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Posted: 08 May 2005 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Pete, beware the righteous, for they shall poke your children in the eyes with sharp sticks.
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Posted: 10 May 2005 02:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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Ray,

You hit the nail right on the head. Like you I became an atheist at a young age and fully expected that many other kids would reject the religion they were brought up in by the time they were grown ups. It seemed obvious to me.

My first major disappointment came over thirty years ago when I was in college and saw some students gravitate towards religion with more fervor than their parents ever had. This was completely unexpected and baffling to me.

For a time in the late 1990s when Bill Clinton was president and the U.S. seemed to be on an upswing, I began to feel hopeful again that secularism would gain ground during my lifetime.

When the terrorist attacks on 9/11 killed three thousand people, I wondered how Americans would react. I was naturally disappointed when I saw how the attacks had galvanized the religious right. But I was utterly appalled when I realized many liberals had aligned themselves with devout Muslims despite Islam’s hostility towards women and liberalism. Of course, it was politically incorrect and career suicide to point this out.

When Sam’s book came out, I clung to it like a lifeline and hoped it would get people talking. Here at last someone was saying what I was thinking but too scared to say. Of course, given the enormous scope of the problem, one book can only do so much. But it is a start, and I was delighted to hear “The End of Faith” has just won the PEN Award. I hope this gives Sam another opportunity to spread the word.

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Posted: 11 May 2005 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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Ray said

They block the realization that what humans need to pursue is the greatest good for the greatest number as the long range goal

  What is this?  Is this not a belief?  Can you logically support that ‘need’: humans should work for the greatest good for the greatest number.  It doesn’t take too long to come up with an example that the greatest ‘good’ for the greatest number in fact might just be morally abhorrent and objectionable.

Ray said

We here on this forum are dismayed by the myopic biblically supported beliefs of Champion and the Guest that does not want to bother listening to rebuttal without realizing that there is a much bigger problem that we are all a part. This problem is belief itself

  The problem is belief itself?  Belief produced Ray’s united human quest, the greatest good for the greatest number.

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Posted: 12 May 2005 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Ordinary,

Ray said
Quote
They block the realization that what humans need to pursue is the greatest good for the greatest number as the long-range goal What is this? Is this not a belief? Can you logically support that ‘need’ humans should work for the greatest good for the greatest number. It doesn’t take too long to come up with an example that the greatest ‘good’ for the greatest number in fact might just be morally abhorrent and objectionable.

 


________________________________________________________

No I don’t think it is a belief.  I think that humans should be able to realize that this is a practical goal that could be used to address problems of human survival and deal with the social and political aspects of human behavior.  What “need”(?) do you mean?  The need for humans to think logically and rationally about their problems and abandon unsupported beliefs?  Maybe you mean the need for humans to realize that beliefs get in the way of practicle social and economic goals?  In either case I think I could generate more than enough logical support.

I think that a reasonable long-range goal for any social political structure of human interaction could and should be the greatest good for the greatest number.  Of course there would have to be some sort of agreement of what the “good” is but I think that this could be reasonably accomplished.  As a start I would argue for physical well-being and pursuit of individually defined happiness that does not materially harm or deny that pursuit to others.  A sort of golden rule. 
I can think of nothing morally abhorrent and objectionable in this goal.  I don’t even see how this goal would change what is commonly seen as morality.  Perhaps you could give an example or two of how the greatest good for the greatest number would be morally abhorrent and objectionable.


________________________________________________________


Ray said
Quote
We here on this forum are dismayed by the myopic biblically supported beliefs of Champion and the Guest that does not want to bother listening to rebuttal without realizing that there is a much bigger problem that we are all a part. This problem is belief itself The problem is belief itself? Belief produced Ray’s united human quest, the greatest good for the greatest number.

 


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No, belief did not produce “Ray’s united human quest”.  Read above.  The greatest good for the greatest number is just a logical pragmatic suggested goal for the sharing of resources equitably and reasonably in a human population.  A goal is not a belief.  While I recognize that this or any goal is probably not perfectly attainable I say that for human social political systems of government it seems reasonable to pursue.  If you don’t agree I’d like to know why.
_____________________________________________________________

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Posted: 12 May 2005 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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Ray,

Your language betrays you.  You use ‘should’ and ‘could’ throughout your post, but you don’t say ‘ought’.  If you can not say ‘humans ought to pursue X’ and then root that assertion with certainty, it is a belief.  Why should we follow your suggested goal?  If you would try to answer that question, you will see how much you base on belief.  If you can not base it on something universal and undeniable, it is a belief.

You did not qualify your goal in your first post like you did in your second.  Here are some examples.  You produce the greatest good for the greatest number by stealing from the minority and giving to the majority.  You produce the greatest good for the greatest number by oppressing the minority for the benefit of the majority.  Now you qualified your statement a little in your second post which would deal with these morally abhorrent and objectionable examples.  But your intuitions were correct when you said something to the effect of “we would have to come to some mutual decision on what we mean by ‘good’”.  You are right on that.  But how would we determine that?  By a mutual agreement on what we ‘believe’!  It’s my conviction that you can not get away from operating in the realm of belief.  Most of life can not be logically proven.

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Posted: 13 May 2005 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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Ordinary,

_____________________________________________________________
Ray,

Your language betrays you. You use ‘should’ and ‘could’ throughout your post, but you don’t say ‘ought’. If you can not say ‘humans ought to pursue X’ and then root that assertion with certainty, it is a belief.
_____________________________________________________________


My language would only betray me if I was trying to make some assertion of absolute belief or knowledge.  I am not attempting to put forth a philosophy or to frame an ethical paradigm.  After much experience in the areas of philosophy and ethics I have abandoned the approach because I have found that the very interesting ideas and creations invented by philosophers eventually deteriorate into semantic arguments over which words to use and when (like the quote outlined above).  The use of should or could are my attempt to pitch my ideas while recognizing that the evidence from history and science clearly indicates that absolute certainty in what “ought” to be human behavior is impossible.  I always try to keep my ideas tied to the universe all humans have access to.  I think it is a huge mistake to extrapolate from the known to the unknowable.  That is why I am an atheist.  A thoughtful examination of the history of science (the only human invention that has been able to get reasonable, workable verification of the truths it generates) will show that logical extrapolations that can not be tested are fruitless to “progress” (something else to be defined).  Scientific thinking frames its hypothesis’ conditional to the discovery of future investigation and evidence.  A scientific approach to human social and economic interaction would be to say something like, “If humans are social creatures that need to cooperate to live together while getting what each individual determines to be the resources of survival for itself and its offspring then (given all the other things science has discovered about the universe) they “should or could” do this (try for the greatest good for the greatest number).  This is clearly a scientific approach because it looks to experience and evidence to confirm, refute or modify it.  To say humans “ought to do this” (as philosophers or those holding beliefs, religious or otherwise, often do) presumes a knowledge that no one can possibly have or extrapolates from the known to the unknowable.


_____________________________________________________________
Why should we follow your suggested goal? If you would try to answer that question, you will see how much you base on belief. If you can not base it on something universal and undeniable, it is a belief.
_____________________________________________________________


Yes indeed why should you?  The answer is you shouldn’t unless my assertions and solutions have the support of evidence open and available to all.  Each proposed goal, hypothesis, or solution must stand this test from skeptics, critics and supporters if it is to have any staying power. 
the only things I know that is said to be universal and undeniable are beliefs.  In science and in the real universe I know of nothing that is universal or undeniable.  The best that can be done is collect ans asses the evidence avaliable and draw conditional conclusions.

_____________________________________________________________
You did not qualify your goal in your first post like you did in your second. Here are some examples.
_____________________________________________________________

I did not qualify my proposed goal in the first post because I did not anticipate a challenge to what I viewed as a sort of generally agreed goal (at least in the U.S.—thinking of the declaration of independence’s preamble) for a government by the people for the people.  To me this 200+ year experiment has yielded some pretty good evidence that this sort goal has some merit.


___________________________________________________________
You produce the greatest good for the greatest number by stealing from the minority and giving to the majority. You produce the greatest good for the greatest number by oppressing the minority for the benefit of the majority. Now you qualified your statement a little in your second post which would deal with these morally abhorrent and objectionable examples.
_____________________________________________________________

Yes I do when I say that the pursuit of resources and happiness must be done without interfering or materially harming that pursuit for others.  (Usually known as the golden rule)


_____________________________________________________________
But your intuitions were correct when you said something to the effect of “we would have to come to some mutual decision on what we mean by ‘good’”. You are right on that. But how would we determine that? By a mutual agreement on what we ‘believe’! It’s my conviction that you can not get away from operating in the realm of belief. Most of life can not be logically proven.
____________________________________________________________

No, not by a mutual agreement on what we believe but on the tried and true evidence we have accumulated from science and throughout history.  It is my conviction that operating in the realm of belief at any time only gets in the way of our understanding of what is really true about the universe.  I think history shows that beliefs tend to be the idiosyncratic and self-serving tools of the power elite in a society.  Belief based governance may have worked reasonably well in smaller more isolated social structures of the past but the times they are a changing and the world is shrinking and needs a more universally true approach.

Ray

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Posted: 13 May 2005 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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Interesting debate between Ordinary and Ray on the subject of the moral significance of belief.  Now Ordinary wants the word “ought” to be central to a moral theory, what this means is that there must be universal moral priciples that must be followed in every case of deciding on a moral action.  Ordinary doesn’t seem to think that these universal codes are merely beliefs, he seems to assume that when the basis of certain directives are applied universally then they are not ‘merely’ beliefs but have crossed the threshold to some other level of authenticity.  In fact he says that Ray’s less absolute kind of ethical standard is just a belief because it does not claim universal applicability, “If you can not base it on something universal and undeniable, it is a belief. ”  But it seems to me that universal applicability of a concept is not sufficient to justify that such a concept be called “the moral truth” as opposed to being merely “a belief.”  All sorts of nutty ideas could be claimed to apply universally to everyone, but such a claim does not verify their authenticity.  Ordinary tries to make the case that Ray’s moral outlook is suspect because of this avoidance of universality.

However, Ray’s response shows explicitly how Ordinary is in error, but even further it reveals an appeal to universality that is truly authentic in a moral sense.  First of all, Ray’s utilitarian ethics is not a recipe for the majority to ride rough-shod over the minorities, that kind of interpretation is very black-&-white simplistic.  Appeal to the happiness of the greatest number is always an appeal to maximize “the greatest number” by compromise and education - ideally, the greatest number would include everyone.  And in that appeal to everyone is the authentic kind of universality that Ray’s moral theory adopts. 

So there are obviously two very distinct appeals to universality in order to validate a theory of ethics.  Ordinary wants to adopt rules that can be applied universally to everyone and through that universal appeal, he claims to have discovered real moral truth based on an absolute standard.  Ray, on the other hand, wishes to articulate a moral system where everyone’s participation is given the same level of value and importance. Rules are not to be applied universally so that everyone “ought” to do ‘X’ in such and such a situation, but rather in order to come to agreement on what should be done we must reach a consensus of all those involved in the moral question.  The best we can do is aim for universality by including every opinion as relevant and significant.  Ray’s sort of universality is a “bottom - up” kind of thinking, while Ordinary adopts a “top - down” kind of normativity - based on religious indoctrination.

It seems obvious to me which version is truly moral, that is, “which system actually treats all human beings as morally cognizant and valuable participants in a social community?”

Bob

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Posted: 13 May 2005 07:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Bob, instead of assuming what I think, maybe you should ask for clarification on certain points.  You did a very poor job explaining my position.

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Posted: 13 May 2005 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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I didn’t assume anything, what I gathered from your posting, I tried to restate as authentically as I could.  If I did manage to mangle your postiion, please inform me as to how I short circuited your reasoning or otherwise misinterpreted your meanings?

Maybe my way of “putting your thoughts” made them seem shallow or blinded by something, but that’s what I got from your post - correct my misunderstandings.

Bob

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Posted: 13 May 2005 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Ray, you say

I am not attempting to put forth a philosophy or to frame an ethical paradigm.

  That doesn’t seem right to me.  It seems this is exactly what you are doing.  Positing the golden rule to be followed is an attempt to put forth a philosophy or ethical paradigm to live by regardless of how loosely you want to hold to it; even if it is merely a suggestion.

The use of should or could are my attempt to pitch my ideas while recognizing that the evidence from history and science clearly indicates that absolute certainty in what “ought” to be human behavior is impossible.

  I think I know what you are saying, but I would most certainly suggest that there are universal moral principles that we would at least want to claim ie. “One ought to never abuse children”.  While it is difficult to anchor moral priniciples, especially with a secular worldview, I tend to believe most of us would say, ‘yes, there are moral absolutes’.  again, ie. ‘its never ok to rape someone.’  And I don’t think we need to completely know ‘why’ necessarily to say ‘ought’.

I think it is a huge mistake to extrapolate from the known to the unknowable. That is why I am an atheist.

  That comment would seem to fit more with an agnostic than an atheist.

I don’t disagree with everything you say.  But I think you are wanting it both ways.  You are saying, “belief gets us into messes”, “the real problem is belief itself,” but you exercise belief throughout your post.  Whatever you can not secure requires belief.  Evidence merely leads you into one direction or another.  Much of the time, it doesn’t prove anything.  So to say you will let scientific and historical inquiry provide you/us with evidence to go in this direction or that morally, you still have to exercise belief, ie. “based on the evidence, I believe this is the best course of action to take”.  If you could say, “based on the evidence, I know this is the best course of action to take”, but because you can not say that, you operate in the world of belief.  I don’t have a problem with that.  What I have difficulty with is you saying belief is the problem, but your hypothetical suggestions require belief everywhere.

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Posted: 13 May 2005 07:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Bob, for starters, I think you had Ray and I’s position backwards.  You said,

Ordinary doesn’t seem to think that these universal codes are merely beliefs, he seems to assume that when the basis of certain directives are applied universally then they are not ‘merely’ beliefs but have crossed the threshold to some other level of authenticity

I don’t think this is an either/or.  I do think they are beliefs, but these beliefs might very well conform to reality.  I don’t have a problem living in the world of faith/belief/trust; it is Ray who said that belief was the problem.

Ordinary tries to make the case that Ray’s moral outlook is suspect because of this avoidance of universality

  I don’t think it’s suspect.  It’s that Ray wants to say belief is the problem when he exercises it himself.

I know a utilitarian ethic is much more involved then either Ray or I posited.  I think there are many problems with a ultilitarian ethic.  It doesn’t cover everyone, it covers the greatest number (which doesn’t include everyone); It works contrary to the minorities need; and in the end of the day I don’t know why it is good to work for the majority good.  Ray brought up the US as a good example of a utilitarian ethic.  I would argue it’s not.  First of all, the founders clearly saw that the rights we are to have come from a Creator (that’s sounds to me more like a divine command theory than a utilitarian ethic).  Secondly, I think I could persuasively argue that our system isn’t set up to produce the greatest good for the greatest number, but in fact is set up to protect the rights of the minorities above all (the greatest good for the greatest number takes a back seat to the good of the minority).  In the structure of our government, we see almost overkill with oversight and approval; its in an effort to protect the minority.  That’s why I am a little concerned about changing the filibuster rule in the senate.

I think your last longer paragraph misses the boat, really.  Yes, in extreme cases, some of your concerns are legitimate, but it certainly doesn’t have to be that way.  I’ll give you an example.  Many assume that a divine command theory is oppressive and doesn’t require people to think.  I guess I could manufacture divine command theories to be the case, but it doesn’t have to be the case.  It could be that a divine command theory is based out of love.  Like my commands to my son, we are given commands to keep us from something that will harm us.  One thing we see in scripture over and over again is God saying, “Do this… Do this… for your good.”  It’s for our good we are given commands from God.  God doesn’t give them to oppress or take liberty away.  He gives them because he knows what’s good for us.

So its not so simple to say “which system treats humans better?” and easily wipe away one based on faith.

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Posted: 13 May 2005 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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OK Ordinary, I see your point - that it is Ray who is uncomfortable with the notion that his own moral values are based on certain beliefs.  You are happy with your belief-based moral views.  I did get it wrong thinking that the “divine authority” upon whom you seem to base your beliefs led you to conclude that your beliefs were founded on a universalism that was stronger than Ray’s utilitarian calculus.  I’m not sure why Ray is unable to accept that the word belief is part of his own ethics?  I have no such qualms.

Now, whether one’s beliefs actually correspond to reality seems the much more important aspect when beliefs are applied to moral theory.  An appeal to “Divine authority” to give us the oughts and the ought-nots makes those kinds of moral beliefs suspect in my book because reality does not support the holding of such beliefs.  I agree that commandments were given so that we might act “for our own good” (a good that we might not be able to see for ourselves), but surely Ordinary, most of those kinds of commandment do not give our individual moral perspective expression.  I feel that in order to be moral beings, we must not “just follow the rules” but rather, we must each understand why we should act in a certain way for the benefit of all concerned. 

I’m not sure why you are convinced that utilitarianism leads to a tyrrany of the majority. The greatest number is obviously everyone, not just the majority.  THe aim of the utilitarian ethic is to meet the happiness of the greatest number of people, I’ve always seen that to mean everyone.  Of course ideally we cannot accomodate the needs of psychotics and homophobes, so we can never speak to the concerns of everyone, but nevertheless, it seems the utilitarian ethic has everyone as the ultimate aim.

As far as universal moral directives like the two you mentioned “it is never acceptable to hurt a child” and “it is never acceptable to rape someone” - I agree that there are no exceptions to those sorts of rules, but I would challenge anyone who believes that all moral values can be articulated on that kind of model (rules/commands/oughts).  The two rules you quoted might be founded on something like the “necessity of consent” or the “responsibility those that are morally cognizant must have for the innocents.”  There are reasonable beliefs behind those sorts of moral commands that apply universally.  But let’s be honest, God was never actually opposed to rape, in fact condoned it when the Hebrews were victorious in a conflict, and God certainly was not against hurting children “spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Bob

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Posted: 13 May 2005 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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Bob,

You are right; any divine command theory is contingent on the existence of the divine.  We don’t need to go into that here, that’s been gone over enough.

It’s not that I’m convinced that ultilitarianism leads to the tyranny of the majority.  In my understanding, a utilitarian ethic by definition leaves out the minority.  To work for the greatest good for the greatest number means that a lesser number’s needs are out weighed by the greater number’s needs.  Take, for example, the tax code.  Some may say, “It’s in the greatest interest of the majority of American’s for the top 1% to pay higher taxes.”  That might in fact be true.  But it comes at the expense of the 1%  Now some may argue, “Well, they don’t need the money” or “they can afford to pay more”.  That’s all well and good, but that still does not mean the greatest good of the majority didn’t come at the expense of the minority.  Basically, what I mean is that I believe a utilitarian ethic logically leads to a win/lose scenario.  For the majority to ‘win’ (I don’t like using that language; bear with the analogy), the minority ‘loses’.  I don’t like positing a moral theory like that.  I want to create win/win situations.

I would agree with you as well and say that we (people of faith) don’t want to follow moral absolutes because God says so.  I want to do good because it is good and also (which is important) I want to love doing the good.  In all honesty, I don’t think we are made to think in such a way.  For example, I would argue that it is good to love your enemies.  Jesus taught this and in my ponderings, I in fact believe it is good to love your enemies.  Now, thinking that loving your enemies is good and in fact loving your enemies is entirely different.  We all have ‘enemies’ in some way.  It’s not natural to love them.  What’s natural is for us to destroy enemies.  So how do I love my enemy?  As a person of faith, I believe that it is only possible in the power of God.  God’s grace transforms my natural inclination to destroy to actually love my enemies.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but I do believe that the power of God does in fact do this in a person’s life.  And I think it is beautiful and something to be desired.  I want to do the good and like doing the good.  But I don’t think its natural for us to do so.

I would also agree that a moral theory is not easily systematized in a list of do’s and don’ts.  In fact, I think the scriptures argue differently.  I think God actually says things like this, “Be ruled by love and mercy and peace.”  Instead of laying down do’s and don’ts, he gives a broad umbrella of love/grace/mercy/justice (basically a list of virtues) and says, “live by them.”  Now obviously, there are somethings love requires “don’t betray your spouse”  “don’t take from another”, but there are other things that are a little nebulous.  Scripture deals with these, also.  Paul’s basic argument in Romans 14 is this: if you conscience doesn’t convict you in ‘these’ behaviors, they are not wrong for you.  But if you can not behave like ‘this’ without your conscience being convicted, it is wrong for you.  So there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ list of do’s and don’ts.  Clearly, this is where the church has gone drastically wrong in the past; giving lists to live by.  I read yesterday a church kicking out members for voting for Kerry.  That is absolutely stupid and wrong.

I actually think many of your intuitions are right, Bob.  I think though that your catagorization of people of faith or of a generic divine command theory addresses fundys of the faith and not more reasonable, mainstream believers.

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Posted: 13 May 2005 06:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Ordinary & Bob (glad you joined in),


First I would like to clarify what I mean by belief A belief is a conviction held without credible evidence and/or in spite of evidence that shows it to be false.  Belief is often held even in the face of contradictory evidence (example, Evolution. The Big Bang theory and the Shroud of Turin.  Only believers think that belief (usually theirs) has universal applicability.  I can think of nothing that has absolute and unmodified universal applicability,

To show that I am not too far from the mainstream with the above definition I offer the definition from the American College Dictionary Belief 1. That which is believed an accepted opinion.  2. conviction of the truth or reality of a thing based on grounds insufficient to afford positive knowledge Faith trust a child’s belief in his parents Belief a certainty, conviction refers to an acceptance of or a confidence in an alleged fact or body of facts as true or right without positive knowledge or proof. 

 

_____________________________________________________________
Interesting debate between Ordinary and Ray on the subject of the moral significance of belief. Now Ordinary wants the word “ought” to be central to a moral theory, what this means is that there must be universal moral principles that must be followed in every case of deciding on a moral action. Ordinary doesn’t seem to think that these universal codes are merely beliefs, he seems to assume that when the basis of certain directives are applied universally then they are not ‘merely’ beliefs but have crossed the threshold to some other level of authenticity. In fact he says that Ray’s less absolute kind of ethical standard is just a belief because it does not claim universal applicability,
_____________________________________________________________

 

Obviously my last post did not make it clear so I will try again especially for Ordinary.  I am not attempting to put forth a philosophy or to frame an ethical paradigm.  I am only trying to show that reasonable and workable goals can be arrived at through a discourse that acknowledges the competing needs of individuals that must cooperate in a social economic way to achieve those needs.  It is not a question of what humans ought to do but what they could or should do given the constraints inherent in their genetic make-up and environment.

 

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“If you can not base it on something universal and undeniable, it is a belief.”
____________________________________________________________


I will say again.  I can think of nothing that is universal (in application) and undeniable. These are two criteria that simply can not be applied to the same natural phenomena at the same time.

 

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However, Ray’s response shows explicitly how Ordinary is in error, but even further it reveals an appeal to universality that is truly authentic in a moral sense. First of all, Ray’s utilitarian ethics is not a recipe for the majority to ride rough-shod over the minorities, that kind of interpretation is very black-&-white simplistic. Appeal to the happiness of the greatest number is always an appeal to maximize “the greatest number” by compromise and education - ideally, the greatest number would include everyone. And in that appeal to everyone is the authentic kind of universality that Ray’s moral theory adopts.
_____________________________________________________________


Thank you Bob.  You have hit upon the exact sense of my argument.  Any workable solution to resource allocation must be designed to allow an equality of the pursuit with out restriction of the majority on the minority and vise versa.  To date capitalism seems to be the best flawed system we have for this.


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So there are obviously two very distinct appeals to universality in order to validate a theory of ethics. Ordinary wants to adopt rules that can be applied universally to everyone and through that universal appeal, he claims to have discovered real moral truth based on an absolute standard. Ray, on the other hand, wishes to articulate a moral system where everyone’s participation is given the same level of value and importance. Rules are not to be applied universally so that everyone “ought” to do ‘X’ in such and such a situation, but rather in order to come to agreement on what should be done we must reach a consensus of all those involved in the moral question. The best we can do is aim for universality by including every opinion as relevant and significant. Ray’s sort of universality is a “bottom - up” kind of thinking, while Ordinary adopts a “top - down” kind of normativity - based on religious indoctrination.

It seems obvious to me which version is truly moral, that is, “which system actually treats all human beings as morally cognizant and valuable participants in a social community?”

Bob
___________________________________________________________

Once again Bob you have hit the nail on the head. 

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Ray, you say
Quote
I am not attempting to put forth a philosophy or to frame an ethical paradigm.
That doesn’t seem right to me. It seems this is exactly what you are doing. Positing the golden rule to be followed is an attempt to put forth a philosophy or ethical paradigm to live by regardless of how loosely you want to hold to it; even if it is merely a suggestion.
_____________________________________________________________

No I am only suggesting a goal.  I do not think that this is the only possible goal and would be happy to hear of suggested competing goals.  I would also say that as experience dictates the goals and the methods for their accomplishment would need to change.  The universe is not a static place.


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The use of should or could are my attempt to pitch my ideas while recognizing that the evidence from history and science clearly indicates that absolute certainty in what “ought” to be human behavior is impossible.
I think I know what you are saying, but I would most certainly suggest that there are universal moral principles that we would at least want to claim ie. “One ought to never abuse children”. While it is difficult to anchor moral priniciples, especially with a secular worldview, I tend to believe most of us would say, ‘yes, there are moral absolutes’. again, ie. ‘its never ok to rape someone.’ And I don’t think we need to completely know ‘why’ necessarily to say ‘ought’.
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I would have to say no to moral absolutes.  There is no evidence that there are moral absolutes in the universe.  To me this is a pipe dream.  Humans have abused children, men have abused their wives and masters have abused their slaves all considered ethical and moral in their time.  Religions have promoted the abuse of wives, slaves and children in the past and even today have turned a blind eye to these to avoid scandal and negative consequences.  It’s obvious to me that faith or belief is not a viable way to a progressive human interaction.  I think that the best course to a progressive human interaction is to realize that all humans have a right to pursuit of resources and self defined happiness and for workabble progress this right must be exercised without materially harming that pursuit for others.
I think this would be a much needed non religious place to start.

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I think it is a huge mistake to extrapolate from the known to the unknowable. That is why I am an atheist.
That comment would seem to fit more with an agnostic than an atheist.
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I am an atheist because I come down on the side that says if there is no evidence I conclude there is no god.  An agnostic would conclude there might be.  I have decided as a personal choice not to concern myself with what might be.

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I don’t disagree with everything you say. But I think you are wanting it both ways. You are saying, “belief gets us into messes”, “the real problem is belief itself,” but you exercise belief throughout your post. Whatever you can not secure requires belief. Evidence merely leads you into one direction or another. Much of the time, it doesn’t prove anything. So to say you will let scientific and historical inquiry provide you/us with evidence to go in this direction or that morally, you still have to exercise belief, ie. “based on the evidence, I believe this is the best course of action to take”. If you could say, “based on the evidence, I know this is the best course of action to take”, but because you can not say that, you operate in the world of belief. I don’t have a problem with that. What I have difficulty with is you saying belief is the problem, but your hypothetical suggestions require belief everywhere.
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No No No!!! Evidence leads to one direction or another so you try the one that seems best. This is not an exercise of belief.  You learn from the experience and collect more evidence and try again.  How is that any kind of exercise of belief?  It’s not!  Its just a scientific approach.  You make a hypothesis.  Test it.  Reform your hypothesis and try again.  That’s how it works and it works very well.  Believing things would only get in the way.  No you are wrong I do not have to exercise belief.  No one does.  All one can say is that based on the evidence I hypothesize that this is the best course of action and then let the chips fall where they may.

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Ordinary tries to make the case that Ray’s moral outlook is suspect because of this avoidance of universality
I don’t think it’s suspect. It’s that Ray wants to say belief is the problem when he exercises it himself.
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Sorry Ordinary I can’t agree with that.  You keep claiming I exercise belief but I have yet to see you cite any clear evidence for this from any of my posts. 

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Ray brought up the US as a good example of a utilitarian ethic.
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No I didn’t.  I brought up the preamble of the Declaration of Independence as an example of a commonly understood idea in the U.S. that government should seek the greatest good for the greatest number.  I am not comfortable bringing into this John Mills and his Utilitarian philosophy because I have no idea how much of an influence it had on Jefferson and his writings.

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I think your last longer paragraph misses the boat, really. Yes, in extreme cases, some of your concerns are legitimate, but it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. I’ll give you an example. Many assume that a divine command theory is oppressive and doesn’t require people to think. I guess I could manufacture divine command theories to be the case, but it doesn’t have to be the case. It could be that a divine command theory is based out of love. Like my commands to my son, we are given commands to keep us from something that will harm us. One thing we see in scripture over and over again is God saying, “Do this… Do this… for your good.” It’s for our good we are given commands from God. God doesn’t give them to oppress or take liberty away. He gives them because he knows what’s good for us.
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There is no evidence for any god.  Do this or don’t do that are just the idiosyncratic self serving commands of humans that portray them as commands from a non existent god.  Do this for your own good is just a deception used by one human to control another sometimes in the delusional state that it is the best advise.

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So its not so simple to say “which system treats humans better?” and easily wipe away one based on faith.
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No not simple but it is still the best approach.
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OK Ordinary, I see your point - that it is Ray who is uncomfortable with the notion that his own moral values are based on certain beliefs. You are happy with your belief-based moral views. I did get it wrong thinking that the “divine authority” upon whom you seem to base your beliefs led you to conclude that your beliefs were founded on a universalism that was stronger than Ray’s utilitarian calculus. I’m not sure why Ray is unable to accept that the word belief is part of his own ethics? I have no such qualms.
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Oh Bob I am in despair.  Belief has nothing to do with my ethics.  What beliefs do you claim I am basing my ethics on?  For me ethics is understanding the universe and developing the best productive human interaction within it.  Belief (any belief) just gets in the way of that understanding.  Accepting or rejecting a word like belief is just philosophical mombo jumbo that leads to obscuring the facts.
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Now, whether one’s beliefs actually correspond to reality seems the much more important aspect when beliefs are applied to moral theory.
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Think what you are saying here.  I say reality can only be reality.  There can be no correspondence between belief and reality.  If you have a belief and discover that it corresponds to a real thing it is no longer a belief it IS REAL.  No correspondence necessary.  That just leaves beliefs that don’t correspond and what else could they be but fantasy or potential realities only determined to be real when sufficient evidence is accumulated?


Ray

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Posted: 13 May 2005 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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After I made my post I realized I had made a large error in my first paragraph.  Please substitute the following corrected paragragh.

First I would like to clarify what I mean by belief A belief is a conviction held without credible evidence and/or in spite of evidence that shows it to be false.  Belief is often held even in the face of contradictory evidence (example, Intelligent Design Genisis and the Shroud of Turin.  Only believers think that belief (usually theirs) has universal applicability.  I can think of nothing that has absolute and unmodified universal applicability.

Sorry

Ray

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