agnosticism



agnosticism defined in 1939 year

agnosticism - Agnosticism (Gr. a, not; gnostikos, knowing);
agnosticism - Name given in 1869 by Professor T. H. Huxley (q.v.) to the doctrine, which he was by no means the first to state, that man does not know anything for certain about the spiritual world and existence, God, a First Cause, or the future life. Eternity and infinity, say the agnostics, are conceptions beyond the range of human understanding. Some maintain that they must always remain unknowable. The term was probably suggested to Huxley by the reference in Acts 17 to the altar at Athens dedicated to "an Unknown God" (Agnosto Theo).

Herbert Spencer was a leading exponent of agnosticism, and his First Principles, 1862, ranks with Sir Leslie Stephen's An Agnostic's Apology, 1893, Sir George Greenwood's The Faith of an Agnostic, 1919, and some of T. H. Huxley's essays as a classic exposition of the agnostic standpoint. Agnosticism is to be distinguished from atheism, which denies the existence of God, as from theism, which asserts that existence. Nor are agnostics necessarily materialists, in the ordinary sense of the word as meaning those who believe only in the visible or ascertainable world of human experience. A spiritual world may exist, but the agnostic finds the evidence insufficiently conclusive, so keeps an open mind on the subject. But it is probably true to say that most agnostics disbelieve in the doctrine of free will, such is their regard for the principle of causation as seen throughout the universe. A critical analysis is Robert Flint's Agnosticism, published in 1903.

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