Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: Sense and Goodness without God

"Yet our very lives are a joyous occasion. By existing, and making of ourselves something good, we give ourselves and each other value, we create purpose and meaning. Neither existing by accident nor existing only a short while changes anything about the value of existing, the value of getting to be, to behold and to know the universe, to create something."
-- Richard Carrier

Richard Carrier's book "Sense and Goodness without God" is a fairly comprehensive presentation of a world view based on Metaphysical Naturalism. Even if you are an atheist, you will not agree with every point he makes and he isn't expecting agreement. The book could be thought of as a case study. Richard Carrier takes his own assumptions and shows how to validate and verify the assumptions as best as possible and from those assumptions create a world view.

He starts out with an overview of the purpose of his book and a brief biographical sketch. Next he launches into a discussion of how we know, starting with a very concept of what is language. He takes the reader through different methods of knowing and discusses there relative strengths and weaknesses of each method. Of course scientific investigation and logic is ranked highly, personal experience is less trusted, and faith the least trusted method of all.

After establishing method he takes the reader through a tour of the current state of scientific thought and his implications. Next he uses this basis to argue against positions that contradict the evidence. He basically points out that all investigation of supernatural claims when investigated using more trusted methods turn out to be incorrect.

Lastly he takes his foundation and builds on it. He presents a naturalistic case for morality, feelings of beauty, and how society should be structured.

High points. Richard carrier does well during his discussion of language and knowledge. Also his background as a historian shows when he is discussing historical material (especially ancient Rome). Also he makes a good case for morality and beauty.

Low points. When arguing against specific positions, I feel that he overstates his case. Typical argument would take an opponent's position and discuss its undesired implications. However the implications did not seem to logically follow from his opponent's position. His section on politics is very idealistic (no taxation, legislature determined by lottery, ..)

Overall I found the book engaging and I enjoyed reading it. It will challenge your thought and hopefully prod you in to developing your own world view.

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