Please, I would like to hear more and join the Cult of the Void


Aaron Rabinowitz summarizes his cult:

Someone asked what are the views of our cult. Thoughts on this:

  1. The truth is complex and painful but intrinsically valuable, so help others learn it and help others suffer through it.
  2. Luck drives everything, so have as much empathy as you can for those who suffer and do wrong.
  3. Morality and value are still real, because experience is real and instills in us a variety of obligations that, when enacted, promote flourishing.

This is what atheism could have been. I think many atheists accepted #1 — loudly proclaiming that we have the truth has been a big deal all along — but balked at #2. So many atheists are proud adherents of the cult of capitalism, which insists that all personal progress is a result of merit, and were willing to accept the science of evolution only because of the concept of natural selection, which they considered to be the natural representation of capitalism. They don’t like to hear that modern evolutionary theory puts much more emphasis on chance, or even that selection is a stochastic process rather than an inevitability.

They choke before they even get to #3, because they are so busy cheering for Ben Shapiro’s facts don’t care about your feelings that they don’t notice that feelings are also part of reality. I’ve noticed that a lot of atheists run away angrily at the very notion of moral obligations, because, as they tell me all the time, “atheism means nothing more than a disbelief in gods”. The virtue of Rabinowitz’s formulation is that it moves beyond a statement of fact to a recognition of the implications of that fact.

I think they may have misinterpreted #1, come to think of it, as “The truth is complex and painful but intrinsically valuable, so be sure to feel superior about your possession of it”.

Comments

  1. davex says

    Alas, the link is a Facebook Cult, so it is unreadable by outies, unsearchable by the Google, and unknowable for Facebook Apostates like me.

  2. says

    I copied the entirety of his summary here, so now it is readable by the world at large. It’s also the kind of cult where you can tell the leader to fuck off and just follow the precepts as an individual.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    So many atheists are proud adherents of the cult of capitalism…

    I often wonder if that’s some kind of over-correction after decades of Red Scare propaganda that conflated atheism with Soviet communism. In my own anecdotal experience I’ve had more than a couple atheists tell me that non-belief won’t get much acceptance in America until it sheds it’s “Godless Communist” image. I’ve also been told that I’ve “traded ‘Big-God’ for ‘Big Government.”

  4. starfleetdude says

    Shorter atheist cult:

    Atheism!
    ???
    Morality!

    Please show your work for #2, guys.

  5. aziraphale says

    Everyone has a duty to think about morality. Atheists have to do the hard work and can’t outsource it to a god.

  6. woozy says

    “There is no god” is a truth but an effing simple, unimportant, and not at all a complex one, so no, I do not think this atheist movement even got #1.

    I’ve noticed that a lot of atheists run away angrily at the very notion of moral obligations, because, as they tell me all the time, “atheism means nothing more than a disbelief in gods”.

    I half agree with them but I think a disbelief in gods is utterly unimportant. I suppose if I had grown up in a religious household and believed morality was doing what god wants it’d be different but even so I think even if I believed I believed morality is doing god’s will, I don’t think any change in my belief in god would change my belief in what is moral– I’d merely find, if I stopped to think about it, that I was wrong about why I thought I was moral. Actually in my lifetime my beliefs in the nature or reality of morality or existence in any universal manifestation of justice have changed many times in my life but what being moral or whether being moral was good has never changed because it doesn’t matter why we think it is, or even what we think we think it is, it’s still right and moral.

  7. thirdmill301 says

    I think it’s a mistake to say that luck and blind chance have nothing to do with it, but I also think it’s a mistake to say that hard work and merit have nothing to do with it either. Sure, someone who is born a wealthy white one-percenter is far more likely to do well in life than someone who is born to a single mother crack addict, and that’s luck and blind chance at work. But then again, someone whose youth is spent acquiring useful and in-demand job skills is also far more likely to do better in life than someone whose youth was spent partying. So I support combining the two principles, something like this:

    Because a significant chunk of the wealthy’s assets were acquired through wealth and blind chance, they have an obligation to provide a social safety net so everyone has access to life’s basic needs, like food, shelter, clothing and healthcare. At the same time, the person whose youth was spent partying is not entitled to the same standard of living as the person whose youth was spent acquiring useful job skills. So maybe that person lives on ramen noodles and boxed macaroni and cheese whereas the other one lives on steak and lobster. Neither of them is starving, but there’s a definite incentive to expend one’s best efforts.

    Now, both the left and the right are going to hate that idea. The right will hate it because it asks the rich to contribute their fair share, and the left will hate it because it includes a personal responsibility component. That both sides will hate it strongly suggests to me it’s probably right. We have a saying in the legal business that when both sides leave the courtroom unhappy with the results, chances are good the judge got it right.

  8. thirdmill301 says

    Sorry, the first sentence of the second paragraph should read “were acquired through luck and blind chance.

  9. Akira MacKenzie says

    You don’t get to decide what your gender, race, class, religion, or nationality is. You don’t get to decide what events will govern your life. So yes, luck drives everything, so spare us the libertarian bootstrap-lifting bullshit about “individual freedom.” You control NOTHING.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    I also think it’s a mistake to say that hard work and merit have nothing to do with it either.

    Tell that to everyone who’s busted their ass day-in-day-out trying to socially climb only to end up dying just as poor as they were when they are born.

  11. thirdmill301 says

    Akira, the idea that someone could read what I just wrote and accuse me of libertarianism is just bizarre.

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    thirdmill301:

    It’s what I would have said when I was a libertarian.

  13. thirdmill301 says

    Except that libertarianism doesn’t call for the rich to provide a social safety net for the poor, which I did.

    The right doesn’t want to acknowledge any responsibility to the less fortunate. The left doesn’t want to acknowledge that personal responsibility has any role to play. I think they’;re both wrong, and you can’t just focus on one part of what I said while ignoring the rest.

  14. consciousness razor says

    A cult of the void, you say? But what about the atoms? Epicureanism had those too. All the best parts of the story were about them.

  15. willj says

    Sean Carroll’s blog: “In truth only atoms and the void.” Yes, truth. Tricky subject, that one.

  16. Jemolk says

    Pretty good guides for life, TBH. I agree with woozy, though, that “there is no god” is a pretty simple truth. What you do with it counts for a lot. Simply realizing it is so counts for very little.

    @thirdmill301 — the problem with personal responsibility portrayed in this way is that the mere possession of such responsibility is down to luck, particularly in a society as stratified as ours in even basic education. You can say that merit matters, which is true, but this misses the larger point that having that merit is not merited — at some point along the causal chain, you just got lucky. Now, me, I see this as entailing a moral imperative to ensure as many people as possible are lucky in such a way, and I believe that we can manage such a thing, but the whole of the origin of our success is still luck even when there’s merit involved. I never earned a right to a highly logically rigorous brain setup through hard work and merit. It just dropped on me and enabled me to do some of that work.

  17. thirdmill301 says

    Jemolk, I agree with you up to a point, but only up to a point. Did Hitler have any moral culpability for being Hitler, or was he just unlucky? And if we are all just automatons, with no volitional control over our choices and world views, then what is the basis for claiming any kind of moral imperative for anything? Aren’t white supremacists and serial rapists just doing what their unlucky selves were programmed to do by circumstances beyond their control?

    Now, just between the two of us, I’m not entirely persuaded that free will exists, so we may be closer on this issue than you think. But I do think that even in the absence of free will, people’s hard wired behavior can be reprogrammed in part by exposure to positive and negative reinforcement. If I see that Behavior X produces Outcome Y, and I really want (or don’t want) Outcome Y, at least some of the time that may enable me to overcome whatever good or bad luck I may have. If someone sees that spending one’s youth acquiring useful job skills rather than partying will most likely result in a happier life, won’t that encourage at least some people do become better and more productive people than they would have been otherwise? Even Pavlov’s dogs responded to reinforcement.

  18. Jemolk says

    thirdmill301, I am more a compatibilist than either a determinist or libertarian with regard to free will, so when you ask “Did Hitler have any moral culpability for being Hitler, or was he just unlucky,” my answer is “yes.” My objection is to the claim that success can partially depend on merit as opposed to luck. My argument is more that these two things are not opposed, and that by positioning them as such you play into the hands of someone who wants an excuse to think they made it because of themselves. After all, even when we know that most people just get lucky, each of us likes to think of ourselves as the exception, whether or not it’s true. Rather, I want to suggest that merit itself is largely a function of luck, but that we can through reinforcement like you describe create the “lucky” outcome for more people. Essentially, we cannot choose to be meritorious for ourselves, but we can by mutual agreement choose it for each other, to a limited degree.

  19. AstrySol says

    @8 thirdmill301

    I think it’s a mistake to say that luck and blind chance have nothing to do with it, but I also think it’s a mistake to say that hard work and merit have nothing to do with it either.

    Please read #2 in the OP again, and notice that it didn’t use wording like “determines”, “decides”.

    2. Luck drives everything, so have as much empathy as you can for those who suffer and do wrong.

    Nobody is saying there can only be one driver. Your hardworking definitely helps if you are lucky enough to make use of it.

  20. consciousness razor says

    thirdmill:

    And if we are all just automatons, with no volitional control over our choices and world views, then what is the basis for claiming any kind of moral imperative for anything?

    Suppose I tell you that X is harmful to me, and others have told you that you should try to avoid harming people, etc., and there are all sorts of events like this, throughout your entire life, which determine your behavior.
    Then what sort of thing are you asking for, with a “basis for claiming a moral imperative”? I can point at things that determine morally good behavior, as well as things that determine immoral behavior. You have responsibilities or obligations, there are these imperatives if you like that term, because of the facts that others like yourself experience pain, suffering, happiness, fulfillment, and so forth. Those are some of the facts which are on the table, and they’re relevant when talking about what motivates you or what emotional states you may be in. (Notice how “-motiv” and “-motion” are suggesting how you move, what you do, what comes next, etc.) What’s supposed to be left?
    As far as I’m concerned, we can include every physical fact there is, or every proposition which is supported by them. Maybe something is missing, but it’s not obvious what exactly you think that is. Don’t we already have enough support or enough of a basis?

    Aren’t white supremacists and serial rapists just doing what their unlucky selves were programmed to do by circumstances beyond their control?

    Sure. But it’s not beyond our “control,” since you and I are among the things that cause such people to behave as they do. We do influence others, teach them, help them, rehabilitate them, etc., all of the time.
    I think terms like “luck” or “chance” can be misleading, but in any case, the circumstances in which a person is socialized don’t only depend on that one person. That’s a good thing! Try to imagine how awful it would be if that were not the case. Turn it around: there are things which can affect how people behave, and in fact people never behave without other things determining said behavior.
    That’s the only way to allow for people changing, learning, improving, and being responsible toward others in their environment. (We’re not born the morally right way: we have to do work on people, before they start behaving more morally, if/when they’re able to benefit from that work.) One of the things in your environment is me, for example, and you can act responsibly toward me because your behaviors are determined by that environment (how it has shaped you, taught you, etc.), not in spite of the fact that those behaviors are determined by it.

  21. fckideologs says

    The truth is complex and painful but intrinsically valuable, so help others learn it and help others suffer through it.

    Oh, how melodramatic!

    This is what atheism could have been.

    It is barking mad to think that atheism could have been anything, because, as much as you want to deny it, it is not some monolithic movement or set of beliefs. At this point, it should be pretty obvious that “atheism means nothing more than a disbelief in gods”, because otherwise there would not have such a diversity of moral beliefs. Now, each atheist is more than just a non-believer in gods. But whatever other bells and whistles are there, are not a direct consequence of atheism alone. Case in point:

    Actually in my lifetime my beliefs in the nature or reality of morality or existence in any universal manifestation of justice have changed many times in my life but what being moral or whether being moral was good has never changed because it doesn’t matter why we think it is, or even what we think we think it is, it’s still right and moral.

    Here we see a clear case of all sorts of metaphysical views change without having any effect on what that person considers to be moral, if I parsed this sentence correctly.

  22. thirdmill says

    Jemolk, I think my solution is the compatibalist solution since it goes after both prongs of the problem. It requires the rich to be good citizens by giving back to the community a significant chunk of their luck-gotten gains, while at the same time encouraging individuals to do what they can for themselves. And I do understand that “what they can” may vary from person to person.

    Consciousness Razor, I agree with much of what you say. I think there’s a more basic problem with the whole concept of moral imperatives, which is that there’s no objective yardstick that I’m aware of for determining what is, or is not, moral behavior. In large part, morality comes down to personal opinion. You think it’s immoral for children to die so the Koch brothers can be billionaires; they disagree.

    So what I would propose instead is a pragmatic/utilitarian approach: Humans evolved to live in community and do not do well unless they are living in community. Living in community works better if certain behaviors are encouraged and others are discouraged. The individual members of the community do better if the community does well, and that requires that people put aside what’s best for them personally in favor of what’s best for the community, at least some of the time. Further, the problems of people whose needs aren’t being met tend to spill over into the rest of the community.

    Then, when Messors. Koch show up to ask, “Who says it’s immoral that I have a billion dollars while children are dying for lack of health care?”, instead of going down the rabbit trail of what is, and is not, moral behavior, one simply points out in response that their argument is with evolution.

  23. Akira MacKenzie says

    Free Will? Compatiblist? BAH! Whim worshiping for cowards.

    “Free Will” is just as mythological as a god, absolute morality, and the afterlife.

    You are meat robots. Nothing more or less. You have no choice. Deal with it!

  24. consciousness razor says

    I think there’s a more basic problem with the whole concept of moral imperatives, which is that there’s no objective yardstick that I’m aware of for determining what is, or is not, moral behavior.

    It’s not clear what you mean by an “objective” yardstick. This could be true but irrelevant. It could be total nonsense and irrelevant. It could be something else I guess.
    But it’s definitely an assertion that you’re making. One way you could solve the apparent problem is by not making this assertion. Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?

    In large part, morality comes down to personal opinion. You think it’s immoral for children to die so the Koch brothers can be billionaires; they disagree.

    No, they’re wrong. They don’t merely disagree.
    We think the world is round; Flat Earthers disagree. You can’t (and I bet wouldn’t) seriously maintain that this is merely a difference of opinion, with flimsy evidence like the existence of Flat Earthers who disagree. That simply doesn’t follow from the existence of people who disagree. That’s not how it works.
    You should just take arguments for what they are and see where they lead. Right? In any other situation, you shouldn’t accept crap reasoning which fall apart more or less instantly, and you shouldn’t think of moral reasoning any differently.
    I’m certainly willing to claim that evolution (or distant events in the past more generally) plays a role in how we’re going to explain certain aspects of morality for human beings … what we should say about others, I don’t know. I was more focused on proximate causes, ones that an individual can understand and identify with, if they’re concerned about determinism. But I don’t think there’s a general problem with incorporating the bigger picture into it. That’s fine with me, to the extent that we know what we’re doing with that kind of information.

  25. Jemolk says

    @25 To what degree? And to what degree can we “deal with it” even if it’s true? One known objection to determinist philosophy is that no one can go through life not choosing — that even the hardest of hard determinists cannot avoid buying into the illusion of free will. It’s even been suggested that the illusion of free will may be synonymous with free will — certainly under a functionalist definition like I myself favor, it is. And of course the other question — determined by what? If we are determined by reasons that factor in cognitively, as I generally maintain, this is entirely compatible with freely made choices. I solve the debate between determinism and free will by objecting to the question, a move always valid in philosophy. See, something being determined is not as opposed to it being free, but as opposed to it being arbitrary — and arbitrariness is similarly unfree, but what constitutes the chains with it is randomness. Being free is likewise not as opposed to being determined, but as opposed to being coerced, which is not at all the same thing as being determined, because one’s choices can be determined by one’s own internal constitution and reasoning.

  26. thirdmill says

    Consciousness Razor, there is an objective way to determine the shape of the earth. I’m not aware of any objective basis for making moral claims. Since you seem to think there is, please enlighten me: What is the objective basis for determining what is moral behavior? If the Koch brothers show up for a conversation about morality, what’s your objective basis for telling them that they’re wrong?

  27. hemidactylus says

    After a Partially Examined Life podcast about Guy Debord, I was struck by a strong structuralist argument that the system builds itself and achieves a Durkheimian sui generis state where agents are overwhelmed and become passive tumbleweeds. How then could we blame the Koch brothers for how they turned out anymore than someone who gets popped on a drug trafficking charge? The system as it stands built them all.

    I would go with Dennett in that there is a Sorites threshold somewhere most people achieve via upbringing and education of reaching competence and flexible reflective response to the world. We can recognize the Svengali hold of manipulation and break the chains of Debord’s “spectacle” though there remains a tumbleweed aspect and luck of the draw in how we turn out. Not quite fleshed out.

  28. anat says

    thirdmill, regarding the concept of holding people responsible in face of the possibility of at least some form of determinism going on: To the extent that the methods we use to hold people responsible influences people’s future behavior – both the specific person whose behavior is in question and others then such ‘holding people responsible’ is a meaningful and good thing to do. If all it does is make the person being held responsible suffer and other people feel self-righteous but without a positive effect on people’s future behavior then it is pointless.

  29. anat says

    IOW: even in a deterministic universe we are part of the environment that determines our and others’ future decisions. ‘Holding people responsible’ is part of what the environment can do.

  30. consciousness razor says

    I’m not aware of any objective basis for making moral claims.

    You still haven’t defined “objective,” so I don’t what you’re asking for. I’m not playing stupid here. If I simply mention something which doesn’t fit with your mystery concept, we could be stuck going in circles.
    I’ll try to move things forward. I think “mind-independence” is a fairly useful phrase to describe what you’re looking for. This isn’t about total independence from all minds (plural), or having nothing at all to do with any minds. All empirical evidence-gathering has a dependence like that, so that can’t be where the dispute is (if we’re not buying into solipsism). Rather, it’s about a single mind: X can be objective if X doesn’t depend only and specifically on the contents of one person’s mind (at any given time, since minds change).
    Now, with that kind of confusion sorted out (hopefully), let’s think about what we have to work with. There are facts about how people experience certain things — as I said before, each of us feels pain, pleasure, happiness, sadness, fear, anger, etc. We each have those experiences (subjectively), but there are nonetheless facts about us being in such situations which don’t fail your objectivity test (this has all been assuming we need to pass your test, which is also questionable).
    For example, it’s true that “a woman in Idaho is experiencing pain after being stabbed,” if that describes some real event. That’s not a subjective statement. We can know things like that, just as we know the shape of the Earth or what have you.
    So, I’m sure you’re aware of things like this. Why is this not a basis for making moral claims? Does anything convince you that it isn’t? Are you perhaps using these terms in a different way? Or what? I’d be a little surprised if what I said above changes your mind about much, but it could be a useful first step in the process.

  31. thirdmill301 says

    Consciousness Razor, morality is different from math and science, because math and science deal with observable physical phenomena. There is only one correct answer to the question of what is the temperature at which water boils, or what is the result of ingesting cyanide. Anyone who questions the validity of those answers is welcome to do the necessary experiments to confirm the results. We do not have competing periodic tables in which carbon has an atomic number of 7 on this table, 15 on another, and pi on still another. And if I ask, What is the objective basis for claiming that hydrogen is atomic number 1, the question has an easy answer that is not in dispute.

    Morals and ethics, on the other hand, are tied to one’s world view, and we definitely have competing world views. You may think (and I agree with you) that white supremacy is immoral, but that belief is based on presuppositions that a lot of people don’t share. Whatever you think about morality is founded almost entirely on your presuppositions, from which you then arrive (usually by circular reasoning) at a system of morality. You believe that it is immoral for someone to have a billion dollars while others go hungry, but that belief is based on a bunch of presuppositions that the Koch Brothers simply don’t share. They subscribe to the Ayn Randian view of morality that whatever is in your self interest is moral for you to do so long as you aren’t actively practicing force or fraud. Her view is likewise the product of a bunch of presuppositions that you and I don’t share.

    So when I say i’d like an objective basis for morality, what I’m really saying is I’d like you to show that your presuppositions are right and hers are wrong. And merely because you think that yours produce a kinder and gentler world are irrelevant, because — guess what — that argument is based on the presupposition, which a lot of people don’t share, that kinder and gentler is more important than individual liberty.

    So, give me some objective basis for the claim that your presuppositions are valid and hers aren’t.

  32. anat says

    thirdmill301, there is no objective basis for morals because morals are relative to values. If we study all the factors involved we can perhaps predict the outcomes of certain behaviors, but which outcome we should be working for is a matter of what we value. (We can in principle make a fact-based prediction that policy X will result in eliminating poverty or making all people live longer, we can’t make people want to eliminate poverty or want everyone to live longer. That part is up to them.) We have no choice but to make peace with the fact that different people will want different things. We can make emotional pleas that our preferred goals are better but that is it. Fortunately people are emotional thinkers anyway.

  33. consciousness razor says

    thirdmill:
    You’re just making up more objections now. It’s turning into a real gish gallop. First it was free will, then it was objectivity, now it’s … I don’t know what … back to “there are people who disagree” I guess? That one was rejected already.

    Fill in the blank. The type of objective fact I described (or something along those lines) is not a basis for making moral claims because ________.

    morality is different from math and science, because math and science deal with observable physical phenomena.

    False. First, an equation like “2+2=4” is not about an observable physical phenomenon. It isn’t physics and isn’t about observing objects moving around in spacetime. By your own reasoning, this should be considered some kind of devastating problem. But that’s not a good reason to reject the validity, importance, usefulness, etc., of mathematics. And I’m sure you know that.
    Second, morality is about how moral agents (such as human beings) act toward each other. It does pertain to physical phenomena we can observe, because we are physical entities. If you disagree with this, your understanding of morality differs radically from the way every non-theologian has thought about the subject throughout all of human history.
    Hopefully, it’s clear why I had to make an exception for theologians. But I think that is the level of bullshit that you’re peddling here.

  34. hemidactylus says

    Morality is a matter of societal norms, value judgements, and gut feels. At best one may find intersubjective consensus on morality, but it isn’t objective in the way principles of science are. We know hurling a rock from a ten story window that it will fall a certain way due to gravity and prevailing winds. The rock has no interest in the matter. The local authorities might if arbitrary throwing rocks out windows may have negative consequences, such as pedestrian injury or property damage. Arbitrary throwing of people out ten story windows differs from rocks in that those people have interests of self-preservation and murder is universally frowned upon. But that comes down to concepts of human rights and well being that social groups agree upon, not anything similar to acceleration due to gravity. And in some contexts heaving someone out a window into a waiting net held by firefighters might be deemed obligatory (under Kantian constraint of physical ability “ought implies can”).

    Laws of classical physics are important in how vehicles and drivers interact in traffic. Traffic laws are a different sort of thing, though set based perhaps on various conflicting interests of safety, transportation industry, and fuel efficiency which have factual bases. Yet each of these bases stem from inherent preloaded value judgments (preference for not eating windshields, moving more freight than competitive alternatives such as trains, less carbon output per mile traveled based on environmental values).

    Morality breaks down to potentially conflicting notions of rights, duties, collective wellbeing, and virtues. Where do any of these derive their bases outside of mutually agreed intersubjective bases? Once a society comes to a consensus on what is most important objective facts can be used as an input as to how such standards are being met in an evaluative process. But the evaluative judgements stand apart from relevant objective input.

    Going back to throwing rocks out windows, if someone were to heave a highly treasured sculpture of great historic importance out a ten story window with great potential of damage, what makes that act different from heaving a similarly sized rock found next to a local stream? Has that distinction an objective basis beyond how gravity will influence the outcome? I grant part of why we think throwing fine sculpture out windows is based on relevant physics that ensures damage, but why is that damage upsetting to us? We could determine the neural and social reasons people are negatively affected by such events, but explanation of aesthetic or moral response is not justification in itself of said response.

  35. thirdmill says

    Consciousness Razor, it is noted that you didn’t even try to show why your values are superior to someone else’s values. And it’s not merely that people disagree; it’s that you haven’t articulated a rationale for why one set of opinions about what is moral behavior is superior to another set. And that’s what I meant by there not being an objective yardstick — unless and until you can show, by more than just your personal opinion, that your values are superior to a different set of values, it’s your opinion and nothing more.If you can’t do that, I’ll accept your concession that you don’t have an objective basis to offer and you’ve proven my point that it’s a matter of opinion. You’re entitled to your opinion that alleviating the suffering of that woman in Boise is a moral thing to do.

    And as to 2+2=4 not being about an observable phenomenon, as with pretty much everyone else I talk in shorthand because it’s too cumbersome to spell everything out, and people who aren’t pedantic assholes understand my point, even if they may not agree with it. If I say that it takes an hour to drive from point a to point b, I mean it takes an hour if I don’t run out of gas, have a flat tire, have engine trouble, get into an accident or get held up by road construction. But if i said all that, conversation would be impossible because it would be too cumbersome, so I trust people who aren’t pedantic assholes to understand my meaning to be that it’s an hour’s drive under normal conditions when it’s an uneventful trip.

    If you think through my comments as they relate to the central point of this discussion, I’m sure you’ll find that for purposes of this discussion, math is more like science than it is like morals, even if it isn’t a precise overlap.

  36. consciousness razor says

    it is noted that you didn’t even try to show why your values are superior to someone else’s values.

    I didn’t. We were talking about whether there is or can be a basis for making moral claims.
    Not why my own views are superior. They may not be. If you think that’s what I need to show right now, think again.
    Besides, there are countless specific moral claims to have views about. Did you honestly expect me to run through millions of different arguments, covering each and every one of them? Isn’t that the kind of thing we would be doing later on, after this basic shit has been sorted out one way or another?
    You are (or were) pushing on how or where this whole thing gets off the ground, which is fine. Push on it for all I care. But then you want me to give you some kind of end result (after all of the foundational questions have been settled somehow), and for it to be about the normative claims I personally make, as if that’s asking for the same thing. It isn’t.
    It’s a bit circular, because you’re presupposing it does depend on me, personally, what one single individual believes or how I will opine about X. But the question was whether or not that’s the only appropriate way to think about morality. You can’t just assume that it is, and I don’t need to argue as if your claims are correct and do it in a way which validates them.

    And as to 2+2=4 not being about an observable phenomenon, as with pretty much everyone else I talk in shorthand because it’s too cumbersome to spell everything out, and people who aren’t pedantic assholes understand my point,

    Your “shorthand” was an entirely confused way to make some other kind of point which still escapes me, although it may not even be relevant. You’re just throwing shit at the wall and hoping something will eventually stick. That’s how it looks to me. When I try to point out how it’s false, nonsensical, doesn’t support your own arguments, etc., I’m the asshole? Okay.

  37. thirdmill says

    Whether there is a basis for moral claims requires having some objective standard for resolving disputes between competing moral presuppositions, just as having a basis for making scientific claims requires having some objective standard for resolving disputes between young earth creationists and scientists. There is such a basis for resolving disputes between YECs and scientists; so far, you haven’t articulated such a basis for resolving competing moral claims. As between you, who thinks we should look after the poor, and the social darwinist who thinks allowing the weak to die off is a good thing because it enhances the gene pool, what is the objective basis for making a claim that he’s wrong and you’re right?

    I don’t think there is such a basis, and I think you know it, so instead you retreat into nonsense about “Oh, I have no idea what ‘objective’ means and you haven’t defined it.” Yes you do, and claiming otherwise is what makes you an asshole. I’m a trial lawyer, which means I make a living by detecting bullshit, and I can smell yours a mile away. But then, if you don’t know what objective means, then maybe you don’t know what a mile away means either. Or that it’s a figure of speech rather than meaning a literal mile.

  38. hemidactylus says

    I punt to Gould on the fact vs value relation. They exist in different domains. I don’t like how he handed the value domain to religion on a silver platter, but won’t throw his baby out with that bathwater.

    Values are based on ideals as opposed to reals and have input from gut feels. We look at the world as it is and contrast that with our conception of the way it ought to be. We persuade each other based on overlapping value systems and set goals against the status quo based on ideals. Ideals, being what they are, are largely unattainable and we fall short, constrained by factual reality and Kant’s ought implies can principle.

    There are inherent problems with values as ideals. Moore would have us put our conception of Good on a pedestal and not sully it by defining it, similar to the edicts of iconoclasts who tell us not to fashion golden calfs because god (or Moore) said so. These edicts serve to protect us from simplistic appeals to nature or “social Darwinism”. Understandable concerns.

    We also stand up against the barrier of Sam Harris’ firewall. But firewalls have holes and protective rules of traversal. The biggest objection centers on not simply deducing an ought from an is. Does that block us from cumulative inductions or adjusting our “priors” in a Bayesian manner?

    Don’t engage in simplistic linguistic analysis or deduction. Got it. Facts and values are held distinct.

    As for free will, Julien Musolino prefers flexible will stated during a Thinking Atheist podcast and gives due consideration to Dennett’s compatibilism in his book The Soul Fallacy. Sounds reasonable to me. As with his treatment of morality, I am beginning to think Sam Harris’ treatment of free will to be too dogmatic, simplistic, and naive. So what if simple behaviors can be indicated by readiness potentials or predicted in artificial laboratory conditions? I still grant Daniel Wegner’s more powerful arguments based on introspective attribution of authorship and responsibility. But Dennett deconstructs “the author” (Barthes shout out) in a manner of making small or large that is akin to Mel Gibson running the trenches for ANZAC in Gallipoli. Hard to decipher, but powerful IMO.

    Pat Churchland does a far better job than Harris relating morality to biology in Braintrust. And the disagreements Dennett had with Harris’ on free will are a matter of recording on the latter’s own podcast.

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