals involving children etc) are sound reasons for being with a specific person, even if those reasons would not identify which person to select. In other words, you may have sufficient reasons for being in a relationship with someone, even if those reasons would be equally good for being with Skippy or Jill or.... This would not logically make one unjustified in selecting Skippy rather than Jill. You would only be unjustified in trying to be with both simultaneously (assuming by committed relationship, we mean monogomy).

Some philosophers have indeed wondered about the basis for family and romantic relations --from Plato to Abelard and Heloise to Bertrand Russell. I wonder, however, whether your worries about a foundation for a romantic, committed relationship wouldn't apply to any number of different relationships such as a non-romantic friendship or even non-committed romantic relationships (whom should I seek romance with tonight?), and the like. In any event, I wonder about the extent to which love is really under one's control. Isn't the situation often as follows: you meet someone whom (for whatever reason: beauty, wit, interests, history, philosophy, theology, athletic ability) you find attractive. You come to know and appreciate her as a good person and (idealy) vice versa, and this naturally leads to a desire for union (what is sometimes called unitive love). Isn't it more common for matters of justification to arise when one considers why one should not continue toward commitment? In other words, isn't the...

How is it that almost anything that any religious preacher says to prove the

How is it that almost anything that any religious preacher says to prove the existence of God turns out to be typical examples of one or the other of the well known logical fallacies? How is it that they don't realise this simple fact when all such fallacies are enumerated in the Web in such sites as the Wikipedia? Are human being basically very irrational creatures ?

just to supplement Charles's very fine response: first, yes human beings are very irrational, but you can find irrational humans in every domain, theist and atheist ... if you're looking for 'rationality,' or at least approximations thereof, or at least 'reasonableness,' you probably don't want to be listening to local preachers (or even local 'atheists', whatever that means) -- you want to be talking to more philosophically inclined people (which is more or less what Charles is getting at) -- and there are plenty of deep, engaging, provocative things to think about, with respect to religion -- not merely the existence of God but many related topics -- even when you constrain yourself to trying to be 'rational' ... (I've tried to collect a number of these in my recent book 'The God Question,' which presents what a lot of famous philosophers have said on the subject of religion ...)

hope that's helpful -- best,

AP

The matter is more complicated than looking at Wikipedia. There are plenty of good reasons for being an atheist, but as I have sought to make evident in replying to other questions in the category of 'religion' there is a vast philosophical literature supporting religious beliefs without what might be called Wikipedia fallacies. You might check out the free online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entries Philosophy of Religion and, as an example, the entry for the Cosmological Argument, which contains a pretty plausable (non-fallacious) version of the cosmological argument. Check out, too, the Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Religion. I might also suggest that no philosopher today (or almost none) thinks that they can prove God's existence or non-existence or prove utilitarianism is correct or physicalism or realism in philosophy of science. Today, most of us deal with arguments we take to be plausable or persuasive, but these fall short of proofs.

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