The Heterodox

The Heterodox


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Huxley’s Pleonasm

October 12, 2010 , , , , , , ,

Today’s post is just a bit of breviloquence that I felt needed to be stated in order to ensure that I am not deemed equivocal in my philosophy. I feel confident that even within the scope of this nascent site, any individual would be hard pressed to accuse me of being opaque. Notwithstanding this conjecture, I realized yesterday that there was still a little more expatiation needed in regards to my antitheism. This divulgence centers on the great nineteenth century biologist Thomas Huxley and his coinage of the term Agnostic. As much as I admire this great man and his achievements in furthering the work of Charles Darwin, his promulgation of this term was and still is rhetorically superfluous and effete as well as being an unsuccessful attempt at open mindedness in the face of uncertainty.

This assertion is not just for my own philosophic clarity, but also is a rebuff to all those who feel that claiming the title of Agnostic places them in a tenable position in the fight against theocratic totalitarianism. What is my grounding for this claim? The answer is rather simple. When one examines the concept of Agnosticism from the outset, it appears to be intellectually sound. After all, uncertainty is the only certainty, no matter the proposition. But we are not talking about a question of physics here, we are talking about the assertion of the existence of a deity. Theism, particularly monotheism, is binary in its validity. It is either valid to claim knowledge of the existence of a deity or it is not. You can not half believe in god and expect to be taken rhetorically or religiously seriously. So wavering a decision on the basis of possible future evidence is unbelief in the present tense. You are automatically asserting Atheism when claiming the posture of Agnosticism—believe me when I tell you that there are no means with which to vacillate here and be taken seriously. What is left to argue about here then, I ask you? Well, there is another way that some still try to wriggle around with.

There are those who try to find a semantic way out of this distinction, but that method is also negligible in this debate. If we look at the etymological grounding of the word Agnostic, we see the apparent Greek root of Gnosis, or knowledge. The a prefix adds the disavowance to the knowledge of a deity’s existence. By process of etymological induction, the state of Agnosticism is claiming to not have access to knowledge that is by definition unattainable (that being the certainty of a deity’s existence or non-existence). This is why Agnosticism as a concept is intrinsically tautological as well as vapid.

Another reason why I feel sure in surmising that many people feel Agnosticism is more intellectually sound than Atheism is because they erroneously believe that Atheism or Antitheism rests on certainty. They DO NOT. They simply assert that all available scientific and philosophic evidence deems the belief in a god unnecessary. Following on the previous semantic misunderstanding, Atheism is by definition an abnegation of Theism, not Deism. For Agnosticism to have any rhetorical merit, it would have to be within the context of Adeism, which is not the assumption that Atheism is in rebellion against. So, for those of you who still wish to cling to the pallid concept of Agnosticism just be aware that you are committing yourself to unsound and pleonastic thought, just as Huxley did over a century ago.

What do you think?

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The mistake, in my opinion, is to think the terms atheism and agnosticism describe the same things. Atheism is a lack of belief, whereas agnosticism is a lack of knowledge. One can, therefore, be both an atheist and agnostic (as indeed I am), without any contradiction.
Someone who condescendingly self identifies as agnostic nevertheless has a belief, or a lack of belief, and should have the courage to say which it is.


October 17, 2010

Thank you for your comment and criticism. I have in response added some extra evidence to the article in an attempt to exculpate myself from the lash of your criticism. Just to ensure that I am not still deemed as being opaque, in answer to your main criticism, I am not claiming that one can not or should not be agnostic while being atheistic. I am simply putting forth that agnosticism is superfluous in this debate as well as being a labile attempt to have it both ways in an argument that demands a definitive stance.


October 19, 2010

Interesting Post and an enjoyable read, I came accross it on Google while doing some research into this topic, and I look forward to reading a few more posts from you.

Isaac Zetina

November 12, 2010

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