Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Here's a nice, short one, barely a comment...

I often say, "Doubt is not denial." It's almost a mantra for me, because people confuse the two so astonishingly often, usually deliberately.

The Japanese have a term for the game Go. It is "sente." The closest English translation is "initiative." Your opponent is said to have sente when you are spending your game actions responding to your opponent's moves. Those who play chess will be familiar with this sorry state, helplessly having your moves dictated to you by your opponent. A game of chess, and Go, is about controlling the game, dictating the course of game events.

Theists make a claim about the existence of God. This claim is presented as an affirmation, the baseline for the discussion. If you question this affirmation, you are said to be denying it, and your question is said to be a negative act of denial. This is called controlling the discourse. The theist causes the skeptic to respond to the affirmation. Sente. The skeptic is depicted as denying. Doubt and denial are falsely conflated with each other, and skeptical doubt gets painted as denialism.

Do you let the theist seize sente? Do you think skepticism is denial?

And this, in part, is why we are seeing a rise in a definition of atheism as a "lack of belief in god(s)." It changes the discourse baseline and denies the disingenuous theist sente.

And this perhaps, helps clarify my snippet:
The logical contradiction of "believing A" is not "believing not-A."
The logical contradiction of "believing A" is "not believing A."

First 30 seconds of an intro logic course; the definition of "not."

This difference is critical, because there is more than one way of "not believing A," one of which is skeptical doubt, which is not denial.

1 comment:

  1. I was told I mischaracterized sente and that therefore my analogy fails. I displayed what it means in the subsequent conversation (his half of it has conveniently disappeared now). ;)

    But for those are interested, here is what Wikipedia has to say about sente:

    From Wikipedia:
    "Gote and Sente
    A move that leaves the player an overwhelming follow-up move, and thus forces the opponent to respond, is said to have "sente" (先手), or "initiative"; the opponent has "gote" (後手). In most games, the player who keeps sente most of the time will win.
    Gote means "succeeding move" (lit: "after hand"), the opposite of sente, meaning "preceding move" (lit: "before hand").Sente is a term to describe which player has the initiative in the game, and which moves result in taking and holding the initiative. More precisely, as one player attacks, and the other defends in gote, it can be said that they respectively do and do not have the initiative. The situation of having sente is favorable, permitting control of the flow of the game.
    Applying these concepts to a whole sequence is basic to higher strategy. If Black starts a sequence that properly ends in an even number of plays, Black retains sente in doing this. If Black starts a sequence that properly ends after an odd number of plays, Black loses sente and takes gote. Accepting gote should only be in return for some profitable exchange. Correct play in the yose (endgame) can consist of playing available sente sequences, and then taking the largest gote sequence on the board. That description is a simplification, though. A reverse sente play is a special type of gote play, preventing the opponent from making some sente move. The relative value of reverse sente plays depends on the overall position, but one can count it as twice the value of what it would be if purely gote.
    A player has sente if he does not currently need to respond to moves made by his opponent. This can be achieved by tenuki (ignoring the opponent), as a kind of gambit. A player can break out of gote, and can gain sente, by choosing to accept some future loss, on the local level, in order to take the initiative to play elsewhere.
    In the case that neither of the players directly respond to each other's moves, the game can become difficult. Both players will have sente on their turn, and the moves they are making are gote. This will probably end in large exchanges, or one player will be shown to have a weaker position, and will have to start answering to avoid heavy damage."

    Think I mischaracterized sente?


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