Inquisitive Minds Podcast Critical Thinking on History, Religion, Politics and Culture

In this third episode dedicated to Tim Whitmarsh's book, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World, we review his section on the Hellenistic Era where kings were sometimes worshiped as "gods". Some philosophers, however, were skeptical of such ideas and adopted an agnostic position toward the existence of gods. Epicureans, on the other hand,believed in gods but not in their involvement in the world, and since the gods were different in matter and not part of this world, they even thought that there existed a plurality of universes; a concept similar to what is now referred to as "multiverse".


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We continue our discussion of Whitmarsh's Battling the the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. The second part of his book deals with the atheism in Classical Athens (5th-4th centuries BCE). In this episode, some important figures of that time period such as Thucydides (author of the Peloponnesian War), Protagoras, Democritus, Aristophanes, Euripides, Plato, as well as Anaxagoras, Diogoras of Melos, Socrates, and Theodorus of Cyrene and their impact on atheistic thought are reviewed.

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In this last podcast dedicated to Critical Thinking, we tackle more common logical fallacies such as: Personal Incredulity, Burden of Proof, Tu Quoque, Reductio ad Absurdum, Begging the Question, Red Herring, Argumentum e Silentio, Straw Man, Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc, No True Scotsman, and Appeal to Emotion. We wish to remind our listeners that you can also find us on iTunes and Stitcher, as well as on many other providers. Please take a minute to follow us on Twitter and "like" us on Facebook!

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In our series on Critical Thinking, we will are now turning our attention to Logical Fallacies. A fallacy is an error in reasoning and inconsistency in Critical Thinking. Inconsistent ways of thinking are also manifest through contradictions and hypocrisy. This being said, people can also commit fallacies unknowingly. The important thing is to learn to identify bad thinking habits and correct them. People need to learn to stick to arguments and not engage in personal attacks, shift the burden of proof or make unreasonable appeals to authority to substantiate their claims. Building arguments on logical premises will lead to coherent and reasonable conclusions.

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In this last episode on atheism, we critique Gavin Hyman's idea that today's atheistic discourse is a reaction to modern theological conceptions of God, as expressed thought the work of 14th century philosopher and theologian, John Duns Scotus. In reality, Scotus' theological language is not modern; rather, it is a return to biblical notions about God. Duns Scotus rejected Aquinas' doctrine of analogy and God's ontology in favor of the idea that "being" is univocal to the created and uncreated. In the end, is sophisticated theological discourse too virtual in nature?

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In our series on atheism, we continue our review of Gavin Hyman's article, "Atheism in Modern History." René Descartes' Cartesian model was the rejection of Thomas Aquinas' theological method, where human reason was subject to the authority of divine revelation. Aquinas emphasized God's transcendence through analogical language; he believed that this was the only adequate way one could speak of the divine. Many philosophers, however, insisted on using rationalism and/or empirical sense data, even in the realm of theological inquiry. According to Hyman, modernity brought with it a "domestication of God", where the divine was now defined in quantitative terms, rather than with qualitative language. But Hyman also sees the shift from analogical language to a more "hypostatic" and representational conception of God, as the result of theological speculation in the 14th century C.E.

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In this week's episode, we discuss the content of Gavin Hyman's interesting piece in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism entitled, "Atheism in Modern History." In his article, Hyman describes what he considers being an inextricable connection between atheism and modernity. He also explains how the English term "atheism" was first used in 1540 by Sir John Clarke in his translation of Plutarch's On Superstition, and was understood as "a denial of the intervention of divine providence, rather than a denial of the existence of God." It is only in the 18th and 19th centuries that the expression was used in a self-definitional way by French philosopher Denis Diderot, and by Charles Bradlaugh, a British parliamentary member who founded the National Secular Society in 1866.


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In our series on atheism, we examine the question of non-belief in Antiquity. In the first part of this episode, we review Jan N. Bremmer's article in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism on the various ways certain philosophers spoke and defined atheism and/or agnosticism. We then discuss whether or not human beings can be moral without belief in god/gods. Are atheists immoral because of their unbelief? Is good behavior only possible for those who embrace religion? Can non-believers also live meaningful lives or is meaning only to be found through religion? Do people really need to rely on some kind of transcendent reality or supernatural entity(ies) to find true purpose? Ancient and modern critiques argue that morality and meaning do not require one to adopt a religious outlook on life.

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This week's podcast is dedicated to the social impact of atheism. Some people today are "coming out" as atheists and speak about how religion has negatively affected their lives. They also advocate for a complete separation of government and religion. In the past few years, we have seen the rise of what some call the "New Atheists". Often labelled as radical and outspoken, these individuals have made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions people through their writings; for example, just think of the influential works of the famous "Four Horsemen": Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris. Many other prominent writers, bloggers, and vloggers have now followed their lead. But what exactly is atheism? How does it differ from theism and other forms of beliefs or non-beliefs? These are some of the questions we address in this episode.
 
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In this last episode dedicated to the “hard problem” of consciousness, we ask the question of whether or not we can trace the origin of consciousness. In his controversial book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, American psychologist Julian Jaynes hypothesized that at one point in time, human beings had divided cognitive functions, what he called bicarmeralism. He also believed that the shift into consciousness – something which the mind developed – was caused by major social catastrophes which in turn resulted in a breakdown of the bicameral mind. According to Jaynes, contemporary forms bicameralism can still be seen in religious ecstasy, schizophrenia, and hypnotism. We end this episode with final comments about the nature and evolution of consciousness.

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