Search results for: the-transcendental-temptation

The Transcendental Temptation

Author : Paul Kurtz
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In this landmark work, Paul Kurtz examines the reasons why people accept supernatural and paranormal belief systems in spite of substantial evidence to the contrary. According to Kurtz, it is because there is within the human species a deeply rooted tendency toward magical thinking—the “transcendental temptation”—which undermines critical judgment and paves the way for willful beliefs. Kurtz explores in detail the three major monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—finding striking psychological and sociological parallels between these religions, the spiritualism of the nineteenth century, and the paranormal belief systems of today. This acclaimed and controversial book includes sections on mysticism, belief in the afterlife, the existence of God, reincarnation, astrology, and ufology. Kurtz concludes by explaining and advocating rational skepticism as an antidote to belief in the transcendental.

Toward a New Enlightenment

Author : Paul Kurtz
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Paul Kurtz has been the dominant voice of secular humanism over the past thirty years. This compilation of his work reveals the scope of his thinking on the basic topics of our time and his many and varied contributions to the cause of free thought. It focuses on the central issues that have concerned Kurtz throughout his career: ethics, politics, education, religion, science, and pseudoscience. The chapters are linked by a common theme: the need for a new enlightenment, one committed to the use of rationality and skepticism, but also devoted to realizing the highest values of humanist culture. Many writings included here were first published in magazines and journals long unavailable. Some of the essays have never before been published. They now appear as a coherent whole for the first time. Also included is an extensive bibliography of Kurtz's writings. Toward a New Enlightenment is essential for those who know and admire Paul Kurtz's work. It will also be an important resource for students of philosophy, political science, ethics, and religion. Among the chapters are: "Humanist Ethics: Eating the Forbidden Fruit"; "Relevance of Science to Ethics"; "Democracy without Theology"; "Misuses of Civil Disobedience"; "The Limits of Tolerance"; "Skepticism about the Paranormal: Legitimate and Illegitimate"; "Militant Atheism vs. Freedom of Conscience"; "Promethean Love: Unbound"; "The Case for Euthanasia"; and "The New Inquisition in the Schools."

Skepticism and Humanism

Author : Paul Kurtz
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As we begin the third millennium there is cause for cautious optimism regarding the human prospect. Democratic revolutions and the doctrine of universal human rights have captured the imagination of large sectors of humanity, while major advances in science and technology continue to conquer disease and extend life, contributing to rising standards of living, affluence, and cultural freedom on a worldwide basis. Paradoxically, at the same time ancient authoritarian fundamentalist religions have grown in vitriolic intensity along with bizarre New Age, media-driven paranormal belief systems. Also surprising is the resurgence of primitive tribal and ethnic loyalties, unleashing wars of intolerance and bitterness. In Skepticism and Humanism, Paul Kurtz locates these threatening developments within a long-standing and largely unchallenged theological worldview. He proposes, as an alternative to religion, a new cultural paradigm rooted in scientific naturalism, rationalism, and a humanistic outlook. An estimated 60 percent of scientists are atheists or agnostics. However, the skeptical world view has been given little currency even in advanced societies, because of a cultural prohibition against the criticism of religion. At the same time, science has become increasingly narrow and specialized so that few people can draw on its broader intellectual and cultural implications. Skepticism and Humanism attempts to meet this need. It defends skepticism as a method for developing reliable knowledge by using scientific inquiry and reason to test all claims to truth. It also defends scientific naturalism-an evolutionary view of nature, life, and the human species. Kurtz sees the dominant religious doctrines as drawn from an agricultural/nomadic past, and emphasizes the need for a new outlook applicable to the postindustrial information age. At the same time, he rejects postmodernism for abandoning science and embracing a form of nihilism. There can be no doubt that as a new global civilization emerges, scientific naturalism, rationalism, and secular humanism have something significant to say about the meaning of life. Skepticism and Humanism shows how they can to foster democratic values and social prosperity. The book will be important for philosophers, scientists, and all those concerned with contemporary issues. Paul Kurtz taught at Trinity College, Vassar College, and State University of New York at Buffalo. He is founder of Prometheus Books, a major publisher of philosophical works. He is the author of some thirty books including Toward a New Enlightenment (available from Transaction) Humanist Manifesto 2000, and A Secular Humanist Declaration. He is chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry magazine.

Software and Mind

Author : Andrei Sorin
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Addressing general readers as well as software practitioners, "Software and Mind" discusses the fallacies of the mechanistic ideology and the degradation of minds caused by these fallacies. Mechanism holds that every aspect of the world can be represented as a simple hierarchical structure of entities. But, while useful in fields like mathematics and manufacturing, this idea is generally worthless, because most aspects of the world are too complex to be reduced to simple hierarchical structures. Our software-related affairs, in particular, cannot be represented in this fashion. And yet, all programming theories and development systems, and all software applications, attempt to reduce real-world problems to neat hierarchical structures of data, operations, and features. Using Karl Popper's famous principles of demarcation between science and pseudoscience, the book shows that the mechanistic ideology has turned most of our software-related activities into pseudoscientific pursuits. Using mechanism as warrant, the software elites are promoting invalid, even fraudulent, software notions. They force us to depend on generic, inferior systems, instead of allowing us to develop software skills and to create our own systems. Software mechanism emulates the methods of manufacturing, and thereby restricts us to high levels of abstraction and simple, isolated structures. The benefits of software, however, can be attained only if we start with low-level elements and learn to create complex, interacting structures. Software, the book argues, is a non-mechanistic phenomenon. So it is akin to language, not to physical objects. Like language, it permits us to mirror the world in our minds and to communicate with it. Moreover, we increasingly depend on software in everything we do, in the same way that we depend on language. Thus, being restricted to mechanistic software is like thinking and communicating while being restricted to some ready-made sentences supplied by an elite. Ultimately, by impoverishing software, our elites are achieving what the totalitarian elite described by George Orwell in "Nineteen Eighty-Four" achieves by impoverishing language: they are degrading our minds.

Multi Secularism

Author : Paul Kurtz
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The contemporary world is witness to an intense controversy about secularism. This controversy has intensified due to the presence of fundamentalism, which challenges secular society and the secularization of philosophical ideas and ethical values. Secularists maintain that the state should not impose a religious creed upon citizens and should respect freedom of conscience, the right to believe or disbelieve in the prevailing orthodoxy. This right is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution and the Rights of Man enunciated in the French Revolution. Yet many powerful religious institutions do not accept this principle. Paul Kurtz argues that secularism needs to be allied to the emergence of democratic institutions that respect individual freedom and the pluralistic society. He argues that a defense of secularism entails a defense of the civic virtues of democracy, which include the toleration of dissent and alternative lifestyles and the willingness to negotiate differences. Consequently, secularism will take different forms in different societies; the term multi-secularism best describes that. Many people believe that it is impossible to maintain a moral order without the support of religion. Kurtz vigorously denies that, and this volume attempts to explicate the values and principles of secular morality, which he sees as the cornerstone of the open democratic society. Kurtz was involved in the campaign for secularism throughout his career as a philosopher. This book reflects his participation in this battle and extends his thinking to new areas.

Exuberant Skepticism

Author : Paul Kurtz
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For more than three decades, philosopher Paul Kurtz has been a strong advocate of skepticism, not only as a philosophical position, but also as a fulfilling way of life. Contrary to the view that skepticism is merely a negative, nay saying, or debunking stance toward commonly held beliefs, skepticism as defined by Kurtz emerges reborn as "skeptical inquiry"—a decidedly positive philosophy ready and able to change the world. In this definitive collection, editor John R. Shook has gathered together seventeen of Paul Kurtz’s most penetrating and insightful writings. Altogether these essays build an affirmative case for what can be known based on sound common sense, reason, and scientific method. And as each essay cogently and convincingly explains, so much can be known, from the natural world around us to the moral responsibilities among us. The work is organized in four topical sections. In the first, "Reasons to Be Skeptical," Kurtz presents compelling reasons why the methods of inquiry used by the sciences deserve respect. In short, science provides reliable knowledge, without which humanity would never have emerged from the age of myth and widespread ignorance. In the second section, "Skepticism and the Non-Natural," Kurtz shows how skeptical inquiry can be fruitfully used to critique both paranormal claims and religious worldviews. He also investigates whether science and religion can be compatible. In the third section, "Skepticism in the Human World," he considers how skeptical inquiry can be applied to politics, ethics, and pursuit of the good life. Realizing the essential connections between scientific knowledge, technological power, and social progress, Kurtz has understood, as few philosophers ever have, how the methods of intelligence can be applied to all areas of human endeavor. The book concludes with Kurtz’s authoritative reflections on the skeptical movement that he founded and has led. As he explains, the forces of blind faith and stubborn unreason still fight for control of the mind, so the skeptic can never rest. If there is a brighter future for humanity, a future in which every person enjoys a realistic opportunity for the pursuit of excellence, Kurtz’s ‘exuberant skepticism’ can show us the way.

An Arrogant Nation That Creates Its Own Reality

Author : Rogene A. Buchholz
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Americans seem prone to create their own reality in situations that have faced them over the past several years and this arrogance cost the country dearly. Three events stand out as prime examples this arrogance. The first of these events was the war in Iraq which was based on the false reality that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction and had ties to terrorist organizations. The second example was the financial crisis of 2008 which was precipitated by the invention of new and complicated investment vehicles. The last example is the current Trump administration which was filled with falsehoods during the campaign and his first years in office, such that one could not believe anything that this administration said. This book is going to focus on religious reasons for this situation as I believe that it is the Christian religion that is largely at fault for this condition. It is religion that has set up most Americans to believe our leaders when they outright lie and claim to know things beyond what the evidence will support and create a false reality that eventually comes crashing down to disrupt American life. If our nation is ever going to be great it must quit living in a fantasy world and give up a belief in magic as far as its future is concerned. Decisions in government and business must be based on reality as it is and not on what we arrogantly think we can create. The two go together as the more we try and create our own reality the less able we are to come to grips with the reality that actually exists. The place to start is by recognizing the role the Christian religion has played in this phenomenon and letting go of the fantasies that comprise this religion and live a secular life that finds meaning and purpose in this world rather than in some hereafter. We will not successfully deal with all the problems with which we are faced and have a political and economic system that works for everyone until this happens.

Moral Wisdom and Good Lives

Author : John Kekes
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In this profound and yet accessible book, John Kekes discusses moral wisdom: a virtue essential to living a morally good and personally satisfying life. He advances a broad, nontechnical argument that considers the adversities inherent in the human condition and assists in the achievement of good lives. The possession of moral wisdom, Kekes asserts, is a matter of degree: more of it makes lives better, less makes them worse. Exactly what is moral wisdom, however, and how should it be sought? Ancient Greek and medieval Christian philosophers were centrally concerned with it. By contrast, modern Western sensibility doubts the existence of a moral order in reality; and because we doubt it, and have developed no alternatives, we have grown dubious about the traditional idea of wisdom. Kekes returns to the classical Greek sources of Western philosophy to argue for the contemporary significance of moral wisdom. He develops a proposal that is eudaimonistic—secular, anthropocentric, pluralistic, individualistic, and agonistic. He understands moral wisdom as focusing on the human effort to create many different forms of good lives. Although the approach is Aristotelian, the author concentrates on formulating and defending a contemporary moral ideal. The importance of this ideal, he shows, lies in increasing our ability to cope with life's adversities by improving our judgment. In chapters on moral imagination, self-knowledge, and moral depth, Kekes calls attention to aspects of our inner life that have been neglected because of our cultural inattention to moral wisdom. He discusses these inner processes through the tragedies of Sophocles, which can inspire us with their enduring moral significance and help us to understand the importance of moral wisdom to living a good life.

Facing Evil

Author : John Kekes
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Arguing that the prevalence of evil presents a fundamental problem for our secular sensibility, John Kekes develops a conception of character-morality as a response. He shows that the main sources of evil are habitual, unchosen actions produced by our character defects and that we can increase our control over the evil we cause by cultivating a reflective temper.


Author : Albert A. Harrison
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We live in an era of exploding scientific knowledge about the universe, and our place and future within it. Much of this new knowledge conflicts with earlier wisdom, and some has frightening implications. Cosmic evolution, space exploration, the search for extraterrestrial life, and concerns about humanity's future prompt us to seek new answers to old existential questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Are we alone? What will become of us? In our search for answers, we turn to science, religion, myth, and varying combinations thereof. Exploring an ambiguous region between recognized findings and unfettered imagination, Starstruck explores the multifaceted, far-reaching, and often contentious attempts of people with contrasting worldviews to develop convincing and satisfying interpretations of rapidly accumulating discoveries in physics, astronomy, and biology.