Category Archives: gnosticism

Reply to sirratiocination, a romp through philosophy.


morality-quotes-3

This is a reply to the post made by sirratiocination on his blog who in turn made a response post upon my request to move thing into post format.

http://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/

http://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/response-to-httpshessianwithteeth-wordpress-com20141210its-time-to-change-something-other-than-the-design-about-ethical-models/

Now for the purposes of keeping things manageable I will not be responding to every point, but focusing on problematic and interesting sections, as well as asking clarifications as needed. All comments and quires will be directed at sirratiocination after this introduction, though the comments are open as always.

I’ll be using his numbering system to reference to his responses (not my own, so if I say in paragraph [10] I’m referring to those paragraphs which focus on [10]) as well as leaving bracketed letter and number [A#] at the beginning of my section to make responses, and following along easier. I invite sirratiocination to join along in this behavior.

Let’s begin.

[A1] So in your first reference to [1] and you later reference in [7] your discussing nihilism for the sake of clarity I’ll define how I use nihilism. In General and without clarification I think of Metaphysical Nihilism, or the belief that no objects need to actually exist. The strong form of that would be no objects exist and the weak form would be that objects do not necessarily have to exist, and it is the case that objects may not exist. I fall in the weak camp. I think objects exist, but I also don’t fully reject the possibility that objects might not exist at all. Though I do think the belief that they don’t exist is a dead and should be rejected unless conclusive evidence can be ascertained that in fact objects, or things like objects are an illusion (I’d classify field theory as fitting in objects class or the object like class). Though I’d also call my belief more a mild metaphysical skepticism, then nihilism, though that is likely do to with the extreme conclusions nihilist have drawn. what you call nihilism I think of as the strong form of nihilism.

I am also use to seeing nihilism used in the terms of epistemological nihilism which is comparable to extreme philosophical skepticism where in all knowledge claims are denied.

In your arguments you seem to be discussing both moral nihilism, and the general idea of nihilism that is the rejection of non-rationalized or unproven assertions. This may change how you view the nature of our discussion to some degree.

[A2] for your paragraphs addressing [2], [3] and [5] I suppose another locus of our differences of opinion is that I remain largely unconcerned with ultimate causes for morality. That I’m not convinced, in the case of morality that there needs to be any ultimate or root cause, at least not a particularly meaningful or useful one, nor am I convinced this problem leads to an infinite chain.

Though that requires explanation so I’ll try to do that right away. Though to do that I will also need to better explain why I don’t think it’s is necessarily the case that a teleological explanation is needed to explain another teleological explanation even in the case of morality.

First and most importantly, teleological explanations only seem particularly useful in explaining and defining the activities of sentient actors, and for this argument sentient just means that creature has that ability to directly influence future of non-immediate events in some sort of intentional manner. This will include a lot of critter we wouldn’t normally consider sentient, but I don’t think we’ll be worse off for that since we don’t need to use that definition outside this argument.

First lets examine the teleological explication for a sword, we are clearly inclined to think about the process of making a sword in a teleological manner. The process of refining ore to ingots, and turning those ingots into a blade before, tempering said blade and attaching it to a hilt. There are many key components which need to come together to form that sword which wouldn’t make much sense outside of a teleological frame work. Whole systems need to be in place to make that sword, from the iron mine, to the smeltery, to the blacksmith and their forge and hammer. For any particular sword the teleological explanation fits the best. Though then what if we talk about sword in general and the form of the sword the teleological explanation begins to lose its luster.

As the form of the particular sword make teleological explanation compelling it makes the teleological explanation for the form itself less compelling and harder to reconcile.

This is the nature of memetic information, that is learned information as opposed to genetic information. We don’t tend to include all the step along the way, but only that which is most relevant. That and there is far more intentionality, far more reiteration of memetic information in a short period of time then genetic information could ever hope to achieve. This isn’t to say memetic information passes on in a purely evolutionary manner, memetic information is passed on by teaching from one sentient critter to another. Unlike genetics there is the ability to completely change key structure and reshuffle orders of thing at will. So it’s much easy to have the history of complex learned information to be hidden, and some time for a variety of reasons people intentionally try to hide such history, but back to swords.

The full history of how sword may have come about is not fully know to me, but the form of the sword, as a relatively strait, large, long, and generally ridged blade likely arose from a handful of different sources but the biggest precursor to the sword is undoubtedly metal knives and daggers, which in turn where inspired from flint daggers, which in turn would have came from simple stone tools.

Where a particular sword had a very clear teleological explanation, the form of the sword, and *the progression* towards the sword has a far more satisfying methodological explanation. One that can probably be drawn all the way back to the most basic tool use, before tool creation. Though I’m no anthropologist so don’t ask me to make that full series of connections competently.

What we have here, and what is important is a whole series of tools made in a teleological manner, who’s change follows and rises from a methodological process, all the way back to a point where there is no longer a teleological explanation (simple tool use), but only methodological ones.

This is the long view argument for why I’d say that morally argument while they might all follow a telos to telos pattern now, that pattern may not go back infinitely. I’d go further to say there is at least so evidence for this because there are clear evolutionary reasons for tool use, and morality to evolve (and seems to have evolved multiple times, looking at the many social animals which exist, and for tool use found in many bird and mammal species, but many other types of animals as well http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool_use_by_animals)

While modern morality might be more complex than a sword it doesn’t start out that way, it takes small children years to learn and understand the basics of morality, it would have took our assertors much longer, but we have millions of years to work with so there’s plenty of time for the basic moral system that would allow for larger human communities to form. This is speculation sure, but I find it a compelling line of thought. Further our morality, and logical system are massively more nuanced and complex then those even just a few thousand years ago when the first codes of law where inscribed. It follows that same general pattern I described with the swords from knifes though since writing is rather recent in human history, and we won’t have stone fragments of morality dating back hundreds of thousands even millions of years.

Though I’ll leave it there for now, I most definitely under sold the point I was trying to make before.

[A3] Also to use the previous line of thinking to address some of your final comments in the paragraph prefaced “In[5]” (the 6th paragraph). When you say you resist the idea that concepts such as logical and morality can develop I am on the other side of the coin saying morality has in several occasions developed, and there’s good reasons for it to develop. More over even logic develops, perhaps there is some logic under laying everything, but this going into an argument like that between math realists and anti-realists. Only with logic.

While I’m not well versed in the math realism argument, when you apply the same logic here it come down to these two sides. The moral realist who would say that there is some sort of moral underpinning to the universe, and the moral anti-realist which would say that morality is a concept created (to some extent) by us humans (and quite possibly other organisms) for a variety of reasons, mostly to achieve certain goals or solve problems.

Though you might have a different sort conception of the problem which I would be interesting in hearing.

[A4] Now I will mention briefly that my moral position is primarily leaning toward consequentialism, not pure consequentialism, and my final verdict is not in yet, but I do think consequences are of the most importance, though not the only facts which should be considered (intentions matter, and actions must themselves be judges by the ripples they send out not just the primary/direct consequences). Though this is a whole can of worms to itself and we can address it later on if we like.

[A5] Now on (or back to?) to the question does our system of morality needs to be objective? Which you bring up in the 7th paragraph of your reply (you reference [14] in the second sentence).

How your using the definitions of necessarily so, and contingently so, for objective and subjective respectively. While I don’t think this is a satisfactory definition for how I think of objective and subjective, I will address your argument directly as I think there are counter arguments which can be made using these definitions.

First I’m not comfortable saying logic and even math are necessarily so. Why? Because there are many types and forms of both which while they map out well in reality, together they are not always compatible. I would say that logic and math (I group them together because math is a sub set of logical systems) are contingent on reality. Why this might make them “necessarily so” I’d argue it doesn’t since there is no single “Logic” Which subsets, but rather a number of logics which are use in relation with one another to solve problem, but are not always compatible with one another, that is they do not condense down into a primary “logic.”

Why this leads me to thinking that logic is is contingent is because how I look at logics as formal concepts, created over the last several thousand years which has slowly progressed in complexity and explanatory power over that time. That is I see logic as a series of models progressing toward eliminating biases in human thought so that we might best understand what is around us and what we want/ought to do.

So unfortunately logic isn’t just contingent on reality and the sort of causal relationships which exist with in our macroscopic environment, but it is also contingent on our limited perceptions and our in built biases. It seems to me at least that logic is a conceptual toolbelt we’ve created to help overcome our natural limitations. The source as I see it comes from our need to understand and determine the truth or correctness of our and other people’s statements and beliefs. Not from some fundamental source of logic, even though logic in part is informed by other fundamental forces.

So in this way I’m logical anti-realist, I think logic only exists as a tool we create, not as some greater existence as a fundamental part of reality, or as I direct representation of any fundamental part of reality.

[A6] also quick note on what is “relative” I do not see relative as not real, but to be relative is to be either independent from some objective, and/or independent source, i.e. having no external basis or justification. As well relative can refer to cases where reality is actually depended on the subjective. Also where (strict) nihilism in a strict sense would say that something does not have value, (strict) relativism would say that no system of values would necessarily be better than another.

Though the proper definition of relative like nihilism is hugely depended on the context you using it in. Is it morals we are talking about, truth, or something else? Each has its own implications and is worthy of its own discussion, and there are sub groups within each kind of relativism, and different degrees which to which we can take the relativistic arguments should we want to go there.

Though this is a side tangent, and not terribly important to the whole of what we are talking about.

[A7] But do my anti-realist views necessarily abandon any hope of moral authority or moral “knowledge?” Well I don’t think so.

Though I do lose access any ultimate/objective authority, but as I don’t have any belief or convincing evidence that such a source exists. Though such a weakness continues to be something that does not bother me in the slightest.

You said in your post. “Morality cannot exist in any way contingently because it is prescriptive. Morality has some sort of authority if you can actually be condemned for doing something wrong.  If morality were contingent, then how could someone be condemned for something if the universe could have existed with a different morality in which that condemned person were lauded for his same action. Morality would hold the same weight as mere preference.  Preferences are based upon human caprices, which are in turn based upon prudential means for certain contingent goals.”

Okay well I think this quote wraps up nicely many of your thoughts, so after a lot of trying to figure out exactly what you mean, I think I have a good idea of what your actually saying.

First for clarity when you say Contingent do you mean “by chance?” The rest of your reply seems to support this, and I have to ask because while this is a definition for contingent I’ve rarely heard it used in this way.

If something is based on chance, does this mean is can have no authority in regard to morality? Well on the face of it that seem correct. If something is purely based on chance then no it doesn’t seem that we can judge it moral or call upon authority to punish said action. It seems to me it should not be moral or immoral to roll a 4 on a die, and rolling a 5 instead of a 3 does not seem to be a punishable action, but does this carry through to all our universe?

Well is our universe all up to chance? I couldn’t say if there are other possible universes which would have different physical forces then ours, but let’s say that there can be, and that those changes could lead to different moralities. Does that then somehow invalidate morality based in our universe? Even those based here on our little planet? Does this lead to moral relativism? Well I think it’s safe to say that you definitely think so, but I’m not so ready to jump on board.

Now on the scale on the multiverse it seems that in this case we are stuck with moral relativism. That is, no moral system or standpoint is uniquely privileged over another. Though I’d argue that we don’t need to address the multiverse, we can’t currently prove the existence of the multiverse, or that the universe could be substantially different, let alone access other such possibilities. So I think it is fair that we limit the discussion down to moralities which are conceivable in our universe.

Though that doesn’t limit things much, but even if we then limit things down to those moralities which are conceivable to us humans, and then down to those which are relevant we are still left with a plethora of moral systems of deal with. It seems as you’ve framed it I can’t deal with this problem of moral relativism.

This leads be with two possible paths to choose, accept your proposition that we need an objective source, or reject this frame work. I am force to choose the latter because here I think we have been lead down into the realm of a false dichotomy. We’ve basically been left with the options either you need some objective source of morality or your stuck with moral relativism, but you made it clear that our human preference those consequences which affect us, how we choose them cannot act as the foundation of morality. This is what I must reject.

[A8] “In [8] you may not think a telos is necessary for an ethical model, but once you follow through on this, you lose all justification for categorizing certain actions as moral actions and not just actions deemed best at achieving survival or flourishing.  You think an objective teleology is not possible therefore, you don’t worry about it.  But, you lose all grounds for calling your system a moral system and not just prudence aimed at fitness.  Yes, we’re born with innate desires, but what forces us to execute these desires apart from that we want to?  If you don’t want to follow these desires, what allows someone else to condemn you for doing so?”

This was the problem I had in understanding your argument, as well as where I’ll need you to step in to propose justification. Why is it that you think the sort of non-teleological explanations I proposed cannot be the foundation for morality (though it is good to know you probably guessed where I was going but I still think it was a good idea to flesh it out in [A2])

Now I’m not saying this kind of explanation is a moral system in and of its self, but it does give an explanation for how moral system can be arrive at from an evolutionary system. Now you seem to be claiming that any moral system arrived at from this sort of evolution can actually be a moral system, but this is what has been confusing me. Why not? Sure such a system is dependent on us humans, but any moral system applicable to us would need to be contingent on our needs, and desires, on our surrounding and or interaction with other things. Such a system is likely to be flawed, but I don’t see how this context determined nature would make is useless or revoke is moral status.

I truly don’t see how human flourishing, or flourishing of the planet, or flourishing of life and knowledge, cannot be the basis of morality.

[A9] Though you have tried to offer a solution with the Christian God acting as an objective source. In the last 8 paragraphs as you dived into theological issues, this is where the greater weaknesses of your positions can be found, as this seems to be what is underpinning the conclusions you where drawing and arguing for in the first half of the post.

In your responses to [9] and [10] you begin the arduous process of defending your claims and this is the place where I have some of the more serious objections.

First you make the following statements that “Without persons involved, I don’t know what it would even mean to say something has moral content.  All moral actions come from moral agents. ”

Well first I largely agree with this, but perhaps it would be best to discuss thing in terms of all moral determinations come from moral agents. Because moral content, say you’ve said requires persons, i.e. moral agents. An action in and of itself it seems to me is not moral in and of itself, but because something determine that action to be moral.

Next you move on to claim that. “…objective morality necessitates God’s character.” This is undeniably a leap, but pointing that out let us see if you substantiate that claim. I say this is a leap because so far in this paragraph you have indicated that because moral action necessitate a moral agent, and that because abstract concepts such as the plutonic forms do not have necessary weight to, and statement you largely glossed over, but I will grant for the time being. Then from that you say that we are left with only god’s character as a suitable option for this objective source. Though this does not for a moment follow and as of this point it appears as though you’ve done little more than shoe horn your conception of God at the end of your otherwise thoughtful argument.

Though as I said we shall see if you better draw out your path to your conclusion and fill in those necessary premises.

[A10] In your response to [10] I found you use a very problematic definition and wish to point it out to you.

You said: “…the Bible would be revelatory source of information.  This means that the information most likely could not have been arrived at through rational discourse.”

Why yes. The bible could not have been arrived at through rational discourse. Indeed it would appear to me is a set of mythical tales thought up over a couple thousand years by a desert dwelling tribe we know as the Israelites. Who where in turn inspired by many other cultures and their mythos’s two major sources being the Babylonians, and the Persian (I think) Zoroastrians. The lovely thing about us humans is we are not rational by nature, or at least not completely so. We are fully capable of irrational discourse. Hence why most of us need significant training and education to carry on discussions like the one we are having.

So when you said: “… someone could not ratiocinate the concept of the trinity without revelatory knowledge.”

I heard. One could not rationally arrive at the concept of the trinity without irrational discourse.

Now I think what you meant was to say that you could not come to the idea of the Trinity without revelation from a deity, but from how you’ve laid it out that simply is not the case. As of now you’ve left a gaping hole in your argument by choosing the definition that you did, so you might wish to take a different tact.

[A11] In your response to [13] You go on to tell me how you understand fear of god to be different, but then go on to describe what amount to fear of a tyrant, or the fear a person might have to a violent offender whom otherwise holds power over them. you move of to describe him then in a sense of fear out of awe and respect, this makes more sense, but this being who you later describe whom primary trait is love is to be feared? Even in awe this seems to be a contradiction in terms, but worse it is clear from what you’ve said and in the bible that the God your referring to threatens, comments and commands mass genocide, condones slavery. If this is love then you’re in quite the abusive relationship. This sure he is punishing the Israelites for wrong doings, but he does so through blood and horrendous curses more often than not.

[A12] Well now is as good a time as any to God’s Character as this remains of high important to your argument and is something I don’t think you can define adequately, or with certainty.

First I will respond to [6] where you asked me to give you some examples. Here is one. http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Biblical_contradictions#God.27s_Character

As well God is constantly described as loving, good, a font of morality, yet the bible particularly the old testament describes him, as jealous, violent, capricious and often making mistakes. And it cannot be over stated the bible condones slavery, at no point throughout it’s entirety does it explicitly condemn slavery, but at many point does it explain how best to do it and even claims that God itself command the taking of slaves.

This is where I think the vast majority of your problems lie. You keep claiming to have this ultimate source for authority, in the form of the Christian god, this is has a threefold problem right at its core before anything else. If you wish to justify your moral claims on the Abrahamic God then. First you must prove there is at least one deity of some sort. Second you must prove that deity is the Yahweh described in the bible. Third you need to show that Yahweh to be an objective source of morals.

You can continue to describe God however you like, and define his character as you like, but then you still must show me why that is the case. So far I have only really read how you need your god to follow these so far poorly define characteristics, so that your arguments for morality work. Which if it is the case they just might, but your working from a place where you’ve mostly assumed the three questions above to be true. I have not, and do not share your convictions.

[A13] Now allow me to address the two links you included to your other posts as they are relevant.

https://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/argument-from-meticulous-causation/

Well that’s a nifty little paradox you have going there, reminds me of Zeno’s Paradox of Tortoise and Achilles, but like Zeno’s paradox, I don’t think this is really going to be much of an argument either. While this sort of thing is not my expertise, I do have one, I think strong, rebuttal.

Certainly it is true that one cannot navigate an infinite series with finite amount of time, but we have already divided each step up infinitely, and as such each step must be infinitely short. Excellent so now that we’ve traversed infinity we don’t need to worry about mixing god into the equation muddying things up.

[A14]

And then I skimmed the excerpt of your book

https://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/an-exerpt-from-my-book/

Annnnd that’s a whole can of worms. I skimmed some of it and well, I noted ~5 problems in under 500 words, so if you’d like me to address it I’ll need to do it some other time. I would need to read the whole thing first and I don’t have the time right now.

Moving on.

[A15] Skipping ahead to the second last paragraph this is where thing really start to fall apart for me, as you basically went into a sermon. As though you expect the bible to convince me, Allow be to point you can to [A10] where in you shot yourself in the foot logically speaking. But if you’re going to use the bible as evidence and then claim things like: “According to God’s account of history, people all did believe in him at one time.”

You’re going to have to convince me the bible is God’s account of history, something you will find that the consensus of historians will not agree with, and then you’re going to have to convince me it’s accurate, which is flatly impossible without over turning huge amounts of history, archeological research and scientific research.

[A16] “Just because there is debate about something doesn’t mean there isn’t an absolutely true answer.  Any belief people hold, they hold for a reason.  The argument for this reason might have faulty deduction or false premises, but there is always some argument.”

Just because there might be an absolutely true answer out there do not mean we will ever have access to it, and certainly people generally have reasons for the thing they believe, but I don’t think they always do at least not consciously.

It was a pleasure reading the first half or your article, and you have some genuinely interesting ideas, but once you began trying to justify god you got sloppy, and you fail to really address your own biases and they some of them are obvious. You believe in the Christian God, and thing the bible is the history according to God, and these colour you argument, but they make them weaker, because you haven’t (and I don’t think you can).

You cannot talk about the Christian God is the only valid option in the list of deities which are claimed to exist, throughout this article you don’t ever even pay lip service to the problem that there are other god which are claimed to exist and many could be just a likely to fill the role of Yahweh, the one that comes to mind that you ought to look into more is the Hindi god/concept Brahman.

It was fun responding and I hope you can better explain some of these problems I found. Though if there is one thing I’d like you to address it is [A10].

Withteeth.

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What Is An Atheist?


Not that long ago, I sent out a post asking my readers a series of questions. I don’t think we’ll get many more responses to those questions in the near future, so we’ll being making posts on what we to be the most relevant areas of that post. I’ll begin with a post on Atheism.

If you remember, I asked what atheism is. While most people answered that it is a lack of belief, or disbelief, in gods, we did get some more interesting responses. Here are the most interesting responses that we received:

“Atheism: To believe some thing is living and some thing is non-living is Atheism. To negate ritual and traditions of theist is also Atheism. Atheism is contradictory, thereby it is false.”

“Atheism is just another theism — a theory. You cannot prove or disprove god; Atheists are just stupid enough to try and stop the unstoppable — you can’t stop a belief; it is form of hope. Hope to see loved ones again, a hope life is not meaningless, a hope that something lies beyond the misery of this world.”

As I’m sure many of you already realize, these definitions are wrong. But they made us realize that it is important to actually discuss what atheism is. Defining our terms will help eliminate any miscommunication, and it is also an important step that must be taken before any real education can begin. So what is an atheist? Well, an atheist is defined as “a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.” To call yourself an atheist is to make a belief claim. It is to say that you do not believe that there are any gods. It is not a knowledge claim. To say that you know that there are no gods is to be a gnostic atheist. Most atheists are agnostic atheists, ie. they do not believe that there are any gods, but they won’t say that they know there are no gods. To save time explaining, here is a useful chart:

Agnosticism-Atheism

As you can see, it is possible to be gnostic or agnostic while also being either a theist or an atheist. Basically, if you don’t believe that any gods exist, or that it is likely that any gods exist, you are an atheist. However, if you believe that gods exist, or that it is likely they exist, you are a theist. I feel it is necessary to add that not everybody who is an atheist wishes to label themselves as such, and it is that person’s choice to label themselves as they see fit. But I would like to mention that labeling yourself an atheist adds one more face to the label, which make it harder for people to discriminate and challenges the stigma associated with being an atheist. As such, if you find that you are an atheist, I would encourage you to use the word to describe yourself. It is not a bad word and it does not make you a bad person.

Now to the first quote about what atheism “is.” The commenter wrote that atheism is “To believe some thing is living and some thing is non-living.” If this were true, then everybody would be an atheist. Who doesn’t believe that they are alive and the sidewalk they walk on is not alive? They go on to say that “To negate ritual and traditions of theist is also Atheism.” Many atheists celebrate Christmas. Is this not a theist tradition? Atheism is not about traditions and rituals. It is very easy to believe that the Bible is made up while still celebrating the holidays with your family. Some atheists do negate these rituals and traditions, but that is not what atheism is. Here is a podcast that discusses this very issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IidLsnn1WL8. They conclude by saying “Atheism is contradictory, thereby it is false.” How is atheism contradictory? Nothing in their explanation of atheism contradicted anything else they said (assuming it was true). And the actual definition contains no contradictions either. It is a simple statement of disbelief. To say that atheism is false at this point is unsupportable. In fact, given the actual definition, the only way to show atheism to be false would be to prove that there are gods.

The next commenter said that “Atheism is just another theism — a theory.” Neither atheism nor theism are theories. A theory is “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” Atheism is a belief claim. There is no intent to explain anything. And atheism is the opposite of theism, thus the “a” in from. Theists, as the chart above shows, believe that there are gods, or a god. Atheists believe the opposite. To say that atheists are theists is insulting to both sides. They go on to say “Atheists are just stupid enough to try and stop the unstoppable — you can’t stop a belief.” While there are atheists out there who want to get rid of religion, that is not part of what it means to be an atheist. Most atheists are happy to live in harmony with religious people so long as no one tries to force us to abide by their religions beliefs. While it is difficult, you can actually stop beliefs, at least on an individual level, but that’s really irrelevant. They then claim that “it is form of hope. Hope to see loved ones again, a hope life is not meaningless, a hope that something lies beyond the misery of this world.” While those are pretty words, they don’t really mean anything. Atheists have hope. And this world is not miserable, at least not to most people. Again, most people are not interested in stopping anyone from believing, but the ones that are aren’t trying to take peoples hope away. I had hope when I was religious and I still have hope today. Most people who deconvert feel the same, so the idea that taking away a persons belief will take away their hope is kind of silly.

I’m sure this is all basic information for most of you, but I hope this post will help some of you understand what we mean when we say we’re atheists, and I hope it will help bring about mutual understanding in the future.


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