How is it redundant? How many people are truly gnostic atheists or gnostic theists? Even allowing that belief in knowing qualifies as gnostic, that still leaves a small amount of people in the atheist camp. And I'd argue that the doubt that many theists constantly battle, their crises of faith, constitutes a level of agnosticism.
I'm agnostic about almost everything, if not everything. I see it as a given that doesn't need to be paraded about simply because we are now speaking of religion. And, no, I don't believe that "agnostic" need be repurposed either (even if many have done just that), but I think it is rather useless except when talking with certain theists or pedants.
As I have said before about the couch in my living room that I cannot see from where I type, I really don't know that it's there when my gaze is averted, but that doesn't mean I need to live in a world of false equivalence and glumly admit that my couch might not exist at moments when I am speaking about it and do not have it in sight. The probability of a God or gods is so low, that being "agnostic" about it seems a trivial distinction that atheists can typically do without.
But if people like to call themselves agnostic, it's not the end off the world. I still see it as redundant because it should be a given among most, if not all, people.
I can safely assume that no one alive today knows if a god exists or not. I can't know that to be absolutely true, but I am certain enough that for all intensive purposes, I'll just say that I do know.
Now if a belief of knowledge is what you mean, then I'd allow that some people really do believe that they know. I'd still argue, in good nature, that they are the stark minority, regardless of theistic titles.
But agnosticism regarding a deity is intrinsic to the human condition; we can assume that everyone is agnostic, regardless of their belief system. The presence of a belief system confirms the lack of knowledge.
I still see it as redundant because it should be a given among most, if not all, people.
I am realizing, upon further examination, that my reasons for primarily labeling myself as "agnostic" are rooted in mean-spirited humor and shallow pride. For me, the most appealing facet of the label is that it should be a given amongst people, but it is not. Saying "I am agnostic" should be greeted with a "No shit" reply, but never is. Maybe I am subtly patting myself on the back for getting the inside joke that no one else finds funny?
Anyways, I have been thinking about the agnostic couchism analogy. (Couchism? It just sounded so good, I had to use it.) It reminds me of an example from philosophy class last year about rain in China (same principle, just a farther trip than the living room). Assuming one is sitting in North America, it is impossible to know directly through our immediate sensory perception if it raining in China right now. (This example bars television, radio, or internet as any of these sources can be easily faked, and can only deliver second-hand information.)
So you are agnostic about the presence of rain in China, much like you are agnostic about the presence of your couch in the living room, and much like you are agnostic about the presence of a supernatural deity. However, as I see it, the crucial difference between the first two examples and the third is that you are only ignorant about the rain and the couch because your current location places these events outside your realm of sensory perception. You can very easily walk to your living room--or, less easily, fly to China--and confirm the event with your own senses. But regarding the supernatural deity, there is absolutely nothing you can do to confirm or deny it with your own sensory input. The supernatural deity is fundamentally beyond the realm of your sensory perception; therefore, you are irrevocably agnostic about the presence of a god.
Does this make the two different agnosticisms different? I don't know, but it was bouncing around in my head so I decided to leave a ridiculously long ramble about it here.
I am realizing, upon further examination, that my reasons for primarily labeling myself as "agnostic" are rooted in mean-spirited humor and shallow pride.
Ha! Now that is a good reason to use the term.
And I must point out one important fact about Couchism; the couch will only disappear when you are not there to see it. It's a different version of Sagan's incorporeal dragon in the garage. So, while I may take a stroll to the living room to see if it is there, at the precise moment I do, it materializes. And when I leave the room, it wanders off again, perhaps dumping water on China from lofty heights.
I know it's silly, but really, I can't know that this isn't really happening. There has to come a point where a level of certainty of things either existing or not existing must be treated as if they are knowns. I think gods, fairies, flying unicorns, creepy couches, and other such mythical beasts do not merit an "I dunno maybe".
Let those who belief they are certain carry the extra weight of words.
There has to come a point where a level of certainty of things either existing or not existing must be treated as if they are knowns.
I agree, there is a certain functionality that must be used for daily life. Epistemological rambles are fun for speculation, but practicality demands that we pick a side.
But I guess that what I was trying to get at was that while the creepy couch and the Chinese rain are at least knowable, the supernatural deity is fundamentally unknowable. Therefore, being agnostic towards the couch and the rain when not in the presence of either is only a temporary situation that can be changed by altering one's place in space and/or time. Agnosticism towards the deity is permanent and unremediable; as such, it is a given condition. Even if the couch disappeared upon you leaving the room, you are at least capable of perceiving it when in the presence of the couch. But the supernatural deity remains forever unperceptible.
It is a perversion of this permanent supernatural ignorance for someone to then say, "Could be so!" and try to elevate their belief acknowledging the possibility by labeling it as "agnostic." How does not being able to ever know about something then logically lead to supposing that something is possible? Maybe my thinking is mixed up, because I fail to see logic that people use to have "agnostic" mean "you can't deny the possibility!"
Let those who belief they are certain carry the extra weight of words.
I agree. Using "agnostic" in this scenario is a way to feign disbelief.
In the strictest sense of the words, most atheists are agnostics. It seems redundant to use both, to me.
I agree that labeling oneself as "agnostic" and "atheist" is redundant; everyone is an agnostic regarding a god because no one has knowledge about supernatural entities. I think that "I am agnostic about a god" is as blindingly obvious of a statement as "I exist." The universal condition of agnosticism is the predicate for religious belief; if anyone was actually gnostic regarding a god, then they would know about a god rather than believing or disbelieving in a god. A lack of knowledge is required for the possibility of a accepting or rejecting a belief; therefore, the condition of being agnostic is a given if one claims either theism or atheism.
But it is true that most people misuse "agnosticism" to mean a sort of passive theism; they hold open the possibility of a god existing, which in my mind is halfway to theism. If you hold open the possibility of a god existing, then you are not fully rejecting the belief in a god. At the very least, this is a noncommital deism.
Reggie, I think that we have had this conversation before (IIRC) because I do describe myself as "agnostic." In part, I like the blindingly obvious reference simply because it is not blindingly obvious to so many people. Perhaps not here or on other philosophical forums, but in daily life I am continually amazed that so few people can distinguish between "knowledge" and "belief."
Secondly, I am guilty of capitalizing upon the common misconception of "agnostic," and I find that people are far less confrontational (again, in my daily life) when I use this term rather than "atheist." This largely stems from the massive misconception that "atheism" definitively states that there is no god, and I really don't have the patience to explain the difference between rejecting a belief and claiming an entirely separate belief. (Or maybe I am just perilously lazy...or maybe I am just a coward.)