Friday, August 17, 2007

My ethics

For those of you new to the blog, let me briefly sum up my meta-ethical and ethical positions.

I hold meta-ethical subjective relativism: ethical properties (i.e. good and bad, right and wrong) are not objective properties, i.e. properties of objects or other actions, conditions, or states of affairs outside the mind. They are purely subjective properties, properties of minds, and are properties describing the relationship between minds and these states of affairs.

Things are not good or bad; There is only that which we approve of or disapprove of, i.e. that which we value.

My personal set of values can be summed up accurately enough as libertarian humanism: I value human life, liberty and happiness highly, especially my own, and I disapprove of human suffering and death. I therefore also approve of people who have more or less the same values as me, and disapprove of those who hold contrary values.

I do not "hate" anyone, in the sense of wishing them death or suffering. There are people I hold in contempt, even disgust, but I do not hate them. If my contempt or disgust causes you suffering, then you have merely (!) to change your values to regain my good graces. If you don't care about my contempt, then it causes you no suffering, and I feel no guilt.

There are subtleties to this position, especially when one person's happiness depends on another's suffering, but most of the time one can apply simple libertarian humanism to correctly predict my values.

64 comments:

  1. I think humanistic moral values can be made objective with one caveat: "from the point of view of promoting human prosperity and reducing human suffering."

    I know you said that, but since everyone involved in the discussion is human, I would take that as axiomatic and therefore objective for humans.

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  2. blacksun - um, no, there are plenty of humans who think that some level of human suffering is justified in promoting non-suffering for other species. Trivially, for instance, I think it is immoral for me to kill a bee which has got in behind the window, just because it is making an annoying noise. And many humans would go much further than that, albeit the human suffering concerned is not usually their own.

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  3. The word "objective" is, like almost all words in any natural language, overloaded and equivocal. It's often taken to mean "deterministic", "well-defined", or "universal" in addition to its primary meaning of "a property of objects (i.e. non-minded things)".

    I take considerable pains to use "objective" in only its primary meaning, as opposed to "subjective", meaning "property of minds".

    Even with your caveat, meta-ethics still remain subjective, since the property of "promoting human prosperity and reducing human suffering" is incoherent as a purely objective property. At best, given some generalizations about what constitutes human prosperity and suffering in this actual world, the objective, physical properties of object which supervene on the subjective properties would be deterministic or well-defined.

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  4. So do I understand you to mean that while good and evil are subjective to the individual mind we can, nonetheless, arrive at some normative agreement and live "as if" it were an objective standard? If so, I agree.

    And I think we both agree that the standard can not be based on the religious concepts of good and evil except where they coincidentally intersect with the normative agreement.

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  5. We can and do make normative agreements. I don't know, however, that we want to say we were living "as if" agreed-upon standards were truly objective standard.

    This sort of fictionalism seems dangerous because it is precisely the mistaking of an agreement for an objective standard that leads to religion, scholasticism, historicism (in the Popperian sense) and the conservative habit in general of making a fetish of tradition.

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  6. But I'll give you my holy blessing if you just agree with me...

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  7. Excellent summary.

    Tell me, though: I've been struggling with Hume's "Is to Ought" problem. Any thoughts?

    You and I have a similar meta-ethic, which is why I ask.

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  8. The struggle is not, I think, with Hume, but with the fact that Hume's conclusion is counter-intuitive; the struggle is with our own prejudices.

    People want to have moral authority, whether it be the authority of God or the authority of objective truth. I deal with Hume by simply believing him: there is no objective truth regarding issues of ethics; hence I hold meta-ethical subjective relativism.

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  9. Our moral feelings arise from our evolutionary history (in exactly the same way that our feeling that, say, sweet things are nice to eat, does). That's why they are a bit vague at the edges and why there is individual variation even within cultures.

    So Hume is correct that we can't derive ought from is at the micro (specific place and time) level. However, he's wrong at the macro level, just because the whole concept of ought only exists becasue of what is - namely human psychology. "Torturing children for fun is wrong" means only that most human being most of the time have had a very strong feeling of distaste at the idea. "Wrong" as a concept exists only in human brains.

    So if we want to decide what "ought" to be the case, we can only look at what "is" the case in respect of how human psychology is.

    (Actually that last bit might be slightly complicated by some other primates, but that's a side-issue really).

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  10. If I enjoy torturing 6-year old girls for fun and then dismembering them, would I be wrong to do so?
    Would there be any way, on your worldview, for you to make a judgment on my behavior/beliefs beyond "I find it distasteful?"

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  11. If I enjoy torturing 6-year old girls for fun and then dismembering them, would I be wrong to do so?

    If I enjoy having sex before marriage, would I be wrong to do so? Objectively speaking, how do you decide either question.

    Would there be any way, on your worldview, for you to make a judgment on my behavior/beliefs beyond "I find it distasteful?"

    "I find it distasteful" is a judgment. In what sense do I need more than a judgment to make a judgment? You might as well ask me: For what other reason than seeing a tree would one say, "I see a tree"?

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  12. hi BB,

    What I'm getting at is: In your ethical system, is there anythg more to say about any given moral question than "I find it to be OK" or "I find it to be distasteful"?
    Is the question:
    If I enjoy torturing 6-year old girls for fun and then dismembering them, would I be wrong to do so?
    more or less equivalent to:
    If I liked vanilla ice cream, would I be wrong to do so?

    If not, why not?

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  13. You're trying to fit the square peg of meta-ethical subjectivism into the round hole of objectivism.

    If you want to say that meta-ethical subjectivism is not objectivist, you're right.

    In my terms, you're asking me whether I object to you eating vanilla ice cream. I don't. I would, however, object if you want to torture 6-year-old girls (for any reason, not just for fun).

    I would also object if you were to stone your disobedient children to death.

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  14. When we make an ethical judgment, we are stating, essentially, "I do not want Thing X to happen to me or someone I care about; therefore, because I am an empathic creature, I do not want it to happen to anyone."

    Saying something is "wrong" or "evil" is placing a construction around it. Such constructions are useful for creating a framework for behavior and evaluation, but that's all it is. That it's a construction does not make it any more or less valid -- indeed, validity is a matter of A) coherence and B) applicability.

    Saying that torturing a child is "wrong" or "evil" is subconscious shorthand for "As an empathetic being I suffer when children suffer, and I do not wish to suffer, therefore I do not condone and will actively prevent your torture of children." Only, you know, faster.

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  15. In fact, moral preferences don't feel like ice-cream preferences, and I have been lazily for some time trying to define the category of moral preferences (ie what sort of feelings "count" as moral). Maybe this is time to come back to it.

    The other point to make is that "wrong" doesn't somehow have less validity if it is not objective, as long as it is (more or less) universal. If the human race agrees that torturing children for fun is wrong, then it is wrong, and morally justifiable to restrain people's freedom to do it (the very few who could even contemplate it) and even to punish people who do it.

    I picked the example because it is one often considered to be least controversial as a candidate for being just wrong (in some sense or other). It is an inconvenient fact of life that lots of other potentially wrong things do not gather anything so close to 100% ageement (over space and time). That's what societal norms (and latterly formal legislation) are for - negotiating what things are going to count as wrong for everyone to the extent of restraintment of liberty/punishment.

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  16. potentilla:

    The other point to make is that "wrong" doesn't somehow have less validity if it is not objective, as long as it is (more or less) universal.

    The "(more or less)" does not deserve to be parenthetical. It can't be completely universal; if it were completely universal, it would be a physical law and outside the domain of choice. It makes no sense to disapprove of something that no one at all is or can be motivated to do. The only reason to have an opinion at all about torturing six-year-old girls is because somebody does in fact want to do it.

    If the human race agrees that torturing children for fun is wrong, then it is wrong, and morally justifiable to restrain people's freedom to do it...

    I would omit the seemingly objectivist language bolded above, and recast the sentence: If the vast majority of the human race strongly disapproves of torturing children (for fun or any other reason) then we would expect that they would restrain people's freedom to do so.

    Also, there is the meta-value component. It's not just that we disapprove in particular of torturing children, but we disapprove in general of human suffering. Furthermore, we are unwilling to negotiate away our own desire that ourselves and others be free of the physical suffering of torture for some more important benefit.

    Contrast with eating ice cream: While I might find chocolate ice cream icky and disgusting, I'm willing to trade away my interest in not being disgusted in other people's food choices for the freedom to indulge in my own choices. Additionally, while that you like chocolate ice cream may disgust me in particular, that you derive pleasure from some food in general earns my approval.

    One of the cool logical features of meta-ethical subjectivism is that it handles the issue of values and meta-values in a graceful way, without self-referential paradoxes: Emotions are equally valid regarding values (such as disapproving of torturing children), and meta-values (such as disapproving of human suffering in general) at any level of meta. Indeed, if there is substantial contention at one level, we can just hoist the discussion to a more general level of abstraction until we can reach agreement.

    There's the potential self-referential paradox of disapproving of meta-ethical subjectivism, but this paradox is avoided with the meta-ethical characterization, hoisting the discussion outside of ethics and into objective truth: meta-ethical subjectivism is falsifiable and therefore objectively truth-apt.

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  17. It makes no sense to disapprove of something that no one at all is or can be motivated to do.

    No, but there is a distinction to be drawn between a feeling of wrongness and whether a few people can be motivated to do whateveritis. Sometimes people do things even when they have a strong feeling that they are morally wrong to do so, because they have a stronger feeling that they want to (sex, maybe, or desire to protect one's own child at any expense). The feeling of wrongness can be more universal than the not-doing; possibly even completely universal, although I doubt there are any actual examples of this, unless we start cheating by excluding people who are mad, whatever that means.

    seemingly objectivist language. The point I was trying to make, not very lucidly, is that there is no more objective meaning to "it is wrong" than "the vast majority of the human race thinks is wrong".

    Your ice-cream para interests me, because I don't think any of the feelings of disgust etc you mention can reasonably be called moral. Rhology asked Would there be any way, on your worldview, for you to make a judgment on my behavior/beliefs beyond "I find it distasteful?" , and of course "it is distasteful" is not the precise emotional equivalent of "it is wrong". I don't think that the difference is just a matter of degree, either (ie "I find this unspeakably distasteful" does not equal "I think this is wrong").

    I need to come back to this after thinking more - am really doing something else right now. (For the avoidance of doubt, I am not saying that there is anything more objective about the sorts of things we call moral, just that they can be distinguished from other matters of taste).

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  18. Hi BB,

    would, however, object if you want to torture 6-year-old girls (for any reason, not just for fun).

    Why?
    Does your ethical system include a clause that allows you to override someone else's ethical system for the sake of making yourself feel better or justify yourself somehow? If the latter, before what are you justifying yourself?
    Also, you didn't answer my question. You just said how it would make YOU feel, but I'm interested in knowing if there's a qualitative difference between those two statements that I made.

    Hi James,

    When we make an ethical judgment, we are stating, essentially, "I do not want Thing X to happen to me or someone I care about; therefore, because I am an empathic creature, I do not want it to happen to anyone."

    When **I** make an ethical judgment, I am stating moreover, "God, the Lawgiver and Creator, has said that Action X is breaking His law. For your own good, stop, and obey." It also happens to grieve me that the person is committing the sin, but that's BECAUSE it's breaking the Law, which I love.

    Saying something is "wrong" or "evil" is placing a construction around it.

    Which is what I'm trying to get to the bottom of.

    Saying that torturing a child is "wrong" or "evil" is subconscious shorthand for "As an empathetic being I suffer when children suffer, and I do not wish to suffer, therefore I do not condone and will actively prevent your torture of children."

    Could I not also say this?
    "As an empathetic being I suffer when you eat brussels sprouts b/c they are gross, and I do not wish to suffer, therefore I do not condone and will actively prevent your eating brussels sprouts." Why or why not?


    Potentilla said:
    moral preferences don't feel like ice-cream preferences

    But epistemologically, given the BB's bankrupt ethical system, they are the same. So what if they FEEL the same?

    BB said:
    It can't be completely universal; if it were completely universal, it would be a physical law and outside the domain of choice.

    Or it could be a spiritual law, but no less outside the domain of choice. Obey it or pay the consequences.

    If the vast majority of the human race strongly disapproves of torturing children (for fun or any other reason) then we would expect that they would restrain people's freedom to do so.

    Which doesn't get into WHY it's wrong. This is a tautology.
    If this is where your system leads you...

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  19. Rhology:

    Pardon me for fisking you, but it seems the most efficient way of answering your questions.

    Does your ethical system include a clause that allows you to override someone else's ethical system for the sake of making yourself feel better or justify yourself somehow?

    Yes, to make myself feel better.

    If the latter, before what are you justifying yourself?

    I don't understand this question or the bolded part of the previous question.

    When **I** make an ethical judgment, I am stating moreover, "God, the Lawgiver and Creator, has said that Action X is breaking His law.

    How quaintly arrogant of you.

    Could I not also say this?
    "As an empathetic being I suffer when you eat brussels sprouts b/c they are gross, and I do not wish to suffer, therefore I do not condone and will actively prevent your eating brussels sprouts." Why or why not?


    You could say, why not? You just did. Does eating brussels sprouts really cause you that much suffering? Can you persuade enough others to make such a prohibition an actuality? Furthermore, I'm not sure about you religious folks, but we atheists, as I mentioned in my reply to potentilla are used to dealing with issues at varying levels of abstraction. How do you feel about the abstract, general concept of regulating people's eating habits? Are you willing to trade my not eating brussels sprouts for you not eating chocolate ice cream?

    But epistemologically, given the BB's bankrupt ethical system, they are the same. So what if they FEEL the same?

    This highlights the difference between evidentiary epistemology and a priori epistemology. They don't in actual fact feel the same. If they did feel the same (i.e. if we had the same level of revulsion to eating ice cream that we had towards eating human flesh), we'd use a different example for something about which we feel differently.

    And it's instructive, although unsurprising, to know you consider democracy to be a bankrupt ethical system.

    Which doesn't get into WHY it's wrong. This is a tautology.

    What's the problem with tautology?

    If this is where your system leads you...

    Where does it lead us, Rho? To democracy? To individual liberty? Away from slavish adherence to the cultural prejudices of pre-technological maniacs? Now that would be a catastrophe!

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  20. By the way, Rho, if you're all fired up to live under the direct rule of God, I could take up a collection here to buy you a one-way ticket to Iran or Saudi Arabia.

    (I'm a secularist before I'm an atheist: As long as the First Amendment stands, I'm quite happy living in a secular country where religious people are free to try to persuade others to their supernatural bullshit, so long as they get only one vote each.)

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  21. Potentilla,

    The other point to make is that "wrong" doesn't somehow have less validity if it is not objective, as long as it is (more or less) universal.

    Exactly!

    Rhology,

    When **I** make an ethical judgment, I am stating moreover, "God, the Lawgiver and Creator, has said that Action X is breaking His law...

    Which is one of the constructions I am talking about. Expressing something as "God's Law" is merely a way of creating an easily-understood framework for semantic expression.

    Further, your holding of something as "God's Law" begs the Euthyphro conundrum: You have devoted yourself to the construction that something is moral because of God's say-so. Therefore, if, in some fashion you simply could not refute or disbelieve, God commanded the raping and killing of all six year olds, by your own construction you are compelled to rape and kill six year olds. That's as morally relative as it gets.

    "As an empathetic being I suffer when you eat brussels sprouts b/c they are gross, and I do not wish to suffer, therefore I do not condone and will actively prevent your eating brussels sprouts." Why or why not?

    You could, but you'd be wrong: Your suffering when another eats brussel sprouts (which are delicious, btw) is not due to empathy; it is due to projection, which is a part of what occurs in a moral judgment, but not the whole of the thing. Your status as an empathetic being doesn't even come into play; therefore you've created a false analogy, rendering this line of argumentation specious.

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  22. Hi BB,

    How quaintly arrogant of you.

    To recognise that God has authority over me, it's arrogant? Whatever you say.

    You could say, why not? You just did.

    James, if you're concerned about semantics...

    Does eating brussels sprouts really cause you that much suffering?

    But why make suffering the hallmark? That's just personal preference again.

    Can you persuade enough others to make such a prohibition an actuality?

    Irrelevant to my point on epistemology.

    How do you feel about the abstract, general concept of regulating people's eating habits? Are you willing to trade my not eating brussels sprouts for you not eating chocolate ice cream?

    Also irrelevant. What I'm curious about is whether there is a moral equivalence between a distaste for ice cream and a distaste for torturing little girls for fun. It's more or less a yes or no, followed by a brief explanation. I am fully forthcoming; why won't you be?

    They don't in actual fact feel the same. If they did feel the same (i.e. if we had the same level of revulsion to eating ice cream that we had towards eating human flesh), we'd use a different example for something about which we feel differently.

    Of course they don't feel the same - you're responding to my objector.
    What I want to know is WHY you set up torture of little girls as more objectionable than liking ice cream.

    it's instructive, although unsurprising, to know you consider democracy to be a bankrupt ethical system.

    Where did you get that?
    My comment was based on your ethical system, which relegates questions of morality to personal preference. Has little to do w/ whether a democratic govt' is better than a dictatorship or whatever.

    What's the problem with tautology?

    Nothing, except when I ask you to justify your position and you respond w/ tautology.


    if you're all fired up to live under the direct rule of God, I could take up a collection here to buy you a one-way ticket to Iran or Saudi Arabia.

    The govt's of those countries are not in submission to God, so that's a strange thing to say.

    I'm quite happy living in a secular country where religious people are free to try to persuade others to their supernatural

    Me too.
    It's funny - this canard is so often pulled out by atheists that I find it very amusing.
    You didn't answer any of my questions (about your ethical system) and then you act like you're the one standing up for free speech, whereas I would jump at the chance to remove the 1st Amendment. I think any reader can see what's going on there.


    James,

    Expressing something as "God's Law" is merely a way of creating an easily-understood framework for semantic expression.

    It may be, but it's a far sight better than being completely unable, semantically or otherwise, to explain the difference between torture and liking ice cream.
    The BB is acting like he's afraid of the conclusions of his own worldview, and I find that very sad.

    You have devoted yourself to the construction that something is moral because of God's say-so.

    I explained that to you already and you've not yet answered. I'll be happy to wait for that.

    God commanded the raping and killing of all six year olds, by your own construction you are compelled to rape and kill six year olds.

    1) I asked you to provide documentation of where God commanded rape. You haven't.
    2) Now I ask you to provide documentation of where God commanded rape of 6 year olds.
    3) Even if God had commanded it at one time to a specific people at a specific instance (which He didn't), that would not mean that I would be compelled to do so, b/c that context doesn't apply to me. The standing command is not to rape. You have made this charge several times, have been corrected, and continue in it. Why?

    Your suffering when another eats brussel sprouts (which are delicious, btw) is not due to empathy; it is due to projection, which is a part of what occurs in a moral judgment, but not the whole of the thing.

    You've said nothing here that can't be just as relevant to torturing little girls for fun. When are you going to get to the heart of the matter?

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  23. Rhology and jfe quite probably have different views on Brussels sprouts because they have different alleles of the gene responsible for the taste receptor TAS2R38 which detects bitter tastes such as glucosinolates, which sprouts are full of. Also, maybe Rhology was forced to eat more horrible mushy over-cooked sprouts as a child.

    So it's all a matter of taste, but there are reasons for the tastes.

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  24. To recognise that God has authority over me, it's arrogant? Whatever you say.

    No, it's arrogant to believe that you have any idea whatsoever about a God wants. Even leaving aside the question of God's existence, why should I assume there's any correlation whatsoever between what you say and what God wants?

    If a God were to exist, my ethical intuitions would carry as much information about what God wants as yours do, and we're back to meta-ethical subjective relativism.

    But why make suffering the hallmark? That's just personal preference again.

    Of course it's personal preference. Personal preference is what meta-ethical subjective relativism is all about.

    I use "suffering" in the personal sense because it's a psychological fact that we one way we experience motivation to change the world is as "suffering": when we're in pain, we seek to remove the cause of the pain. I'm using "suffering" as a shorthand for such subjective psychological motivation.

    Irrelevant to my point on epistemology.

    What is your point on epistemology?

    What I want to know is WHY you set up torture of little girls as more objectionable than liking ice cream.

    You were the one who set up the dichotomy. I'm just reporting the facts: I do in fact object violently to the torture of little girls; I do not object at all to vanilla ice cream.

    If you want to ask why I object more, I can give you a causal explanation (evolution and socialization), but meta-ethical subjective relativism entails that there is no such thing as a normative explanation.

    Of course, neither you nor anyone else can establish an epistemic basis which provides a normative explanation without presupposing the normative standards or imposing some other equally arbitrary standards (such as the choice of scripture or the choice of metaphor to interpret that scripture) and we're back at meta-ethical subjective relativism.

    Nothing, except when I ask you to justify your position and you respond w/ tautology.

    I do my best to answer questions as I read them. If I'm not answering your question to your satisfaction, it might be because I am not grasping your point. Perhaps you could re-state the entire question in a different way.

    The govt's of those countries are not in submission to God, so that's a strange thing to say.

    They say they are, they have a scripture to prove it, and I'm unable to find an objective, evidentiary way to distinguish between their claims about what God wants and your own.

    You didn't answer any of my questions...

    I did answer many of your questions. You might not like the answers, and I may have misunderstood your questions, but I am answering.

    I asked you to provide documentation of where God commanded rape.

    Deuteronomy 20:13-14
    Deuteronomy 21:10-13
    udges 21:10-12
    Thanks to Donald Morgan's list of Biblical Atrocities.

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  25. Hi BB,

    You've made some statements that don't make any sense, to the effect that I as a believer in the Bible have just as little objective epistemic foundation to ground my value judgments as you do.
    Let me try to clear that up.
    The God of the Bible (TGOTB) has made laws and all humans are subject to them.
    When humans break these laws, they will be held responsible for an offense to an infinitely holy God.
    These laws are objective and set in stone, if you'll pardon the pun, not subject to negotiation.
    So when God says, for example, "Do not murder," that action (ie, murder) is no longer questionable. It is a wrong thing to do.
    Contrast that w/ The BB's system here, where he has been conditioned by evolution, society, and upbringing to think some things are terrible (torture) and some things are not (going to the opera). But why does he assign "good"/"not good" values to these things? Nothing more than personal preference.


    No, it's arrogant to believe that you have any idea whatsoever about a God wants.

    Of course it is, given an atheistic worldview.
    But if God has self-revealed in the Bible, then it's not arrogant at all. It would be arrogant to ignore His self-revelation.

    Even leaving aside the question of God's existence, why should I assume there's any correlation whatsoever between what you say and what God wants?

    Not asking you to assume it. I'll be happy to provide biblical documentation at any time, just ask. TGOTB has self-revealed in the Bible, so I'm just reporting it. Don't shoot the messenger.

    If a God were to exist, my ethical intuitions would carry as much information about what God wants as yours do, and we're back to meta-ethical subjective relativism.

    I have never appealed to intuition, so this assertion makes no sense.

    Of course it's personal preference. Personal preference is what meta-ethical subjective relativism is all about.

    QED.

    I'm using "suffering" as a shorthand for such subjective psychological motivation.

    And you don't like suffering.
    I'm certain (I'm being serious) that you also don't like inflicting suffering.
    But there are others in the world who DO like inflicting suffering and would appeal to evolution, upbringing, and personal preference. It doesn't sound like there's a way to say "you're evil!" but rather "I don't like what you do!" Is that right?

    neither you nor anyone else can establish an epistemic basis which provides a normative explanation without presupposing the normative standards or imposing some other equally arbitrary standards

    While I agree that your standards are 110% arbitrary, mine are not. They are imposed from without by TGOTB.

    They say they are, they have a scripture to prove it

    Wow, they say they are. I'm not impressed.
    And their Scripture and concept of God is bunk; that's why I said what I said.

    I'm unable to find an objective, evidentiary way to distinguish between their claims about what God wants and your own.

    OK; but I fail to see why, since YOU don't see it, I should believe it doesn't exist.
    Perhaps (ie, it's certain that) you have not done enough analysis of the issue at hand to find the truth. Education is the answer here.

    Deut 20:13-14 13"When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.
    14"Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.


    So God is commanding the Israelites to rape the women, children, and animals?
    Where does the psg mention rape? Looks equally possible, just based on the psg itself and not even taking into acct the rest of the Bible, that they were to marry the women.

    Deut 21:10-13 - 10"When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive,
    11and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself,
    12then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails.
    13"She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.


    Same thing.
    Also:
    1) This is a boon for these women, since they have now escaped the corrupt and depraved society of which they were mbrs before.
    2) They will be wives of the Israelite men and enjoy full legal protection.
    3) They will have the opportunity to live in the covenant community of TGOTB rather than their disgusting pagan deities which had them in spiritual bondage.
    Again, I've missed the rape.

    Joshua 21:10-14 - 10And the congregation sent 12,000 of the valiant warriors there, and commanded them, saying, "Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the little ones.
    11"This is the thing that you shall do: you shall utterly destroy every man and every woman who has lain with a man."
    12And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him; and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
    13Then the whole congregation sent word and spoke to the sons of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them.
    14Benjamin returned at that time, and they gave them the women whom they had kept alive from the women of Jabesh-gilead; yet they were not enough for them.


    You know, I wouldn't have made a big deal out of it if you'd gone looking and come back saying, "Oops, I made a mistake; I concede the point."
    Where's the rape? You have utterly failed to deliver the goods. Worse, b/c you reject TGOTB and His law, you wouldn't be able to tell me w/ full assurance that rape is wrong. You'd just be able to say "I dislike it." Well, maybe I like it. Who are you to judge me?

    Peace,
    Rhology

    ReplyDelete
  26. The God of the Bible (TGOTB) has made laws and all humans are subject to them.

    There is no such entity, there are no such laws, and no human person is subject to them.

    When humans break these laws, they will be held responsible for an offense to an infinitely holy God.

    No they won't.

    These laws are objective and set in stone, if you'll pardon the pun, not subject to negotiation.

    No they aren't. etc. etc. "Arguing" is pretty easy when you can just make up your own facts.

    Contrast that w/ The BB's system here, where he has been conditioned by evolution, society, and upbringing to think some things are terrible (torture) and some things are not (going to the opera). But why does he assign "good"/"not good" values to these things? Nothing more than personal preference.

    "Personal preference is personal preference" is not a counterargument. The implication that you do not like the conclusion is not a counterargument, especially when the argument is about what people do and do not like as a basis for ethical reasoning.

    But if God has self-revealed in the Bible, then it's not arrogant at all.

    If wishes were horses then beggars would ride. A conditional is just meaningless blather unless you can prove the truth of the antecedent.

    I'll be happy to provide biblical documentation at any time...

    What precisely do you mean "biblical documentation"? Do you mean to say you can scientifically prove a divine provenance for The Bible? If so, this is the crux of the biscuit.

    Let me make you an offer in all seriousness: Submit an essay in your own words (I don't suborn plagiarism) proving the divine provenance of the Bible and, assuming it meets ordinary editorial standards (mostly English composition and citation of sources), I'll publish it on the front page of the blog. You will, I promise, have complete control of the content, and I won't publish anything unless you yourself approve the material exactly as it will appear.

    I've studied the history of the Bible pretty carefully. I'll criticize the essay in the following post, and I do not promise to be gentle.

    Before you begin, you might want to read The Jury Is In: The Ruling on McDowell's "Evidence", Jeffery Jay Lowder, ed. You might also want to familiarize yourself with the Secular Web Library section on Arguments for the Existence of God. You might also want to acquaint yourself with their section on Logic & Fallacies.

    Your whole ideology hinges on this point. Put up or shut up.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I won't even start, BTW, on your defense of biblical rape. The idea that one can murder a woman's parents and then it is a boon to marry her by force is contemptible in any society.

    The Biblical passages can be excused only because they are fantasy (the Israelites were indigenous to Canaan), sadistic, brutal and savage fantasy, but still fantasy; only that the perpetrators of similar acts in actual history are long dead exempts them from justice.

    For their apologists, I have no sympathy.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Rhology,

    I explained that to you already and you've not yet answered. I'll be happy to wait for that.

    My apologies; I stopped reading the "Fringe and Mainstream" thread and did not see your reply. Your response to the Euthyphro question is tautological: "it's not a whim because it flows from who God is and God is who He is" is, while internally a valid construction, really an insufficient answer. Relying on ontological definitions to explain something to someone who is skeptical about that something's very existence is poor argumentation indeed.

    You also stated there "Yes, and you will bear that sin before God's throne of judgment unless you repent. It is nothing short of idolatry."

    Bring it. Any such God isn't worth my devotion. I privilege Man before God because Man I can be sure of; his potential for good I can see and encourage. Not so the arbitrary caprice of some uncertain entity.

    1) I asked you to provide documentation of where God commanded rape. You haven't.

    God's commandments in Deuteronomy are largely taken as commands to breed the offending communities out of existence. Please see the work, among others, of Prof. Timothy Schutt. There is also Genesis 34:13-29 (taking the wives as plunder); in Numbers when the Israelites slaughter the Canaanites; in Numbers there is the capture and rape of the Midianite women, the virgins are taken as "booty;" in Deuteronomy He also gives permission to take women as "captive wives" and to cast them aside if they give them "no delight."

    Geez, man, that's just up through Deuteronomy.

    2) Now I ask you to provide documentation of where God commanded rape of 6 year olds.

    Foul! That was manifestly not the question. I asked if, since morality flows from God, said deity chose to mandate the rape and murder of a six year old, would that act then become moral. This is quite clearly not saying that He had done so. Just for related argument's sake, in Leviticus 26:22 God states that he will use wild beasts to kill children. He also kills all the Egyptian first-borns in Egypt in Exodus. Off the top of my head, Leviticus and Deuteronomy both have God causing people to eat the flesh of their "sons and daughters and fathers and friends." He might not order rape, but Dude's got himself a vicious temper.

    3) Even if God had commanded it at one time to a specific people at a specific instance (which He didn't)...

    Did. See above.

    ...that would not mean that I would be compelled to do so, b/c that context doesn't apply to me. The standing command is not to rape. You have made this charge several times, have been corrected, and continue in it. Why?

    Because you haven't answered the question; you keep punting it to "but He hasn't." That's not the question. And He did. He just didn't tell you.

    You've said nothing here that can't be just as relevant to torturing little girls for fun. When are you going to get to the heart of the matter?

    I need you to comprehend, not just read. I really think that at this point you're being obtuse. I haven't been vague at all; if you disagree that's one thing (and no more than I expect), but to state that I haven't been clear is to beg the question of whether or not you're arguing in good faith (pardon the pun).

    ReplyDelete
  29. Yeah, yeah, that whole Bible thing. Whole ‘nuther discussion really. Back to ethics:

    Your suffering when another eats brussel sprouts ... is not due to empathy; it is due to projection, which is a part of what occurs in a moral judgment, but not the whole of the thing. Your status as an empathetic being doesn't even come into play; therefore you've created a false analogy, rendering this line of argumentation specious.

    I understand Rho to probe the boundary your ethics creates between an individual’s autonomy and social control. By what standards do we distinguish between empathy and projection?

    Consider some more practical examples:

    1. If some kid insists on running into the street, and his dad concludes that he must spank the kid to discourage this behavior, should society bar me from doing so? After all, spanking is the intentional infliction of pain to induce compliance – in short, child torture. Would my feelings of empathy for the kid justify social intervention? Or would this merely be a projection of my own feelings onto the circumstances?

    2. What if the guy wants to subject himself to adult circumcision? I suspect most uncircumcised guys would have a visceral reaction, but I don’t know whether to characterize it as empathy or projection. Should society intervene?

    3. How ‘bout abortion? Are my concerns for the fetus empathy, justifying intervention, or mere projection?

    4. Slaughter of cattle for beef: empathy or projection?

    5. Dog fighting: empathy or projection?

    nobody.really

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  30. Anon: There are no objectively correct answers to your questions. How do you yourself feel about the various trade-offs between autonomy and social control? Between one person's interests and another's? Between your feelings about the values and meta-values involved? How do your answers integrate with your feelings about other topics?

    Rational, logical examination about ethics can help us clarify and rationalize our feelings, but at the end of the day nothing more than the actual facts about our subjective feelings must serve as our foundation.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Your other question, about empathy and projection, can be answered more simply: Does all of the evidence point to the simplest explanation that some other person is really is experiencing some emotion? If so, then it's empathy; if not, it's projection.

    For instance, if a person tells you she's happy, tells all her friends that she's happy, acts in ways consistent with happiness, then if you think she's "really" miserably, you're probably projecting.

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  32. When deciding whether “some other person is really is experiencing some emotion” when a dog is in a fighting pit, the answer turns on whether we regard a dog as a person for purposes of this analysis. Does the proffered ethic offer any guidance on that question?

    Moreover, if I conclude that I’m actually empathizing with a person, does that by itself justify social intervention? After all, both the dog and the dog owner are experiencing emotion. How should I select the autonomy to be vindicated?

    Maybe I need to back up and ask the meta-question: What purpose do we expect a system of ethics to fill? As far as I can tell, the purpose filled by the proposed system is merely to displace more dogmatic systems. That’s no small contribution; rather existential and all. But it does leave the whole systemic-framework-for-world-view thing unresolved. At the end of the day, I gotta decide what to do about abortion and dog fights, and I sense that the proffered system isn’t going to offer me any guidance. Except perhaps the guidance of saying There’s no point in looking for guidance anywhere else, either!

    nobody.really

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  33. When deciding whether “some other person is really is experiencing some emotion” when a dog is in a fighting pit, the answer turns on whether we regard a dog as a person for purposes of this analysis. Does the proffered ethic offer any guidance on that question?

    No. That would seem a scientific question, not a philosophical question.

    Moreover, if I conclude that I’m actually empathizing with a person, does that by itself justify social intervention?

    Nothing "justifies" either intervention or non-intervention. Only you can decide whether you want to and choose to attempt to intervene.

    Maybe I need to back up and ask the meta-question: What purpose do we expect a system of ethics to fill? As far as I can tell, the purpose filled by the proposed system is merely to displace more dogmatic systems. That’s no small contribution; rather existential and all. But it does leave the whole systemic-framework-for-world-view thing unresolved.

    Indeed it does. I will have to satisfy myself with displacing more dogmatic systems.

    I sense that the proffered system isn’t going to offer me any guidance. Except perhaps the guidance of saying There’s no point in looking for guidance anywhere else, either!

    That's kind of a recurring theme you'll hear from us atheists. ;)

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  34. Hi nobody.really,

    You ask some good questions, but I think you’re making a false distinction that, if I implied it, isn’t supposed to be there. Moral judgments are not just acts empathy, they also involve projection. However, “taste” examples, such as Rhology’s brussel sprouts and ice cream, are not matters of empathy – perceiving and feeling emotions as we can imagine or see others feeling them – but of taste and, if we are of an opposite mind, projection. Further, that projection has no consequence: who cares if you don’t like brussel sprouts and someone else does? There is no harm or virtue to either preference (except perhaps needing to find a nutritional substitute for a leafy green).

    Projection is the act of imagining oneself experiencing something someone else is and feeling what that person or creature feels. It is the mental act of “being in someone’s shoes.” Empathy is the ability to comprehend the concomitant emotions and sensations and to subsequently care. Dogs, lower-order primates, and people – essentially all pack animals – exhibit this ability. There are always exceptions and individual variation, of course, and the ability can be blunted by genetics and psychological trauma.

    The decision to act or not act is always based on two calculations: 1) my empathy and projection do not allow me to tolerate what the other is experiencing, and 2) my will to act is sufficient to allow for intervention or to encourage an authority to intervene and punish in my stead. A judgment is, ultimately, an act of expressing distaste. Whether there is communal agreement or simply individual impetus, judgment is just that – a choice. This is why a defense we often accept for wrong decisions is that one acted based on their “best judgment” given the information available to them at the moment of action.

    In that sense, the quandaries you pose are not either/or matters. We must use perception and judgment. What is the person’s intent in spanking the child? To punish or to teach? We might disagree with the method of teaching, but the intent and intensity also matter. Why would anyone make a judgment about an adult’s choice to chop off a bit of his wiener? He’s a lunatic, but, hey, that’s his business, same with shooting a rod through his scrotum, septum, or lower lip: what harm is done? I would imagine that in the case of abortion, if one feels that it is wrong, one is compelled to act as they feel comfortable and appropriate. Others will judge one’s actions accordingly. I personally feel that slaughtering cattle, if done humanely, isn’t a particularly big deal; my sister vehemently disagrees, but neither of us thinks the other is “evil” for making what is essentially a moral choice based on our sympathy for cows. With dog fighting, I not only have empathy for the suffering of the wounded creatures, but I can project myself into the place of a creature at the whim of a more powerful figure who forces it to do something by removing its choices to do otherwise. Both these factors in place, the compulsion to act is, in my judgment, sufficient motivation.

    We can make that choice predicated on any number of decision trees: “I have considered the options and find this wrong, and so will act (or simply condemn);” “Learned authority tells me this is wrong, and I trust the authority, so it is wrong;” “I am persuaded by another’s reasoning and so will accept their conclusion that this is wrong;” and so on.

    Ultimately, our judgments – our moral choices -- are predicated on decisions we make at all levels, conditioned by our instructional sources, our environment, and the ways we have learned to evaluate things. Someone like Rhology has learned to evaluate his stimuli in the context of his learned structure: the Bible and his faith in the Christian God. As members of the same society, often he and I will be in accord. Sometimes not so much; and that’s typically okay.

    Much of my theory of moral action is founded on the work of Piaget’s “schemata” theory of cognitive development, and Erikson’s adaptation of that theory for moral development. Combine these with an evolutionary anthropological perspective on man’s need to succeed as a cooperative social creature on the whole and the schema, combined with our survival needs, create the following picture: It is not necessary for morals to be “objective” in the sense that they are physical realities or dictated to us. It is enough that they are proven successful for human functioning in a communal environment. They are “real” because man needs them to be, not because God tells Man that they are.

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  35. I think of "personhood" as reflecting judgments about social status. Hard to know how to employ science for making such a determination.

    What scientific test would I conduct to determine whether a dog is a person? What would the hypothesis be? What would the control group be? What would be the dependent and independent variables?

    nobody.really

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  36. Hi BB,

    God doesn't exist, etc.

    OK. Your assertions to the contrary don't remorph reality.

    Personal preference is personal preference" is not a counterargument.

    You'll note I've attempted no argument for my worldview. What I've been doing is poking holes in yours.
    And the issue at hand is: "Is meta-ethical subjective relativism more binding or overarching than mere personal preference?" Your answer has been no.

    Do you mean to say you can scientifically prove a divine provenance for The Bible?

    1) On historical terms, yes.
    2) How could one "scientifically" test metaphysical claims? It's a clumsy question.

    Submit an essay in your own words (I don't suborn plagiarism) proving the divine provenance of the Bible

    Hmm, I guess I could. Or better yet I could just link to 10 of them.
    But it wouldn't do any good. Why? B/c you presuppose its untruth and so would refuse any evidence I gave you. Interestingly, however, if I were to post sthg like that (and I'll think about it), you would use reason and logical arguments to try to prove its untruth. In doing so, you'd be assuming that reason and logic are workable, are objective. Yet as an atheist, you'd have no basis to think that, so you're borrowing from the Christian worldview to poke holes in the Christian worldview. This is the sad predicament of the atheist.

    Your whole ideology hinges on this point.

    Mmm, not really. Your speaking in rational terms and using logic is more and more proof of TGOTB's existence. But perhaps you could provide some info on an atheistic basis for rationality, logic, and induction. I'd ask about morality, but we've already seen your system is bankrupt, nothing more than personal preference.

    I won't even start, BTW, on your defense of biblical rape. The idea that one can murder a woman's parents and then it is a boon to marry her by force is contemptible in any society.

    Too bad, b/c bare assertions do not an argument make. You have failed to document your accusations of rape.


    Hi JFE,

    My apologies; I stopped reading the "Fringe and Mainstream" thread and did not see your reply.

    Yes, I figured as much. No problem. We should probably let it die anyway, since it's getting a bit old. Discussions can always be transplanted anyway.

    Relying on ontological definitions to explain something to someone who is skeptical about that something's very existence is poor argumentation indeed.

    I wasn't expecting you to fall on your knees and repent due to my explanation; I was answering your objection. You presented a false dilemma (the Euthyphro dilemma) and I pointed out the 3rd (and true) alternative.

    Any such God isn't worth my devotion.

    The arrogance of puny humanity. I used to be like you, actually; I was a hard agnostic, shaking my tiny fist in God's direction. I thank God He had mercy on my stone-cold heart.

    Not so the arbitrary caprice of some uncertain entity.

    You assign arbitrariness and caprice based on your own arbitrary, capricious personal preference. It has no value for anyone besides you. Why even post it on a public blog or argue using that system?

    God's commandments in Deuteronomy are largely taken as commands to breed the offending communities out of existence.

    In the psgs already cited, I believe the rest of the people group was killed, so it would not really be the plan to "breed them out of existence." Sounds more like they were sword-ed out of existence.

    There is also Genesis 34:13-29 (taking the wives as plunder)

    Where was the divine command for this action? Do you think that, just b/c it's recorded in the Bible, it was commanded by God?

    in Numbers there is the capture and rape of the Midianite women

    Where?

    in Deuteronomy He also gives permission to take women as "captive wives" and to cast them aside if they give them "no delight."

    Where?

    Foul! That was manifestly not the question...This is quite clearly not saying that He had done so.

    Oh, I guess I misunderstood. Sorry. Point conceded.

    I asked if, since morality flows from God, said deity chose to mandate the rape and murder of a six year old, would that act then become moral.

    It's an impossible question, since He WOULD never do so.
    It's the same question as: can Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that He can't eat it?

    He might not order rape, but Dude's got himself a vicious temper.

    1) So do you concede, then, that He never ordered rape, absent any evidence produced after numerous challenges?
    2) And you criticise His "temper" based on personal preference, which is arbitrary. Why should anyone else listen?

    I really think that at this point you're being obtuse.

    Why, b/c you point to empathy and projection as the bases for knowing that inflicting suffering is morally objectionable? You continue to beg the question. I'm asking WHY it is wrong to inflict suffering. Simply saying "B/c I dislike suffering myself, so I don't want to inflict it on others" proves my point, that your ethical system is only good as far as YOU, and for no one else.

    Further, that projection has no consequence: who cares if you don’t like brussel sprouts and someone else does?

    My question is: who cares if you don't like torturing little girls and someone else does?
    What is the qualitative difference between those questions?

    A judgment is, ultimately, an act of expressing distaste.

    Which is nothing more than personal in nature.
    I hope you never tell anyone, "Judge not."

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  37. Hmm, I guess I could [post an essay]. Or better yet I could just link to 10 of them.

    But it wouldn't do any good. Why? B/c you presuppose its untruth and so would refuse any evidence I gave you.


    That is both a lie and a canard. You are—like most Christians I talk to—a liar. I never refuse evidence.

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  38. nobody.really: I think of "personhood" as reflecting judgments about social status.

    If you construct "personhood" as a judgment, then it's subjective by definition.

    What scientific test would I conduct to determine whether a dog is a person? What would the hypothesis be? What would the control group be? What would be the dependent and independent variables?

    Keep in mind that null and alternate hypotheses, control groups, dependent and independent variables and suchlike are specific techniques for answering certain kinds of scientific questions; they are not the sine qua non of the scientific method.

    The scientific method is much simpler: What is the most parsimonious logical explanation for some body of evidence?

    Do dogs have feelings? What kind of feelings do dogs have?

    To answer this sort of question, you need to do a few things: Define "feelings" in a particular way: some hypothetical entity that has some particular effect, such that if the entity did not exist, the effect would not be observed. Observing the effect is thus evidence for the entity. For instance, we could define "pain" as a neurological entity that causes avoidance and retreat in the face of physically damaging stimuli. If some organism does not feel pain, it will not avoid or retreat from damaging stimuli.

    The tough part of the scientific method is exploring the possible logical explanations and finding the most parsimonious.

    Still and all, it's clear that dogs, cats, and most organisms with even a minimal nervous system feel pain and pleasure, and thus suffering and happiness.

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  39. nobody.really,

    Hard to know how to employ science for making such a determination.

    If this is addressed to me, then I would state that the system I outlined above doesn't require an acknowledgment of "personhood" at all. It doesn't rely on scientific methods precisely because ultimate moral judgments can be informed by rationality and "testing," but are primarily made at an emotional level.

    Rhology,

    Your assertions to the contrary don't remorph reality.

    The irony contained in this statement could power the engines of satire for at least six months.

    But it wouldn't do any good. Why? B/c you presuppose its untruth and so would refuse any evidence I gave you.

    And there's another six. You do realize that you're engaging in precisely what you accuse Larry of?

    breed them out of existence

    They take only the virgins -- the unwed -- who have not given birth yet to children of the offending tribe, following God's instructions to sweep the land clear of those who choose not to join the covenant. This isn't rocket science, unless you're the worst of Biblical literalists.

    Where?

    In Numbers 31, Moses is clearly following the Lord's command in giving his instructions.

    But let's get specific, with Deuteronomy 21: 10-13 (KJV):

    10When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,

    11And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;

    12Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;

    13And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.


    The statement is clearly indicative that seizure of the women is only by the grace of God, who granted the Israelites victory in battle, and they are then commanded to take the desirable women and make them wives against their will. Forcible intercourse = rape. This isn't complex semantic calculus.

    It's an impossible question, since He WOULD never do so.

    How do you know that? The OT is chock-full of instances of the Lord commanding the Israelites to slaughter opposing tribes unto the last man, woman, and child. He sets lions on children who make fun of a holy man. It's not like there isn't precedent; it's totally within the realm of probability given past actions, if we are to take the Bible as historical veracity. Just because you can't imagine Him doing so doesn't set the question outside its limits. You're just punting again.

    So do you concede, then, that He never ordered rape, absent any evidence produced after numerous challenges?

    Of children, sure. Conceded, since I never made the charge in the first place. Of women... see above.

    And you criticise His "temper" based on personal preference, which is arbitrary.

    And you accept His judgment based on faith, which is equally arbitrary. You'll pardon me if the whole "preference" argument wanes thin, given that everyone bases their moral judgments on personal preference in the end. I haven't countered the point because it doesn't need countering -- it's an integral and instinctive part of moral evaluations!

    I'm asking WHY it is wrong to inflict suffering. Simply saying "B/c I dislike suffering myself, so I don't want to inflict it on others" proves my point, that your ethical system is only good as far as YOU, and for no one else.

    Rather, that proves my point: Since on the aggregate whole people are much alike, it doesn't matter that everyone's making their own decisions because they end up organizing themselves in like-minded outcome-oriented systems! I refer you to the work of "artificial societies" researchers, to which this article is a good introduction.

    You keep searching for the external authority embedded in mine or Larry's systems; your search is indeed in vain, for there is none! What do we need external authority for? You're not just trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, you're using a piece that doesn't belong on the board.

    My question is: who cares if you don't like torturing little girls and someone else does?

    I do, and presumably the little girl, which is all the authority I need. That you find the authority insufficient based on your schemata doesn't make mine invalid or wrong. It just means you have to go through a few extra steps to arrive at the same conclusion; and in a hypothetical variance, your system might well require you to look the other way, since you're relying upon external validation.

    Which is nothing more than personal in nature.

    Yes, that's been my point all along; not that my system isn't personal in nature, but that all moral systems are founded on such. Yours, on your personal preference for faith in the Christian God and what you have been taught are His commands. Same thing, different clothes.

    I hope you never tell anyone, "Judge not."

    Why not? You judge me, I'll judge you. You don't judge me, I won't judge you. Seems perfectly sound. I like it that way.

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  40. Ok, I’m getting the idea that the proffered ethic focuses on other’s pain, pleasure and emotions as a basis for guiding decisions.

    1. Is the focus on pleasure, pain and emotions a substitute for a focus on sentience? For example, what duties/discretion do I have toward Joe, a sentient guy with a neurological condition that limits his ability to feel pain or have affect? Any limitations on my killing Joe?

    2. Any limitations on killing people painlessly in their sleep? I guess so; I might not cause my victim fear or pain, but I’d cause fear to people who learned about it and started worrying for their own safety. But any limitations on killing people painlessly in their sleep if I could avoid causing fear to others? (Concealing the nature of the crime; killing the only other person on Earth; etc.)

    3. Should my thinking be influenced by the pain that would be experienced by the loved ones of a potential murder victim? And conversely, should my thinking be influenced by the fact that a potential victim is a loner, and no one would miss him? (“I’ve got them on my list; they’d none of them be missed!”) In short, does the proffered ethic impute some value to a human simply for having the status of human, independent of pleasure, pain or social role? Or would such an imputation be too “religious” for this ethic?

    nobody.really

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  41. nobody.really:

    Ok, I’m getting the idea that the proffered ethic focuses on other’s pain, pleasure and emotions as a basis for guiding decisions.

    Close, but not exactly correct. My ethical system focuses on my own pain, pleasure and emotions. It also happens to be the case that other people's pain and pleasure causes me pain and pleasure; but it is on my own emotions that I base my ethics.

    All of your questions reduce to the question: How do you yourself feel about killing someone, killing someone in their sleep, killing a loner, etc.?

    All of your questions can also reduce to the question: What law or other social agreement would you yourself vote for or otherwise endorse? Assuming everyone were equally subject to its provisions, would you yourself endorse a law which strongly discouraged the killing of sleeping loners?

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  42. Close, but not exactly correct. My ethical system focuses on my own pain, pleasure and emotions. It also happens to be the case that other people's pain and pleasure causes me pain and pleasure; but it is on my own emotions that I base my ethics.

    But now we’re back to the empathy/projection problem. I may sincerely hate Brussel sprouts, to the point where I can’t stand the thought of other people eating them. If my own emotions guide my decisions, then I vote to ban Brussel sprouts for everyone.

    Assuming everyone were equally subject to its provisions....

    This is a recurring theme, yet I haven’t seen how the proffered ethic requires any sort of Equal Protection-type treatment.

    I sense you mean that we appeal to empathy as a basis for protecting minorities. My reading of history suggests that this is a pretty weak thread upon which to hang the protection of minorities. JFE emphasizes the role of consensus views. Yet if put to a vote, there are plenty of places in the world that would adopt a state religion and would impose all manner of discrimination against, say, homosexuals. (Indeed, many places already have.) First Amendment and Equal Protection arguments are fundamentally not populist arguments. Are appeals to empathy the sole bulwark against demagoguery?

    nobody.really

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hi nobody,

    Ok, I’m getting the idea that the proffered ethic focuses on other’s pain, pleasure and emotions as a basis for guiding decisions...

    You’ll have to be more specific who this is addressed to; I don’t see how it applies to the system I’ve outlined above, since nowhere do I indicate that physical pain or pleasure is the proximate cause of our action/reaction (also, I think, if you are addressing Larry, that you are not allowing for the fact that he allows for existential perceptions of pain and happiness as well). For example, my projection of my not willing to have my autonomy violated, along with my empathy of being able to feel the pain of another whose volition is, is sufficient spur for me to act (see my response to your “dog fighting” question above). Similarly, a focus on “sentience” is simply not necessary: my subjective response is sufficient, the target’s sapience notwithstanding.

    In both your “Painless Joe” and “Sleeping Susan” examples, the simple answer would be: I wouldn’t want to be killed unless I specifically requested it, so I would say that there is such a prohibition. There are others who would disagree (psychopaths, for example), and might act in such a manner, but given my judgment, I would move to prevent them from doing so. Of such things are moral struggles built from. Similarly, I would be moved by the pain others might experience at such a loss, but is not necessary in order to make that judgment.

    I guess the ultimate answer to your question, for my part, would be that I do impart value to other humans (and creatures) based simply on their status as such, because that is what I would wish for myself, and so I act accordingly. The best I can hope for is reciprocity, and am willing to defend or react as appropriate when it is not forthcoming.

    I do not object to “religious” schema at all, unless they teach or command action based on a valuation I find wrong; I object to the contention that there is anything more factual about such a schema than any other. It’s not the “religious” part I would ever object to; it’s the “holier than thou” post-hoc justifications. We can only act as we think best, and accept responsibility for the consequences of our actions and judgments.

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  44. I may sincerely hate Brussel sprouts, to the point where I can’t stand the thought of other people eating them.

    Well then, you would indeed probably try to discourage people from eating them.

    On the other hand, you seem like a smart person, and it's not impossible to imagine that you might consider the issue at a more general level of abstraction: Do you want to control what other people eat in general?

    This is a recurring theme, yet I haven’t seen how the proffered ethic requires any sort of Equal Protection-type treatment.

    This is again simply ethical reasoning at a more general level of abstraction. It is a physical fact that people have the ability coerce each other; unilateral coercion is not physically possible. Note that the king coercing his subjects depends on the majority of the subjects agreeing with the king; the coercion in this case is not unilateral.

    Again, it comes down to what you yourself will agree or submit to: Do you yourself want equal protection under the law?

    Yet if put to a vote, there are plenty of places in the world that would adopt a state religion and would impose all manner of discrimination against, say, homosexuals. (Indeed, many places already have.)

    As you note, indeed many places already have. That an hypothesis is confirmed by observation is usually an argument in favor of the hypothesis, not against it.

    Are appeals to empathy the sole bulwark against demagoguery?

    That and physical and social evolution.

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  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  46. JFE emphasizes the role of consensus views.

    Not quite accurate: Humans, in order to survive, require communal and cooperative societies (to a varying degree among individuals). Research shows that individually acting members behave in proximately beneficial fashions (game theory, for example). It's related to the "rational actor" theory of economics: we will act in our best interest, and often find that frank, cooperative behavior allows us to be most successful for minimal cost. This translates directly over to moral behavior -- our behavior towards others.

    It's not a utilitarian "whatever benefits the most people" kind of rule, and it's not predicated on "pleasure or pain." Humans are subject to "rules" -- the types of actions that best insure social cohesion and success -- and that is expressed in our moral valuations and ethical systems, because a propensity for such behaviors is baseline coded in to us (to varying degrees) by generations of successful breeding. Ethical systems, the schema by which we intergenerationally encapsulate such rules, last longer the more successful they are at creating intra-group harmony. The Judeo-Christian ethic, for example, is very, very good at this, so long as you belong to the "in" group.

    By emphasizing consensus, you are casting this as a conscious system, when it is most profoundly not. However...

    Are appeals to empathy the sole bulwark against demagoguery?

    Well, yes, aren't they? That and pointy sticks. Isn't that the whole point of a Consitutional system like ours? When another's empathy fails, the empathy of another, with more authority, steps in. A religious ethic is simply the imposition of an external authority's empathic rule: "I (God, Borneo Monkey-Devil, the U.S. Constitution, etc.) find this offensive, and you shall not do it" and since "you" (generic you) are subject to My authority, you won't.

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  47. hi BB,

    That is both a lie and a canard. You are—like most Christians I talk to—a liar. I never refuse evidence.

    Well, see it from my end, BB. You suppress the truth about TGOTB's existence already, so why would I expect you to say anythg other than this?
    I'd add this comes across as shrill and childish, accusing me of being a liar and all. One won't find such cheap insults from my pen.


    Hi James,

    The irony contained in this statement could power the engines of satire for at least six months.

    From your perspective, I can see why.

    You do realize that you're engaging in precisely what you accuse Larry of?

    Yes, and it comes across as bizarre b/c we are not operating according to the same presuppositions. But it is to my interest to make the distinction quite clear. Mission accomplished, wouldn't you say? ;-)

    They take only the virgins -- the unwed -- who have not given birth yet to children of the offending tribe, following God's instructions to sweep the land clear of those who choose not to join the covenant.

    Yes, which is possible only AFTER most of the people group are killed. Anyway, I see what you're saying. It's fine.

    In Numbers 31, Moses is clearly following the Lord's command in giving his instructions.

    Agreed.
    1) But where is the rape you keep alleging? This is getting silly.
    2) These captive women are going to be the Israelites' wives. I've explained this already.
    3) Why should anyone care? This is just an irritation against your personal preference, which does not necessarily extend to anyone else, nor do you posit an obligation that it extend to anyone else. You keep acting like a Christian in your moral outrage.

    make them wives against their will. Forcible intercourse = rape.

    1) They're going to be the Israelites' wives.
    2) Arranged marriage = the norm for everyone in ANE society, and the norm alot of the time in the modern world.
    3) I'd be willing to bet a lot of shekels that these girls would prefer to be wives in a non-decadent society, w/ full legal protection and rights, than to be killed w/ the rest of their people group. Besides, they were probably objectively treated better among the Hebrews than in their own culture.

    How do you know that?

    1) B/c TGOTB is love.
    2) B/c He never DID command it.

    The OT is chock-full of instances of the Lord commanding the Israelites to slaughter opposing tribes unto the last man, woman, and child.

    Which offends your personal preference. Again, why should I care?

    It's not like there isn't precedent; it's totally within the realm of probability given past actions

    You keep making bare assertions. You're losing a lot of respect in my eyes.
    Yes, agreed, TGOTB commands the slaughter of whole societies at times. Cool. Where has He commanded rape? Either produce the goods or concede the point.

    And you accept His judgment based on faith, which is equally arbitrary.

    No, unlike you, I deny that my faith is arbitrary. It is based on subjective revelation from TGOTB and objective external evidence.

    everyone bases their moral judgments on personal preference in the end...it's an integral and instinctive part of moral evaluations!

    What's your argument for that?

    What do we need external authority for? You're not just trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, you're using a piece that doesn't belong on the board.

    The only reason I claim you do is b/c you keep acting like you need one. On the one hand you'll say that it's personal preference. Then you get all bent out of shape over alleging that TGOTB ordered women to be raped. You're being inconsistent w/ your own position.

    I do, and presumably the little girl, which is all the authority I need.

    But the torturer LIKES to do it. It's his personal preference. There you go, talking like a Christian again.
    So, what we see is:
    1) It's not morally wrong to torture little girls for fun, it just disgusts James and the victim.
    2) But since James' and the victim's ethics are based on personal preference, the personal preference of the torturer cancels their wills out.
    How could we create a society w/ laws of equity and so forth based on this bankrupt system?

    Yours, on your personal preference for faith in the Christian God and what you have been taught are His commands.

    I deny, however, that my faith in Christ is based solely on subjectivity. I affirm its objective truth. I affirm also that His commands are objectively true and objectively binding upon all people.
    You may believe I'm wrong, but my basis for ethics is wholly different from yours. Part of the proof is that you keep acting like you hold to my ethics but then are quick to bait-'n'-switch to MESR when someone's looking.

    I like it that way.

    Cool, but I don't. Uh oh, we have a dilemma.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  48. Rhology,

    2) These captive women are going to be the Israelites' wives. I've explained this already.

    AFTER their menfolk have been killed and they were taken by force! Or is spousal rape not something that computes in your ethic? (Actually, as I continue down your comment, I see that it doesn't...) Again, not rocket science to draw this conclusion: it's an implicit condoning of rape! Just because a priest "sanctifies" their relationship before it occurs doesn't diminish my point; in fact quite the opposite.

    I'd be willing to bet a lot of shekels that these girls would prefer to be wives in a non-decadent society, w/ full legal protection and rights, than to be killed w/ the rest of their people group.

    That's a post-hoc rationalization, projecting your interpretation. I know Christians make a habit of speaking for the long-dead, but COME ON. You've behaved in a reasonably intelligent manner; I can't believe this point actually continues to escape you. Golly, I can be slaughtered with everyone else, or be raped. That's one hell of a choice to force on someone.

    Again, why should I care?

    Not saying you should care (though it disturbs me that you don't seem to), just that your argument that it's inconceivable that God would engage in the hypothetical I posited is on ever more tenuous ground. You're relying on an ontological tautology to refute me; the very kind of argumentation you lambasted Larry for. Hence the irony and your continued inability to actually refute me.

    Where has He commanded rape? Either produce the goods or concede the point.

    I am completely out of patience with you. SEE ABOVE. Shit or get off the pot, Rho.

    No, unlike you, I deny that my faith is arbitrary. It is based on subjective revelation from TGOTB and objective external evidence.

    Thank you for proving my point.

    What's your argument for that?

    Did you not read or comprehend my responses to nobody.really?

    The only reason I claim you do is b/c you keep acting like you need one. On the one hand you'll say that it's personal preference. Then you get all bent out of shape over alleging that TGOTB ordered women to be raped. You're being inconsistent w/ your own position.

    How is that inconsistent? I get bent out of shape when someone/thing's actions don't conform to my ethic. JUST LIKE YOU OR ANYBODY ELSE. What you're saying is that you find internal authority insufficient. Just come out and say it!

    But since James' and the victim's ethics are based on personal preference, the personal preference of the torturer cancels their wills out.

    Where do you get that? Why is it a zero-sum game? (And even if it is, aren't you mathematically wrong anyways?) You're assuming facts not otherwise in evidence. It's not a binary equation (yay, Derrida!). Please, read the damn article I linked to. It's life-changing, really.

    I affirm its objective truth. I affirm also that His commands are objectively true and objectively binding upon all people.

    On what grounds? And if I find the evidence for those grounds insufficient, what is it that makes me wrong other than you want me to be wrong? If they flowed from Him, they'd be laws we are all subject to, like gravity or physics. But they're NOT; I can, if I so choose, abrogate any or all of them (and frequently do -- the first commandment leaps to mind). They logically can't be OBJECTIVE law; only prohibitions!

    You may believe I'm wrong, but my basis for ethics is wholly different from yours.

    That's damn straight. I for one have a conscience. You apparently think it's fine and dandy to slaughter and rape if God says so, but refuse to acknowledge YOUR OWN "OBJECTIVE" SOURCE when it indicates that He has. One of us inconsistent, and it isn't me.

    Part of the proof is that you keep acting like you hold to my ethics but then are quick to bait-'n'-switch to MESR when someone's looking.

    1) I already noted that I don't subscribe to MESR. That's Larry's bag. My theory is different, and if you read my responses to nobody.really, fairly well-articulated.

    2) Further, I noted that, living in the same society, you and I are going to hold like-opinions on any number of moral questions, because we are both subject to similar environmental stimuli and socio-cultural schema. Nothing in my theory precludes my reaching the same conclusions you do on any individual question of morality. My only conclusion from your continued obstinance is that you're simply uncomfortable with that.

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  49. James: I already noted that I don't subscribe to MESR. That's Larry's bag.

    Actually, if you hold that the foundation of ethics is personal preference (including the personal preference not to be poked by pointy sticks) then you hold to MESR.

    And, in fact, you're handily showing that Rhology also holds MESR.

    After that, you're describing your own personal preferences. Of course, we can see that Rhology personally prefers to lie when he feels like it.

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  50. JFE:

    Humans are subject to "rules" -- the types of actions that best insure social cohesion and success -- and that is expressed in our moral valuations and ethical systems, because a propensity for such behaviors is baseline coded in to us (to varying degrees) by generations of successful breeding. Ethical systems, the schema by which we intergenerationally encapsulate such rules, last longer the more successful they are at creating intra-group harmony. The Judeo-Christian ethic, for example, is very, very good at this, so long as you belong to the "in" group.

    Are you acquainted with the 2004 work of Joshua D. Greene at Princeton’s Center for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behavior? The conclusion I draw is that evolved rules are fundamentally irrational, driven by visceral emotion rather than any real coherence or strategy for optimizing social welfare. Sure, they’ve proven adequate for most of history; so has the fight-or-flight response. But the strategy of punching my boss in the nose during stressful situations has proven oddly maladaptive to my current environment. Similarly, I suspect that racism is a kind of evolved rule, wherein we reflexively promote the welfare of those who look like us at the expense of others. I suspect this strategy was quite adaptive for many millennia. Yet I fear I’m prone to encounter trouble in precisely the circumstances for which evolution has least prepared me.

    Today I believe we need very explicit ethical injunctions to challenge our natural instincts. Love of your “in” group, to the exclusion of the out group, is toxic.

    Research shows that individually acting members behave in proximately beneficial fashions (game theory, for example). It's related to the "rational actor" theory of economics: we will act in our best interest, and often find that frank, cooperative behavior allows us to be most successful for minimal cost. This translates directly over to moral behavior -- our behavior towards others.

    Are you acquainted with cross-cultural studies of the Ultimatum Game? “I gave another guy $100 on the condition that he offer some to you. He agreed to offer you $40. If you accept, you get $40 and he gets $60. If you reject, you both get nothing. What’s your choice?”

    Classical economics says it’s a no-brainer: a rational actor will take the free money. Yet experiments show that most Americans reject any offers below 45%. On the other hand, people in remote areas without market economies tend to offer, and to accept, down to 25%. One interpretation of this result (and there are many interpretations) is that people in more cosmopolitan areas are accustomed to dealing with strangers, and both demand and give equitable treatment. By rejecting lower offers, they sacrifice money in order to punish someone who violated social norms of empathy and equity. People living in less cosmopolitan areas are accustomed to dealing mainly with their own clans, and both give and expect inequitable treatment where strangers are concerned.

    Again, traditional received “rules” of behavior often strike me as undesirable. And often strike me as contrary to principles of empathy.

    nobody.really

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  51. JFE again:

    >Are appeals to empathy the sole bulwark against demagoguery?

    Well, yes, aren't they? That and pointy sticks. Isn't that the whole point of a Constitutional system like ours? When another's empathy fails, the empathy of another, with more authority, steps in. A religious ethic is simply the imposition of an external authority's empathic rule: "I (God, Borneo Monkey-Devil, the U.S. Constitution, etc.) find this offensive, and you shall not do it" and since "you" (generic you) are subject to My authority, you won't.


    If you’re saying that those with more authority trump those with less, I agree. If you’re saying that those with more authority act on the basis of greater empathy, I’m not quite there.

    I understand that commentors on democracy, from the Greeks through the framers of the US Constitution, have expressed reservations about populism. The framers took a number of steps to ensure that many matters, including First Amendment personal freedoms and the selection of the Executive, would be left to the elite, not the direct vote of the people. Thus in the US, the elite (judges with lifetime tenure) get to decide First Amendment and Equal Protection cases.

    In sum, I see a number of mechanism established in the US that do not rely solely on consensus empathy. When the US government decided that blacks have the right to attend the same public schools as whites, it did not act on the basis of a national consensus, and it did not implement the decision on the basis of appeals for empathy. Rather, the decision was made by nine elite individuals largely insulated from public opinion, and the decision was implemented by guys with pointy sticks. Consensus and empathy would have to come later.

    nobody.really

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  52. Hi nobody,

    Thanks for the research tips. I appreciate it.

    I think you’re confusing mechanism for foundation. Empathy and projection are the primary mechanisms we use to evaluate situations for moral salience. These in turn are influenced by our perceptive structure that colors how and when we use them, our schema – our ethics.

    When I talk about “consensus,” I by no means am indicating a conscious deliberative process. But humans are naturally conditioned, with variation, to be successful social creatures, because man requires a collaborative environment to survive. (I’ll spare you my sub-theory on sociopathic individuals.) Take telling the truth, for example: For in-group survival, we need to be able to trust people to do and say what they mean; “artificial societies” research finds that people will increasingly tell the truth over time because it is easier to do so, as the negative costs of lying rise naturally.

    When we speak of “free will,” we are referring to man’s ability to recognize and alter his schema. This is crucial, because it allows us to consciously expand our “in-group.” Let’s use democracy as an example:

    Take the U.S. Constitution. Our system of government was created by men whose schema would have included, among other things, tales from their fathers and grandfathers about England’s struggles between Catholics and Protestants. Cromwell’s Roundheads, William of Orange, all of those divisive religious and political struggles would have been recent, still-traumatic group experiences that would have colored their learning. Recognizing that their fledgling nation would, by its nature, involve different religious and political in-groups working, living, and competing in close proximity, they needed a new schema that would bind them together and give them a non-violent way to mediate and mitigate disputes. And so, a new ethic, adapted from proposed schemas by other thinkers, was born. The U.S. Constitutional Order is a new type of schema designed to help people learn how to think and evaluate when confronted with multiple differing ethics.

    Obviously, this needs a good deal of fleshing out and is largely incomplete, as it is a work in progress. It meshes well with our knowledge of psychology and anthropology, and makes a certain amount of intuitive sense. And I could be totally wrong. I’m open to that possibility; I just feel, quite intuitively and with a nagging sense of certainty, that “objective” constructions like the Judeo-Christian ethic just don’t seem right. That being the case, I am compelled to come up with alternative explanations, which I am developing here.

    Many thanks to yourself and Rhology, who have helped immensely in forcing me to articulate and begin to solidify much of my thinking from piecemeal to more coherence.

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  53. Keep in mind, James, that you're talking about a scientific system of ethics, suitable for modern humans, based on the foundation of the actual subjective properties of existing human beings.

    There's nothing at all I can see in your exposition that's contrary to the philosophical principles of MESR.

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  54. JFE:

    Well, sure, ethics derived from historic texts seem arbitrary. Ethics derived from reason seem elegant and more amenable to adoption by a broader range of people.

    But then, Joseph Campbell argues that old stories are not entirely arbitrary. Rather, the mere fact that a story has been remembered and passed on, undergoing both selection and refinement in the process, suggests that the stories reflect something about the people who tell them. And when we identify common elements to the old stories of various cultures, we learn something common to them all – that is, something about human nature.

    Ironically, the very mechanism that many people argue gives religion authenticity – an ancient text that has resisted changes over time – is the mechanism that frustrates the ongoing refinement lauded by Campbell. It is perhaps instructive to compare the “folk stories” people tell about the Bible to the text of the Bible itself. Where the folk stories differ from the text, arguably this would reflects a Campbellian selection and refinement process, revealing changes is western culture, and perhaps hinting at aspects of human nature.

    nobody.really

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  55. What's "MESR"? Master Enterprise Spiral Review?

    nobody.really

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  56. nobody,

    But then, Joseph Campbell argues that old stories are not entirely arbitrary. Rather, the mere fact that a story has been remembered and passed on, undergoing both selection and refinement in the process, suggests that the stories reflect something about the people who tell them.

    Just because an ethic is a construction -- arbitrary or not -- certainly doesn't mean it doesn't have value, and if I implied it I am sorry. Myths are a wonderful source of ethical teachings; this is precisely the function the Old and New Testaments serve, and they are most assuredly wildly successful at it. The lack of "objective" truth certainly is no diminishment of utility, and indeed, can be necessary.

    Where the folk stories differ from the text, arguably this would reflects a Campbellian selection and refinement process, revealing changes is western culture, and perhaps hinting at aspects of human nature.

    I think you and I are in accord on this point. Thank you for articulating it so well.

    Larry,

    Perhaps you are right.

    -James

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  57. Larry, Perhaps you are right.

    It does happen from time to time. :-D

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  58. Hi James,

    Read the article - it was interesting, thanks.

    AFTER their menfolk have been killed and they were taken by force! Or is spousal rape not something that computes in your ethic?

    1) Yes, they were taken by force. Cool, I've never denied that.
    2) The text does not, however, say that they were raped nor forced. They got married. There is no mention of the terms under which sex took place. You are assuming it, and that's not fair.
    3) Should I care about your personal distaste w/ the idea, even if they were raped? Why?

    I know Christians make a habit of speaking for the long-dead

    1) I'm not speaking for them, I'm projecting (as you mentioned), which you guys have been endorsing.
    2) God mentions elsewhere that these societies are condemned b/c of their rank sin and so He judges them.
    3) Should I care about your personal distaste w/ the idea, even if they were raped? Why?

    Not saying you should care

    Oh, you answered each #3. OK, I don't care. Can we move on?

    (though it disturbs me that you don't seem to)

    1) Here you act like a Christian again, implying that there's sthg wrong w/ me if I don't care like you care.
    2) But again, why should I care?
    Oh, wait: Not saying you should care

    You're relying on an ontological tautology to refute me

    What, the fact that you have no basis on which to apply a moral judgment to anyone else's thoughts or behavior? The tautology is not my fault.

    RHOLOGY: It is based on subjective revelation from TGOTB and objective external evidence.

    JFE: Thank you for proving my point.


    The careful reader will note what a cheap shot this is.

    Did you not read or comprehend my responses to nobody.really?

    Honestly, I had been skimm/pping them, but I just read thru them.
    And I agree that most ethical systems do follow what you said. That is, all BESIDES theistic ones, which posit a Moral Lawgiver who sets down laws that are not based on the preference of the created beings (ie, humans).

    What you're saying is that you find internal authority insufficient.

    1) I find internal authority insufficient.
    2) So do you, you just won't admit it. You keep trying to act like I'm evil if I say, for example, that I like torturing little girls for fun or I like capturing women from other societies and raping them. These kinds of complaints show that, deep down, your ethical standards are more far-reaching than you will admit to me. That's b/c you're a creation of God and know these things implicitly. You can't bear the thought of taking your views all the way to their logical conlusions, it appears. And I'm very glad for that!

    Why is it a zero-sum game?

    Why not? It's all based on personal preference - what's the overriding factor. Inconsistency again.

    Please, read the damn article I linked to.

    It was cool though I question anyone's ability to sufficiently take into acct all the factors that might influence any one person, let alone a group of people, to act a certain way closely enough to simulate it on a computer.
    And all it answers is HOW people act. It doesn't address the question of OUGHT.

    you and I are going to hold like-opinions on any number of moral questions, because we are both subject to similar environmental stimuli and socio-cultural schema

    1) Agreed.
    2) Which were shaped largely by Judeo-Christian ethics, but that's beside the point.
    3) But only I have a justification to hold to those answers to which we both hold, beyond "I like" or "I don't like". And it has shown clearly in this comment.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  59. 2) The text does not, however, say that they were raped nor forced. They got married. There is no mention of the terms under which sex took place.

    This is rank sophistry. The Bible is metaphorical or literal depending on your requirements for being comfortable with its contents. Instead of actually being able to comprehend context you seem to indicate that you require a phrase like "And Josiah did manfully burst Lilith's hymen despite her pleas to the contrary" in order to draw a simple conclusion.

    1) I'm not speaking for them, I'm projecting (as you mentioned), which you guys have been endorsing.

    No, you're not. If you were projecting, you'd be able to put yourself in the woman's shoes and draw a simple conclusion that a marriage conducted after one is a survivor of wholesale slaughter contains more than a little coercion, and coercion in regards to sex is rape. What you're doing is sublimating your ability to project to your commitment to the Bible.

    God mentions elsewhere that these societies are condemned b/c of their rank sin and so He judges them.

    And again, you're simply proving that you believe that even genocide is fine so long as God orders it. You're not a moral being: you're a slave.

    Here you act like a Christian again, implying that there's sthg wrong w/ me if I don't care like you care.

    Christians corner the market on judging others, do they? If you don't care about genocide and rape, Rho, there is something wrong with you: it's called sociopathy. And in your case, it's because of the evil ethic you pay obeisance to. Yes, evil.

    What, the fact that you have no basis on which to apply a moral judgment to anyone else's thoughts or behavior?

    Why do I have no basis? Because you disagree? You simply haven't refuted anything I've argued except to assert time and again the primacy of your imposed ethic. Let me state it very clearly: Someone who lacks empathy for the suffering of others is a potential threat to the survival of me and mine, which I will not tolerate, whether that lack is a genetic, psychological, or ethical predisposition. I consider your avowed position -- the arbitrary authority of your tyrannical god -- a danger.

    The careful reader will note what a cheap shot this is.

    That's not a rebuttal. I've marshaled plenty of external evidence for my system; the truth of mine is more easily observable to the casual watcher than the truth of yours, given that it requires your subjective revelation to give credence to the "objective evidence" of the "self-revealed Bible."

    which posit a Moral Lawgiver who sets down laws that are not based on the preference of the created beings (ie, humans).

    But this just brings you right back to the Euthyphro! How can they be objective laws and set in place by something? This makes them whims. If morals are objective laws, then they exist independent of, not because of, God. If they exist because of God, then they are not objective laws.

    These kinds of complaints show that, deep down, your ethical standards are more far-reaching than you will admit to me. That's b/c you're a creation of God and know these things implicitly.

    I've already explained why such standards are "far-reaching," and it had nothing to do with a god, and everything to do with our needs as evolved social creatures. Here you're relying on the Pathology Problem again.

    You can't bear the thought of taking your views all the way to their logical conlusions, it appears.

    And here's the "nihilism" canard. Read your Neitzsche more carefully.

    Why not? It's all based on personal preference - what's the overriding factor.

    Again, that's not a logical rebuttal. You're essentially saying "I prefer that (1+1)-1 = 0." You can say it, but it's contrary to physical reality. You're conflating "arbitrary" with "no physical dictate," and it undermines your position.

    And all it answers is HOW people act. It doesn't address the question of OUGHT.

    "Ought" is dependent on point of view. In the real world, how I "ought" to react is predicated on HOW others ARE IN FACT acting.

    3) But only I have a justification to hold to those answers to which we both hold, beyond "I like" or "I don't like".

    But that justification is clearly based on a preference for a faith in the Abrahamic God and the Bible as his revealed word. You are basing your entire argument on "I like the belief that the Bible is the revealed word of God." Thus proving my point!

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  60. JFE,

    The Bible is metaphorical or literal depending on your requirements for being comfortable with its contents.

    1) I take this to be historical.
    2) You are importing your assumption into the text. But anyone can play that game. I'm trying to see what the text says.

    being able to comprehend context

    Cool, what part of the context indicates that the women were raped?
    This is the same question, just posed a diff way. We've already seen you can't answer. It's just rhetorical at this point.

    If you were projecting, you'd be able to put yourself in the woman's shoes and draw a simple conclusion that a marriage conducted after one is a survivor of wholesale slaughter contains more than a little coercion, and coercion in regards to sex is rape.

    But I could just as easily project what I said. Who says I can't? You? On what basis?
    See, now it's just your projection against mine. It's a flimsy way to build just one argument; imagine how bad it is to build an ethical system around!

    you're simply proving that you believe that even genocide is fine so long as God orders it. You're not a moral being: you're a slave.

    1) Guilty as charged, seriously. I am a slave to Jesus Christ.
    2) The good thing about it, though, is that I am a slave to righteousness precisely BECAUSE of that fact.
    3) And you're a slave too, to your own desires, to evil, to the devil, etc. I know tone of voice wont' come across in text, but I'd look you in the eye and tell you, w/o raising my voice or getting all worked up, these things if we were face to face.
    4) But again, we've seen that you have no basis to say anythg to anyone about genocide except that you don't like it. And that's not transferable to anyone else. Again, why'd you even write it?

    If you don't care about genocide and rape, Rho, there is something wrong with you: it's called sociopathy.

    Which you find distasteful. Big deal, what if I don't?

    And in your case, it's because of the evil ethic you pay obeisance to. Yes, evil.

    Case in point - you're borrowing from Christianity again, calling things evil. It's very telling that you didn't say "distasteful".

    Why do I have no basis? Because you disagree?

    No, b/c it's inconsistent w/ your own stated ethical system.

    You simply haven't refuted anything I've argued except to assert time and again the primacy of your imposed ethic.

    1) I'm content to let the reader decide.
    2) I'm analysing the internal inconsistency of your own ethical system.

    I consider your avowed position -- the arbitrary authority of your tyrannical god -- a danger.

    Fine, that IS consistent.
    But not calling me "evil" or sthg like that. Try to keep w/in the bounds of your own framework here.

    How can they be objective laws and set in place by something?

    B/c they flow out from Who God is, and He communicates them by decrees.

    If morals are objective laws, then they exist independent of, not because of, God.

    They are part of how God is. W/o Him, there aren't any objective laws.
    Thing is, you TALK like there are, from time to time, and when you do, you betray the fact that you know God exists but won't admit it. This is painfully obvious to me.

    And here's the "nihilism" canard. Read your Neitzsche more carefully.

    1) It's Nietzsche, for one thing.
    2) I was speaking more along the lines of Sartre.
    3) Assigning "value" that is only w/in yourself doesn't cut it, at least to me. But atheists in general are good at self-deception.

    You're essentially saying "I prefer that (1+1)-1 = 0."

    That's ironic - I was talking about YOUR position.
    Whenever you tell me my position is evil, it's you making value judgments into sthg objective like a mathematical equation.

    "Ought" is dependent on point of view. In the real world, how I "ought" to react is predicated on HOW others ARE IN FACT acting.

    You are begging the question at hand.
    1) The great objective OUGHT is only possible if theism is true.
    2) Your 2nd sentence tries to make an objective law out of your ethical system, which lacks any mechanism beyond your ipse dixit to do so. Yet again, you are acting like a Christian.

    You are basing your entire argument on "I like the belief that the Bible is the revealed word of God."

    God is God and His word is His word whether you or I like it or not. That's my position.

    Peace,
    Rhology

    ReplyDelete
  61. I take this to be historical.

    Isn't that my point? You claim exegisis -- reading in historical context -- on one hand, and literality on the other, whenever it's convenient to your interpretory needs. You're an ever-present example of shifting your footing as needed. You're a walking font of the relativism you decry.

    Cool, what part of the context indicates that the women were raped?

    I already answered that question: the fact that their "marriages" result from the genocide of their peoples, which, if one is not in need of being led by the nose, draws a direct line to coercion. Coercion + sex = rape.

    And you're a slave too, to your own desires, to evil, to the devil, etc...

    You'll just have to take it on a little faith, Rho, that I find you just as evil and would tell you so to your face just as calmly. That's why I don't hide behind a pseudonym, but sign my name to every comment and every post, and have since day one.

    Which you find distasteful. Big deal, what if I don't?

    Then by the evolutionary needs of social survival, you should be ostracized or killed. We keep coming back to a matter of preference: you don't like internal authority, preferring instead external authority. You're doing exactly what I do but with a different semantic construction. Only difference is one of us is honest about it, and it's not you.

    It's very telling that you didn't say "distasteful".

    I'm afraid Christianity doesn't own the term "evil." It's a semiotic concept used as a descriptor in common parlance. That you impart it to be fraught with Christian symbolism is merely useful to convey the vehemence of the underlying sentiment. All language is ultimately metaphorical.

    No, b/c it's inconsistent w/ your own stated ethical system.

    How so? I've already noted how moral valuations are simply competing ethical schema. That's not inconsistent with what I've written at all.

    This is painfully obvious to me.

    Only because you're relying on the ontological argument for the existence of God. It's hard to escape your framework when it's so self-referential.

    You just stated that moral laws are decrees; therefore they are arbitrary. By that definition, I should give equal weight to the Aboriginal beliefs that they gods need to sing constantly in order to keep the earth in existence.

    It's Nietzsche, for one thing.

    I have a profound and apparently incorrectable problem with i-e inversions. I blame Explorer's lack of a spellchecker like Firefox's. Sartre's ethic of personal and mutual responsibility has already been mentioned waaaaaay up in one of my first comments on this tread, though I didn't credit Sartre explicitly.

    Aaaaand...

    Assigning "value" that is only w/in yourself doesn't cut it, at least to me.

    I'm thinking maybe I can stop and just let you do my work for me...

    But atheists in general are good at self-deception.

    Pot, this is Kettle: You're black, sucker!

    That's ironic - I was talking about YOUR position.
    Whenever you tell me my position is evil, it's you making value judgments into sthg objective like a mathematical equation.


    Har. Okay, you explicitly asked "who cares if I like to torture girls?" to which I replied that I and the victim would care. You asked if that was justification for action, to which I replied affirmatively. You asked "why," implying that your desire would cancel out two other people's competing beliefs, thus implying the mathematical equation. You have completely failed to demonstrate why some sort of "objective" fact is needed to justify my intervention, as well as failing to draw a correct mathematical analogy. I've already demonstrated above that judgments are all we really have to go on, since no person acts with complete and total information.

    You are begging the question at hand...

    I'm afraid you'll have to reformulate this bit, as I simply don't understand what you're saying. I'll grant that I often have difficulty with the semantics of is/ought formulations, so may simply be lacking in comprehension; but your whole bit seems incoherent.

    I agree that my second sentence is poorly phrased (as I must type quickly at work). A more accurate statement would be:

    "How I 'ought' to act is predicated on my perception of how others are acting in turn."

    That's my position.

    And you still haven't demonstrated beyond an ontology why your position is any more objective than mine. What makes the Bible more His word than the Koran? What makes the Book of Mormon not His word? What makes the unwashed guy preaching peace, love, understanding, and impending doom on the streetcorner not a prophet? NOTHING.

    You're just running in rhetorical circles at this point, Rho. I suggest we conclude, as my patience for your lack of coherent argument and self-perception is just about done.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Hi James,

    That's why I don't hide behind a pseudonym, but sign my name to every comment and every post, and have since day one.

    My full name and identity are plain from even my blogger page. So much so that it sometimes makes me nervous.

    Quick correction: It's not an ontological argument, it's a transcendental argument for God's existence.

    We can conclude, as far as I am concerned. I'm satisfied w/ what has transpired.
    Thanks for your time.

    Peace,
    Rhology

    ReplyDelete

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