Agnosticism & Objectivity


Question

I believe that agnosticism is the most objective and rational position possible, primarily because the concept of God is not well-defined in a rigorous, analytic-philosophical sense. What do you say to that?

Answer

H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

Actually, European thinkers did very sophisticated, rigorous theology for centuries during the late classical and scholastic periods, but modern philosophers came to ridicule them and ignore their work.

I remember that as a schoolboy I was taught to laugh at the folly of those theologians, who apparently once debated “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

Much later, I realized that in that “absurd” question lies a serious philosophical question: “do spiritual beings occupy material space, or do they override physical laws of space, etc?” Again, late classical Christian philosophers, for all their limitations, deployed in their studies all the immense philosophical resources of Greco-Roman philosophy. After the middle, dark ages, late medieval/proto renaissance thinkers like Aquinas, again produced philosophical and theological works of great sophistication. The same is true nowadays. Ironically, the rise of materialism, Darwinism, etc. spurred Judeo-Christian philosophers in top universities to produce ever more sophisticated works in defense of faith.

Agnosticism is objective only if a person does not know God. If a person does know God, agnosticism is meaningless. Agnostics cannot assume that there is not a knowable God, and thus they cannot say if they, or theists, are objective or subjective. As the word literally states, a-gnostic (a-jñānī) means one who does not know. I don’t think anyone can show the objectivity or rationality of not knowing, unless one assumes that nothing is ultimately knowable, which one can never rationally or objectively prove. If that unknowability is ultimately knowable, how would it be known by those condemned to not knowing? There is no good answer.

I suggest we look elsewhere for a wide notion of rationality and objectivity.