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Jew and the Law
Posted: 22 October 2007 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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Rami - 22 October 2007 06:39 PM

“Publius” date=“1193090880”]

Immoral?  I don’t know.  But is it reasonable?  What *reason* do you have for favoring him?  Does his being Jewish make his life more valuable to you?  Why?  How is the Christian’s life any less valuable to you? 

There may be reasons as to why you would choose to save the Jewish person and not the Christian.  But if the only reason was that one was a member of your “in-group” and the other wasn’t, then this would not be a decision hat is informed by reason.  It would be prejudice.

From a universalistic perspective the two individuals are indentical, I have no basis to choose one over the other, but clearly letting them both drown because I can’t find a basis to distinguish them is not an adequate solution.  So on what basis, from a universalist perspective, does one choose whom to save?

Well, this is just a hypothetical situation.  And according to your hypothesis, you posit that there isn’t a single reason to favor one over the other.  And so you would make a decision based on tribal mentality.

But this is a mere hypothetical situation.  No two individuals are precisely the same.  There might be differences between the two that would lead you to make a reasonable decision regarding whom to help.  Perhaps one has a better chance of survival.  Perhaps one seems less likely to pull you under the water with himself and drown you along with himself.  Perhaps one is 10 years old and the other is 98 and you feel that the 10 year old should be given a chance to experience life.  All of these are legitimate considerations, reasons that can inform one’s decision.  But basing one’s decision on the mere fact that one is a member of the “in-group” is in effect acting out of prejudice.  It is saying that the value of life is determined according to in-group/out-group membership.  Please don’t take this as an attack, but I think it basically boils down to this: if a tribal thinker is White, American and Protestant, other White American Protestants’ lives would be (in his eyes) more valuable than the lives of Black Haitian Catholics, White British Protestans, Black American Muslims, etc…  There may very well be excellent reasons as to why an individual should receive our support or opposition, but membership of “in-group” or “out-group” is not reason.  It is prejudice.

No offense taken.  I think this is an interesting discussion.  I do take issue though with the use of the word prejudice.  “Prejudice” is an emotive term and masks rather than clarifies what is reasonable and rational.  Before I choose to get married, for example, I don’t know one woman any better than any other, but few would call me prejudiced for deciding to get to know one better because I thought she was hot. 

You raised the hypo and this is an invalid move in the land of hypotheticals.  You are fighting your own hypo.  Assume there’s nothing to distinguish them, like age, sex, height, weight, chance of survival, whether one is a parent or not.  After all, that’s what makes the hypo interesting and challenging.  If choosing based on tribalism isn’t a good reason to pick one over the other, then offer me a non-tribal reason in this situation.  It’s not as if the Jews life is more or less valuable to me.  But it seems to me, based on the hypo you put forth, there can be only basis for decision.

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Posted: 22 October 2007 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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[quote author=“Publius” date=“1193104255

No offense taken.  I think this is an interesting discussion.  I do take issue though with the use of the word prejudice.  “Prejudice” is an emotive term and masks rather than clarifies what is reasonable and rational.  Before I choose to get married, for example, I don’t know one woman any better than any other, but few would call me prejudiced for deciding to get to know one better because I thought she was hot.

 

That’s not prejudice.  That is reason.  You wanted her because she was hot.  You didn’t prejudge her.  You judged her - based on looks. 

I know that for a lot of people “prejudice” is an emotive term, because it is generally referred to disparagingly.  But I insist that I was not trying to infuse our conversation with emotionalism.  Rather, I was hoping this would help us remain critical thinkers on this subject.  When in hte absence of reasons, one makes a decision based on irrelevant factors, such as race or nationality, it is prejudice. 

Be hat as it may, such prejudice may be the result of our evolution.  Those who are members of our in-group are much less likely to harm us, while strangers are much more likely to harm us.  So, I suspect there is a biological component for xenophobia, homophobia, racism, patriotism, nationalism, and all kinds of other prejudices. 

But we no longer live in 5000 BCE.  We live in the 21st century.  We have ethics.  We can overcome our inherent xenophobic impulses.  We live in a world in which this moral impulse, xenophobia, even though it may be a product of our own evolution, is no longer a trait that is beneficial to us.  It is clearly harmful to us NOW.  In the same way in which we restrain murder and rape - both natural impulses that have proven to be beneficial traits during the course of evolution - we can restrain xenophobia and tribalism.  Through reason.  Amen?  Amen.

You raised the hypo and this is an invalid move in the land of hypotheticals.  You are fighting your own hypo.  Assume there’s nothing to distinguish them, like age, sex, height, weight, chance of survival, whether one is a parent or not.  After all, that’s what makes the hypo interesting and challenging.  If choosing based on tribalism isn’t a good reason to pick one over the other, then offer me a non-tribal reason in this situation.  It’s not as if the Jews life is more or less valuable to me.  But it seems to me, based on the hypo you put forth, there can be only basis for decision.

I am saying that that should not even be a consideration.  It should not make a difference.  You tell me why you think it should make a difference.  It doesn’t matter than you can find any rational reason (redundant, I know…) to favor one over the other.  If you were to decide based on “in-group/out-group” membership, then you would be using prejudice. 

But like I said, such absence of reason is just not realistic.  If this were to really happen, one of the two persons would be bigger than the other, one of them would be closer to you, one of them would be a faster swimmer than the other, you could use your judgment to determine which one was less hysterical and less likely to hold onto you for dear life and thus pull you under the water with himself/herself.  There are all kinds of reasons, big and little that you could examine to inform your decision.  There is no reason to resort to irrelevant considerations like the ones that infest tribal thinking. 

I am glad you are not offended.  I have been posting on another board recently, where the members just can’t take me…  They are expecting polite dinner party conversation and I am just too much for them.  So thank you for not getting defensive and engaging in serious conversation.

Rami

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Posted: 22 October 2007 05:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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Salt Creek - 22 October 2007 01:15 PM

It’s the other part that I reject, about the way humans stand at the center of all creation that seems both childlike and utterly insane.

Not that it will make any difference, but anthropocentrism is not a critical element of any of the Abrahamic faiths.  While the texts may seem anthropocentric because they only know how to talk about our experience as humans encountering God, there is nothing in the texts which prevents 1) God from having created the universe for his pleasure, not ours; 2) there being other galaxies with other sapient life forms and other experiences of God or existence; or 3) the end result of the whole process from exalting God, not man. Again, this won’t make any difference to you with respect to the idea of faith, but if one of your principle reasons for rejecting it is that it puts humans at the center of creation, that is not a valid basis.

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Posted: 22 October 2007 05:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 22 October 2007 09:00 PM
Salt Creek - 22 October 2007 01:15 PM

It’s the other part that I reject, about the way humans stand at the center of all creation that seems both childlike and utterly insane.

Not that it will make any difference, but anthropocentrism is not a critical element of any of the Abrahamic faiths.  While the texts may seem anthropocentric because they only know how to talk about our experience as humans encountering God, there is nothing in the texts which prevents 1) God from having created the universe for his pleasure, not ours; 2) there being other galaxies with other sapient life forms and other experiences of God or existence; or 3) the end result of the whole process from exalting God, not man. Again, this won’t make any difference to you with respect to the idea of faith, but if one of your principle reasons for rejecting it is that it puts humans at the center of creation, that is not a valid basis.

True—and I suspect God invented free will if for no other reason that to escape boredom—but at least in the Judeo-Christian faith we find a deep element of humanism in the idea of man being made in the image and likeness of God.  (Islam does not have this idea.  Though in the Koran, man is worthy of exaltation as seen through the story of Satan, who is cast out of heaven for refusing to bow to man when God commanded it.) 

(What’s curious about SC’s point is that if you don’t believe in God, what else could possibly stand at the center of creation?  We become the universes most exalted accident.  After all, as Neiztsche would point out, our most fundamental attribute is the ability to ascribe value to the world.  And since we are the only entities that we know of who can do that, what else could be at the center or the periphery?)

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Posted: 23 October 2007 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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Publius - 22 October 2007 09:14 PM

(What’s curious about SC’s point is that if you don’t believe in God, what else could possibly stand at the center of creation?

You skipped a question, Pub. Why does creation have to have a center?

Human beings stand at the center of creation by fiat, because they say so. Cosmology tells you that the cosmos no more has a center than the skin of a basketball does. Biology and paleontology tell you that evolution has no teleology.

People say that human beings exist at the center of creation because they are pathologically narcissistic. Publius treats as nihilism anything falling short of that degree of arrogance.

our most fundamental attribute is the ability to ascribe value to the world

I think Publius is overrating our abilities in this department. And overestimating the value of the ability to ascribe value. To go farther with this, one must be certain that human beings are capable of bringing about their immortality as a species. We have no such assurances from the “real world”.

[ Edited: 23 October 2007 08:22 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 23 October 2007 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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author=“Publius” date=“1193112856”]

True—and I suspect God invented free will if for no other reason that to escape boredom—

Wait a minute.  God gets bored?  God has human emotions?  Surely you do not think of God in such anthropomorphic terms, Publius.  I would not expact that from a sophisticated thinker such as yourself.

but at least in the Judeo-Christian faith we find a deep element of humanism in the idea of man being made in the image and likeness of God.

 

That is not humanism.  That is, first of all, anthropomorphism.  And second, it is narcissism.  Of all the species on earth, we are God’s favorites.  We are the Chosen Ones. 

(Islam does not have this idea.  Though in the Koran, man is worthy of exaltation as seen through the story of Satan, who is cast out of heaven for refusing to bow to man when God commanded it.)

That’s interesting.  I did not know that.

(What’s curious about SC’s point is that if you don’t believe in God, what else could possibly stand at the center of creation?

 

Why must anything stand at the CENTER of it?  Why can’t we, in all humility, concede that we are just another species among countless other species on the surface of a small planet in a solar system on the periphery of a one galaxy among many other galaxies? 

We become the universes most exalted accident.

 

Why would WE be the most exalted “accident”?

After all, as Neiztsche would point out, our most fundamental attribute is the ability to ascribe value to the world.

OK, as long as we all understand that value is something that we ascribe, not something that is absolute and exists independent of human judgment.

And since we are the only entities that we know of who can do that, what else could be at the center or the periphery?

I am not sure why you are so concerned with exalting the human race or God or placing something at the center of this exaltation.  There is no reason why anything must be at the (figurative) center of the universe, of existence.  We are not “special”.  We are mammals.  We are a kind of ape species.  We are just lucky that we have sufficient intelligence to dominate our planet.  This is not something that was deliberately arranged, nor was it an “accident”.  Someone was bound to have the greastest intelligence.  You and I were lucky to be born members of this species.  That’s all.

Chances are this does not appeal to you.  Fine.  But consider that simply because it does not appeal to you, that has no bearing on its truth.  I am sure it is more pleasant to think of being exalted, of being Chosen by God, of being his favorite, of being created with a grand cosmic purpose that leads to - wow - eternity.  I am sure thinking of yourself as a lucky “accident” is much less attractive.  I can understand that.  But admit that what one wishes reality were has nothing to do with what reality actually is.  Just because we wish something were true does not make it more likely to be true.

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Posted: 23 October 2007 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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Rami - 23 October 2007 12:29 PM

Chances are this does not appeal to you.  Fine.  But consider that simply because it does not appeal to you, that has no bearing on its truth.  I am sure it is more pleasant to think of being exalted, of being Chosen by God, of being his favorite, of being created with a grand cosmic purpose that leads to - wow - eternity.  I am sure thinking of yourself as a lucky “accident” is much less attractive.  I can understand that.  But admit that what one wishes reality were has nothing to do with what reality actually is.  Just because we wish something were true does not make it more likely to be true.

Rami, we are dealing with a fundamental divide between those who assert that what is most important is what human beings say about themselves and those who think that it is most important what the universe tells us about itself. In the first case, the participants conveniently forget that they are not in possession of a second opinion. Those who make it into this forum are generally smart enough to make convoluted arguments for their point of view, and they are also smart enough to know that they are only practising politics. Their aim is simply a world lacking in dissent, because dissent is a serious blow to narcissism. That it is not fatal is something we see clearly here every day.

I actually am willing to allow some people to indulge their fascination with what human beings say about themselves, but I am not willing to put them in the driver’s seat.

[ Edited: 23 October 2007 09:05 AM by Traces Elk]
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