Positive and Negative Assertions

Jul 10, 2011 Comments Off by

One of the foundations of the thinking required to produce atheism, is the distinction between positive and negative assertions.

In order to properly understand these concepts, we’re need to define them. To get our foot in the door, let’s take the typical examples of positive assertions within the subject matter.

“I believe that there is a god.”

This is a positive assertion. What makes it a positive assertion? An assertion is any conclusive statement or thought about any object other than yourself. Unusually, assertion sounds like it should be a prediction or a theory, but actually assertions normally require evidence to support them, and so must be conclusions. A positive assertion is where the conclusion is a statement of truth.

In the above sentence: “I” is merely the reference word for whoever is making the assertion, “believe that” is the phrase that indicates the assertion, and “there is a god” is the statement which the assertion claims to be true.

“I believe that the sky is blue.”

This is another positive assertion. You have come to the conclusion that the sky is blue. Quite how you have come to this conclusion, we can’t tell from this sentence, even if we have a strong suspicion that you found out by looking at the sky.

“I can see that the sky is blue.”

The only part of this sentence that has change is the verb. However this verb does not initiate an assertion, as you are simply describing the result of a mechanism which is beyond your control. You have received this information from the retina in your eye. Therefore this is not an assertion, as it is not a conclusion. In argument, this would count as initial information, along with the method by which you can see that the sky is blue and whether that method is reliable. You would then draw your assumptions from your initial information. You would assume that the method of seeing the colour of the sky is reliable and accurate, as you don’t have any choice. And then you could conclude that it is true that the sky is blue.

Of course, in real thought, not all of this happens, as most of the time if is inefficient, and you can get by without thinking like this. However on certain topics, careful thought is required, and we must be sure to analyse every part of it.

Now let’s look at negative assertions.

“I do not believe the sky is blue.”
“I believe that the sky is not blue.”

In both of these sentences a negation word or phrase has been added. The only difference between them is the position of the negation word. In the first sentence, the negation comes before the assertion, and is not part of the assertion. Therefore the first sentence is a negative assertion. In the second sentence, the negation is part of the assertion, and therefore plays no part in what type of assertion this is. So the second sentence is a positive assertion, but it is described through negation. We could easily rewrite this second sentence to be a positive assertion without a negation in it.

“I believe that the sky is a colour other than blue.”

Now we have positively asserted that the sky has a property of colour which does not include the possibility of it being blue. Certainly in order to define all the colours except blue, we’ve had to clumsily hide our negation. But if we defined the colour “blof” to be any colour except blue, then we’d be fine.

I’m sure you can see where this is heading. I’m now going to transfer these assertions to the subject matter of religion.

“I do not believe there is a god.”
“I believe that there is no god.”

These sentences are similar to the previous pair. The first is a negative assertion, as the negation is not part of the assertion. The second is a positive assertion described negatively, as the negation is part of the assertion.

A negative assertion is a positive assertion that has been negated.

Religion requires positive assertion. Atheism is a negative assertion on the subject of religion. Therefore atheism is not a religion. Why? Because a negative assertion is essentially a void. Negative assertions are the default state, as they are passive. Negative assertions require no proof, no maintenance, hence they are true whether or not you explicitly state them.


About the author

I am the founder of Atheism Network.
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