Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Catholics Say Safety Measures Encourage Risky Behavior

UPDATE: Commenter Alan informed me that the school board relented and approved the vaccine. This is unexpectedly good news, and I must give them kudos for defying their silly traditions and siding with reality and humanity. Three cheers for the Halton Catholic school board!

Catholic Canucks took a step towards banning HPV vaccinations for girls who attend a Catholic killbot factory school in Ontario:

The ban could also prevent the health unit from counseling or giving advice on the vaccine to any student on board property.

A recent letter from the conference of bishops encourages Catholic boards to remember that the virus is sexually transmitted, and that sex is "appropriate only" through marriage.


This is only the latest move by Catholics in their attempt to remove safety measures from society on the grounds that such measures encourage risky behavior.

Other popular safety measures targeted by Catholics include: seat belts, air bags, spare tires, "caution: wet floor" signs, signal flares, bullet proof vests, bicycle helmets, child-proof pill bottles, snake bite kits, burglar alarms, karate, parachutes, and submission to Christ.

48 comments:

Anastasia said...

i wonder how many of those girls were already vaccinated against hepatitis b.

Aaron Kinney said...

Anastasia said...
i wonder how many of those girls were already vaccinated against hepatitis b.


Zing!

becky said...

You rule anastasia!


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-Jonathan said...

Wow, do I ever need to apologize... I'm sorry I took so long to get back to you... life's been... well... a little hairy...

So if you're still up for the convo (i would understand if you were perturbed), I think our conversation boils down to this:

Yes, and isnt the value of something implied when you successfully use it?

If by "value" you mean "it works (it operates 'correctly')", then yes, the "value" is implied.

But if by "value" you mean "the 'oughtness' of it's existence in the first place" (which your argument seems to rest on), then I would say 'no'.

The "oughtness" of whether or not consciousness should have existed in the first place, is definitely not implied by the use of it (consciousness).

Aaron Kinney said...

Re: Jonathan

Wow, do I ever need to apologize... I'm sorry I took so long to get back to you... life's been... well... a little hairy...

No need to apologize my friend. Its not like we are on a time limit ;)

So if you're still up for the convo (i would understand if you were perturbed), I think our conversation boils down to this:

Yes, and isnt the value of something implied when you successfully use it?

If by "value" you mean "it works (it operates 'correctly')", then yes, the "value" is implied.


Pretty much. By "value" I mean that it is something that is useful or has worth.

But if by "value" you mean "the 'oughtness' of it's existence in the first place" (which your argument seems to rest on), then I would say 'no'.

No, thats not what I mean by value. Im surprised that you think that my argument implies an "ougthness" definition of "value," but perhaps I wasnt being clear enough.

The "oughtness" of whether or not consciousness should have existed in the first place, is definitely not implied by the use of it (consciousness).

I agree with you on that point, but it is not relevant to the point Im trying to make. Lemme try explaining again.

Value has to have a context: who or what is a given thing valuable to? For a thing to be valuable, it has to have a valuer (did I just make up a word? LOL).

So if a conscious agent, like a human, is to judge whether or not their very consciousness is valuable to them or not, they must employ their consciousness in the very act of making that judgement. And remember that "value" in this sense means to have usefulness or worth.

Now when the conscious agent employs their own consciousness to perform the very act of judging whether their consciousness has value, they are already proving that it does indeed have value. It is not possible to use consciousness in order to condemn consciousness.

Does this help explain it at all? Let me know :)

Jonathan said...

Thanks for the response.

"So if a conscious agent, like a human, is to judge whether or not their very consciousness is valuable to them or not..."

But the issue is not whether or not their consciousness is of any "value" to them (whether or not it serves a "purpose" to them).

The issue is whether or not that consciousness "should" have even existed in the first place.

Because whether or not it "should have" existed in the first place will determine whether or not it "ought" to continue existing.

The reason we blame people for recklessly burning down a random building, is because that building was designed with a purpose in mind.

But if humans exist by accident, we can hardly say it is "wrong" (or even illogical) for us to not exist.

To sum up, the ability to reason does not imply the "oughtness" of the continued existence of self.

Therefore, the person who declares "i ought not to exist", does not pressupose anything that would contradict that claim.

If he said, "my life serves no practical or helpful function to anything", then yes, he would be pre-supposing the efficacy of his reasoning powers, and thus contradicting himself.

But if he says, "the human race is dispicable and shouldn't have come to existence in the first place", then from a purely naturalistic vantage point, he is presupposing nothing contradictory.

Does that make sense?

Aaron Kinney said...

Re: Jonathan,

Thanks for the response.

Likewise!

"So if a conscious agent, like a human, is to judge whether or not their very consciousness is valuable to them or not..."

But the issue is not whether or not their consciousness is of any "value" to them (whether or not it serves a "purpose" to them).


No, thats not true. As I said earlier, for something to be valued, there has to be a conscious agent that values it. "Value" only exists within the context of a thing being valued by a being or causal agent.

The issue is whether or not that consciousness "should" have even existed in the first place.

Just to be clear, when you say "should" do you mean like a consequence of nature/the universe? Or do you mean "should" like its valued or desired or decreed by some conscious agent? Or something else?

And for the record, I do not believe that "should" is the "issue" in determining whether or not life has value or whether morality can exist in a godless universe.

Because whether or not it "should have" existed in the first place will determine whether or not it "ought" to continue existing.

Depends on how youre using should and ought.

The reason we blame people for recklessly burning down a random building, is because that building was designed with a purpose in mind.

But if humans exist by accident, we can hardly say it is "wrong" (or even illogical) for us to not exist.

Wrong to exist according to who? And what being can judge that existence is wrong, when that being must necessarily exist in order to make such a judgement in the first place? Because, if it is wrong for a being to exist, then its wrong for a being to make any judgements about anything at all. Therefore no existent being's judgement that existence itself is wrong can ever be valid.

To sum up, the ability to reason does not imply the "oughtness" of the continued existence of self.

If that is true, then its not up to humans to even try to judge the validity of their existance.

Therefore, the person who declares "i ought not to exist", does not pressupose anything that would contradict that claim.

Yes he does! Cause if, by your words, "the ability to reason does not imply the "oughtness" of the continued existence of self," then a cannot reasonably judge yes OR no on the on the validity or "oughtness" of his existence.

If he said, "my life serves no practical or helpful function to anything", then yes, he would be pre-supposing the efficacy of his reasoning powers, and thus contradicting himself.

But if he says, "the human race is dispicable and shouldn't have come to existence in the first place", then from a purely naturalistic vantage point, he is presupposing nothing contradictory.


It would still be contradictory, but for a slightly different reason. You said "then from a purely naturalistic vantage point, he is presupposing nothing contradictory," but that is incorrect. Because if the naturalistic vantage point, and not the human vantage point, is the *correct* perspective from which to make the judgement on whether humanity ought to exist, then no human can make such a judgement, because they are judging only from their human vantage point. In this example of yours, the judgement has to come from something nature, not a human.

And dont forget that if naturalism is true, then the existence of humans is perfectly "natural," and they "should" exist just like gravity or atoms "should" exist.

-Jonathan said...

Depends on how you're using should and ought.

Ok, for me there is a sharp distinction to be made.

One person says, "My life is valueless and should no longer continue."

I would agree that this person is presupposing something contradictory. He is presuposing the value of his consciousness and logic in coming to that conclusion.

But then there is another person... Someone who says,
"This human race, because of it's evil tendencies, should never have come into existence in the first place. Therefore we should all die."

These two people are very different, and it is the second person who is presupposing nothing contradictory.

And what being can judge that existence is wrong, when that being must necessarily exist in order to make such a judgement in the first place?

***But truth is truth regardless of whether there exists someone to comprehend it. For instance, if there was no intelligence on this planet to comprehend anything, it would not change the fact that matter exists.

In the same way, the "oughtness" of the existence of humanity is a question with a real answer, regardless of whether or not there is a consciousness around to comprehend it.

"then he cannot reasonably judge yes OR no on the on the validity or "oughtness" of his existence."

And that is exactly my point, and as far as I can tell, exactly where your argument breaks down.

So if someone says to you, "I ought not to exist" (not, "my life is without value", but rather "I ought not to exist"), that is a question that you cannot answer either yes or no.

You are left in a place where the "oughtness" of human existence is nothing but a big question mark.

And so you cannot say that anything is "right" or "wrong", but you must admit that morality is just a matter of opinion.

And this is because morality deals with "oughtness" (like how you teach that we "ought" to do away with the afterlife).

But "oughtness" is always associated with "purpose" (I ought not to burn down this building because it was "intended" for something).

But in your universe, you exist by accident and there is absolutely NO purpose to existence. Therefore what we "ought" to do is just a matter of opinion, and should never be expressed as something that is more than just a matter of opinion.

So when someone says to you, "i ought not to exist", just as you have admitted, you cannot confirm or deny that claim.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hume's law states the following:
"A name for the contested view that it is impossible to derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’, or in other words, that there is no logical bridge over the gap between fact and value. Hume's own statement is in the Treatise of Human Nature, iii. 1. 1, where he wrote that it seems ‘altogether inconceivable that this new relation [ought] can be derived from others, which are entirely different from it’. The ‘law’ in fact appears as something of an afterthought to other discussion."

-Jonathan said...

Hey Krystalline,

"‘altogether inconceivable that this new relation [ought] can be derived from others, which are entirely different from it’"

And that is exactly my point. "Oughtness", in a materialistic, naturalistic worldview, is a matter of opinion, and so it is logically silly for atheists to become "morally outraged" at certain actions.

In an atheistic universe, we just exist. It cannot be said either that "we ought" to exist, or that we "ought not" to exist.

And therefore we must disregard "oughtness", and therefore disregard "morality" (which is rooted in oughtness).

Aaron Kinney said...

Jonathan,

Ok, for me there is a sharp distinction to be made.

One person says, "My life is valueless and should no longer continue."

I would agree that this person is presupposing something contradictory. He is presuposing the value of his consciousness and logic in coming to that conclusion.


Thanks.

But then there is another person... Someone who says,
"This human race, because of it's evil tendencies, should never have come into existence in the first place. Therefore we should all die."

These two people are very different, and it is the second person who is presupposing nothing contradictory.


But the second person is saying that humans shouldnt have existed due to their evil tendencies. That is an argument from effect. This person is not saying that consciousness is wrong in principle. This second person is implying that he has no beef with the idea of conscious existence in general, but merely that one specific group of conscious agents did mean things and shouldnt have been around to do them. I have no quarrel here. Indeed, I agree that life in general would be better off without a bunch of evil agents running around causing havok, but this has no effect on my original claim that being alive is in principle a valuable thing to whatever is alive.

***But truth is truth regardless of whether there exists someone to comprehend it. For instance, if there was no intelligence on this planet to comprehend anything, it would not change the fact that matter exists.

Yea, but whether its good or not that conscious beings exist is something that can be answered only in the context of someone or something to judge it. Its a value held by a valuer.

In the same way, the "oughtness" of the existence of humanity is a question with a real answer, regardless of whether or not there is a consciousness around to comprehend it.

Oughtness by what standard? By what method of judgement? Ought according to whom/what? Give some context.

And that is exactly my point, and as far as I can tell, exactly where your argument breaks down.

So if someone says to you, "I ought not to exist" (not, "my life is without value", but rather "I ought not to exist"), that is a question that you cannot answer either yes or no.


"I ought not to exist" is more of an answer than a question. Or rather, more of a conclusion than a premise. But it is a faulty conclusion if the premise is based on principle against conscious existence itself. If its based on some kind of effect, in the sense of "My life had far too much pain in it and therefore I ought not to exist" then he is already assuming that his existence, in principle, was a good thing, but that circumstances in his life made it not worth living.

You are left in a place where the "oughtness" of human existence is nothing but a big question mark.

Whos asking the question in the first place?

And so you cannot say that anything is "right" or "wrong", but you must admit that morality is just a matter of opinion.

Just because morality exists within the context of conscious agents does not make it opinion, any more than gravity is arbitrary because it only exists within the context of matter/energy.

And besides, if you subscribe to a moral system that is decreed by a God, then you are admitting that morality is just a matter of opinion. But if you subscribe to a moral system that is based on natural law and the logical consequences of the fact of our existence, then your morality is no more arbitrary than the laws of physics.

And this is because morality deals with "oughtness" (like how you teach that we "ought" to do away with the afterlife).

Morality is about conscious agents pursuing their values.

But "oughtness" is always associated with "purpose" (I ought not to burn down this building because it was "intended" for something).

HA! You admitted that oughtness is associated with purpose, which is another way of admitting that it has context. Value requires a valuer.

But in your universe, you exist by accident and there is absolutely NO purpose to existence.

Quite the contrary. Only in a naturalistic, material universe can there be real meaning or purpose, because a God based universe is totally arbitrary and subject only to an entity's whim.

Therefore what we "ought" to do is just a matter of opinion, and should never be expressed as something that is more than just a matter of opinion.

Youre projecting. This is a sentence that belongs to be directed at a God-created universe.

So when someone says to you, "i ought not to exist", just as you have admitted, you cannot confirm or deny that claim.

I cannot deny the claim when it is a consequence of effect, like some poor tortured soul (Christ perhaps? ... maybe the cross was his best option!). But I most certainly can argue against the notion that existence is an "ought not" in principle.

Aaron Kinney said...

KA,

"A name for the contested view that it is impossible to derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’, or in other words, that there is no logical bridge over the gap between fact and value. Hume's own statement is in the Treatise of Human Nature, iii. 1. 1, where he wrote that it seems ‘altogether inconceivable that this new relation [ought] can be derived from others, which are entirely different from it’. The ‘law’ in fact appears as something of an afterthought to other discussion."

Sorry, but Hume's law is poop. I got a lot of problems with a lot of things that Hume believed.



Jonathan,

And that is exactly my point. "Oughtness", in a materialistic, naturalistic worldview, is a matter of opinion, and so it is logically silly for atheists to become "morally outraged" at certain actions.

And so far I believe that your support for this assertion has been adequately refuted by myself. I imagine that you dont agree with me on this though ;)

In an atheistic universe, we just exist. It cannot be said either that "we ought" to exist, or that we "ought not" to exist.

Sure we ought to exist! In the context of natural law, since reality is real and definite and objective and it produces conscious agents, then we ought to exist.

On the other hand, in a God based universe, we just exist as a figment of Gods imagination, and it cannot be said that we ought to exist, or that morality is grounded in something as reliable as the properties of reality.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Aaron - have you done a post on Hume? I'd be interested in your take on Hume's law.

alan said...

Aaron:

I dunno...it looks to me like they approved the vaccine. It's not unreasonable that they have a serious discussion about the vaccine, but they should be debating the risks and benefits on the basis of the available evidence. To debate the value on unsupportable moral grounds is pointless.

Aaron Kinney said...

Hey KA,

I havent done a Hume-specific post on this blog, but I did attack the problem of induction at my other blog, Goosing the Antithesis, awhile back. The post can be found here.

In short, there are a few things that I like about Hume, but not much. For the most part I think he was too intent on ultimate skepticism about everything. His work comes off as solipsistic. And maybe my attack on the problem of induction is off the mark, but IMO he made some rather silly assumptions in his criticism of induction.

Im not a relativist by any means. So most of my views dont agree with Humes ideas.

Aaron Kinney said...

Re: Alan,

I dunno...it looks to me like they approved the vaccine.

OMG I cant believe it! This is awesome news. Bravo!

It's not unreasonable that they have a serious discussion about the vaccine, but they should be debating the risks and benefits on the basis of the available evidence. To debate the value on unsupportable moral grounds is pointless.

Agreed.

Jonathan said...

Aaron,

But the second person is saying that humans shouldnt have existed due to their evil tendencies. That is an argument from effect. This person is not saying that consciousness is wrong in principle. This second person is implying that he has no beef with the idea of conscious existence in general, but merely that one specific group of conscious agents did mean things and shouldnt have been around to do them. I have no quarrel here. Indeed, I agree that life in general would be better off without a bunch of evil agents running around causing havok, but this has no effect on my original claim that being alive is in principle a valuable thing to whatever is alive.

Yes, this is an argument from "effect", but it really doesn't matter. Because at the end of the day, you have no objective moralistic answer to object to the claim that, in light of how humans turned out to be, we shouldn't have come into existence in the first place. When someone claims all humans should die, an atheist can neither confirm or deny that claim in any sort of objective sense.

Yea, but whether its good or not that conscious beings exist is something that can be answered only in the context of someone or something to judge it. Its a value held by a valuer.

Finally you are admitting morality is subjective, and a matter of opinion.

Oughtness by what standard? By what method of judgement? Ought according to whom/what?

And again, that is my point. Judgement on any moral issue is a matter of opinion, one's perspective. At least that is how it must logically be in your atheistic perspective.

Value requires a valuer.

So you admit then that 'value' is something that just exists in your own mind, again reducing morality to subjective opinion.

because a God based universe is totally arbitrary and subject only to an entity's whim.

At this point I sure have to wonder... that statement is somewhat dissapointing coming from someone who seems to be smarter than that. That kind of a answer would work good with anyone who learned everything they know about God from sunday school.

But any educated theist will tell you that right and wrong is not "decreed" from God at his or her "whim" (which indeed would be arbitrary).

But rather, from a theist's perspective, morality proceeds from the nature of God. God does not "create" morality, but morality is universally true as it is a reflection of God's eternal character. You must have spent much time arguing with uneducated theists.

Only in a naturalistic, material universe can there be real meaning or purpose

No, my friend, you are an accident. You are the offspring of a random explosion that happened a long long time ago. Your existence cannot be proven to be of any more value than a ladybug (except in your own mind).

This world came into existence by accident and it will one day fade into oblivion.

You should at least be logically consistent and make the same conclusion as Bertrand Russel did:

"That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave … Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. ~ Bertrand Russel, famous atheist philosopher, Mysticism and Logic (emphasis added)"

I cannot deny the claim when it is a consequence of effect, like some poor tortured soul

And this is exactly my point. If the world is full pain and despair, you have no logical, objective moral answer to give to those who would claim that the human race should die off, or be "eliminated". "survival of the fittest" can only be your logical basis for "morality".

On the other hand, in a God based universe, we just exist as a figment of Gods imagination, and it cannot be said that we ought to exist, or that morality is grounded in something as reliable as the properties of reality.

I think someone has given you a terribly sad straw man of what logical theism looks like. A 'figment of God's imagination'? I would never claim that in a million years.

vjack said...

You've just been tagged with an evolution meme blog-tag: http://tinyurl.com/23xc5b Enjoy!

breakerslion said...

"When someone claims all humans should die, an atheist can neither confirm or deny that claim in any sort of objective sense."

This atheist has two replies to that statement.

1. If that's what you truly believe, then you'd better get started. Don't be surprised if someone kills you for the monster you've become before you can finish.

2. All humans will die, given enough time, so whether or not they "should", is moot.

You guys have entered the semantic cesspool that divides opinion and fact. Just remember to come in before dark.

Jonathan said...

Hey Breakerslion:

1. If that's what you truly believe, then you'd better get started. Don't be surprised if someone kills you for the monster you've become before you can finish.

No, that's not what I truly believe. As I've laid out, my point is that, in an atheistic universe, there can be no logical moral objection to the claim that all humans should die. If one is an atheist, the only logically consistent position is "no, don't do that, i don't want to die." Atheists (like Dan Barker, who does not subsrcibe to absolutely morality), cannot give an objective 'moral' objection to such a pursuit of someone else.

2. All humans will die, given enough time, so whether or not they "should", is moot.

On the contrary, the issue is not whether or not they should "eventually" die, but rather if they should be given the opportunity to live out their lives, which is very different question.

You guys have entered the semantic cesspool that divides opinion and fact. Just remember to come in before dark.

That's a very good mischaracterization (straw man) of our discussion.

I'm trying to establish the inevitable logical conclusions of naturalistic atheism, and my main point is that morality in such a universe is a social convention, a matter of opinion.

"Semantic cesspool"? Hardly.

breakerslion said...

"my point is that, in an atheistic universe, there can be no logical moral objection to the claim that all humans should die."

Ok, let me look at this a little less flippantly.

In a world of peers, the person making that claim has no authority or "right" to decide that for anyone but him/herself. The moral objection is simply that the persons you propose to kill are the rightful owners of their lives and would disagree with you. In short, the proposal is immoral because somebody is getting screwed, and I don't mean in a good way.

If atheists are right, and your god is as made-up as Santa Claus, then we live in an atheistic world regardless of what you believe. In such postulated environment, God is a kluge, meaning that It is a Big Boojum to scare people into moral behavior by means of threatened consequences and authoritarian edict. How is adopting an external moral framework more moral than accepting the rules of social and self-aware multiple existences and creating an understanding of morality internally?

breakerslion said...

"Should", "could", and "would" are cesspool words. If that gives you a visceral reaction, I apologize and rename them "rabbit-hole words". I stand by my opinion.

I have attempted to frame an answer to your question concerning the individualistic framing of morality. I would really appreciate an answer to my question. Most Apologists tend to skirt that one.

Aaron Kinney said...

I agree with vjack and beakerslion. Jonathan and I are in the semantic cesspool.

Jonathan I honestly think we wont get much further unless we shift gears a bit. Im enjoying the conversation with you but I want to get it moving more than going in circles.

Im interested in what your response to beakerslion question is actually. :)

Jonathan said...

hey guys,

Semantic cesspool?

Well, let me try and be clear. Aaron has set up a blog here that is dedicated to attacking the "immorality" of afterlifers.

And this is my "non-semantic cesspool" point:

If it is true that God does not exist, there is no such thing as objective morality. Cuz in disavowing God, you cut off the branch you are sitting on, because you have reduced morality to opinion (because your morality rests on assumptions that you might call "semantic").

But to answer precisely:

In short, the proposal is immoral because somebody is getting screwed, and I don't mean in a good way.

Sure, but you should come out and admit that you have MADE UP this definition of "morality". If this is what you mean by "morality", that's fine. But my point is that you have absolutely NO logical premise to raise that definition above just your opinion.

You are ASSUMING that humans "ought" to continue surviving. But if the human raise is an accident (along with everything else), what we "ought" to continue doing is just an opinion.

So this is my point: Your "definition" of morality is based on an assumption that humanity "ought" to keep on living.

But this assumption is totally unprovable, and therefore the idea that your "definition" is more than just your opinion, collapses.

If atheists are right, and your god is as made-up as Santa Claus

Correct, but you should also be logically consistent and agree with Bertrand Russell about "the foundation of unyielding despair":

"That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave … Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. ~ Bertrand Russel, famous atheist philosopher, Mysticism and Logic (emphasis added)"

I wholeheartedly agree that, if atheists are right, God is a Santa Claus. But you should ALSO reach the inevitable logical conclusion that Bertrand Russell did (if it were true that atheism is correct).

How is adopting an external moral framework more moral than accepting the rules of social and self-aware multiple existences and creating an understanding of morality internally?

If we live in a universe without God, it's not any more "moral" at all.

And that's exactly my point. In a universe without "objective meaning" (we exist because of a random explosion billions of years ago, we are accidents), nothing is "objectively" more "moral" than anything else.

What you guys might call "semantics", I call "examining unprovable assumptions".

I have shown that Aaron's "morality" is just his opinion on how he thinks humans "ought" to exist (and indeed his opinion that they "ought" to exist at all.)

If you guys want to believe that morality is purely subjetive or a "social contract" or something like that, that's fine. You should just come out and admit it.

You should at least be consistent (like Dan Barker, former pastor turned atheist), and admit that there are NO "universtal oughts".

You want a universe without God, but yet you want to believe morality is something objectively real. You can't have both my friends.

"Should", "could", and "would" are cesspool words. If that gives you a visceral reaction, I apologize and rename them "rabbit-hole words". I stand by my opinion.

If you think those words are "cesspool words", I would have to guess that you are very out of touch with reality. We use those words every day, and if they weren't TERRIBLY significant, it would reduce to nonsense most human conversations.

What humans "ought" to do is a very NON-semantic, NON-cesspool question.

Appreciating the dialogue,

-jonathan

Bertsura said...

Good news about the vaccine. Hopefully, they'll stop supporting other dangerous dogmas.

breakerslion said...

A.K. and Jonathan:

Response coming soon. Taking more time than I have at the moment. Hope you don't mind my jumping into the debate Aaron.

breakerslion said...

Hey Aaron, hope you don't mind.

Jonathan, you asked for it. This isn’t going to be brief. I am practically going to have to lay out a manifesto to describe my position.

“If it is true that God does not exist, there is no such thing as objective morality.”

You are going to have to try very hard to see this from my point of view, even if only hypothetically, for a moment, and/or only for the sake of this discussion. I will do my best to explain that point of view.

I believe to the core of my being, to 99 decimal places of probability, that no matter what I might want to be true, God does not exist. Furthermore, I believe that God is a made-up thing, a papier-mâché head, into which various human clerics have thrust their hands and made the mouth move. I believe that every artifact on the face of the earth is of human origin, and that includes the Bible, and every other book of “Holy” writ and every book, scroll, or tablet of law. Moses went up the mountain, stayed there long enough to chisel some stones, and came down. Conclusion: Moses did it himself. The fact that the Ten Commandments are a third-person rendition, line by line, of the first-person verses in the Egyptian Book of the Dead says he was a plagiarist to boot.

Since I also don’t believe in Elves, Fairies, Brownies, Leprechauns, Naiads, Dryads, ghosts, goblins, Greek, Roman, or Norse pantheons of gods, etc., the only moral creature I see on earth is Humankind. If we are moral, we made ourselves that way regardless of what arguments from authority were used to coerce others into this vision of morality.

“Cuz in disavowing God, you cut off the branch you are sitting on, because you have reduced morality to opinion”

But I am not sitting on that branch, because its’ not really there. I am sitting on a branch of universally acceptable truths about the nature of moral behavior. This is a semantic trap, I know. One must qualify this by saying “what any reasonable person can agree to”, and then you are left trying to define a reasonable person. Or, you can just make up the ultimate “reasonable person”, God, and conclude “hedidit”. Still this exercise might not be as hard as it first appears. Since we are talking about morality, we need only define the ideal person from a moral perspective. This is a person that understands that the rules of engagement, so to speak, that apply to him apply equally to his fellow human beings. Most humans alive today agree with the principle that it is immoral to own human slaves. Why? There is no place in the Bible that says so outright, in fact there are slaves (cough, servants, cough-cough) mentioned all the time. I am a person. I believe I own my own life, if nothing else. I have a survival instinct, and a sex drive that nature gave me (I have this in common with lower life forms). If I am a reasonable person, I believe that others feel the same way about themselves. I ask them, and get no answer that contradicts this, though I might get some fanciful restatements or elaborations. From this we can re-deduce John Locke’s inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property (ownership of the physical self implying ownership of property in general) without the need of a creator fairy to endow us with said rights.

“Sure, but you should come out and admit that you have MADE UP this definition of "morality". If this is what you mean by "morality", that's fine. But my point is that you have absolutely NO logical premise to raise that definition above just your opinion”

Ah, but I have! I was born into a world where the concept of morality already existed. Generations of humans have expounded and collaborated and refined this concept. That some of them lied as to the nature of the fountainhead of this knowledge does not alter the actual source or the end result. I didn’t make it up, I just saw the “rightness” of it and adopted it.

“You are ASSUMING that humans "ought" to continue surviving. But if the human raise is an accident (along with everything else), what we "ought" to continue doing is just an opinion.”

No, not really. I might assume that I will still be here tomorrow, or that humans will continue to be the marginal (broadly general) success story that they are. (Have you ever seen Thornton Wilder’s play The Skin of Our Teeth?) If a big enough comet hits the earth, or a plague of sufficient proportion were to happen, all bets are off the table. I can only die once, it matters only intellectually to me what happens to the rest of humanity after that. Intellectually, I like myself better if I contribute to the continuation of the species.

I also don’t believe in “accidents” in this context. Matter and environment can combine in a way that forms and sustains life. I, a female of the species, and a sufficient quantity of food and water can combine to form offspring. That much is abundantly clear. The potential exists for matter to behave in the fashion that we are behaving in right now. If not, we would not be here. There is a chain of causality responsible for the fact that we have realized that potential. We disagree as to whether that chain leads back to something as improbably complex and contradictory as a god, or to progressively simpler forms. That’s all. No accident. You have applied an argument of an excluded middle where such an argument is not appropriate. “Either God or Not God” does not imply “Either God or Chaos.” In fact, God can only exist in a universe of chaos, since he breaks so many laws of physics by his alleged nature.

“So this is my point: Your "definition" of morality is based on an assumption that humanity "ought" to keep on living.”

Au contraire, my definition of morality is based on the degree to which I accept the basis for the social conventions of morality. I am a social animal, living in a complex society. I have had lessons in morality, consisting of definitions, beliefs in origins, anecdotes, fables, and examples. I have been ordered to obey the conventions of morality and threatened with the Boogeyman (Satan and Hell) as a reward for disobedience. I have come to realize that there are two kinds of morality: true morality and false morality. False morality leads to things like burqas and head scarves, and making women cover their head in church. It is an abuse of the power one gets as a result of people believing one’s arguments from authority and threats. False morality is divisive, separating out a group into “the righteous” and “everyone else”. False morality is one of the underpinnings of war, allowing (or at least aiding in) the objectification of the enemy, so that the rules of morality no longer apply to the “Nips”, “Krauts”, “Gooks”, or whatever comes next.

True morality can be universally applied to the human race. Its purpose is to create equitable solutions to potential social problems. Every moral construct exists to reduce social strife, group or individual anxiety, or physical or emotional pain. If you disagree, I invite you to name any moral code and if it fits my definition of true morality, I will illustrate this quality. If it fits my definition of false morality, I will explain why, and attempt to illustrate the inequitable motivations behind it. True morality also has one basic axiom of human social existence that underlies all of its principles; if we are total strangers, and I am meeting you for the first time, I have no way of knowing objectively whose life is more important, yours or mine. You could be a murderer, or a doctor on the verge of discovering the next wonder drug, etc. I have no way of knowing. Unless you do something right in my face, or some action of yours is proved to me in an evidentiary way that satisfies at least most of the rules of jurisprudence, I have no good criteria by which to judge you. I suspect your Mennonite friends understand this on such a basic level that they would find a polite way to say “well duh!” The only difference is, what they would attribute to the mystery of “God’s plan”, I attribute to the non-predictive nature of causality (too many variables).

“you should also be logically consistent and agree with Bertrand Russell about "the foundation of unyielding despair":

… Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. ~ Bertrand Russell

It would actually be logically inconsistent of me to agree with Bertrand Russell on this point. First, I do not consider the statistical realization of a potential to be an accident. We exist because we can, because of a series of improbable but not impossible events took place, and perhaps because of some trends of matter and energy that we will one day discover that makes this less improbable than it might otherwise appear. I believe that I will cease to be when I die. I have no non-anecdotal evidence to suggest anything else. I know the difference between dreams and reality, cause-and-effect and superstition, and verifiable phenomena and hallucination. I guess I am not a depressed person, because I find no despair in any of this. When I contemplate my mortality, it renews my joy in living. I remember not to take things for granted, and not to put things off. When I die, I stop. That’s all, no alive-dead state of being. I don’t want to die, and I expect I’ll be either sedated to unconsciousness or afraid when it actually happens. Sort of like the feeling you get when you’re about to jump into very cold water, only worse. Then … nothing. It’s all over. I guess I’m not sufficiently egocentric or egomaniacal to despair of that. It’s not like my fretting about it, or dreaming up an answer that I like better is going to change it. I also don’t believe in the concept of “soul” since I don’t believe that there is a ghost occupying my body. I think Mr. Russell came close to getting his poetic license revoked with this one.

In response to my question, How is adopting an external moral framework more moral than accepting the rules of social and self-aware multiple existences and creating an understanding of morality internally? You said:

"If we live in a universe without God, it's not any more "moral" at all."

Agreed. Then you said:

"And that's exactly my point. In a universe without "objective meaning" (we exist because of a random explosion billions of years ago, we are accidents), nothing is "objectively" more "moral" than anything else.

What you guys might call "semantics", I call "examining unprovable assumptions".

At this point, I need some clarification. Which of these definitions of “objective” are you using? (From Dictionary.com)

5. not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.

6. intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book.

7. being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject (opposed to SUBJECTIVE).

8. of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.


Since morality on earth only pertains to human beings, that is to say humans are the only animal judged by one another on moral grounds; said judgment can be objective in one sense, but not in another. The argument can be further extended by postulating another intelligent life form and pose similar moral questions about their theoretical behavior, such as, “Under what circumstances would it be a moral act for one Martian to beat another Martian to a lifeless pulp?”

It seems to me that definition number eight can be ruled out because, even if you throw a kluge god into the equation, like Aesop’s King Log, in an attempt to halt the infinite regression of “objective to whom?” morality cannot exist independent of thought if it originates in the mind of a sentient being.

“If you think those words [“should”, “could”, “would”, “ought”] are "cesspool words", I would have to guess that you are very out of touch with reality. We use those words every day, and if they weren't TERRIBLY significant, it would reduce to nonsense most human conversations."

Many if not most human conversations containing these words do reduce to nonsense. People just a) don’t interpret these conversations literally, or b) insert implied words and phrases to help them make sense.

Example: “You should see a doctor.” Implied: “I have reason to believe that you should see a doctor.” Or, “You have given me reason to believe that you should see a doctor.” Without the implied subtext, the only logical response to the statement becomes, “What for?” Even with the implied subtext, there is an implied understanding that my goal is self-preservation, or to feel better, or I am not a Christian Scientist, or I can afford to see a doctor, or that the speaker has an implicit right to meddle in my affairs by influencing or at least confirming my own opinion in the matter. It is a bit of a stretch to call this phrase “nonsense”, but you can see how quickly even this innocuous phrase can drift into a gray area.

“you should also be logically consistent and agree with Bertrand Russell about "the foundation of unyielding despair"

This is a statement of your belief or opinion. It is phrased in such a way as to attempt to influence my belief or opinion. First, I must accept that you have correctly interpreted my statements to be necessarily logically consistent with the philosophical thought of Bertrand Russell. Then, I must agree that in order to maintain consistency, his is the only logical conclusion that can be reached. I must then accept him as an authority, and dogmatically agree without having arrived at this conclusion independently. All because you used the word “should”. Nonsense!

Jonathan said...

Jonathan, you asked for it. This isn’t going to be brief.

Hey, no prob. I enjoy the conversation.

I believe to the core of my being, to 99 decimal places of

probability, that no matter what I might want to be true, God

does not exist.


I have no doubt that you are very sincere in this belief, and

that you believe it because you are convinced of it.

But I am not sitting on that branch, because its’ not really

there.


I should have clarified: What I mean is, that in disavowing God,

"morality" cannot logically be raised above anything other than a

social convention (a social contract per se). So no matter what

our undeniably existent conscience tells us, atheism forces us to

conclude that "morality" is just something we made up in response

to our "survival instinct". At least it forces us to conclude

this if we desire to be logically consistent.

If I am a reasonable person, I believe that others feel the

same way about themselves.


And you would be absolutely right. And I agree with much of what

you have written in that paragraph. But really, this is all

besides the point. Because you are neglecting your assumption,

which is that, because humans exist, they "ought" to keep on

existing.

Ah, but I have! I was born into a world where the concept of

morality already existed. Generations of humans have expounded

and collaborated and refined this concept. That some of them lied

as to the nature of the fountainhead of this knowledge does not

alter the actual source or the end result. I didn’t make it up, I

just saw the “rightness” of it and adopted it.


You saw the "rightness" of it? Uh... No, you saw how it served

you, and your "survival instinct", and so you adopted it. If you

saw the "rightness" of it, you would have to admit that you have

a preconception of what "rightness" is, but then you would be

forced to admit that your preconception is just your opinion.

If a big enough comet hits the earth, or a plague of

sufficient proportion were to happen, all bets are off the

table.


Right, but a hypothetical extinction scenario contributes nothing

to the idea of whether or not humanity "ought" to continue

existing.

Intellectually, I like myself better if I contribute to the

continuation of the species.


Ok... And the fact that you would "like yourself better" is based

on your pressupositions about morality. Don't get me wrong... I

would like myself better as well if I did the same. But let's not

be silly and say that the reason you would "like yourself better"

is something more than your opinion (at least, if there is no

"intention" [God] behind our existence).

I also don’t believe in “accidents” in this context.

An accident is something that happens "without volition or

intent". But only intelligence can have "volition" or "intend".

Using the word "accident" as it is properly, it is WHOLY

applicable to you and I (if there is no God). You speak as if

matter naturally "wants" to cough up something like us humans.

An accident is an accident. We exist NOT on purpose, but because

of an explosion that RANDOMLY happened billions of years ago (at

least from an logically consistent atheistic perspective).

“Either God or Not God” does not imply “Either God or Chaos.”



Absolutely it does. This is what I mean by you cutting off the

branch you are sitting on. You want to get rid of God, but you

don't want to be an accident. But you can't have it both ways.

Our existence is a cosmic fluke, a 1 in 10 to a number with a

zillion zeroes behind it... That we exist on this planet with all

the necessary ingredients for life is a cosmic fluke (at least it

is in an atheistic, logically consistent, perspective).

I have come to realize that there are two kinds of morality:

true morality and false morality. False morality leads to things

like burqas and head scarves, and making women cover their head

in church. It is an abuse of the power one gets as a result of

people believing one’s arguments from authority and threats.

False morality is divisive, separating out a group into “the

righteous” and “everyone else”. False morality is one of the

underpinnings of war, allowing (or at least aiding in) the

objectification of the enemy, so that the rules of morality no

longer apply to the “Nips”, “Krauts”, “Gooks”, or whatever comes

next.


That's a great definition... Not a bad idea at all... Too bad

it's just an idea... There are so many unspoken pressupositions

behind these statements, that for me to address would take

forever... But suffice it to say that your "true morality" is

really just your own idea. Not necessarily a bad idea (as I might

define "bad"), but just an idea nonetheless.

Its purpose is to create equitable solutions to potential

social problems. Every moral construct exists to reduce social

strife, group or individual anxiety, or physical or emotional

pain.


Sure... "Morality" serves the survival instinct. I understand

that... Your morality is about "what goes around comes around". I

understand that. But that's totally besides the point.

My point is that, why do atheists act as if their "morality" is

something more than just a "social contract" that we made up

because we "want" to survive? Humans constructed the "morality"

concept to help us stay alive and be happier. But we still have

said nothing about the preconceived notion that humans ought to

continue existing at all...

We exist because we can, because of a series of improbable but

not impossible events took place, and perhaps because of some

trends of matter and energy that we will one day discover that

makes this less improbable than it might otherwise appear.


You know, I can totally apply this kind of fancy talk to my car

accident that I got into a while back:

"I had a car accident because I can, because of a series of

improbable, but not impossible events that took place, and

perhaps because of some trends of matter and energy..."

I just described my car accident in such an elegant way... but

guess what? My car accident was STILL an accident, and there's no

way of getting around it.

You can work as hard as you want to describe your existence

elegantly, but it won't change the cold hard fact that you are

the result of a random explosion billions of years ago.

Which of these definitions of “objective” are you using? (From Dictionary.com)

I think number 8 would be the closest to what I am using... When I say "objective meaning", I mean "meaning or purpose behind our existence, that exists regardless of whether or not there is a mind to comprehend it."

It seems to me that definition number eight can be ruled out because, even if you throw a kluge god into the equation, like Aesop’s King Log, in an attempt to halt the infinite regression of “objective to whom?” morality cannot exist independent of thought if it originates in the mind of a sentient being.

Which is why morality is purely subjective and a matter of opinion.

Even with the implied subtext, there is an implied understanding that my goal is self-preservation,

Right, and we all assume without reason that we ought to pursue "self-preservation"

All because you used the word “should”.

Not at all... I am saying, that if you carefully followed your own thinking logically, you would arrive in the same place.

Jonathan said...

Let me try posting that again...

Jonathan, you asked for it. This isn’t going to be brief.

Hey, no prob. I enjoy the conversation.

I believe to the core of my being, to 99 decimal places of probability, that no matter what I might want to be true, God does not exist.

I have no doubt that you are very sincere in this belief, and that you believe it because you are convinced of it.

But I am not sitting on that branch, because its’ not really there.

I should have clarified: What I mean is, that in disavowing God, "morality" cannot logically be raised above anything other than a social convention (a social contract per se). So no matter what our undeniably existent conscience tells us, atheism forces us to conclude that "morality" is just something we made up in response to our "survival instinct". At least it forces us to conclude this if we desire to be logically consistent.

If I am a reasonable person, I believe that others feel the same way about themselves.

And you would be absolutely right. And I agree with much of what you have written in that paragraph. But really, this is all besides the point. Because you are neglecting your assumption, which is that, because humans exist, they "ought" to keep on existing.

Ah, but I have! I was born into a world where the concept of morality already existed. Generations of humans have expounded and collaborated and refined this concept. That some of them lied as to the nature of the fountainhead of this knowledge does not alter the actual source or the end result. I didn’t make it up, I just saw the “rightness” of it and adopted it.

You saw the "rightness" of it? Uh... No, you saw how it served you, and your "survival instinct", and so you adopted it. If you saw the "rightness" of it, you would have to admit that you have a preconception of what "rightness" is, but then you would be forced to admit that your preconception is just your opinion.

If a big enough comet hits the earth, or a plague of sufficient proportion were to happen, all bets are off the table.

Right, but a hypothetical extinction scenario contributes nothing to the idea of whether or not humanity "ought" to continue existing.

Intellectually, I like myself better if I contribute to the continuation of the species.

Ok... And the fact that you would "like yourself better" is based on your pressupositions about morality. Don't get me wrong... I would like myself better as well if I did the same. But let's not be silly and say that the reason you would "like yourself better" is something more than your opinion (at least, if there is no "intention" [God] behind our existence).

I also don’t believe in “accidents” in this context.

An accident is something that happens "without volition or intent". But only intelligence can have "volition" or "intend". Using the word "accident" as it is properly, it is WHOLY applicable to you and I (if there is no God). You speak as if matter naturally "wants" to cough up something like us humans.

An accident is an accident. We exist NOT on purpose, but because of an explosion that RANDOMLY happened billions of years ago (at least from an logically consistent atheistic perspective).

“Either God or Not God” does not imply “Either God or Chaos.”

Absolutely it does. This is what I mean by you cutting off the branch you are sitting on. You want to get rid of God, but you don't want to be an accident. But you can't have it both ways.

Our existence is a cosmic fluke, a 1 in 10 to a number with a zillion zeroes behind it... That we exist on this planet with all the necessary ingredients for life is a cosmic fluke (at least it is in an atheistic, logically consistent, perspective).

I have come to realize that there are two kinds of morality: true morality and false morality. False morality leads to things like burqas and head scarves, and making women cover their head in church. It is an abuse of the power one gets as a result of people believing one’s arguments from authority and threats. False morality is divisive, separating out a group into “the righteous” and “everyone else”. False morality is one of the underpinnings of war, allowing (or at least aiding in) the objectification of the enemy, so that the rules of morality no longer apply to the “Nips”, “Krauts”, “Gooks”, or whatever comes next.

That's a great definition... Not a bad idea at all... Too bad it's just an idea... There are so many unspoken pressupositions behind these statements, that for me to address would take forever... But suffice it to say that your "true morality" is really just your own idea. Not necessarily a bad idea (as I might define "bad"), but just an idea nonetheless.

Its purpose is to create equitable solutions to potential social problems. Every moral construct exists to reduce social strife, group or individual anxiety, or physical or emotional pain.

Sure... "Morality" serves the survival instinct. I understand that... Your morality is about "what goes around comes around". I understand that. But that's totally besides the point.

My point is that, why do atheists act as if their "morality" is something more than just a "social contract" that we made up because we "want" to survive? Humans constructed the "morality" concept to help us stay alive and be happier. But we still have said nothing about the preconceived notion that humans ought to continue existing at all...

We exist because we can, because of a series of improbable but not impossible events took place, and perhaps because of some trends of matter and energy that we will one day discover that makes this less improbable than it might otherwise appear.

You know, I can totally apply this kind of fancy talk to my car accident that I got into a while back:

"I had a car accident because I can, because of a series of improbable, but not impossible events that took place, and perhaps because of some trends of matter and energy..."

I just described my car accident in such an elegant way... but guess what? My car accident was STILL an accident, and there's no way of getting around it.

You can work as hard as you want to describe your existence elegantly, but it won't change the cold hard fact that you are the result of a random explosion billions of years ago.

Which of these definitions of “objective” are you using? (From Dictionary.com)

I think number 8 would be the closest to what I am using... When I say "objective meaning", I mean "meaning or purpose behind our existence, that exists regardless of whether or not there is a mind to comprehend it."

It seems to me that definition number eight can be ruled out because, even if you throw a kluge god into the equation, like Aesop’s King Log, in an attempt to halt the infinite regression of “objective to whom?” morality cannot exist independent of thought if it originates in the mind of a sentient being.

Which is why morality is purely subjective and a matter of opinion.

Even with the implied subtext, there is an implied understanding that my goal is self-preservation,

Right, and we all assume without reason that we ought to pursue "self-preservation"

All because you used the word “should”.

Not at all... I am saying, that if you carefully followed your own thinking logically, you would arrive in the same place.

breakerslion said...

I'm going to have to do this in small chunks because of time constraints.

I said:

We exist because we can, because of a series of improbable but not impossible events took place, and perhaps because of some trends of matter and energy that we will one day discover that makes this less improbable than it might otherwise appear.

Jonathan said:

You know, I can totally apply this kind of fancy talk to my car accident that I got into a while back:

"I had a car accident because I can, because of a series of improbable, but not impossible events that took place, and perhaps because of some trends of matter and energy..."

I just described my car accident in such an elegant way... but guess what? My car accident was STILL an accident, and there's no way of getting around it.


And Jonathan also said:

An accident is something that happens "without volition or intent". But only intelligence can have "volition" or "intend". Using the word "accident" as it is properly, it is WHOLY applicable to you and I (if there is no God). You speak as if matter naturally "wants" to cough up something like us humans.

Those who know me know that my hobby is the confusion of ideas that arises due to the imprecise nature of human communication, imperfect or incomplete knowledge, lies, propaganda and other hidden agendas, inescapable and prejudicial world views, or a combination thereof. I play around with this, but I do it for a serious reason.

In my opinion, the idea of “accident” is part of a theistic or deistic world view. If we take your definition and apply it to the chemical process of two oxygen atoms combining with one carbon atom to form CO2, this becomes an accident. When the proper conditions have been met, this reaction happens every time. It’s not an accident; it’s inherent to the nature of the atomic particles.

The idea that anything that happens without volition or intent is an accident contains the kernel of thought, “versus that which happens with conscious will.” In a creationist world view, that covers quite a lot.

Imagine I’m playing a game of pool. I line up a shot, strike the cue ball, which in turn strikes another ball that does not sink into the pocket as I intended. I’m not a good pool player. Was that an accident? If I hit that same ball exactly that same way 100 times, I will get the same unsatisfying result every time, and as long as everything else on the table is in the same place, the ball will come to rest in the same position every time. I have miscalculated. I have made a mistake. I have performed an act that reveals an error in judgment. The result was no accident because it was predictable mathematically so long as all the variables are known.

The same can be said of your car accident. Once all the vectors, delta-V, mass, acceleration, reflexes, and braking capabilities, etc. are measured and plotted, taking into account that two solid objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time (under earth-normal conditions), the result is predictable. It just wasn’t intentional. The drawn conclusion “accident” presupposes an alternative intentional outcome. Intention presupposes someone with intent, and therefore an accident can only happen as a result of malformed intent.

When you put the word “wants” in quotes, I take it to mean that you understand that inanimate objects cannot have wants. This is true. What I am saying is, once all the proper conditions are met, matter, then life, then specialization and competition has to cough up something like us humans. The reactions to the conditions, the chains of causality, have no other possible outcome unless you change one of the variables. The proof lies in the realization that it already happened, and no matter how much more complex than a pool table, IF all the variables could be (one of the rare times I’ll use that word) accounted for, then the outcome of each step in the chain of cause and effect would be predictable.

Jonathan said...

Howdy,

When the proper conditions have been met, this reaction happens every time.

Sure, but only when the proper conditions are met. And the arrangement of these proper conditions are a total fluke. That we exist at all, and in this time period, is a total fluke (in a logically consistent atheistic world-view). I really don't understand why atheists can't come out and admit that. We are the result of a cosmic lottery. We have climbed mount improbable, and we just "happen" to be here.

It’s not an accident; it’s inherent to the nature of the atomic particles.

Ok, let's say that's true (that it's inherent)... But the very fact that atomic particles exist at all in the first place is a total fluke, the result of a blind process coughed up by "nothingness", or whatever other inconceivable, vague, impersonal inanimate "something" you can come up with.

Imagine I’m playing a game of pool.

Well this analogy breaks down at the get go, because it just simply begs the question: Why is there a game of pool and a pool player to begin with? But regardless...

The result was no accident because it was predictable mathematically so long as all the variables are known.

Wow, you've just come up with a totally new definition of "accident". I could say the same about my car accident... Looking back, all the variables could be easily established ahead of time if one was to think about it. Given the icey conditions of that day, the accident was very predictable mathematically speaking. And, yet, it was still an accident.

But I'm willing to concede this much: the word "fluke" would be a much better descriptive term than the word "accident".

But regardless, to properly understand our existence as a "fluke" still leaves us in the exact same place when it comes to morality. Morality, which is rooted in "oughtness", is inseperably connected to purpose. But only "intelligence" can "purpose" something. But if there is no intelligence, there is no purpose, and if there is no purpose, there is no "oughtness". Then morality is purely subjective, based entirely on our self-preservation instinct.

The drawn conclusion “accident” presupposes an alternative intentional outcome.

On the contrary, it is wholy within the definition of "accident" or "fluke" to call something such, even if there was no one around to presuppose an alternative outcome.

"without volition or intent" is a fair definition, and does not require an alternative pressuposition.

But regardless of whether or not you think I am using the right word, it changes nothing about the subjective nature of morality.

When Aaron says that afterlifers are "immoral", he is being very misleading. Because most people who come across such statements assume the word "immoral" to describe a truth that is true, regardless of whether or not people "want" it to be true.

But in a logically consistent atheistic worldview, morality ONLY serves the self-preservation instinct, and has been crafted as a "social contract" of sorts. Morality is based in what we WANT, not in what OUGHT to be.

But anyone with a conscience intuitively knows that some things are wrong REGARDLESS of what we want (whether or not we consciously want it, or subconsciously, like our instinct).

What I am saying is, once all the proper conditions are met, matter, then life, then specialization and competition has to cough up something like us humans.

Well let's say that's true. But that just begs the question... how in the world did "all the proper conditions" come together?

The answer? Total fluke. And you and I are nothing more than a marvelous fluke.

You should be consistent, like Richard Dawkins:

Jaron Lanier: ‘There’s a large group of people who simply are uncomfortable with accepting evolution because it leads to what they perceive as a moral vacuum, in which their best impulses have no basis in nature.’

Richard Dawkins: ‘All I can say is, That’s just tough. We have to face up to the truth.’

Bahnsen Burner said...

Breakerslion wrote:

When the proper conditions have been met, this reaction happens every time.

Jonathan responded:

Sure, but only when the proper conditions are met. And the arrangement of these proper conditions are a total fluke. That we exist at all, and in this time period, is a total fluke (in a logically consistent atheistic world-view). I really don't understand why atheists can't come out and admit that. We are the result of a cosmic lottery. We have climbed mount improbable, and we just "happen" to be here.

Jonathan’s problem is that he refuses to take existence as an absolute. On his view there must be something “behind” existence to give it its properties, its conditions, its causality and associated effects. The conditions that we discover in existence – even though we (i.e., mortal human beings) did not wish them there ourselves – must have been put there by someone’s wishing. In the final analysis, they simply cannot exist independent of consciousness - some consciousness had to have put them there. The alternative to this is simply too depressing for Jonathan to take seriously. Such a position reduces existence to “a total fluke,” making it “the result of a cosmic lottery.” The idea that existence exists independent of consciousness is simply too incredible to accept without positing an invisible magic being behind it all.

This kind of theistic bristling fails to take into account the fact that on the view which it seeks to so denigrate, existence is not a “result” in the first place. Thus such attempts to denigrate this view commit the fallacy of the stolen concept by ignoring the fact that the concept ‘result’ makes sense only in the context of what exists, which means it cannot be validly applied to existence as such.

Now Jonathan does not present any argument to conclude that there must be something prior to existence. Rather, he uses connotation-rich characterization to do his heavy-lifting for him. In other words, he denigrates his opponent’s position by recasting it in degrading terms. The desired outcome of this gimmick is that no one is going to want to stand by such a position after it’s been characterized in the manner that Jonathan has characterized it. The Achilles’ heel of this procedure, however, is that he no longer has anything objective to point to as an absolute, which is the very indictment he wants to bring against his non-believing opponent. On Jonathan’s basis, we have no alternative but to retreat into an imaginary realm where his “God” resides, a magic kingdom that is fundamentally no different from the scene one imagines in his mind when he reads a storybook. And that is because the inputs which give shape to this magic kingdom themselves come from a storybook, namely the Christian bible. By this point, we’ve renounced all possible recourse to objectivity, for the imaginary is not real.

Another problem that afflicts Jonathan’s position, is that it is open to the very denigrating characterization that he wants to use against his opponent’s position. He says that, on the atheist view, it’s “a total fluke” that we exist, that our existence is “the result of a cosmic lottery.” Breakerslion already gave reasons why this is not true. So Jonathan fails to bring an internal critique against his opponent’s position at this point. But is the theistic alternative that he wants to champion any better than his characterization of his opponent’s position? No, it really isn’t. On his view, “accident” (a term bearing a heavy load of negative connotation) is characterized by anything that obtains “without volition or intent.” Well, does he posit a creator of his creator, and thus risk an infinite regress? Christians typically do not do this. Rather, they want to say that their god is eternal, uncreated, certainly not the creation of some will existing before it. So on Jonathan’s own view, his god’s existence is an accident, since if it exists as his worldview claims it does, its existence obtains “without volition or intent.” On the very premises which he wants to use against the non-believer and his conception of the universe, the existence of Jonathan’s god is “a total fluke.” It’s just a fluke that it exists, since no “volition or intent” before it put it there.

I made the same point in my discussion of some of Paul Manata’s gimmicky debating points in my blog Theism and Subjective Metaphysics. Paul had stated:

Since Christianity does not claim that all existence is the result of consciousness - because God doesn’t create Himself, He’s not a “result” - then Christianity claims that some existence is the result of consciousness.

In response to this, I wrote:

If the Christian god did not create itself, then its nature is not something it ever intended. Its nature is a mere cosmic accident, a fluke, a product of chance. This is the implication of presuppositionalism's own kind of reasoning:

“If the mind of God does not sovereignly determine the relationship of every event to every other event according to His wise plan, then the way things are in the world and what happens there are random and indeterminate.” (Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 110n.64)

The gist of this kind of reasoning is clear enough: if something is not under the control of the Christian god, then it must be "random and indeterminate." Since, as Paul explicitly states, this same god did not create itself, its existence and the nature it has could not be a "result" of its own intentions. So it's "just by chance" that it is what it is. No overseeing consciousness can be said to have been responsible for ensuring the Christian god's nature is rational or coherent. The Christian doctrine of god falls by presuppositionalism's own sword.


So if a god exists, well, it’s just a fluke that it exists. And if it chose to create the universe, well, nothing compelled it to do this, it’s just a fluke that it chose to create the universe. And if it chose to create the earth and the heaven, nothing compelled it to create the heaven and the earth, so it’s just a fluke that it chose to do this. And if it chose to create human beings on the earth, nothing compelled it to do this – it could have chosen not to create human beings just as well. So it’s just a fluke that it chose to create human beings on earth. In fact, it’s just a fluke that it chose to create human beings with two arms instead of 22 or 242 arms. We can all agree that nothing compelled the Christian god to create man with less than 4138 arms. If it wanted to create man with more than 4138 arms, well, what would stop it? Nothing in the whole universe could stop it because the universe and everything within it are said to be its creations as well. So it’s just a fluke that it chose to create man with less than 4138 arms. It’s also a fluke that it chose to create man with less than 4139 arms. Or 4140 arms. Etc. So on the Christian point of view, it’s flukes all over, ad multiplexus. There’s no stop to the number of ways in which the Christian worldview reduces to “it’s just a fluke.” It’s just a fluke that the first man was named Adam. And, it’s just a fluke that the first woman was named Eve. It’s just a fluke that human beings were created in only two sexes rather than 62 or 128,329 sexes. We can imagine all kinds of variations here, and what Christian would say that his god cannot transcend any man’s imagination?

I could go on, but you get the point.

Regards,
Dawson

Jonathan said...

Well....

Now that bahnsen burner has come along and completely mischaracterized most of what I have written, I have my work cut out for me...

Jonathan’s problem is that he refuses to take existence as an absolute. On his view there must be something “behind” existence to give it its properties, its conditions, its causality and associated effects.

Bahnsen, if you had followed the discussion since the beginning, since I have been debating with Aaron, you would know this is not the issue at all.

Let me explain:

In the final analysis, they simply cannot exist independent of consciousness - some consciousness had to have put them there. The alternative to this is simply too depressing for Jonathan to take seriously.

To reduce my position to this is a grievous over-simplification.

Is the atheistic view point summed up by Bertrand Russell depressing and accurate? Absolutely!

But is that the main part of my argument? Absolutely not! If you were following, you would have noted that the main discussion is about establishing "morality" for beings that exist by mere fluke.

My point is this: If you're gonna be an atheist, that's fine. But please, for honesty's sake, come out and admit that this "morality" you are talking about is just a "social contract" or something like that, a convention we have devised to serve our self-preservation instinct. Don't go around acting as if some things are "right" and some things are "wrong" regardless of what people think about them. What is called "morality" is an invention of the human brain... nothing more.

Quoting Bertrand Russell was a side-note (but an honest one) that showed where being logically consistent and being an atheist will lead you.

This kind of theistic bristling fails to take into account the fact that on the view which it seeks to so denigrate, existence is not a “result” in the first place. Thus such attempts to denigrate this view commit the fallacy of the stolen concept by ignoring the fact that the concept ‘result’ makes sense only in the context of what exists, which means it cannot be validly applied to existence as such.

Well, besides the fact that this point again does not address the issue of the subjective nature of morality, it assumes ABSOLUTELY the NON-existence of God. IT assumes that matter is absolute and timeless (a completely unprovable leap of faith as well).

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that it is... But we are still in a place where logical consistency and the reality of daily experience of "conscience" are in conflict.

What I mean is this:

1. Logically consistent atheism says that morality is purely subjective and based in opinion.

but...

2. Every human being experiences something called a "conscience" on a daily basis. This daily experience of "conscience" is in direct conflict with the idea that "morality" is purely subjective.

So, a logically consistent atheist will find himself in conflict with what he intuitively knows to be true through daily, practical experience. The problem is not necessarily that atheists do not follow their conscience, but rather that they do not make good logical sense of this conscience, in light of their world-view.

Now Jonathan does not present any argument to conclude that there must be something prior to existence. Rather, he uses connotation-rich characterization to do his heavy-lifting for him. In other words, he denigrates his opponent’s position by recasting it in degrading terms.

And Bahnsen, if you had followed this argument from it's beginning, you would have noted that never did I say that I was going to present any such arguments. This whole conversation started with a question in regards to how atheists establish morality (in light of it's truly subjective nature). I like to thoroughly establish the point before moving on. I'm not a fan of chasing red herrings.

The Achilles’ heel of this procedure, however, is that he no longer has anything objective to point to as an absolute, which is the very indictment he wants to bring against his non-believing opponent.

And if the point of this conversation was to defend my theistic paradigm, you would indeed have a good point. My only initial avenue of discussion was making sense of our use of terms like "morality", as if they are objective and absolute, when in reality (if atheism is true), they are only fabrications.

Breakerslion already gave reasons why this is not true.

Oh he did, did he? Objections that I did not give an answer to? It's pretty arrogant to make such bold claims without demonstrating the truth of them. Show me one of his claims that I did not give a direct rebuttal to, a claim that has direct relevance to the topic at hand...

On his view, “accident” (a term bearing a heavy load of negative connotation) is characterized by anything that obtains “without volition or intent.”

Fine then, call it a fluke... But it changes nothing about the subjective nature of morality.

On the very premises which he wants to use against the non-believer and his conception of the universe, the existence of Jonathan’s god is “a total fluke.” It’s just a fluke that it exists, since no “volition or intent” before it put it there.

And if I had shown in these arguments, that addressing your assumptions about my own theism was indeed a purpose of mine, then this statement would indeed have been relevant.

If the Christian god did not create itself, then its nature is not something it ever intended. Its nature is a mere cosmic accident, a fluke, a product of chance. This is the implication of presuppositionalism's own kind of reasoning:

There are many assumptions behind this statement, and I would have no problem with getting into this debate at another time (maybe once this issue is resolved?). But if I'm talking about one topic, please... let's keep it on one topic at a time...

Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote:

"Jonathan’s problem is that he refuses to take existence as an absolute. On his view there must be something “behind” existence to give it its properties, its conditions, its causality and associated effects."

Jonathan responds:

Bahnsen, if you had followed the discussion since the beginning, since I have been debating with Aaron, you would know this is not the issue at all.

Actually, that is the issue, whether or not Jonathan recognizes it. When breakerslion points to certain conditions being met as the cause of the reaction in question, Jonathan then sought to characterize this relationship as “a total fluke”. But if existence is absolute, then this is precisely what we would expect: that certain reactions result when certain conditions are met. It would not be a fluke at all. It would be the norm.

I wrote:

”In the final analysis, they simply cannot exist independent of consciousness - some consciousness had to have put them there. The alternative to this is simply too depressing for Jonathan to take seriously.”

Jonathan reacts:

To reduce my position to this is a grievous over-simplification.

It's not an over-simplification at all, since Jonathan's position is that a form of consciousness hiding behind what we perceive in the world calls all the shots. As Van Til put it, "God controls whatsoever comes to pass" (The Defense of the Faith, p. 160).

Jonathan does affirm the existence of a god, does he not? And he believes this god is conscious, does he not? And he does affirm that this god created the universe by an act of will, did he not? On this view, the conditions that we discover in the world do not, in the final analysis, do not exist independent of consciousness, for on this view *some* consciousness put them there in the first place. In other words, a supernatural *subject* is responsible for it all, and all objects which we find in the universe were created by this supernatural subject. This reduces to the view that the subject holds metaphyiscal primacy over its objects, and this is clear as a bell in Christian theism. As the all-knowing subject, the Christian god created the universe of objects, gave them their identities, assigned them to their place, put them into the relationship they now exist in, and controls what they do. You can't get more subjective than this. And yet Jonathan is telling us that a position which rejects theism logically leads to a subjective understanding of morality. It's incredible what adults will believe these days.

Jonathan asks:

Is the atheistic view point summed up by Bertrand Russell depressing and accurate? Absolutely!

The key element here is the qualification “summed up by Bertrand Russell.” Without realizing it, Russell was borrowing from a theistic viewpoint by having implicitly accepted the fundamental compromise of the subject-object relationship in his foundations. Compromising the subject-object relationship results in affirming the primacy of the subject (consciousness) over the object (e.g., the external world). This always leads to a malevolent conception of the universe, dominated either by wrath (such as in theism) or by hopelessness (e.g., Russell’s skepticism). That Russell was an atheist is besides the point, for even though he rejected the god-belief of Christianity, he still implicitly accepted the same error upon which Christianity stands, namely the primacy of the subject metaphysics – i.e., subjectivism.

What Jonathan ignores is the fact that Russell does not speak for all atheists and atheistic viewpoints. But it’s clear that he assumes Russell’s affirmations can be generalized to characterize *all* non-believing worldviews. This assumption is very active in the objections that Jonathan has sought to raise against atheism per se. It’s as naïve as assuming that all atheists are Marxists. That is just plain ignorance.

Jonathan continued:

But is that the main part of my argument? Absolutely not! If you were following, you would have noted that the main discussion is about establishing "morality" for beings that exist by mere fluke.

Yeah, I’ve seen enough already. Here’s something Jonathan had stated above:

In an atheistic universe, we just exist. It cannot be said either that "we ought" to exist, or that we "ought not" to exist.

This first part of this statement suggests that the one affirming it has failed to recognize the fact that human existence is highly conditional. Our existence is not a mere given. We cannot sit around and do nothing and expect to continue to exist. But an immortal, eternal, indestructible god could; it could do nothing and it will continue to exist just as it always has forever and ever. It did not need to create anything in order to continue existing; if it chose not to create anything, it would still continue existing all the same. It has no objective basis to choose to create as opposed to choose not to create. Its choice to create would be completely arbitrary, and so would its choice of what to create and how much of it to create. It would all be utterly arbitrary. But man’s nature is quite different from this. His existence is conditional; he is neither immortal, eternal nor indestructible. He faces a fundamental alternative – to live or die – and this fundamental alternative is philosophically relevant to his need for morality. On a theistic view, there is no objective need for morality, and theists admit as much when they point to their god as the standard of morality. The purpose of morality is to guide one’s choices and actions. But in the case of a being which is said to be immortal, eternal and indestructible, it wouldn’t need to act in the first place. It could sit on its hands for all eternity, and it would still be what it is. Not the case with man. If man does not act, he will die. If he takes the wrong actions, he will die. This is why he needs morality in the first place. But notice how theism cannot answer the question: Why does man need morality? That’s because in the cartoon universe of theism, there are no objective rules, no objective constraints, no objective conditions. But in the non-cartoon universe of atheism (i.e., the universe in which we in fact actually do exist), there are conditions which we need to heed and constraints according to which we need to govern our choices.

The second statement which Jonathan made here (“It cannot be said either that "we ought" to exist, or that we "ought not" to exist”) is an attempt to make a moral problem where there is none. Morality presupposes the choice to live; those who don’t care to live are not going to care about achieving and/or preserving any values going forward, for they do not expect to be around to enjoy them. Morality is for the living who want to continue living. The choice to live is open to anyone who lives; this is not a choice that can be made by others, unless of course one is helpless (such as someone on a life-support machine in an IV ward). The problem that Jonathan tries to raise here is built on another stolen concept, for it asserts the concept of ‘ought’ prior to our existence, as if moral responsibility did not presuppose it. But it does presuppose our existence, so there’s no real problem here. The question which morality focuses on is not “should we exist or not?” but rather, “we exist, now what are we going to do?”

So it should be clear: whether or not we exist “by fluke” is of no concern to the question of establishing the basis of morality. Rather, the issue for morality is the nature of the entity which needs morality. As I indicated above, man needs morality because his life is conditional. Continuation of life is not automatic for man (as it would be in the case of an immortal, eternal and indestructible deity). Since man, unlike said deity, faces a fundamental alternative – to live or die – he needs a code of values which serve as a standard in guiding his choices and actions. That is what morality is: a code of values to guide an individual’s choices and actions.

But Jonathan wants to make the question of whether or not man exists “by mere fluke” central to morality. This only shows that he does not have a principled grasp of morality in the first place. Indeed, it is common with theistic ethics to warp it into such non-issues, for theistic ethics has completely lost sight of the crucial foundation of ethics, namely man’s biological need for values. Notice that when Jesus raises moral concerns in his speeches in the gospels, for instance, he does not speak of values. Instead of a code of values, Jesus gave us a list of duties. According to Jesus, the man who would be moral is expected to “hate... his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also” (Lk. 14:26), for if he does not, he cannot be Jesus’ disciple. Of course, a rational individual’s ends are not met by this kind of indiscriminate hatred. If one truly hates himself, he’s not going to care what happens to himself. But if he values himself, he’s going to take those actions which his life requires, as dictated by his life’s needs qua biological organism.

But Christian morality requires an individual to be willing to sacrifice his values. This is the hallmark of exemplary Christian faith: the willingness to “give it all up” for a deity which would have no need for those sacrifices in the first place (for it’s immortal, eternal, and indestructible). After all, this is the lesson of Christ on the cross. And notice what a hideous distortion of morality it presents us:

“Christ, in terms of the Christian philosophy, is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the nonideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used.” (Ayn Rand, “Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” p. 10)


Jonathan then wrote:

My point is this: If you're gonna be an atheist, that's fine. But please, for honesty's sake, come out and admit that this "morality" you are talking about is just a "social contract" or something like that, a convention we have devised to serve our self-preservation instinct. Don't go around acting as if some things are "right" and some things are "wrong" regardless of what people think about them. What is called "morality" is an invention of the human brain... nothing more.”

This may describe some people’s view of morality, but it certainly does not describe mine. Not in the least. I suggest Jonathan broaden his reading list beyond Russell, since he already (and rightly) senses grave problems in his worldview. If Jonathan wants to learn about objective morality, he should look to Objectivism. Here are some of my own treatments of the topic:

Christianity vs. Objective Morality

Do I Borrow My Morality from the Christian Worldview?

Rational Morality vs. Presuppositional Apologetics

CalvinDude’s Defense of Christian Moral Bankruptcy

Hitler vs. Mother Theresa: Antithesis or Symbiosis?

Common Ground Part 5: Ethics

If Jonathan is truly interested in an objective theory of morality, he should abandon theism immediately.

Jonathan wrote:

Quoting Bertrand Russell was a side-note (but an honest one) that showed where being logically consistent and being an atheist will lead you.

Jonathan’s error lies not only in assuming that Russell speaks for all atheists (he doesn’t, not by a long shot), but also in misconstruing the nature of atheism as such (see below).

I wrote:

“This kind of theistic bristling fails to take into account the fact that on the view which it seeks to so denigrate, existence is not a “result” in the first place. Thus such attempts to denigrate this view commit the fallacy of the stolen concept by ignoring the fact that the concept ‘result’ makes sense only in the context of what exists, which means it cannot be validly applied to existence as such.”

Jonathan responded:

Well, besides the fact that this point again does not address the issue of the subjective nature of morality, it assumes ABSOLUTELY the NON-existence of God. IT assumes that matter is absolute and timeless (a completely unprovable leap of faith as well).

Jonathan has things turned completely around here. The primacy of existence, which is the basic metaphysical orientation between subject and object that underlies the view I expressed above, does not “assume” that the Christian god does not exist, for the primacy of existence is fundamental, making no prior assumptions. Rather, the primacy of existence tells us why there could be no such thing as what Christians describe as their god. Also, it does not “assume that matter is absolute and timeless.” These are later discoveries which, like any discoveries we make of the world, are made possible because of the primacy of existence. Matter exists. This is an absolute fact. There is no way around it. One can deny that matter exists, but this would be psychopathic. But the Christian might as well, for the worldview he champions assumes the primacy of consciousness – the view that the subject holds metaphysical primacy over its objects. Hence *subjectivism*. See my blog Theism and Subjective Metaphysics for more details. Moreover, the concept ‘time’ is not irreducible. It assumes a standard which is in fact physical, such as the movement of the earth around the sun. One revolution constitutes one year. Thus time does in fact presuppose matter. Jonathan doesn’t have to like it, but he should acknowledge that this is in fact true.

Jonathan continues:

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that it is... But we are still in a place where logical consistency and the reality of daily experience of "conscience" are in conflict.

Jonathan may be (and given his confusions, I wouldn’t be surprised). But it does not follow from the fact that Jonathan’s conscience is in conflict with his daily experience that everyone else’s is.

Jonathan went on to explain what he meant:

1. Logically consistent atheism says that morality is purely subjective and based in opinion.

This is simply religious propaganda. It arises from being offended by the fact that some people simply don’t believe in religion’s invisible magic beings. Atheism as such does not make any such statement as Jonathan puts into its mouth here. Atheism is simply the absence of god-belief. It makes no statement either positive or negative about morality. It is a condition, not a worldview with developed theories of its own. When one identifies himself as an atheist, he only tells us what he does not believe, not what he does believe.

Now Jonathan may, like other defenders of religious mysticism, seek out quotes by particular atheists which construe morality as inherently subjective. This is apparently what he is attempting to do by citing Russell’s statements. This is an attempt to get one particular atheist to speak for all worldviews which are non-theistic in nature, which is simply naïve and shows the desperation of his case. Rand was an atheist, but she championed an objective morality. Why does Russell get to speak for all atheists, while Rand does not? This is selective expedience: it suits Jonathan’s propagandistic agenda to cite Russell. At the same time, it’s possible that Jonathan has no familiarity with Rand’s objective morality. But this would only mean that Jonathan is seizing on Russell’s quotes in ignorance of what other non-believing philosophers have taught.

There is no necessary logical connection between the condition of not believing in any gods and consequently believing that morality is “purely subjective and based in opinion.” And even though Jonathan claims this is the case, he presents no argument or rationale to suppose this, other than by quoting Russell or by inventing non-problems such as whether or not one can prove that he “ought” to exist. Since existence is a precondition of moral judgments, such maneuvers commit the fallacy of the stolen concept.

Claiming that non-belief in a god logically leads to the assumption that “morality is purely subjective and based in opinion” is as absurd as claiming that non-belief in dragons logically leads to the assumption that fascism provides the best foundation for economics. How does non-belief in one thing logically lead to such broad generalizations in something else? Does my non-belief in Tammuz logically lead to the assumption that there can be no objectivity in epistemology? The claim that non-belief in the existence of a god logically leads to the assumption that there can be no objectivity in morality is no different, and just as baseless.


Jonathan listed another point in his explanation:

2. Every human being experiences something called a "conscience" on a daily basis. This daily experience of "conscience" is in direct conflict with the idea that "morality" is purely subjective.

I cannot speak for other human beings as to whether they experience something called a conscience (some seem not to), but I certainly have a very acute conscience. Indeed, it is because of my conscience, and my choice to be honest, that I don’t believe in any gods in the first place. And yes, my conscience is in direct conflict with the idea that morality is purely subjective. Indeed, I don’t think morality is subjective, that is why I reject the theistic view that morality consists of commandments issued by a supernatural consciousness – i.e., a *subject* to whose wishes, preferences, and mood swings reality automatically conforms.

If Jonathan is truly concerned about morality being objective rather than subjective, then he should immediately abandon theism, for theism assumes the primacy of consciousness – i.e., of the *subject* in the subject-object relationship. This is why I pointed out that his statements deny that existence is an absolute. For he wants a god – a supernatural consciousness, complete with “volition and intent” – to control whatever exists.

Jonathan:

So, a logically consistent atheist will find himself in conflict with what he intuitively knows to be true through daily, practical experience.

This prejudicial and tendentious assumption can now safely be put to rest. Jonathan no longer needs to worry that non-belief in invisible magic beings logically entails the view that morality is “purely subjective and based in opinion.” For atheism does not logically entail this. On the contrary, belief in the invisible magic beings of theism can only lead to the view that morality is subjective, for such belief likens the universe to a cartoon where everything that happens is under the direct control of a supernatural subject which calls all the shots. It “controls whatsoever comes to pass” as Van Til puts it (The Defense of the Faith, p. 160). Its wishes, preferences, likes and dislikes are not beholden to any external constraints; pleasure is its only standard, for as Psalms 115:3 clearly puts it, “he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”

Jonathan wrote:

The problem is not necessarily that atheists do not follow their conscience, but rather that they do not make good logical sense of this conscience, in light of their world-view.

What about someone whose conscience led him to renounce the god-belief he was raised by his elders to carry into life? What if he recognized the dishonesty of claiming that there’s an invisible magic being controlling the world and people are simply its puppets doing whatever it desires them to do? What if his honesty compelled him to realize that he had no objective reason to believe what religion has taught him all his life, and that continuing to affirm what religion taught him to affirm in spite of its subjective nature was in fact dishonest? Should he continue in his dishonesty and affirm that “Jesus is Lord”? Or, should he endeavor to correct this dishonesty and accept the fact that an ancient myth is simply not reality?

Jonathan responded:

There are many assumptions behind this statement, and I would have no problem with getting into this debate at another time (maybe once this issue is resolved?). But if I'm talking about one topic, please... let's keep it on one topic at a time...

How would it not be a fluke that Jonathan’s god exists, if it exists as orthodox Christianity affirms it (i.e., as not having been created through some process involving “volition or intent”)? Since he raised this objection against breakerslion, it’s important for us to see that it does not apply to his position as well.

Regards,
Dawson

Jonathan said...

First of all, you don't have to talk about me in the 3rd person, you can address me...

But if existence is absolute, then this is precisely what we would expect:

Ok, define exactly what you mean by "existence is absolute".

It's not an over-simplification at all, since Jonathan's position is that a form of consciousness hiding behind what we perceive in the world calls all the shots. As Van Til put it, "God controls whatsoever comes to pass" (The Defense of the Faith, p. 160).

So you know what my position is, do you? You "know" that I subscribe to Van Til's Hyper-Calvinism? Your arrogance is alarming...

As the all-knowing subject, the Christian god created the universe of objects, gave them their identities, assigned them to their place, put them into the relationship they now exist in, and controls what they do. You can't get more subjective than this.

Again, your arrogance knows no bounds. It's very interesting how you can just jump inside my head and tell me exactly what I believe... Wow...

Oh wait a second... that's NOT what I believe... Bahnsen, have you heard the joke about what "assume" means? Well my friend, it's not so funny right now. You're making an ass out of yourself.

Without realizing it, Russell was borrowing from a theistic viewpoint by having implicitly accepted the fundamental compromise of the subject-object relationship in his foundations. Compromising the subject-object relationship results in affirming the primacy of the subject (consciousness) over the object (e.g., the external world). This always leads to a malevolent conception of the universe, dominated either by wrath (such as in theism) or by hopelessness (e.g., Russell’s skepticism). That Russell was an atheist is besides the point, for even though he rejected the god-belief of Christianity, he still implicitly accepted the same error upon which Christianity stands, namely the primacy of the subject metaphysics – i.e., subjectivism.

Right... So if Russell had logically understood all of this... he would not have despaired at the coming of his own death... Right...

If only he had understood "the primacy of the subject metaphysics", indeed that would have been MUCH consolation to him that those he loved so dearly he would indeed never see again beyond the grave, and that they would be but a thought in someone else's mind, and eventually, not even that...

Oh yes, if Russell had just read your paragraph, he would have been filled with hope, and then he would have absolutely changed his mind.

Don't you understand? The thought that, all love, no matter how pure and intense, will eventually fade into oblivion, is depressing to EVERYONE, if they really stop and think about it (which most don't). And your little speech on "the primacy of metaphysics" won't change a damn thing.

What Jonathan ignores is the fact that Russell does not speak for all atheists and atheistic viewpoints.

I ignore that? When did I ever say he speaks for all atheists? For goodness sake...

This first part of this statement suggests that the one affirming it has failed to recognize the fact that human existence is highly conditional. Our existence is not a mere given. We cannot sit around and do nothing and expect to continue to exist.

Well, no kidding... Not sure what this has to do with anything... When I said, "we just exist", I wasn't saying that we don't have to do anything to continue existing... That would be a newsbroadcast from the department of the obvious...

As I have already discussed with Aaron, morality has to do with "oughtness". But oughtness is ALWAYS associated with PURPOSE. But in your worldview, there is NO prior purpose, and therefore NO oughtness, and therefore NO objective morality.

But an immortal, eternal, indestructible god could; it could do nothing and it will continue to exist just as it always has forever and ever.

Right, and because you have experienced the state of being immortal, eternal, and indestructable, you now have a reference point to judge exactly what any being in such a state would do and would not do. Indeed, you have a reference point to judge a being that would be timeless, because you yourself have experienced timelessness?

The purpose of morality is to guide one’s choices and actions.

To guide them where? Down the right path? And I suppose that you, in your connection to objective morality, will tell us what the riht path is...

But in the non-cartoon universe of atheism (i.e., the universe in which we in fact actually do exist), there are conditions which we need to heed and constraints according to which we need to govern our choices.

And so you freely admit that morality exists to serve your self-preservation instinct. Finally, some honesty. Because if we didn't have these contstraints, we wouldn't survive. And self-preservation is the name of the game.

Morality is for the living who want to continue living.

Well you didn't hear it from me. Morality only applies to those who want to continue living. So there is nothing morally objectionable with killing yourself. And once again, we affirm the idea that morality only serves the self-preservation instinct.

Rather, the issue for morality is the nature of the entity which needs morality.

Right, the entity that needs morality to SURVIVE. The honesty is refreshing, especially in light of Aaron's and Beakerslion's attempt to make morality something bigger than that.

Notice that when Jesus raises moral concerns in his speeches in the gospels, for instance, he does not speak of values. Instead of a code of values, Jesus gave us a list of duties. According to Jesus, the man who would be moral is expected to “hate... his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also” (Lk. 14:26), for if he does not, he cannot be Jesus’ disciple.

And now things get REALLY pathetic. Now you're demonstrating your complete ignorance of the Greco Roman culture in which Christ said these words. You can educate yourself here: http://www.tektonics.org/gk/jesussayshate.html

But Christian morality requires an individual to be willing to sacrifice his values.

You know, you really shouldn't read the Bible like a newspaper. It's a 2000 year old document written for someone OTHER than YOU. I would be wholy inept to make a strong case against common descent or macro evolution, because I am not educated well enough in the field. And you too, in your lack of education, are NOT qualified to make judgements on scriptures you know nothing about.

I suggest Jonathan broaden his reading list beyond Russell, since he already (and rightly) senses grave problems in his worldview.

Oh, you know me well, don't you.

It arises from being offended by the fact that some people simply don’t believe in religion’s invisible magic beings.

Again, you know me well. You know that I started this conversation with Aaron because I'm just offended... After all, how could people not believe in an invisible sky fairy?

And even though Jonathan claims this is the case, he presents no argument or rationale to suppose this, other than by quoting Russell or by inventing non-problems such as whether or not one can prove that he “ought” to exist.

Right... I don't go to any lengths at all to show that morality is based solely on the self-preservation instinct. Have I not demonstrated as well that you YOURSELF even admit this?

This prejudicial and tendentious assumption can now safely be put to rest.

Right... because you have clearly demonstrated that morality is something MORE than an idea based on self-preservation?

Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote:

"But if existence is absolute, then this is precisely what we would expect: it wouldn't be a fluke, it would be the norm."

Jonathan asked:

Ok, define exactly what you mean by "existence is absolute".

Existence is absolute in the sense that it is an unavoidable, unalterable fact over which we have no choice, no power to change. It is irreducible and no consciousness holds primacy over it. (To suppose that a consciousness does hold primacy over existence would commit the fallacy of the stolen concept.)

I wrote:

"It's not an over-simplification at all, since Jonathan's position is that a form of consciousness hiding behind what we perceive in the world calls all the shots. As Van Til put it, "God controls whatsoever comes to pass" (The Defense of the Faith, p. 160)."

Jonathan asked:

So you know what my position is, do you?

You affirm the existence of the Christian god, do you not? That tells me what your position is.

Jonathan asked:

You "know" that I subscribe to Van Til's Hyper-Calvinism? Your arrogance is alarming...

So, you don’t think “God controls whatsoever comes to pass”? This would mean things are outside of your god’s control. Which means: Van Til worships a god which is much more on top of things than your god. By quoting Van Til on this one point, I am not assuming that you embrace everything else he wrote (e.g., his "Hyper-Calvinism"). But either you suppose, as Christian theologian Van Til clearly did, that "God controls whatsoever comes to pass," or you don't. I'd be pretty surprised, however, if you didn't. That would put you closer to my position: I certainly do not think that the Christian god "controls whatsoever comes to pass."

I wrote:

"As the all-knowing subject, the Christian god created the universe of objects, gave them their identities, assigned them to their place, put them into the relationship they now exist in, and controls what they do. You can't get more subjective than this."

Jonathan responded to this:

Again, your arrogance knows no bounds. It's very interesting how you can just jump inside my head and tell me exactly what I believe... Wow...

When I analyze what a stated position (Christianity) endorses, this is “arrogance” which “knows no bounds.” But when you speak for all atheists (they allegedly have no alternative to a morality that is “purely subjective and based in opinion”), it’s not arrogance? I see. Have you ever heard of special pleading?

Jonathan wrote:

Oh wait a second... that's NOT what I believe...

You don't believe that the Christian god created the universe and gave the entities which populate it the identity that they have? Well, you have a lot in common with this atheist.

I wrote:

"Without realizing it, Russell was borrowing from a theistic viewpoint by having implicitly accepted the fundamental compromise of the subject-object relationship in his foundations. Compromising the subject-object relationship results in affirming the primacy of the subject (consciousness) over the object (e.g., the external world). This always leads to a malevolent conception of the universe, dominated either by wrath (such as in theism) or by hopelessness (e.g., Russell’s skepticism). That Russell was an atheist is besides the point, for even though he rejected the god-belief of Christianity, he still implicitly accepted the same error upon which Christianity stands, namely the primacy of the subject metaphysics – i.e., subjectivism."

Right... So if Russell had logically understood all of this... he would not have despaired at the coming of his own death... Right...

Since the malevolent universe premise was unavoidable on Russell's view (something he unwittingly inherited from religion), his dispair was a natural consequence. Religious people are depressed people who seek to assuage their depression through prayer and trying to convince themselves of their religion's mythology. The malevolent universe premise is only one of the causes of this underlying depression which the believer is trying to hide from the world. Other contributors to it include a poor self-esteem (fostered by the view that one is innately depraved, a "sinner," unworthy of the good, etc.), that other consciousnesses are inherently superior (which is how faith in the supernatural begins), renunciation of reason (a consequence of accepting mystical claims on faith), etc. One can also sabotage his ability to find happiness in life by the type of morality he adopts. For instance, a morality which teaches that an individual has a duty to sacrifice himself to others will naturally undermine any opportunity he has for developing a positive view of himself. He either devotes his efforts to serving other people's interests (thus leaving his own interests unattended and unsatisfied), or he pursues his own interests and feels guilty for doing so. Any anti-selfish morality is going to lead to the kind of dispair that you, Jonathan, mention and apparently consider important (for you seem to dwell on it).

Jonathan wrote:

If only he had understood "the primacy of the subject metaphysics", indeed that would have been MUCH consolation to him that those he loved so dearly he would indeed never see again beyond the grave, and that they would be but a thought in someone else's mind, and eventually, not even that...

What Russell needed was not "consolation" - for this presumes the validity of the dispair resulting from the false elements of Russell's worldview. The ability to deal with the loss of loved ones is part of being a rational adult. The alternative is not to pretend that there's a life after death waiting on standby where deceased loved ones will be reunited. Such belief will only undermine the value of the life that one actually has - this one, here on earth, here in reality. It's a question of where one's values lie. Do they lie ultimately in others, or in one's self? If one's values ultimately lie in others, then he's cheating himself and setting himself up for the kind of dispair that you have described. If he values himself, he recognizes that death is part of life, and without it there'd be no point in valuing life in the first place.

There's also the point that a rational adult knows the proper place of his emotions. They do not guide his actions, make his decisions, or define his worldview. But granting this role to emotions is crucial to the efficacy of religious indoctrination. This is why you (Jonathan) keep raising the point of the dispair that Russell expressed in his writings.

Jonathan wrote:

Oh yes, if Russell had just read your paragraph, he would have been filled with hope, and then he would have absolutely changed his mind.

No, not merely a paragraph. He needed Objectivism, like all of us do.

Jonathan wrote:

Don't you understand? The thought that, all love, no matter how pure and intense, will eventually fade into oblivion, is depressing to EVERYONE, if they really stop and think about it (which most don't). And your little speech on "the primacy of metaphysics" won't change a damn thing.

So you're depressed (and think everyone else is), that’s why you enshrine a mythical view of reality. It’s good that you admit this. The proper orientation between subject and object, although you identify no alternative nor present any defense for it, is of no concern. For you, Jonathan, dispair trumps truth. This itself traces directly to the assumption that consciousness holds primacy over reality which distinguishes subjectivism from objectivity.

I wrote:

"What Jonathan ignores is the fact that Russell does not speak for all atheists and atheistic viewpoints."

Jonathan wrote:

I ignore that? When did I ever say he speaks for all atheists? For goodness sake...

If Russell does not speak for all atheists, what's the point of quoting him as you have?

Jonathan wrote:

As I have already discussed with Aaron, morality has to do with "oughtness".

That’s not the objective view of morality. The objective view of morality has to do with *values* not “oughts.” The subjective view of morality treats “oughts” as ethical primaries for those who are supposed to abide by its edicts, because those edicts are supposed to have been issued by an invisible magic being which will be roused to anger if those edicts are not followed. Its *wishes* are what give legal tender to moral imperatives. That's subjectivism with a vengeance.


Jonathan wrote:

But oughtness is ALWAYS associated with PURPOSE.

Purpose is attributable to the goal-directedness of biological activity. It is because we need values (a biological condition) that we can act with purpose. If we did not need anything, there would be no purpose to our actions. Remember my points distinguishing an immortal, eternal and indestructible being which does not face a fundamental alternative (life vs. death) versus a biological organism which does face such an alternative (such as man does).

In fact, what the duty-based ethics of "oughtness" does is divorce purpose from the needs of man's life. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," saith the Judeo-Christian god. But this does nothing to teach him how to live. So it is morally useless. The "first and great commandment" according to Jesus is "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Mt. 22:37). But how is this morally relevant to man's life? It does nothing to teach him how to identify the values he needs to live, or the actions which he needs to take in order to achieve those value that his life needs. It's simply irrelevant to man.

Jonathan wrote:

But in your worldview, there is NO prior purpose, and therefore NO oughtness, and therefore NO objective morality.

There is purpose, since purpose hinges on the goal-directedness of biological activity. I don’t know what you mean by “prior purpose.” As for “oughtness” see above. As for morality being objective, did you look at the links I gave you? A morality which is based on relevant facts which we discover about ourselves and the world in which we live (such as the fact that we need values in order to live) is objective, for this procedure adheres to the primacy of existence metaphysics. A subjective morality is one which ignores the facts of man's biological needs in preference for someone's wishes, commandments, preferences, etc.

I wrote:

"But an immortal, eternal, indestructible god could; it could do nothing and it will continue to exist just as it always has forever and ever."

Jonathan reacts:

Right, and because you have experienced the state of being immortal, eternal, and indestructable, you now have a reference point to judge exactly what any being in such a state would do and would not do.

One does not himself need to be immortal, eternal and indestructible in order to know what these descriptors would mean about such a being.

Jonathan continued:

Indeed, you have a reference point to judge a being that would be timeless, because you yourself have experienced timelessness?

Does the concept 'timelessness' have a meaning? If it does, then what's the problem here?

I wrote:

"The purpose of morality is to guide one’s choices and actions."

Jonathan asked:

To guide them where? Down the right path?

To guide them in his chosen purpose: to live and enjoy his life.

Jonathan writes:

And I suppose that you, in your connection to objective morality, will tell us what the riht path is...

That "right path" as I see it is for man to live qua man (as opposed to a sacrificial animal who must always be ready for slaughter).

I wrote:

"But in the non-cartoon universe of atheism (i.e., the universe in which we in fact actually do exist), there are conditions which we need to heed and constraints according to which we need to govern our choices."

Jonathan wrote:

And so you freely admit that morality exists to serve your self-preservation instinct.

Where did I say anything about a “self-preservation instinct”? In fact, it is because we have no such instinct that we need morality. We don’t automatically know what we need and what we need to do in order to live. That’s why we need a code of values which identifies those choices and actions we need to take in order to live. What’s happening is that you, Jonathan, are reacting in this way to the morality I am proposing because you have taken the bait of the religious worldview, which divorces morality from man’s life needs. I see that you have not addressed the fundamental question: why does man need morality? On the religious view, man only needs morality to please the whims of an invisible magic being. Those who don’t care to please this invisible magic being can still go on with their lives, but to do so, they need a code of values which guides their choices and actions. Meanwhile, so do those who are caught up in the imagination of said invisible magic being; whether they realize it or not, they too – by virtue of their nature as biological organisms – need values in order to live, and thus also need a code of values which guides their choices and actions, for they too do not have a “self-preservation instinct.”

Morality serves my interest in living the best life I can live. Notice how fundamentally opposite this is to the religious view. On the objective view, morality serves man - his needs, his interests, his pursuits. On the religious model, man serves morality. If he doesn't, he'll be damned by an invisible magic being. So he's compelled to so-called 'moral behavior' by threat of eternal force. For religion, fear is morality's legal tender. For the rational individual, life-based values are morality's legal tender.

Jonathan wrote:

Finally, some honesty.

Are you accusing anyone specifically of dishonesty, Jonathan? If so, who and where?

Jonathan wrote:

Because if we didn't have these contstraints, we wouldn't survive.

Actually, it's more like: if we don't satisfy those conditions which our lives have by virtue of our nature as biological organisms, we wouldn't survive.

Jonathan wrote:

And self-preservation is the name of the game.

Did you think something else is what morality is purposed to achieve for man? If so, please tell me what you think here. This goes back to my question: why does man need morality? On the objective view, man needs morality because his life is conditional and he has no automatic knowledge of what he needs to do in order to live. Morality is the branch of philosophy which teaches him, not to suffer and die, but to live and enjoy his life. Obviously self-preservation is of crucial importance here, but we have no *instinct* for this. It's because we have no such "instinct" that we need morality: we don’t automatically know what values we need or which courses of actions will enable us to gain and/or keep those values which we need.

I wrote:

"Morality is for the living who want to continue living."

Jonathan wrote:

Well you didn't hear it from me. Morality only applies to those who want to continue living. So there is nothing morally objectionable with killing yourself.

If someone kills himself, then morality is not going to do him any good. Morality is for the living, not for the dead.

Jonathan continues:

And once again, we affirm the idea that morality only serves the self-preservation instinct.

Again, human beings have no "self-preservation instinct."

I wrote:

"Rather, the issue for morality is the nature of the entity which needs morality."

Jonathan responded:

Right, the entity that needs morality to SURVIVE. The honesty is refreshing, especially in light of Aaron's and Beakerslion's attempt to make morality something bigger than that.

It's not simply about surviving. It's also about enjoying life. People in prisons survive, but they aren't enjoying their lives. If you want to enjoy your life, then the objective theory of values is what you need to achieve this. Otherwise, you'll be as miserable as Mother Theresa, constantly wondering if she's pleasing a being that doesn't exist. That would be an awful way to go through life. So if you want to have an awful life, take religion seriously.

I wrote:

"Notice that when Jesus raises moral concerns in his speeches in the gospels, for instance, he does not speak of values. Instead of a code of values, Jesus gave us a list of duties. According to Jesus, the man who would be moral is expected to “hate... his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also” (Lk. 14:26), for if he does not, he cannot be Jesus’ disciple."

Jonathan bristled:

And now things get REALLY pathetic. Now you're demonstrating your complete ignorance of the Greco Roman culture in which Christ said these words. You can educate yourself here: http://www.tektonics.org/gk/jesussayshate.html

That's quite amusing: consult Turkel so that one can "educate" himself. I'm quite familiar with the attempts by apologists to waterdown Jesus' requirement that his disciples hate their family members and themselves as well. According to the gospels, Jesus himself said that he would cause division within families. It's all part of the Christian devotional program: one must consider himself among "the chosen" and those who aren't part of this clique number among "the damned." At any rate, my bible says "hate." If you think it should be translated otherwise, well, start your own bible press.

Regards,
Dawson

Jonathan said...

Ok, let's make this really simple.

That "right path" as I see it is for man to live qua man

And that is EXACTLY my point. This is AS YOU SEE IT. This is your opinion.

Where did I say anything about a “self-preservation instinct”?

and

Again, human beings have no "self-preservation instinct."

Well, I'm not really sure what planet you live on... Hearing this from someone who seems to be smarter is really alarming.

Humans have no self-preservation instinct?

Huh... So you disagree with every scientist and rational person on planet earth? So you are saying that humans do not have an INSTINCT to avoid harm and death?

With all possible due respect, that's one of the dumbest things I have ever heard...

Actually, it's more like: if we don't satisfy those conditions which our lives have by virtue of our nature as biological organisms, we wouldn't survive.

RIGHT, and morality serves our DESIRE to continue surviving and be "happy". In other words, it is an idea that we have devised for those who WANT to keep on living. It's something we came up with to facilitate "happiness". That's FINE. Just don't be ridiculous and try and say it's anything more than that.

If someone kills himself, then morality is not going to do him any good. Morality is for the living, not for the dead.

And again, you didn't hear it from me. Suicide is NOT immoral. Hmm... I think I'm sensing that conflict between atheistic logical conclusions and "conscience"...

It's not simply about surviving. It's also about enjoying life.

I completely understand, that like all creatures on planet earth, humans are "pleasure seekers". And so we have morality to facilitate "happiness". And why do we need "morality"? Because we WANT to be happy. ANd so morality serves our DESIRE to stay alive and ENJOY existence.

Ok then. I understand. This is the point I have been trying to make. Morality is something that we have devised to facilitate happiness and enjoyment of life. Ok then...

Now how in the world, do you, after admitting this, then try to claim that morality is not just "subjective"? Maybe we're working with different definitions of the term "subjective" and "objective".

But regardless, my point is that, when discussing MORALITY, people ASSUME that some things are right and wrong IRRESPECTIVE of what humans think about it, as if, when we talk about morality, we are referencing something humans did NOT invent (in the same way that we did NOT invent matter).

So, for the atheist to use the word "immoral", is very misleading, because all he can logically mean by that word is "an action or thought that is damaging to the 'well-being' and 'happiness' of humans". But the use of the word implies more, and so an atheist shouldn't use it, because their view point doesn't allow the concept of "morality" being something more than something we just "invented".

We didn't devise or invent matter, and so matter is real whether or not we acknowledge it. But morality is something we DID devise, and so you cannot describe matter to be "objective" in the same way "matter" is.

That's quite amusing: consult Turkel so that one can "educate" himself. I'm quite familiar with the attempts by apologists to waterdown Jesus' requirement that his disciples hate their family members and themselves as well. According to the gospels, Jesus himself said that he would cause division within families. It's all part of the Christian devotional program: one must consider himself among "the chosen" and those who aren't part of this clique number among "the damned." At any rate, my bible says "hate." If you think it should be translated otherwise, well, start your own bible press.

Well... You might as well have just blown your nose, and then copied and pasted that... That would have been just as intelligent.

Aside, from the fact that you obviously have a grudge with "turkel", you make NO ATTEMPT WHATSOEVER to actually rebut his argument.

Your assumption that "we can fully understand the meaning of a text by reading an english translation" is ridiculous and completely unfounded. Have you ever heard a human say, "Man, this heat is killing me..."? Well, to be consistent, you should go and accuse THAT PERSON of LYING to you, if you are going to take literally EVERYTHING YOU HEAR.

The point is, that in the Ancient world, people used EXTREME LANGUAGE to denote even moderate feelings. But you'll never find that out, will you? Cuz you don't care to read ANYTHING other than your KJV.

If you're gonna stick your head in the ground, that's fine. Just don't act as if you are an intelligent rebutter of historically informed Christian apologists.

Bahnsen Burner said...

I really am glad to engage in discussions like this one with Jonathan. Here I have defended a morality which takes man’s life, the needs his life requires and his need for a rationally informed code of values which serve as the standard guiding his choices and actions, and Jonathan continues to try to denounce it. He does not make clear what exactly his objections are, for they shift to and fro with every comment of his as he abandons objections that I’ve put to rest and tries to raise new ones which are also systematically shot down. And on and on it continues. But if you step back, you’ll see that one theme ties it altogether in Jonathan’s efforts: how dare we develop a morality suited for man’s life based on the conditions of his life and the values he requires to live on earth. And yet, if Jonathan were to take a look at his own life, does he not act on behalf of those values which he requires in order to live? Does he not put his effort forth in producing values which meet his needs? Does he not concern himself fruitfully with the needs of his life?

I wrote:

“That "right path" as I see it is for man to live qua man.”

Jonathan reacted:

And that is EXACTLY my point. This is AS YOU SEE IT. This is your opinion.

Yes, it is my opinion that it is right for man to live. And it is a most defensible opinion as well. Go ahead and reject it, Jonathan. Show us your true colors in all their mystic brilliance. But know that it was not your original point. Originally your point was that atheism logically leads to a morality which is “purely subjective and based in opinion.” And while I do have many opinions, it does not follow from this, or my espousal of any opinion of mine, that my morality is therefore “based in opinion.” As I have made clear, my morality is based on facts, not opinions. It’s a fact that man requires values in order to exist. It is a fact that man does not automatically know which values his life requires. It is a fact that he needs a means of knowledge by which he can discover what those values are. It is a fact that he needs a code of values which guides his choices and actions. Jonathan has not shown that these points are not factual, nor has he shown that they are not relevant to the development of a morality fit for man’s life.

I wrote:

“Where did I say anything about a ‘self-preservation instinct’?” and “Again, human beings have no ‘self-preservation instinct’."

Jonathan responded:

Well, I'm not really sure what planet you live on... Hearing this from someone who seems to be smarter is really alarming. Humans have no self-preservation instinct? Huh... So you disagree with every scientist and rational person on planet earth? So you are saying that humans do not have an INSTINCT to avoid harm and death?

Rather than even trying to come up with good reasons to suppose that man does, contrary to what I have affirmed, have a “self-preservation instinct,” Jonathan instead lashes out with emotional hysterics, going so far as to insist that I “disagree with every scientist and rational person on planet earth.” Jonathan fantasizes a degree of unanimity in the science community that simply does not exist. Whether man has instincts or not has been hotly debated by many thinkers throughout especially the 20th century. Scientists are far from monolithic on this issue. And the same with philosophers. And yet I see no evidence that we have a “self-preservation instinct.” Look at history and notice how frequently there have been mass exterminations, all possible because people did not take the action they needed to survive. If we had a self-preservation instinct, we simply would not need a moral code in the first place. A moral code which teaches us how to live would be utterly superfluous.

“An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess. An ‘instinct’ is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. A desire is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living. And even man’s desire to live is not automatic... Your fear of death is not a love for life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it. Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform. Man has the power to act as his own destroyer – and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.” (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged)

As Rand rightly points out, man needs to think, to use his mind, to apply reason. This is not an instinctual process by any definition. This is an activity of concerted, focused effort which requires sustained development as man matures through life and takes on bigger and bigger challenges. To say that man is guided by instincts is to fail to recognize any distinction between an ant hill and the Empire State Building. But what does Jonathan say to all this?

He says:

With all possible due respect, that's one of the dumbest things I have ever heard...

What is it that you respect, Jonathan? Certainly not the power of man’s mind.

I wrote:

“Actually, it's more like: if we don't satisfy those conditions which our lives have by virtue of our nature as biological organisms, we wouldn't survive.”

Jonathan reacted:

RIGHT, and morality serves our DESIRE to continue surviving and be "happy". In other words, it is an idea that we have devised for those who WANT to keep on living. It's something we came up with to facilitate "happiness". That's FINE. Just don't be ridiculous and try and say it's anything more than that.

Notice two of the words which you, Jonathan, have inserted and capitalized as you try to recast my point. Those words are “DESIRE” and “WANT,” while in fact the statement I made includes neither of these words. What is your point, Jonathan? Do you have a problem with people desiring and wanting to live? Truly, is that the case? If so, why? If not, then what is the point you’re trying to make here? Please, spell it out. Articulate your position. Don’t just react by amplifying emotional touch points. If you have a point, you should be able to articulate in a clear fashion. If you don’t have a point, just admit it.

I’ll state it again: Morality is a code of values which guides an man’s choices and actions. Man needs morality because a) his life is conditional (he faces a fundamental alternative: to live or die), b) he requires values in order to live, c) he has no automatic means of knowing what values he needs or the actions which make those values possible. The purpose of morality is to teach man, not to suffer and die, but to live, and enjoy his life. His life is the standard of his code of values, and his happiness is both the incentive and reward of his effort.

What is your alternative to these points, Jonathan? Or, do you not have one?

If you want to say that I have described a subjective view of morality, then state what exactly you mean by ‘morality’, what you mean by ‘subjective’ and explain how my points fall into this category that you have cited on numerous occasions now, namely “subjective morality.” Are facts subjective in your view? They aren’t on mine. Do your words have meaning? If so, what are they? Perhaps you don't think it's rational to expect a reward for effort? Do you expect a reward for your efforts? Or, do you put forth effort in the hopes that you get no reward?

I wrote:

”If someone kills himself, then morality is not going to do him any good. Morality is for the living, not for the dead.”

Jonathan wrote:

And again, you didn't hear it from me. Suicide is NOT immoral. Hmm... I think I'm sensing that conflict between atheistic logical conclusions and "conscience"...

Again, no argument here. Apparently you’re trying to play to your readers’ emotions. But if you sober up for a moment, are you really certain that there could never be a good reason for one take his own life? Did you ever see the movie World Trade Center? There’s a horrific scene in that movie where three firemen are trapped underneath tons of debris after the first tower had fallen, and then soon after that the second tower collapses and one of the firemen is badly crushed by debris that has violently shifted. It appeared that he was crushed from the abdomen down. Still alive but in utter agony, he pulls a pistol out and in desperation put its to his head and pulls the trigger, ending his life right there and then. His situation was pretty hopeless and he acted on that assumption, essentially to put himself out of own misery. Similarly with victims of aggressive terminal disease – I can totally understand a person’s decision to end his or her suffering through suicide. In good conscience I cannot condemn such choices, so there’s no conflict of conscience on my side in this. But perhaps you think they should continue suffering for some mystical “purpose.” Perhaps your god loves to see people suffer, so you think they should continue suffering to delight your god’s pleasure-lust. After all, isn’t that what morality is in your view, merely a set of guidelines aimed at pleasing your god? Good luck! I hear it’s pretty miserable.

I wrote:

”It's not simply about surviving. It's also about enjoying life.”

Jonathan responded:

I completely understand, that like all creatures on planet earth, humans are "pleasure seekers".

I did not say “pleasure-seeking.” This is your own interpolation. It tells us about you, Jonathan, not about the morality I am defending. It tells us that enjoyment of life in your understanding is merely a matter of pleasure-seeking. I encourage you to enlarge your understanding beyond mere pleasure.

Jonathan continued:

And so we have morality to facilitate "happiness".

Happiness is essentially a grand culmination which rational morality makes possible. But it’s not happiness alone that it can bring man: it can bring him a happy life. Those who do not want men to find happiness in life will of course scoff at this. And they will identify themselves as haters of men by their very scoffing at the idea that men should earn their happiness in a moral manner. So mark yourself, and mark yourself well, Jonathan. You’re doing just that.

Jonathan wrote:

And why do we need "morality"? Because we WANT to be happy. ANd so morality serves our DESIRE to stay alive and ENJOY existence.

I certainly want to enjoy my existence, Jonathan. Do you object to this? Speak up. Take a position. If you think enjoying one’s own existence is man’s highest moral goal, as I hold, then what better way to achieve it than to apply reason to his life’s needs as defined by his nature as a biological organism? If you think enjoying own existence is for the dogs, then just say this, and go your own miserable way. If that’s what you want, no one’s going to stop you. Just answer this, though: where do you put your effort, Jonathan? Do you put it into having a good life, or into having a miserable life?

Jonathan wrote:

Ok then. I understand. This is the point I have been trying to make. Morality is something that we have devised to facilitate happiness and enjoyment of life. Ok then...

That’s not the point you were trying to make earlier. Earlier you were trying to say that atheism logically leads to a morality which is “purely subjective and based in opinion.” Now that I have exploded that thesis, you’re trying to reshape yourself.

Jonathan wrote:

Now how in the world, do you, after admitting this, then try to claim that morality is not just "subjective"? Maybe we're working with different definitions of the term "subjective" and "objective".

Or, perhaps I’m working with clear definitions of the terms ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’, understanding in terms of rational principles what these concepts denote, while you may be using these terms without regard to what they mean. After all, I’ve seen you use these terms, but so far I’ve not seen where you stated your working definitions for them. As for my position, I have stated my definitions, and I have pointed you to several of my own treatments of precisely the topic we are talking about. So there’s no excuse for you not to understand what I mean by ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’. If you’ve been paying attention, you’d know.

Jonathan wrote:

But regardless, my point is that, when discussing MORALITY, people ASSUME that some things are right and wrong IRRESPECTIVE of what humans think about it, as if, when we talk about morality, we are referencing something humans did NOT invent (in the same way that we did NOT invent matter).

In other words, right and wrong assume the primacy of existence orientation of the subject-object relationship. That’s Objectivism, Jonathan. It is the metaphysical foundation underlying recognitions such as “wishing doesn’t make it so” and “just saying so doesn’t make it so.” Look at what I have pointed to as the fundamental factors of my morality: man’s life needs. Man did not invent these, just as he did not invent matter. He discovered them through his attempts to live his life. Dietitians did not invent the fact that we need to eat carbohydrates rather than shoelaces, or proteins instead of snail shells, or fruits and vegetables instead of sticks and stones. We did not “set the rules” as if we could pick and choose what they might be. These are facts that we discover and identify, and a morality needs to take these facts into account if it’s going to be fit for man’s life.

Jonathan wrote:

So, for the atheist to use the word "immoral", is very misleading, because all he can logically mean by that word is "an action or thought that is damaging to the 'well-being' and 'happiness' of humans".

I’ll speak for myself, thank you. In the morality which I am defending, “immoral” denotes those choices and actions which work against man’s life. There’s nothing “misleading” here. What’s misleading are your attempts to distort.

Jonathan wrote:

But the use of the word implies more, and so an atheist shouldn't use it, because their view point doesn't allow the concept of "morality" being something more than something we just "invented".

Here’s another propagandistic myth that can now be put to eternal rest.

Jonathan wrote:

We didn't devise or invent matter, and so matter is real whether or not we acknowledge it.

Exactly. You’re invoking the primacy of existence right there. Existence exists independent of consciousness.

Jonathan wrote:

But morality is something we DID devise, and so you cannot describe matter to be "objective" in the same way "matter" is.

On the contrary, we did *not* “devise” our need for values. This is a condition of our nature as biological organisms. It is in the very same category as “matter is real whether or not we acknowledge it.” Consider: man’s life requires values whether Christians are willing to acknowledge this or not. See?

That's quite amusing: consult Turkel so that one can "educate" himself. I'm quite familiar with the attempts by apologists to waterdown Jesus' requirement that his disciples hate their family members and themselves as well. According to the gospels, Jesus himself said that he would cause division within families. It's all part of the Christian devotional program: one must consider himself among "the chosen" and those who aren't part of this clique number among "the damned." At any rate, my bible says "hate." If you think it should be translated otherwise, well, start your own bible press.

Well... You might as well have just blown your nose, and then copied and pasted that... That would have been just as intelligent.

Aside, from the fact that you obviously have a grudge with "turkel", you make NO ATTEMPT WHATSOEVER to actually rebut his argument.

Your assumption that "we can fully understand the meaning of a text by reading an english translation" is ridiculous and completely unfounded. Have you ever heard a human say, "Man, this heat is killing me..."? Well, to be consistent, you should go and accuse THAT PERSON of LYING to you, if you are going to take literally EVERYTHING YOU HEAR.


Jonathan wrote:
The point is, that in the Ancient world, people used EXTREME LANGUAGE to denote even moderate feelings.

In other words, the author of this passage exercised poor judgment in word choice. So now every time someone in the ancient world used the word “hate,” they really didn’t mean “hate”? I really find this a most fantastic stretch. I simply let the bible speak for itself. I did not put the word “hate” in Luke 14:26, so don’t blame me. If the omniscient deity which allegedly “inspired” this text were in fact as wise as it is claimed to be, why not avoid the ambiguities and troublesomeness of figurative language, and come right out and say precisely what it intended to mean in the first place? This whole notion that we’re not going to get a true understanding of biblical passages unless we a) read it in the original language, b) familiarize ourselves with a whole range of cultural nuances which may or may not have influenced the authors’ word choice, and c) ignore what it plainly states in English translation because it upsets Christians.

Jonathan wrote:

But you'll never find that out, will you? Cuz you don't care to read ANYTHING other than your KJV.

Newsflash for you, Jonathan. The KJV is not the only translation to use the verb “hate” in Luke 14:26. See also the NIV, the NASB, the NLT, the ASV, the ESV, etc. Yes, some translations do attempt to water down the language. That’s actually a good sign. It shows that even some devoted believers are willing to compromise the text of their bibles in order to make it more palpable to post-Enlightenment sensibilities. But even then, it does not alter my point. I don’t love a non-existent deity more than I love my own parents, my wife, my self, etc., as the CEV wants to put it.

Jonathan commanded:

Just don't act as if you are an intelligent rebutter of historically informed Christian apologists.

Or else what, Jonathan?

Jonathan, I see you are another religious dry well. You are a naysayer who wants to scoff and scorn, but you offer nothing substantial as an alternative to the views which you unsuccessfully try to battle against. It is good, however, to see that you have dropped your contention that atheism logically leads to a morality which is “purely subjective and based in opinion.” Hopefully you will recognize that this is simply a tired, well outworn propagandistic bullet point which is utterly hypocritical. It postures itself as stemming from a worldview which champions an objective understanding of man’s moral needs, when in fact it does everything possible to undermine man’s moral nature in the name of “love.” It is a most hideous lie, and I encourage you to recognize its falsehood now that you are an adult.

Regards,
Dawson

Jonathan said...

mid-stream, you should carefully preview all preceding arguments.

On the contrary, we did *not* “devise” our need for values.

Oh my gosh... are you not reading what I wrote?

I did not say we devised our "need" for values. I am saying that we devised morality in response to our need for it.

In other words, the author of this passage exercised poor judgment in word choice.

I guess you're not reading what I wrote. He would have "excercised poor judgment" if he had been writing to YOU, a 21st century person from a completely different culture... But guess what? He wasn't!

So now every time someone in the ancient world used the word “hate,” they really didn’t mean “hate”?

Now this is just getting ridiculous... Here's one of the first lessons any educated Christian will tell you: In understanding the Bible, you absolutely must ask yourself one question:

"What did the text mean to those to whom it was spoken?" That is the final word on it's meaning. Maybe you've been listening to lunatics like Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, or other loonie toons too much.

If the omniscient deity which allegedly “inspired” this text were in fact as wise as it is claimed to be, why not avoid the ambiguities and troublesomeness of figurative language, and come right out and say precisely what it intended to mean in the first place?

If there is a God, and if this God gave you the brain you have, he will hold you accountable for not caring to use it. And right now, that is obviously the case.

Newsflash for you, Jonathan. The KJV is not the only translation to use the verb “hate” in Luke 14:26.

Newsflash? Of course it's not! But that's not the point! If I said, "Man, this heat is killing me...", if you were to translate that in another language, to be honest, you would still translate the word to say "Killing".

But guess what? Just because the proper translation is "killing", doesn't mean that the heat was actually bringing my life to an end! But someone from a different culture wouldn't understand... and so they would need to learn in order to properly understand.

And if I say, "the sun is setting", are you going to hold me accountable for not "speaking plainly" by acknowledging the truth that the sun is not setting at all, but rather that the earth is rotating?

What don't you understand by the term "figure of speech"?

Jonathan, I see you are another religious dry well. You are a naysayer who wants to scoff and scorn, but you offer nothing substantial as an alternative to the views which you unsuccessfully try to battle against. It is good, however, to see that you have dropped your contention that atheism logically leads to a morality which is “purely subjective and based in opinion.”

ANd the broad sweeping generalizations continue... I have now CLEARLY demonstrated that morality is "subjective", because it does not exist outside of thought. To say otherwise is dishonest.

Jonathan said...

Sorry, had to re-post, missed teh beginning...

You paint very broad pictures of me and spend a lot of time setting up straw men of my position. You are dishonest in your portrayal and awfully misleading.

That’s not the point you were trying to make earlier. Earlier you were trying to say that atheism logically leads to a morality which is “purely subjective and based in opinion.” Now that I have exploded that thesis, you’re trying to reshape yourself.

and if you had at all been paying attention to what I wrote before, you would have noted that I DEFINED "objective" (as I was using it) when talking to "beakerslion":

"existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality." From Dictionary.com (#8). I already established this. So before you accuse me of "reshaping myself", go back and re-read.

Listen closely... If the definition I quoted from Dictionary.com is an accurate definition, then morality is NOT objective. Because morality does NOT exist "independent of thought or an observer". Humans need morality for GUIDANCE, and so we THOUGHT of it. But "morality" does NOT exist "independent of thought" (at least in an atheistic universe). And that is what I mean when I say morality is SUBJECTIVE. It is our opinion on how best to ensure the long-term well being of the human race.

But it is nothing more. And so don't you dare paint your broad, sweeping generalizations that I have not defended the subjective nature of "morality".

In other words, right and wrong assume the primacy of existence orientation of the subject-object relationship.

Yes, we have been using different definitions. If you're gonna jump in conversation mid-stream, you should carefully preview all preceding arguments.

On the contrary, we did *not* “devise” our need for values.

Oh my gosh... are you not reading what I wrote?

I did not say we devised our "need" for values. I am saying that we devised morality in response to our need for it.

In other words, the author of this passage exercised poor judgment in word choice.

I guess you're not reading what I wrote. He would have "excercised poor judgment" if he had been writing to YOU, a 21st century person from a completely different culture... But guess what? He wasn't!

So now every time someone in the ancient world used the word “hate,” they really didn’t mean “hate”?

Now this is just getting ridiculous... Here's one of the first lessons any educated Christian will tell you: In understanding the Bible, you absolutely must ask yourself one question:

"What did the text mean to those to whom it was spoken?" That is the final word on it's meaning. Maybe you've been listening to lunatics like Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, or other loonie toons too much.

If the omniscient deity which allegedly “inspired” this text were in fact as wise as it is claimed to be, why not avoid the ambiguities and troublesomeness of figurative language, and come right out and say precisely what it intended to mean in the first place?

If there is a God, and if this God gave you the brain you have, he will hold you accountable for not caring to use it. And right now, that is obviously the case.

Newsflash for you, Jonathan. The KJV is not the only translation to use the verb “hate” in Luke 14:26.

Newsflash? Of course it's not! But that's not the point! If I said, "Man, this heat is killing me...", if you were to translate that in another language, to be honest, you would still translate the word to say "Killing".

But guess what? Just because the proper translation is "killing", doesn't mean that the heat was actually bringing my life to an end! But someone from a different culture wouldn't understand... and so they would need to learn in order to properly understand.

And if I say, "the sun is setting", are you going to hold me accountable for not "speaking plainly" by acknowledging the truth that the sun is not setting at all, but rather that the earth is rotating?

What don't you understand by the term "figure of speech"?

Jonathan, I see you are another religious dry well. You are a naysayer who wants to scoff and scorn, but you offer nothing substantial as an alternative to the views which you unsuccessfully try to battle against. It is good, however, to see that you have dropped your contention that atheism logically leads to a morality which is “purely subjective and based in opinion.”

ANd the broad sweeping generalizations continue... I have now CLEARLY demonstrated that morality is "subjective", because it does not exist outside of thought. To say otherwise is dishonest.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Jonathan wrote:

"existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality." From Dictionary.com (#8).

This is close, but wrong at the most crucial point, as I would expect from a non-philosophical dictionary. On this definition, any conceptual operation – i.e., any activity involving thought – would therefore be disqualified from being objective by virtue of the involvement of thought. On this definition, one could easily show that mathematics is non-objective; show me where mathematics exists independent of thought. Numbers, for example, are abstractions, and as such require a mind to conceive them by a mental process. It would also mean that logic is non-objective, for logic is a system of conceptual principles, and literally does not “exist independent of thought.” So you want to say that morality is subjective, but on the definition of 'objective' that you're assuming, you’d have to say that mathematics, logic and every conceptual endeavor of man is also subjective. And since truth is conceptual (truth is the *recognition* of reality), this definition makes truth subjective as well. Clearly this won’t do. So even if your claim that atheist morality is subjective were true, your claim itself would be at most only subjective, for it does not “exist independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.” And what of the concept ‘objectivity’ itself according to this definition? According to this definition, since the concept ‘objectivity’ is a concept (i.e., a formalized thought), it is not objective, for it does not “exist independent of thought.” It is a thought.

The definition you pulled from the internet ignores man’s need to use his mind in guiding his choices and actions. It essentially says that anything that man thinks is therefore subjective by virtue of his thinking it, whether it’s based on fact or on fiction, and thus ignores a wide variety of fundamental distinctions, such as the distinctions between truth and error, fact and fiction, reality and imagination, etc. Most importantly, the definition you have pulled from the internet shows no understanding of the issue of metaphysical primacy. Without this understanding, it is philosophically worthless.

Objectivity relates to conceptual process, specifically the process of adhering to reality-based methodology; it refers to methodology which volitionally adheres to the primacy of existence principle. The morality that I have presented is objective because it adheres to the primacy of existence principle. The morality of the theist, however, is subjective, because it assumes the primacy of consciousness. In the case of the morality that I have presented, the facts of reality (which I have listed already) serve as its objective standard. In the case of a theistic morality, there are no facts of reality which serve as its standard; instead, the fantasy-belief of invisible magic being’s pleasure and anger serve as its standard.

A simple way to correct the definition in dictionary.com would be as follows: “*based on facts* existing independent of thought or any observer.” This would avoid the pitfall of condemning any human conceptual activity as “subjective” by isolating the relationship between his methodology and the facts which he discovers in the world.

“Objectivity is both a metaphysical and an epistemological concept. It pertains to the relationship of consciousness to existence. Metaphysically, it is the *recognition* of the fact that reality exists independent of any perceiver’s consciousness. Epistemologically, it is the *recognition* of the fact that a perceiver’s (man’s) consciousness must acquire knowledge of reality by certain means (reason) in accordance with certain rules (logic). This means that although reality is immutable and, in any given context, only one answer is true, the truth is not automatically available to a human consciousness and can be obtained only by a certain mental process which is required of every man who seeks knowledge – that there is no substitute for this process, no escape from the responsibility for it, no shortcuts, no special revelations to privileged observers – and that there can be no such thing as a final “authority” in matters pertaining to human knowledge. Metaphysically the only authority is reality; epistemologically – one’s own mind. The first is the ultimate arbiter of the second.” (Ayn Rand, “Who Is the Final Authority in Ethics?” The Objectivist Newsletter, Feb. 1965, 7)

I emphasized “recognition” in the above passage to focus on an important point. To recognize something – such that something is true – is a conscious activity.


Jonathan wrote:

Listen closely... If the definition I quoted from Dictionary.com is an accurate definition, then morality is NOT objective. Because morality does NOT exist "independent of thought or an observer".

I reject the definition you pulled from the internet for the reasons I gave above. It is deficient at the most important point, and renders every human conceptual endeavor non-objective. This certainly will not do. It simply is not a philosophically worthy definition. But it’s good that you are trying to make use of definitions. What’s noteworthy is that you did not go to the bible for a definition of ‘objectivity’. I don’t think you’ll find one there. If you do, please bring it to light. I’ve asked many Christian apologists for the bible’s meaning of objectivity (since they seem to think that Christianity is an objective worldview), but none have come forward with any definition of ‘objective’ from the pages of the bible. Its authors appear to have been utterly clueless on the issues pertaining to objectivity, which is not surprising.

Jonathan wrote:

But "morality" does NOT exist "independent of thought" (at least in an atheistic universe).

Can you give an example of morality which does exist independent of thought? Perhaps, in a theistic universe, you think there is such a thing? Can you elaborate on this, if that’s what you think? Keep in mind, you can’t cite any moral principles, because principles consist of concepts, and concepts are thought-borne phenomena. So it seems that, if you’re going to defend the thesis that a theistic morality is objective according to the definition that you pulled from the internet, it could not consist of principles. I’m really wondering at this point what would qualify it as a moral code. But please, elaborate on this.

Jonathan wrote:

And that is what I mean when I say morality is SUBJECTIVE.

By the same token, and using the very definition that you are using, your statement that “morality is SUBJECTIVE” is itself subjective. It’s a thought of yours, and exists only in thought.

Jonathan wrote:

I am saying that we devised morality in response to our need for it.

When you say “devised”, what exactly do you mean? You used the word “invented” either, and I explained why this is wrong as well. As I have maintained, we discover the principles of morality, just as we discover the principles of physics and mathematics. We do not “invent” these principles, as if we concocted them from whole cloth. So can you explain what you mean by “devised” here, and if you think it’s “wrong” to “devise” morality, what makes it so wrong? Is physics “subjective”? Well, on the impoverished definition that you pull from dictionary.com, it can easily be construed as non-objective, since it involves thought and does not “exist independent of thought.” The same with mathematics, as I explained above.

I wrote:

”In other words, the author of this passage exercised poor judgment in word choice.”

Jonathan responded:

I guess you're not reading what I wrote. He would have "excercised poor judgment" if he had been writing to YOU, a 21st century person from a completely different culture... But guess what? He wasn't!

I’m not sure why this would be the only choice that would indicate that the author exercised poor judgment. He could have chosen much clearer wording, if the appeal to ancient culture has any merit, to make his point more universally available to humanity, if that was his intentions. If his intentions were to present a thesis that is accessible to all human beings regardless of their particular cultural milieu, he could have accomplished this by avoiding carelessness in word choice. But it is not my claim that the author was careless in his word choice. The apologetic that you have presented (“in the Ancient world, people used EXTREME LANGUAGE to denote even moderate feelings”) can only mean that the author wrote beyond what he really meant. The word used in Luke 14:26 translates to our English word “hate.” If he did not really mean “hate,” then the onus was on him to make himself clearer. According to your preferred explanation, he chose not to make himself clearer. Fine.

I asked:

”So now every time someone in the ancient world used the word “hate,” they really didn’t mean “hate”?”

Jonathan responded:

Now this is just getting ridiculous... Here's one of the first lessons any educated Christian will tell you: In understanding the Bible, you absolutely must ask yourself one question: "What did the text mean to those to whom it was spoken?" That is the final word on it's meaning.

So you’re saying that, when the author used the word “hate” in Luke 14:26, to the handful of people for whom it was originally written that word did not really mean “hate”? And we’re supposed to know this because Turkel and a bunch of other apologists who are queasy about their Jesus putting inter-familial hatred as a condition of discipleship try to rummage up examples of “linguistic extreme” in ancient texts? Mmmkay.

Jonathan wrote:

Maybe you've been listening to lunatics like Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, or other loonie toons too much.

The list of loonies doesn’t stop there, Jonathan. You forgot Robert Turkel, the king of spin.

Regardless, by playing the “figurative speech” card, you simply show that the author could have been more precise in articulating what he intended to convey to his readers. In colloquial settings, figurative speech (actual speech) is fine, especially when the speaker is available to clarify what he meant if his listeners think they misunderstood him. But the case of articulating principles in writing is wholly different. What we are asked to do, by the apologetic explanation you’ve gotten behind, is interpret the text by reference to secondary sources which may not be available to today’s readers. Instead of having his readers need to resort to this, the author of Luke should have saved us the trouble and explained what he understood by the statement he puts in Jesus’ mouth in 14:26. This would simply be a careful and responsible measure on the part of the author of a text which we’re expected to accept as “divinely inspired.” There are hundreds of major reasons which show that it was not “divinely inspired,” but even minor ones like this are sufficiently damning, for it shows carelessness on the part of the author, and here we have apologists defending precisely that carelessness. So yes, you can include yourself in that list of loonies you started above.

Now I am still curious about something that you did not address, Jonathan. Before I quoted Van Til's statement that the Christian god "controls whatsoever comes to pass" (The Defense of the Faith, p. 160). You seemed to want to dismiss Van Til's "Hyper-Calvinism," but you did not make it clear whether or not you agree with this particular statement. So can you clarify your position here? Do you think that the Christian god "controls whatsoever comes to pass," or not?

Regards,
Dawson

Aaron Kinney said...

Wow! Jonathan and Dawson are having an amazing debate. Fascinating to read.

Ive known Dawson for some time now, and he is as always writing brilliantly.

But I want to say that Im also impressed with Jonathan. Although I disagree with Jonathans side, I think he is intelligent, respectful, genuinely inquisitive, and open minded.

Im following this back-and-forth with interest. Carry on :)

Jonathan said...

Ok, I suppose some clarification is in order:

On this definition, one could easily show that mathematics is non-objective;

Mathematics is a good choice for comparing with morality. Let's compare the two statements:

1. 2+2=4.

and

2. Killing someone is immoral.

How do these two different statements differ in their "objective" or "subjective" nature?

Even though both concepts are processed through logic (i'm assuming the dependability of logic 'a priori'), one is dependant on numerous pressupostions and assumptions, while the other is not.

What I mean is, I am assuming that 2+2=4 is true, regardless of whether or not I or anyone else accept it as true. So, I put two apples and two apples beside each other, I will have 4. This is true regardless of whether I accept it or not. I processed that truth in my mind, but it would have remained independantly true regardless of whether I processed it or not.

*And here is the important point: There is only one presupposition I bring to the table with that math calculation... the dependability of logic (but in reality it's not even a pressuposition worth mentioning, because anyone who uses their brain assumes it [the dependability of logic] to be true).

So in essence, there are really NO significant pressupositions with the math calculation. There are no "this is true IF..." statements. It is absolutely true all the time without exception, and is therefore completely objective.

But with morality, it is a different story.

You yourself said, "Morality is for the living, for those who want to keep on living."

And so in this case, #2 is "true" conditionally. The reason you cannot say, "Suicide is immoral", is because of your pressuposition that morality is only relevant to those who want to keep on living.

And so for the person who wants to die and take as many people with him as possible, it would not be "immoral" for him to kill anyone (at least in your worldview). Why? Because morality only applies to those who want to keep on living, and this person is looking to be killed. Morality is therefore relative and subjective, and not applicable to him.

He does not accept the premise that he ought to "want" to live, and therefore "morality" doesn't apply to him.

Also, #2 is based on the pressuposition that: because humans exist, they "ought" to be allowed to carry out their existence. But the problem with this pressuposition is that it is unverifiable. Any "axiomatic" ought is completely unverifiable. So #2 rests on a notion that can only be accepted "a priori" without reason. But the only thing you should accept a priori is that which you require in order to think (the dependability of logice for instance).

And so, even though we process the truth of mathematics in our minds, the conclusions are true independent of any mind to comprehend them.

But with morality, it is contigent on pressupositions and "this is true IF" statements, and therefore relative and subjective.

Can you give an example of morality which does exist independent of thought?

I said above: "He does not accept the premise that he ought to "want" to live, and therefore "morality" doesn't apply to him."

But in a theistic universe, morality does apply to him regardless of whether he accepts the initial premise.

Right and wrong is true independent of whether or not he accepts the initial premise that humans "ought" to continue living.

Why is the premise true independent of his acceptance of it? Because in a theistic universe "right and wrong" are a reflection of the nature of the "transcandental causal agent" (God). GOd does not arbitrarily dictate what is right and wrong, but rather, God by definition IS that which is RIGHT, and whatever is in opposition to his nature is that which is "wrong" or "immoral". It is a complete mischaracterization to say that God "dictates" right and wrong on a "whim".

But rather since there is "intention" behind the existence of humanity, the continued existence is demanded of God, and therefore "RIGHT". People would get mad if you were to burn down a building for no reason... Why? Because the building serves a purpose bigger than just the building itself. It is the same with humans. We "ought not" be destroyed, because we serve a bigger purpose than just ourselves.

As I have maintained, we discover the principles of morality, just as we discover the principles of physics and mathematics.

So when you say, "such and such is immoral", what you mean is: "such and such an action inhibits our desire to live out and enjoy our lives".

Is there anything else you mean when you say something is "immoral"?

If his intentions were to present a thesis that is accessible to all human beings regardless of their particular cultural milieu,

But that's exactly the point. Those weren't his intentions. His intentions were only to present a thesis to people living in his day and age. Now if that bothers you and makes you think God to be "unfair", then that's fine. But just don't quote verses like that and assume what's on the surface is all there is.

So you’re saying that, when the author used the word “hate” in Luke 14:26, to the handful of people for whom it was originally written that word did not really mean “hate”?

In the same way that I wouldn't really mean "i'm dying" when I say "this heat is killing me", yes, he did not mean our normal definition of "hatred". If there is a God, he would definitely not be obligated to reveal the truth in the manner that you say he "ought" to.

And we’re supposed to know this because Turkel and a bunch of other apologists who are queasy about their Jesus putting inter-familial hatred as a condition of discipleship try to rummage up examples of “linguistic extreme” in ancient texts?

No, you're supposed to know this because you care to research the truth of the conditions that existed in the Greco-Roman era. I think you're letting your hatred of Turkel cloud your search for objective truth. Turkel's assertion is based on knowledge of the era, and unless your knowledge rivals his, you are no opponent.

Instead of having his readers need to resort to this, the author of Luke should have saved us the trouble and explained what he understood by the statement he puts in Jesus’ mouth in 14:26.

Well what Luke "ought" to have done is your opinion and nothing more. I believe God will judge us based on the information we have and whether or not we care to truly seek it out. But regardless, there is good reason why we have four gospels told from 4 different vantage points, and yet surprisingly harmonious.

You seemed to want to dismiss Van Til's "Hyper-Calvinism," but you did not make it clear whether or not you agree with this particular statement.

I believe that God is sovereign, and yet I believe that humans have free will. Why do I believe this? Because there is amazing evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead, and so I trust him.

But here is the difference between me and Van Til: Van Til takes the sovereignty of God to what he considers it to be it's "logical inevitabilities".

I believe God is sovereign but I do not believe God "causes" little children to be raped (as sometimes happens in our world). This would be inconsistent with the nature of God for him to "cause" it. Now does he allow it to happen? Yes.

Now at this point, I could tell God to screw off and that I don't believe in Him.

But here is the problem with that: I am assuming that I have all the available information. But I don't. And to me, Van Til assumes far too much and therefore comes to a conclusion contradicted by the scriptures, because if God is sovereign, he is also more than capable of deciding that he NOT disclose everything. So not only is an "inevitable logical conclusion" of Van Til wrong, it is also arrogant in assuming it's inevitability when he should clearly know that we lack MUCH information.

Is both God sovereign and humans have "free will"? Yes. But it is arrogance for me to assume that I can understand ALL the inevitable implications of this. I have not experienced omniscience, and so I am wholly unqualified to critique any being in this state. And if God does not want to reveal all the truths to me now, that is wholly His perogative.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Jonathan wrote:

Even though both concepts are processed through logic (i'm assuming the dependability of logic 'a priori'), one is dependant on numerous pressupostions and assumptions, while the other is not.

That’s irrelevant. Both are thought-borne phenomena. Because of this, given the definition of ‘objectivity’ you pulled from then net, they are not objective.


Jonathan wrote:

What I mean is, I am assuming that 2+2=4 is true, regardless of whether or not I or anyone else accept it as true.

That’s fine, but it does not rescue the definition of ‘objectivity’ that you pulled from the net.


Jonathan wrote:

So, I put two apples and two apples beside each other, I will have 4. This is true regardless of whether I accept it or not.

Similarly with my morality’s principles: it is true that man’s life requires values whether or not Christians accept this fact. You’re helping to make the case that my morality is objective, Jonathan. I doubt this is what you were setting out to do in your comments this time, is it?

Jonathan wrote:

I processed that truth in my mind, but it would have remained independantly true regardless of whether I processed it or not.

The same with man’s need for values. Now put it together with my proposed improvement to the definition of ‘objectivity’ you pulled from the net: the recognition that man’s life requires values is *based on facts* which exist independent of anyone’s thoughts, wishes, preferences, ignorance, evasions, imaginations, etc. This fact – that man requires values in order to live – is in the same epistemological category as the fact that 2+2=4 (assuming equal units), namely the category we call *truth*. There is no need to dichotomize this category into opposing horns (e.g., the “necessary-contingent dichotomy,” the “analytic-synthetic dichotomy,” the “logical-factual dichotomy,” etc.).

Jonathan wrote:

*And here is the important point: There is only one presupposition I bring to the table with that math calculation... the dependability of logic (but in reality it's not even a pressuposition worth mentioning, because anyone who uses their brain assumes it [the dependability of logic] to be true).

No, you bring many more “presuppositions” to the table, if by “presupposition” we mean prior assumptions. The statement “logic is dependable” is not conceptually irreducible. Neither is the concept ‘logic’ itself conceptually irreducible. Both statements – “logic is dependable” and “man requires values in order to live” – assume a whole host of more fundamental recognitions which can be stated in explicit, conceptual form. For instance, both statement assume that there is a reality, that to be real is to be something definite, that the speaker is conscious, etc. In other words, both statements assume the truth of my worldviews axiomatic concepts, which are: existence, identity and consciousness. They also assume a specific orientation between consciousness and its objects, which is called the primacy of existence. This is the fundamental metaphysical basis of the concept ‘objectivity’. It is why I reject the definition of ‘objectivity’ that you pulled from the internet, for it deliberately alienates this relationship.

Ask yourself this, Jonathan: if your math equation did not need any attending context, why did you need to specify that you were putting two apples and two apples together? You sensed that context requires at least something here. And you're right: context does require this. So here's a "presupposition" that you took for granted, namely that the truth of one's conceptual integrations (including mathematic equations) is *contextual* in nature.

Jonathan wrote:

So in essence, there are really NO significant pressupositions with the math calculation.

Oh there are, you’re just not aware of them. But simply because you’re not aware of them, does not mean that they’re not there. There’s a whole substrata of the knowledge hierarchy underlying math calculations. Keep in mind that a mathematical operation is not a conceptually simple operation. It is a profound example of complex conceptual integration. What has happened, Jonathan, is that you have *automatized* this operation, which is good (it means you don’t have to work through the steps which lead to the conclusion “=4” every time you encounter the same equation). But if you go back to the very first time you encountered this equation, when you were, say 5 or 6 years old, it was not as self-evident to you then as it is now. The point is that you have integrated the conceptual process by which this simple mathematical equation operates so well that you no longer have to work it out manually. But take a fundamentally similar equation, e.g., 157,976,417.294003+64,011.003492. Have you automatized this operation so that you know its answer as readily as you do in the case of 2+2=4? Probably not. You’ll have to think about it for a moment or two to derive the answer. But why? Operationally it’s no different. What’s the difference? It’s just more complex because the numbers are bigger? Okay, try this one: 1.034920349092311+0.234092300237. What’s the answer? The numbers are smaller in this case. Is it the case that there are more numbers to manage, making it a more complex task? All we’ve done is multiply the original operation’s load, but the operation is no different. The point is that 2+2=4 is more complex than you’re granting it here, *because* you’ve automatized it throughout your conscious life. That’s not wrong, but your assumption that it is conceptually self-standing is wrong.

Jonathan wrote:
There are no "this is true IF..." statements. It is absolutely true all the time without exception, and is therefore completely objective.

It’s not clear what relevance this has to do with our earlier contentions. But in any case, is there ever a time when man’s life does not require values?

Jonathan wrote:

But with morality, it is a different story. You yourself said, "Morality is for the living, for those who want to keep on living."

Yes, I did say that. But it is still an exceptionless truth that man’s life requires values, whether or not he chooses to continue living.

Jonathan wrote:

And so in this case, #2 is "true" conditionally.

Actually, the truth of #2 is *contextual*, but as I just showed, so is the truth of #1. All truths are contextual – i.e., reliant on prior mental integrations – save in the case of the axioms. The conditionality involved with moral truths does not alter or decrease their truth value. It simply points to the fact that there is an alternative which we have no choice about facing in life, namely the fundamental alternative of life vs. death. There is no conditionality to *this* fact whatsoever. What you’re actually trying to exploit in your argument here, Jonathan, is the fact that mathematical concepts are much broader abstractions than moral concepts. Moral concepts apply only to human beings, for only human beings have reached the conceptual level of consciousness in the evolutionary scheme of biological organisms. Mathematical concepts are much more broadly open-ended than moral concepts. Because of this morality is a much narrower science than math. But both involve truths which are context-bound.

Jonathan wrote:

The reason you cannot say, "Suicide is immoral", is because of your pressuposition that morality is only relevant to those who want to keep on living.

Oh, I can still say that suicide is immoral, its truth simply depends on the context upon which I draw that moral conclusion. Similarly with mathematic operations. The statement 2+2=4 is only true if the units involved in its underlying context are equal. But if the units involved in its underlying context are not equal, then the conclusion would be false. For instance, 2 quarts of water plus 2 quarts of ethyl alcohol equals 3.86 quarts of liquid at 15.56C. It does not equal 4.

Jonathan wrote:

And so for the person who wants to die and take as many people with him as possible, it would not be "immoral" for him to kill anyone (at least in your worldview).

Where did I say anything about the person who decides to end his own life taking others with him? You’re adding a context which was not present in my own statements. This makes your assessment of my morality false.

Jonathan wrote:

Why? Because morality only applies to those who want to keep on living, and this person is looking to be killed. Morality is therefore relative and subjective, and not applicable to him.

Again you’re dropping context, which means you’re misrepresenting my position. If my position were in fact wrong, you would not need to do this in order to show that it is wrong. Don’t those whom the suicide wants to take with him want to continue living? Don’t they have a right to their lives, just as the suicide has the right to his life?

This is a common problem when trying to help a theist understand morality: he won’t stick to morality proper. He always needs to move into interpersonal relationships before he’s grasped the basics of Morality 101. He wants to graduate before he’s taken his first quiz. What this really shows is that he does not have a very good understanding of what morality is, what its purpose is, why man needs it. He always wants to rush beyond the lessons about man’s need for values and jump into discussions about killing and maiming others. But this is premature. He hasn’t understood the basics yet. He wants to rush out and battle Sherman tanks and he hasn’t even learned how to load his pistol yet.

Jonathan shows his true cards:

He does not accept the premise that he ought to "want" to live, and therefore "morality" doesn't apply to him.

Jonathan is still beholden to the underlying assumption which theism breeds in defenseless, impressionable minds, that morality is about *obligations* rather than *values*. This by itself shows that he is not ready to move beyond the lessons he’s trying to abandon so quickly. This, more than any other reason, is why it is so difficult to have a conversation about morality with someone who doesn’t yet understand it.

Regards,
Dawson

Bahnsen Burner said...

Jonathan wrote:

He does not accept the premise that he ought to "want" to live, and therefore "morality" doesn't apply to him.

This confuses moral permissibility with political permissibility. As I mentioned in my last comment, you have moved beyond the sphere of morality and into the sphere of interpersonal relationships prematurely. In doing so, you add personal context (additional individuals) without allowing for any additional moral context (the application of moral principles to interpersonal relationships). This is an example of the fallacy known as context-dropping. It is key to your attempt to establish the conclusion that morality is subjective. The presence of this fallacy invalidates your assessment, the conclusion of your poorly assembled argument.


Jonathan wrote:

Also, #2 is based on the pressuposition that: because humans exist, they "ought" to be allowed to carry out their existence.

It's not a matter of "allowing" them to carry out their existence. It's a matter of their possessing the *right* to carry out their existence. It's not about "oughts," it's about *rights*. Oughts are obligations; rights are freedoms sanctioned in a social context.

Jonathan wrote:

But the problem with this pressuposition is that it is unverifiable. Any "axiomatic" ought is completely unverifiable.

Of course, I don't think moral concepts are axiomatic in the first place. As I mentioned in my previous comment, these concepts assume a vast underlying context. "Oughts" are never primaries. But this does not keep many thinkers from treating them as such.

Jonathan wrote:

So #2 rests on a notion that can only be accepted "a priori" without reason.

Check your premises. It may be the case in your worldview, but certainly not in mine.

Jonathan wrote:

But the only thing you should accept a priori is that which you require in order to think (the dependability of logice for instance).

Even the dependability of logic is not a priori. Many thinkers repeat the claim that logic's truths are a priori truths. But this is just an admission that they do not really understand the basis of those truths. It tells us about those who make such claims, not about the nature of logical truths.

Jonathan wrote:

And so, even though we process the truth of mathematics in our minds, the conclusions are true independent of any mind to comprehend them.

Those conclusions, however, are still thought-borne phenomena, which means (given the definition of objectivity that you got from the internet) that they cannot be objective.

Jonathan wrote:

But with morality, it is contigent on pressupositions and "this is true IF" statements, and therefore relative and subjective.

Given this type of reasoning (which is satisfied by the presence of any "if-then" hypothetics underlying the truths in question), one could draw the same kind of conclusion with mathematical equations: *if* it is true that units can be added together to result in whole numbers, then equations like 2+2=4 are possible. One can easily say that the equation 2+2=4 is "contingent" on the assumption that units can be added together to result in whole numbers. So, given this (on your reasoning), 2+2=4 is therefore "relative and subjective."

I asked:

"Can you give an example of morality which does exist independent of thought?"

Jonathan responded:

I said above: "He does not accept the premise that he ought to "want" to live, and therefore "morality" doesn't apply to him."

Is this statement something that exists independent of thought?

Jonathan wrote:

But in a theistic universe, morality does apply to him regardless of whether he accepts the initial premise.

This too is a statement, and as such it is a thought-borne phenomenon. Thus it cannot be said to exist independent of thought.

Notice how irresponsible this understanding of objectivity is. On this view, it makes no difference which principle is being proposed as being moral, or what its basis is. What matters, on Jonathan's premises, is whether or not it can be said "to apply to [a person] regardless of whether he accepts" it as a moral principle or not. On this view, it's not the content of the principle which makes it objective, it's whether or not said to apply to someone regardless of his acceptance of it.

Jonathan seems to ignore the fact that the basis of the moral principles which I have proposed already satisfy this criterion. For it is the case that human beings require values in order to live, regardless of whether or not any particular individual accepts this fact.

Jonathan wrote:

Right and wrong is true independent of whether or not he accepts the initial premise that humans "ought" to continue living.

If the concepts 'right' and 'wrong' are objectively informed (such as the principles of my worldview), then I can agree with the gist of this (though there are points that I would reword, as I showed above). But what informs these concepts on a theistic view? Well of course, the commandments of an invisible magic being as revealed in an ancient storybook, not facts which we discover in the world by means of reason. I already showed that they have no bearing on human life.

But notice that Jonathan has moved away from the definition of 'objective' that he got from the internet ("exists independent of thought") and is now using a new criterion, such as "applicable whether or not someone accepts it." Still, this does not isolate the nature of objectivity in terms of the subject-object relationship, so it leaves certain (perhaps unintended) gaps in its meaning, gaps which can be exploited quite flagrantly (which is why theistic apologists like it).

Now while we're on it, recall that Jonathan's statement #2 reads "Killing someone is immoral." Now, I've never seen this statement in the bible. Can Jonathan point it out for us? Can he even show where the bible says "murder is wrong"? We all know about the 10 commandments, where it says "thou shalt not kill." But this is merely a prohibition, and a prohibition is not the same as a moral judgment. I want to know where the bible supplies the moral judgment that Jonathan uses as an example.

Jonathan wrote:

Why is the premise true independent of his acceptance of it?

Of course, anyone who proposes a moral principle, regardless of what it says, can say that it applies independent of anyone's acceptance of it, and therefore "objective."

Jonathan wrote:

Because in a theistic universe "right and wrong" are a reflection of the nature of the "transcandental causal agent" (God).

In order for this line of reasoning even to have a prayer of being sensible, one would first have to show a morally relevant relationship between the god it proposes and the concept of moral values. But I've already shown that there is no such relationship, since the god it proposes does not face a fundamental alternative, like man does. But as we have seen, the Christian god would be incapable of value, for it lacks the metaphysical precondition that gives rise to the need for values. So it is utterly irrelevant to man's needs, and many of the bible's moral edicts reflect precisely this. E.g., "thou shalt not make graven images." This does nothing to give man guidance in what he should do in order to live, for it has nothing to do with the requirements of his life. Who cares if the god worshipped by ancient Jews was offended by "graven images"? It's neither here nor there when it comes to man's moral needs.

Jonathan wrote:

GOd does not arbitrarily dictate what is right and wrong, but rather, God by definition IS that which is RIGHT, and whatever is in opposition to his nature is that which is "wrong" or "immoral".

We've already seen that "God's nature" would be irrelevant to morality, for its nature is fundamentally different from man's in the morally relevant sense. Our moral needs are based on our own nature as biological organisms; basing our morality on "God's nature" would make as much sense as basing it on the nature of a rock we find in the Evergreen Forest. Also, notice that Jonathan's statement here simply means that said god's intentions are irrelevant to right and wrong, for it places the basis of right on wrong in its nature, not in its intentions. Its intentions are after the (alleged) fact. So it's not moral judgments or rulings which inform the nature of right and wrong, but attributes - like the shape of a rock (as a "reflection" of its nature). But even this is not biblical, for the bible makes it clear that its moral prescriptions take the form of lawful commandments and rulings, things decided by intentional activity, not simply attributes possessed by said god "by definition." According to the bible, its wishes are our commands. And as we have already seen, it does whatever it pleases (cf. Ps. 115:3).

Jonathan wrote:

It is a complete mischaracterization to say that God "dictates" right and wrong on a "whim".

Not if the bible is our guide on this matter. It makes it very clear that it can prescribe whatever the hell it wants. And according to the storybook, it proceeds to do so.

Jonathan wrote:

But rather since there is "intention" behind the existence of humanity, the continued existence is demanded of God, and therefore "RIGHT".

Huh?

Jonathan wrote:

People would get mad if you were to burn down a building for no reason...

But if I had a reason, they wouldn't? And what does it matter if someone "gets mad"?

Jonathan wrote:

Why? Because the building serves a purpose bigger than just the building itself.

Buildings serve human purposes, not supernatural purposes. Burning a building down could not effect a supernatural being one way or another. It has no use for the building, while people can and may very well have a use for it.

Jonathan wrote:

It is the same with humans. We "ought not" be destroyed, because we serve a bigger purpose than just ourselves.

This just means that human beings, on your view, are not ends in themselves, that they do not have the right to exist for their own sake, but that they are someone else's property.

I wrote:

"As I have maintained, we discover the principles of morality, just as we discover the principles of physics and mathematics."

Jonathan wrote:

So when you say, "such and such is immoral", what you mean is: "such and such an action inhibits our desire to live out and enjoy our lives".
Is there anything else you mean when you say something is "immoral"?


I nowhere said that actions are immoral on account that they "inhibit our desire to live out and enjoy our lives," but even if I did, why would this make morality subjective? Morality would still have an objective basis (man's need for values) and it would still be consistent with his nature (he has the ability to choose those values and actions which his life requires). If morality did not take these factors into account, it simply would not be of any use to him qua morality. I can certainly respect another individual's desire to live and enjoy his life, and so does my morality. Why can't you?

I wrote:

"If his intentions were to present a thesis that is accessible to all human beings regardless of their particular cultural milieu,"

Jonathan responded:

But that's exactly the point. Those weren't his intentions.

How do you know this? You're saying that he intended to obfuscate his thesis?

Jonathan wrote:

His intentions were only to present a thesis to people living in his day and age.

Well, there goes your whole claim to objective morality then! Those people are long gone. Earlier your argument was that biblical morality is objective because it applies whether anyone accepts it or not. Now you're saying it was never intended to apply to us in the first place. You just gave away the farm in order to save the broken rake in the yard.

Jonathan wrote:

Now if that bothers you and makes you think God to be "unfair", then that's fine.

Doesn't bother me in the least. It just tells me that you worship a very unwise and foolish god which is utterly irrelevant anyway. But, I already knew this.

Jonathan wrote:

Well what Luke "ought" to have done is your opinion and nothing more.

Actually, it's not based on my opinion, it's based on the principle of final causation: If X is your goal, and Y is the action which achieves X, then one should take action Y in order to achieve X. In basing my assessment on this, I simply granted that your god is logical. But you've shown I was wrong in assuming this. My apologies.

I wrote:

"You seemed to want to dismiss Van Til's "Hyper-Calvinism," but you did not make it clear whether or not you agree with this particular statement."

Jonathan responded:

I believe that God is sovereign, and yet I believe that humans have free will.

If you asked Van Til, he would say the same thing, that "God is sovereign," and "humans have free will." But I'm asking you: do you think that the Christian god "controls whatsoever comes to pass," or not?

Jonathan wrote:

Why do I believe this? Because there is amazing evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead, and so I trust him.

Can you name one eyewitness of Jesus rising from the dead?

Jonathan wrote:

But here is the difference between me and Van Til: Van Til takes the sovereignty of God to what he considers it to be it's "logical inevitabilities".

Yes and no. Van Til certainly affirms "the sovereignty of God" without exception (when he affirms it, anyway), but he evades the logical binds that this view leads to.

Jonathan wrote:

I believe God is sovereign but I do not believe God "causes" little children to be raped (as sometimes happens in our world). This would be inconsistent with the nature of God for him to "cause" it. Now does he allow it to happen? Yes.

So it's not the case, in your worldview (as opposed to Van Til's), that "God controls whatsoever comes to pass"? Again, it seems that Van Til's god, at least on this point, is wholly sovereign, while yours is only "kinda sorta" sovereign. For you allow that a lot of things happen in its creation that it does not control. At least, that's what it sounds like you're saying.

Anyway, your argument here seems to beg the crucial question. You say that you "do not believe God 'causes' little children to be raped," and your reason for this is that "this would be inconsistent with the nature of God for him to 'cause' it." But that's precisely what's in question when we investigate whether or not said god is "sovereign." If, as Van Til has affirmed, "God controls whatsoever comes to pass," then we'd have to say that anything that we discover happening in the world which is said to have been "created" by said god, would have to be consistent with its nature as a causal agent. It did create the little children, did it not? It did create the rapists, did it not? It does have an all-encompassing, over-arching "plan" for human history, does it not? Is it possible for something to take place in this god's creation against its will for it? If so, how can we say it's a sovereign god at this point? Is it "sovereign" in name only?

Jonathan wrote:

Now at this point, I could tell God to screw off and that I don't believe in Him.

There are other things you could do, such as recognize that the notion of a god is irrational. But I doubt you're prepared to do that yet. I'll give you time.

Jonathan wrote:

But here is the problem with that: I am assuming that I have all the available information. But I don't. And to me, Van Til assumes far too much and therefore comes to a conclusion contradicted by the scriptures, because if God is sovereign, he is also more than capable of deciding that he NOT disclose everything.

On these premises, it seems you'd have to admit that one of things your god is "capable of deciding that he not disclose" could be a lying nature. Consider: what would motivate a god to "reveal" something that is true to its creatures as opposed to misleading them? On Christian premises, it certainly has no moral qualms with ending a human being's life, even in a tragic manner. So why would it have any moral qualms with lying to one?

Jonathan wrote:

So not only is an "inevitable logical conclusion" of Van Til wrong, it is also arrogant in assuming it's inevitability when he should clearly know that we lack MUCH information.

What specifically is this "inevitable logical conclusion" of Van Til's, and what makes it wrong?

Jonathan wrote:

Is both God sovereign and humans have "free will"? Yes. But it is arrogance for me to assume that I can understand ALL the inevitable implications of this.

You apparently think you understand enough to say that it's against your god's nature to cause little children to be raped. But we already saw that you begged the question in trying to make this claim.

Jonathan wrote:

I have not experienced omniscience, and so I am wholly unqualified to critique any being in this state. And if God does not want to reveal all the truths to me now, that is wholly His perogative.

Setting omniscience as a precondition for moral judgment is simply a copout; it's an excuse for not passing moral judgment on actions chosen by a conscious agent. This is how intellectual default is built into the Christian paradigm. It is a guarantee that immoral actions will not be opposed. And in fact, that is what we see in the world: we don't find any gods standing against the rape of little children. If there were a sovereign god, it could certainly do this. This can only mean that, on the premise that such a being does exist, said being chooses not to act against such deeds. It simply allows them to happen, and it's up to us to take care of them. Such a god simply makes itself morally irrelevant, if not an accomplice to the crime by virtue of its default. So much for the "For God so loved the world" sloganeering...

I'm sure glad these aren't my problems.

Regards,
Dawson

Jonathan said...

Ok, there are a lot of things I need to address here, and I will do that, but before I tire myself even more, if it is alright, let me reduce this to one thing:

For you, the principles of "morality" are:

-guidelines that humans should follow to ensure their survival and continual well-being.

Morality serves the "well-being" of humans. In your mind, is their anything else that "morality" is about?

Bahnsen Burner said...

Jonathan,

It is important to keep in mind what morality is. I stated it above but will state it again here: Morality is a code of values which guides an individual's choices and actions. The answers to your questions here are in large part determined by how we answer the two following questions:

1) Does man need morality?
2) If so, why does he need it?

In Objectivism, morality is the application of reason to the task of living one's own life.

If you want to pursue this further with me, I suggest that you read the articles from my blog to which I provided links above, and e-mail me at: sortion@hotmail.com

I don't want to continue hunting down this comments section to pursue this discussion.

Regards,
Dawson

5556ttygrffgyghgf said...

Jesus/God if your real and Im gonna be able to be with u when i died I will drag u to hell and Ill keep u there for eternity for destroying peoples lives in here fuck you. You cock sucking, sadistic , mother fucker FUCK YOU