Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sente

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.