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Why do atheists believe in universal values?
Posted: 14 April 2012 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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For example, just because I feel sore when exercising does not mean I should abstain from exercise. Likewise, these derivations seem simplistic in the face of certain cases where we expect a few to be hurt for the larger good. \

 

It’s my fault for not considering my audience I guess. Of course when I say “suffering” I mean “destructive disease ” . It’ silly to argue that because some things hurt - like running or working out or learning a hard life lesson - they are therefore bad. Because that’s just a silly and specious argument, I assumed no one would think I was making it. I was wrong. Hope I clarified things.

For example, it’s unclear how this supposed universal value would hold up when deciding whether a nation should go to war (there’s clearly the short-term pain and loss inflicted upon the soldiers who are involved, but perhaps there is a longer-term gain of curbing tyranny).

 

Once again, apparently this is my bad. As I actually referenced above, the ability for us to to go to war to stop people from doing bad things is the ultimate “justification” where all others fail. As I said, “there’s more of us than there is of you”.


If that’s all anyone who doesn’t care about human suffering- (and I guess I need introduce this concept of “human suffering” so I’ll do that below) if that’s all they can understand, then that’s what they’ll get- war and suffering influiicted upon them by us, the people with humanist values.

 

softwarevisualization asserts that “the relief of the suffering of nervous systems is a universal good and no nervous system is excluded from consideration except that it’s not practically possible to relieve that suffering” but doesn’t offer much justification.

 

Actually the EXTERNAL justification you’re looking for - presumably from some framework OTHER than humanity and the facts of our shared biology- has all the reality of a unicorn.


There IS no other framework that is not a fiction, no mystical framework, no other-worldy framework no intellectualization ala Ayn Rand and all this other bullshit.

 

What I am saying is human suffering - (see below for what human suffering is) - is ultimately wrong and human happiness is ultimately right and things that lead to human suffering are always wrong and things that lead to human enrichment and fulfillment and happiness are always right.


What specifically those things are is a work in progress for us in terms of scientific knowledge. But that’s hardly an indictment of the broad concept that human achievement and fulfillment, living a life of “love and work” as Freud so succinctly formulated it, is what good IS and human suffering is always wrong . .

 

If your mind is stuck looking for some uber-justification for all this then you’re engaging in a kind of medieval academic thinking ... looking for explanations and justifications IN TERMS OF some other -  apparently otherworldy- frame of reference.  Don’t do that. Don’t make that mistake. And that’s all it is , a mistake, an error in judgement. 

 

Some people, and some people on this forum, could give a shit about other people’s suffering. It doesn’t motivate them and it seems like a sham to base morality on the relief of human suffering. We know about these people- they’re called ‘sociopaths” and they constitute about 1% (the estimate so far) of the human populations.  You know the famous ones- Ayn Rand, Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, Ghengis Khan, Pol Pot, Ted Bundy etc etc. They are a thing unto themselves. Eliminating their genes from the gene pool will be another singular accomplishment of the 21st century.


For the rest of us, with normal nervous systems and fully functioning brains, our hearts break to see human suffering in all its forms and we are motivated to relieve it just because we are and it doesn’t need any further justification. This feeling of compassion and its motivating power is something we all share, along with our other impulses such as those which lead us to find love and avoid suffering ourselves and achieve good works.  We are like this because of our biology. IF some other alien has a different biology with opposing values (and this is extremely academic and nothing to base any decision on) then perhaps there’s nothing to say and it’ s ON between humans and aliens.

 

Back to reality, probably the most accessible elaboration of this very basic humanistic concept is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Google it.


As for the “differently-abled”  amongst us, the sociopaths , a good layman’s overview can be found here, in Martha Stout’s “The Sociopath Next Door ” :

 

http://www.betterworldbooks.com/the-sociopath-next-door-id-9780767915816.aspx

 

 

 

 


Re human suffering: Human suffering is shorthand for human disasters like disease, pestilence, famine, sensory and intellectual deprivation , lovelessness, etc etc where the nervous system of the human is registering pain because irreversible damage is being done to the human for no good reason.

 

Now soldiers feel and do “irreversible damage” in preparing for war and in going to war, but that doesn’t qualify as “bad” since there is a good reason for the suffering.


This should just be obvious- not all pain and suffering is bad. When people say “human suffering” they assume you understand that to mean “needless destructive human suffering”, usually because of some natural calamity- hurricane tornadoes disease, or because of what someone else did to them- criminals and criminal regimes.

 

 

 

For example, everyone that I know wants to have more money—does that mean that becoming rich is a universal value? If not, how is that different from the relief of suffering? Common feelings—even when imposed by a common biology—does not seem like a sufficient basis for morality.

 

Hopefully you understand why what you wrote does not apply.

[ Edited: 14 April 2012 07:33 AM by softwarevisualization]
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Posted: 14 April 2012 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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Mostly @softwarevisualization [and I’m quoting some lines out of order], but I think this also applies to boagie’s response


Your response is quite interesting. I thought you were joking in parts of your earlier response, but apparently I misunderstood. I won’t respond to everything in this post; instead, I’d like to mostly ask for clarification because I don’t want to respond to something that you didn’t mean.

As I said, “there’s more of us than there is of you”.

Are you saying that “might makes right” or that the majority gets to determine morality? [When you said this in your earlier comment, I thought you meant it as a joke, but perhaps you didn’t.]

Re human suffering: Human suffering is shorthand for human disasters like disease, pestilence, famine, sensory and intellectual deprivation , lovelessness, etc etc where the nervous system of the human is registering pain because irreversible damage is being done to the human for no good reason.


I think this actually leads to an answer to the hypothetical situation that is different than you intended. If these aliens could successfully hook up all of civilization without anyone registering pain and subsequently entered everyone into an imaginary world where there are no human disasters, aren’t you saying that the aliens would actually be doing a good thing?

the relief of the suffering of nervous systems is a universal good and no nervous system is excluded from consideration except that it’s not practically possible to relieve that suffering


So, does this mean that you’re a vegetarian (and that everyone else should be as well)?

Actually the EXTERNAL justification you’re looking for - presumably from some framework OTHER than humanity and the facts of our shared biology- has all the reality of a unicorn.


There IS no other framework that is not a fiction, no mystical framework, no other-worldy framework no intellectualization ...


What I am saying is human suffering - (see below for what human suffering is) - is ultimately wrong and human happiness is ultimately right and things that lead to human suffering are always wrong and things that lead to human enrichment and fulfillment and happiness are always right.


This is an interesting response. You write with such confidence that human suffering is the ultimate moral guide. I wonder how you would weight suffering across humans. For example, let’s suppose for the moment that we could normalize suffering across humans and that each human could bear up to 100 units. Which situation is more moral: one in which 100 people each suffer one unit or on in which one person suffers 50 units and everyone else suffers none?


This isn’t a purely academic question in that it helps answer the question as to whether a tax policy should be progressive or not. It could also help answer the question of whether countries like the US should intervene in other countries where there is internal strife. A concrete example of the latter is whether or not the US should have invaded Iraq. It sounds like your framework dictates that if people believed that the suffering caused by the invasion and subsequent turmoil is less than the suffering that would have occurred had Hussein continued in power, then the US should have invaded (or at least intervened). Or, in other examples, that the US should do what it can to overthrow other governments if the subsequent regime is more likely to be people-friendly. Do I understand your morality correctly?

For the rest of us, with normal nervous systems and fully functioning brains, our hearts break to see human suffering in all its forms and we are motivated to relieve it just because we are and it doesn’t need any further justification. This feeling of compassion and its motivating power is something we all share, along with our other impulses such as those which lead us to find love and avoid suffering ourselves and achieve good works.  We are like this because of our biology.


This is also quite interesting—I get the sense that you feel that biology can do no wrong (in some sense). Biology causes us to feel more than just compassion. For example, what if resources become scarce and our (presumably biological) “fight-or-flight” response causes us to want to take from our neighboring country? (I would guess that there’s a fair amount of historical evidence for that.) Wouldn’t your framework imply that doing so is actually ok?


Or, what if it is found that the sociopaths that you talk about have a biological reason for their orientation? Is it simply that the biology of majority of the population gets to trump the biology of the minority?


Regards,
Jerry

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Posted: 15 April 2012 03:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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“To god all things are right and good, only to man some are good and others are not.” Heraclitus

“There is no such thing as right or wrong, only thinking makes them so.” Shakespeare

[ Edited: 22 April 2012 06:39 PM by boagie]
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The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one.
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Posted: 27 May 2012 10:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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I was waiting for softwarevisualization to respond so I could answer in batch, but since a month has passed, I guess I’ll just respond to boagie’s most recent comment.

boagie - 15 April 2012 03:12 PM

“To god all things are right and good, only to man some are good and others are not.” Heraclitus

“There is no such thing as right or wrong, only thinking makes them so.” Shakespeare

The quotation from Shakespeare seems like a fitting note to close this thread. I originally came to this forum because Sam Harris made fun of Christians on a point of morality. Puzzled, I came to this forum to ask how is that some atheists can believe in absolute values from which to judge other systems of morality. (If you don’t believe in in absolute values, then preferring one system over another is a little like preferring one color over another—sure, you can say that one system is more efficient or fair, but you can’t say that efficiency or fairness were good in an absolute sense.) In the course of this thread, I came upon atheists who indeed declared that atheists cannot hold absolute values. Others have offered contradicting explanations (e.g. values rooted in biology), but when pressed, have either not responded, or in boagie’s case, seem to affirm the lack of absolute values.


It seems intellectually self-consistent to hold that atheists believe that there are no absolute values. In the absence of any absolute values, it seems intellectually dishonest for atheists to condemn other systems of morality as Sam Harris seems quick to do.

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Posted: 30 May 2012 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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jerryp - 27 May 2012 10:25 PM

I was waiting for softwarevisualization to respond so I could answer in batch, but since a month has passed, I guess I’ll just respond to boagie’s most recent comment.

boagie - 15 April 2012 03:12 PM

“To god all things are right and good, only to man some are good and others are not.” Heraclitus

“There is no such thing as right or wrong, only thinking makes them so.” Shakespeare

The quotation from Shakespeare seems like a fitting note to close this thread. I originally came to this forum because Sam Harris made fun of Christians on a point of morality. Puzzled, I came to this forum to ask how is that some atheists can believe in absolute values from which to judge other systems of morality. (If you don’t believe in in absolute values, then preferring one system over another is a little like preferring one color over another—sure, you can say that one system is more efficient or fair, but you can’t say that efficiency or fairness were good in an absolute sense.) In the course of this thread, I came upon atheists who indeed declared that atheists cannot hold absolute values. Others have offered contradicting explanations (e.g. values rooted in biology), but when pressed, have either not responded, or in boagie’s case, seem to affirm the lack of absolute values.

It seems intellectually self-consistent to hold that atheists believe that there are no absolute values. In the absence of any absolute values, it seems intellectually dishonest for atheists to condemn other systems of morality as Sam Harris seems quick to do.

JerryP

Let us be honest with our words. ,When you say absolute values, you mean values handed down from the Big G,  such that there is no other authority, meanings and values are universal, concrete [absolute] . There is a kind of consensus across the board I think, that human societies wish to work towards a greater humanity, a greater biological expression of identifying with other, and the release of a greater compassion from which our actions might flow., The fact that we presently have functioning societies I believe indicates some success. I see all things man made as simply biological extensions of humanity, including his faith systems. So if some people wish to believe one of these faith systems is the source of our values and morality, we might be kind enough to be embarrassed for them—-just don’t let them lead your way through the storm—lol!!  After thought, all meaning is biologically dependent,, the physical world in the absence of said biology/consciousness is utterly without meaning—-thus, no values, absolute or otherwise. Morality is a group activity, and as Nietzsche stated,” Morality and autonomy are mutually exclusive.”

[ Edited: 30 May 2012 08:39 AM by boagie]
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The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one.
David Hume

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Posted: 31 May 2012 01:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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The slippery slope here is the word “morality”. I myself don’t use it, except when I’m not thinking, because its basis is religious. There is no such thing as “right & wrong”. One person’s right is another’s wrong, especially where people of various religions are concerned.


There is one thing that is universal, and that is life itself. It is built into us to value life, and all other values stem from this one.


This is one of the reasons that religion is so evil. Religion tries its damnedest to condition people into patterns of thinking that often bypass this most fundamental of values. For example, Christian and Islamic kooks of the past (and sometimes present) have slaughtered people, absolutely without conscience, in a bid to “save their souls”. This was the thinking behind pogroms, Crusades, ethnic cleansing, “honour” killing, infanticide, torture, the Spanish Inquisition, witch burning, and the hits just keep on coming.


In each of the cited examples, the acts of murder were deemed “moral”. They were, however, crimes against the universal value built into us regarding life itself.

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Posted: 31 May 2012 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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“There is no such thing as “right & wrong”. One person’s right is another’s wrong, especially where people of various religions are concerned.”

Very strange but not uncommon to hear this kind of talk in 2012.  There is an objective reality and there are is a basic objective morality, not based on faith.  We are human animals and have the EXACT SAME requirements to survive an live as do all other animals have a specific set of requirement on a species by species basis.

Based on our requirements for survival, we create values that we must act upon to survive.  Yes, most religions, cultures and political factions deny this and that’s why they suck and impede progress (positive forward movement.)

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Posted: 31 May 2012 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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mormovies - 31 May 2012 06:45 AM

“There is no such thing as “right & wrong”. One person’s right is another’s wrong, especially where people of various religions are concerned.”

Very strange but not uncommon to hear this kind of talk in 2012.  There is an objective reality and there are is a basic objective morality, not based on faith.  We are human animals and have the EXACT SAME requirements to survive an live as do all other animals have a specific set of requirement on a species by species basis.

Based on our requirements for survival, we create values that we must act upon to survive.  Yes, most religions, cultures and political factions deny this and that’s why they suck and impede progress (positive forward movement.)


You can’t have an “objective morality” because morality entails the notions of “right” & “wrong”, “good” & “evil”, whereas “objective” is defined as “Undistorted by emotion or personal bias”; this, from Webster’s. Notions of right, wrong, good, evil, are very much distorted by emotion and personal bias. In Western society, morality was exclusively within the purview of church canon for almost 1700 years- a situation that is still true in many parts of the world- a staunch Catholic New Yorker or a Montreal Imam, for example. As such, you’re not going to get an objective reaction. You’re dealing with dogma which is emotional, visceral, brain in neutral.


Yes, Humans have the same requirements as other animals where basic survival is concerned, but no, we do not live as though bound by those requirements when it comes to our behaviour. During the 1930’s, for example, excess barge loads of oranges were dumped in the ocean and spiked in order to cause the seawater to ruin them, rather than allow poor people to eat them. Dairy corporations have been known to dump millions of gallons of perfectly good milk in order to keep the price up. No objective reality or morality involved there. People were outraged and deemed the acts to be bad, evil, immoral.

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Posted: 31 May 2012 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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You’re giving us examples of human beings practicing distorted, irrational subjective values.  These are not universal, objective values you cited but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  The fact that there are universal rational values enables you to comment negatively on the very examples you cited!  Of course, irrational, non-scientific people and cultures will disagree.  That’s my point.

[ Edited: 31 May 2012 12:00 PM by mormovies]
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Posted: 31 May 2012 12:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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mormovies - 31 May 2012 11:51 AM

You’re giving us examples of human beings practicing distorted, irrational subjective values.  These are not universal, objective values you cited but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  The fact that there are universal rational values enables you to comment negatively on the very examples you cited!  Of course, irrational, non-scientific people and cultures will disagree.  That’s my point.


I’m giving you examples of Humans and their actual behaviour.


You’re confusing logic with “universal rational values”. Logic and “universal rational values” are not one and the same thing. Logic is a set of tools whose purpose is to guide reason in a manner that is unaffected by emotion or personal bias. The nuts and bolts of Logic are facts and procedure.


“Universal rational values” is an oxymoron because values are a) not rational, and b) are not universal.


As I said earlier, it is built into all living things to value life (their own) above all else. It has another name- “survival instinct”. But rational? Not one bit. “Visceral” is the word I’d use to describe it.


People’s behaviour becomes pushed to the limit when the threat of death is imminent. The range of reaction is tied directly to the amount of self-control the individual possesses. Jackie Kennedy, when her husband became a dead thing with his head half blown off, began crawling out of their limo, along the trunk. The press and the public lied to themselves about her “bravery”, telling themselves stories of how she handed the emergency doctors part of her husband’s brain, but that was after security people had taken her in hand, and after she had regained her self-control. No one has ever mentioned the manner in which she crawled away from the dead thing that had been her husband. You will see it with your own eyes on the Zapruder film, but you will never hear or read it mentioned- not once, not anywhere.


“Universal rational values” is similar in its way to the manner in which the press and the public lied to themselves about the incident. They didn’t have what it takes to come right out and say it. They tried their damnedest to bury it under words and rationalisations, but there it is, still, on the Zapruder film, for all to see.


It’s a case of what most people like to think vs what is.

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Posted: 31 May 2012 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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Sorry for the belated response I never saw anyone replied to me.

As I said, “there’s more of us than there is of you”.

Are you saying that “might makes right” or that the majority gets to determine morality? [When you said this in your earlier comment, I thought you meant it as a joke, but perhaps you didn’t.]

What I am saying is that morality is functioning in the majority of humans and the sociopaths are a minority and since sociopaths really just don’t “care” about people , there’s no talking to them. Since this is the case, the only thing left is the fact that we have the power (through our shared innate moral sense) to inflict   our will upon them, that’s just what it comes down to.

Re human suffering: Human suffering is shorthand for human disasters like disease, pestilence, famine, sensory and intellectual deprivation , lovelessness, etc etc where the nervous system of the human is registering pain because irreversible damage is being done to the human for no good reason.


I think this actually leads to an answer to the hypothetical situation that is different than you intended. If these aliens could successfully hook up all of civilization without anyone registering pain and subsequently entered everyone into an imaginary world where there are no human disasters, aren’t you saying that the aliens would actually be doing a good thing?

That is the movie the Matrix.  That’s a thought experiment I feel like it’s not worth answering. My answer to you is, how do you know yo’re not in the Matrix right now and everything YOU believe is just aliens injecting their thoughts in to you? See what answering questions like that is like? It’ s pointless. You can’t give a proof it’s not true, (anything can be an illusion by an evil demon) but you CAN give a very convincing proof it’s an uninteresting question.

the relief of the suffering of nervous systems is a universal good and no nervous system is excluded from consideration except that it’s not practically possible to relieve that suffering


So, does this mean that you’re a vegetarian (and that everyone else should be as well)?

Sort of but the fact is most of us count human suffering differently than pig suffering in at least some circumstances. You’d save your child before your pet pig. I think we all understand the limits in extremis and quirks of this kind of thing already.

Actually the EXTERNAL justification you’re looking for - presumably from some framework OTHER than humanity and the facts of our shared biology- has all the reality of a unicorn.


There IS no other framework that is not a fiction, no mystical framework, no other-worldy framework no intellectualization ...


What I am saying is human suffering - (see below for what human suffering is) - is ultimately wrong and human happiness is ultimately right and things that lead to human suffering are always wrong and things that lead to human enrichment and fulfillment and happiness are always right.


This is an interesting response. You write with such confidence that human suffering is the ultimate moral guide. I wonder how you would weight suffering across humans. For example, let’s suppose for the moment that we could normalize suffering across humans and that each human could bear up to 100 units. Which situation is more moral: one in which 100 people each suffer one unit or on in which one person suffers 50 units and everyone else suffers none?


This is like the evil demon question. At this point in time it’s unanswerable in any meaningful way. No enough information is available to even say it’s a coherent question. Something like this goes on in the real world anyway, in the planning of defense they weigh things like the suffering of many people against fewer people. In healthcare the bean counters in the insurance providers play life and death decisions off against their yearly bonuses.  So it’s not like I suddenly created some new dilemma.

This isn’t a purely academic question in that it helps answer the question as to whether a tax policy should be progressive or not. It could also help answer the question of whether countries like the US should intervene in other countries where there is internal strife. A concrete example of the latter is whether or not the US should have invaded Iraq. It sounds like your framework dictates that if people believed that the suffering caused by the invasion and subsequent turmoil is less than the suffering that would have occurred had Hussein continued in power, then the US should have invaded (or at least intervened). Or, in other examples, that the US should do what it can to overthrow other governments if the subsequent regime is more likely to be people-friendly. Do I understand your morality correctly?

Yes something like that is clearly a part of the process, as I said earlier. These things are unquantifiable but that doesn’t mean that the idea that human suffering is the measure of goodness is useless. We still use it all the time across domains. It’s not only not a new idea, it’s the implicit value behind many decisions.

For the rest of us, with normal nervous systems and fully functioning brains, our hearts break to see human suffering in all its forms and we are motivated to relieve it just because we are and it doesn’t need any further justification. This feeling of compassion and its motivating power is something we all share, along with our other impulses such as those which lead us to find love and avoid suffering ourselves and achieve good works.  We are like this because of our biology.


This is also quite interesting—I get the sense that you feel that biology can do no wrong (in some sense). Biology causes us to feel more than just compassion. For example, what if resources become scarce and our (presumably biological) “fight-or-flight” response causes us to want to take from our neighboring country? (I would guess that there’s a fair amount of historical evidence for that.) Wouldn’t your framework imply that doing so is actually ok?

You’re using biology to mean “transitive feeling” or “circumstantial emotions” and I am using it to mean the REASON we have the ideals we have ,, even when we don’t live up to them. The fact that biology makes us want to , say. murder someone if we get angry enough doesn’t mean that murder is justified and i certainly am not saying that. I am locating the source of morality. That source is our shared biology, as opposed to some supernatural something else.

Or, what if it is found that the sociopaths that you talk about have a biological reason for their orientation? Is it simply that the biology of majority of the population gets to trump the biology of the minority?

In a sense but it’s not as trivial as you seem to think it is. Even in Sparta morality was not much different than it was now, excepting stealing and of course who the “out group” was that you could enslave (remember we just got done with slavery). I am saying that humans . At no time or place have sociopaths been defined morality . That’s non-trivial and means that they represent a minority and even diseased state of humans. Generally, morality intersects with rational thought (another biological process) and you can see definition of IDEAL morality from the time of Sparta going forward as a kind of extended dialectic where thinkers and science inform each other over time as we move towards a clearer notion of what it is our biologically based moral imperative requires us to do and not do.

HTH

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Posted: 31 May 2012 04:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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Here is my shot:

jerryp - 31 October 2010 07:48 PM

...how can one value be elevated above another as a moral basis for all humanity


The keyword here is “humanity”. If you fall into this category then certain high fidelity assumptions can be made about your behaviour due to certain universal characteristics derived from our particular mammalian biological blueprint. In a very true sense what this means is that the structure of our DNA predicts how and when we feel. Good and bad in this sense is meaningless as they too are value laden words, so the distinction between what is perceived as happiness vs misery is best described in pragmatic biological terms.

It so happens that we evolved a mechanism which allows us to navigate successfully through time and space by associating coinciding electro-chemical reactions in the brain with actions conducive to the propagation of our DNA and potential threats to the same. These electro-chemical reactions are what manifest in our consciousness as likes and dislikes. At bottom if we depend on our base intuition we are relying on the downward slope of our natural inclination to gravitate toward our next meal through the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, endorphins & dopamine verses adrenaline, epinephrine etc. in fearful or aggressive drives.

Therefore asking why happiness is preferable to misery is tantamount to asking why oxygen & hydrogen come together as water, there is no other way for our DNA to prosper. For the sake of Sam’s and my argument happiness is held as an underlying axiomatic assumption, but hopefully you can see the cause being as natural as the air we breath.

This is important in all moral calculations when you come to understand how to get from an is to an ought (in contradiction to Hume’s dilemma). The is, is the current location, the ought is the direction and the third ingredient, that is never mentioned when contemplating this conjecture, is the intention. So you get from the is (I) via the ought (O) to the intention (I)…(I-O-I). Therefore the ought is always the route. When you choose a route without considering the destination then don’t complain when you land up in Dodge.

Sam agrees with me that the destination (I) is happiness; so now that you have a vector (I) to which you can calibrate your scalars (O). In theory you could just as easily get to Calais from London via New York but that would mean the your intention (I) was the longest route, and in the same way if your intention is misery then you ought to reach this destination with a whole lot of pain. If that is the value you have chosen good for you, but be careful because it flies in the face of your own intuition and more important and dangerously those around you who will be preventing your interaction with their universe in this way.

So when we deliberate on whether an action is moral or not we must look at whether that action is more likely to yield an untended outcome or whether the likely intention is a deleterious one. So for instance when muslims insist on having woman wear body bags, and insists on leper-like gender segregated habitation, they have chosen their route but have not at all considered their likely destination, even when the misery and ignorance picked up en route is staring them in face. Perhaps their destination is clear but they erred in calculating the route, however this is unlikely as the route is prescribed. They have not nor will they reach Sam’s destination.

The same goes for all other zealots who navigate through life using an outdated atlas with missing pages and flat out incorrect directions. Very often these travellers ignore or reinterpret their directions to suit or rely on the secular signposts along the way.

Thats my view..take it or leave it.

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Posted: 31 May 2012 06:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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All of man\s creations are biological extensions of his/her common biology, common to gender and common to species. How indeed, could it be seen otherwise. Man’s creations are reflected back to him in his perceptions thereof, what he/she finds displeasing to his biological being, he will attempt to change. Other cultural norms, values and morality are often misunderstood by an outsider, In most cultures there is a common streak of human compassion, where it is not distorted by some wretched archaic mythology/religion, this common thread of compassion is due to our common biology. If indeed, as I believe the case to be, our entire apparent world is a biological readout, an interpretation and thus,a projection, it necessarily follows that all meaning is biological dependent, subjective and relational. Subject and object, stand or fall together.

[ Edited: 31 May 2012 06:23 PM by boagie]
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The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one.
David Hume

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Posted: 31 May 2012 06:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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PainfulButTrue - 31 May 2012 04:42 PM

Here is my shot:

jerryp - 31 October 2010 07:48 PM

...how can one value be elevated above another as a moral basis for all humanity


The keyword here is “humanity”. If you fall into this category then certain high fidelity assumptions can be made about your behaviour due to certain universal characteristics derived from our particular mammalian biological blueprint. In a very true sense what this means is that the structure of our DNA predicts how and when we feel. Good and bad in this sense is meaningless as they too are value laden words, so the distinction between what is perceived as happiness vs misery is best described in pragmatic biological terms.

It so happens that we evolved a mechanism which allows us to navigate successfully through time and space by associating coinciding electro-chemical reactions in the brain with actions conducive to the propagation of our DNA and potential threats to the same. These electro-chemical reactions are what manifest in our consciousness as likes and dislikes. At bottom if we depend on our base intuition we are relying on the downward slope of our natural inclination to gravitate toward our next meal through the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, endorphins & dopamine verses adrenaline, epinephrine etc. in fearful or aggressive drives.

Therefore asking why happiness is preferable to misery is tantamount to asking why oxygen & hydrogen come together as water, there is no other way for our DNA to prosper. For the sake of Sam’s and my argument happiness is held as an underlying axiomatic assumption, but hopefully you can see the cause being as natural as the air we breath.

This is important in all moral calculations when you come to understand how to get from an is to an ought (in contradiction to Hume’s dilemma). The is, is the current location, the ought is the direction and the third ingredient, that is never mentioned when contemplating this conjecture, is the intention. So you get from the is (I) via the ought (O) to the intention (I)…(I-O-I). Therefore the ought is always the route. When you choose a route without considering the destination then don’t complain when you land up in Dodge.

Sam agrees with me that the destination (I) is happiness; so now that you have a vector (I) to which you can calibrate your scalars (O). In theory you could just as easily get to Calais from London via New York but that would mean the your intention (I) was the longest route, and in the same way if your intention is misery then you ought to reach this destination with a whole lot of pain. If that is the value you have chosen good for you, but be careful because it flies in the face of your own intuition and more important and dangerously those around you who will be preventing your interaction with their universe in this way.

So when we deliberate on whether an action is moral or not we must look at whether that action is more likely to yield an untended outcome or whether the likely intention is a deleterious one. So for instance when muslims insist on having woman wear body bags, and insists on leper-like gender segregated habitation, they have chosen their route but have not at all considered their likely destination, even when the misery and ignorance picked up en route is staring them in face. Perhaps their destination is clear but they erred in calculating the route, however this is unlikely as the route is prescribed. They have not nor will they reach Sam’s destination.

The same goes for all other zealots who navigate through life using an outdated atlas with missing pages and flat out incorrect directions. Very often these travellers ignore or reinterpret their directions to suit or rely on the secular signposts along the way.

Thats my view..take it or leave it.


“Flat out incorrect directions?” That smacks of the clunker “incorrect thinking”.


The destination is happiness? Nonsense. As a musician/writer, I hear that type of nonsense all the time. “Music is supposed to make you feel good,” is a clunker I come across almost daily.


The fact of the matter is that music not only expresses all emotion, but in the hands of a skilled composer/arranger can bring you to places nowhere else possible. It’s not about happiness. That’s like saying happiness is the best emotion or the most desirable emotion. It’s neither. It’s just one of a set of possible emotions.


People like to be scared witless. This is why horror/slasher movies and roller-coasters are so popular. The greater percentage of the population prefer these to blissfully gathering posies while listening to the tweedlebirds tweedlating and ruminating to the rhythms of Nature.


There are times when whole populations just love to slaughter other whole populations. During WWII it used to worry thinking, reflective-type Nazi soldiers that their compatriots had fallen into what they characterised as a “childlike” state, to use a word they used often. This, as the Nazis butchered, tortured, raped and murdered their way towards a date with Stalingrad.


Sociopathy isn’t an anomaly or an illness. It evolved so that we could better conduct war- an activity Humans have pursued with great enthusiasm for all recorded time. Many of the great war leaders were/are sociopaths. War brings out the sociopath in our young men.


Case in point: in the early 1970’s I took a course in psychology titled Studies In Human Aggression. One of the documentaries we saw was a documentary whose first part was begun for another purpose entirely, then abandoned for whatever reason. It was supposed to have been used for propaganda purposes, and consisted of interviews with young soldiers about to be shipped off to Korea. Someone doing research stumbled upon the unfinished documentary and tracked down as many of the surviving soldiers as they could, specifically those who had been involved in certain atrocities, such as the massacre of schoolchildren who had been sent into a concrete building. The soldiers had then lobbed hand-grenades through the windows, blowing the children to pieces. The soldiers had, at the beginning, been “moral” young men who said things like, “Well . . . I’ll kill if I absolutely have to, I suppose”. They were reinterviewed and asked about their actions. Many refused to have anything to do with the project, but others complied, and their responses were varied. Some were paralysed with self-loathing. Others fell back on patriotism and mom’s apple pie. Some were philosophical. One pointed out that something like 46,000 US soldiers, who had been prisoners, refused to return to the US after the war- make of that what you will,

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Posted: 01 June 2012 04:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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gsmonks - 31 May 2012 06:48 PM

“Flat out incorrect directions?” That smacks of the clunker “incorrect thinking”.

You seemed to have taken my metaphor completely out of context. The metaphor relates specifically to folk who claim to mine their morals solely from a holy book. With the advent of science and the recognition of the enormous potential of human solidarity in the modern age we have been able to prove many “flat out incorrect directions” presented by the bible, koran, torah & bhagavad gita. For instance we know that the world is not flat, woman are not inferior to men, slavery is not conducive to happiness, murder for the sake of apostasy is mad etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum. Many, many flat out incorrect directions, as I’m sure you will agree, be-litter these little treasures. Incidentally the second part of the metaphor addresses how the believers deal with these incorrect directions. Obviously I disagree with you about this being a clunker, am I wrong, or are you a theist?

gsmonks - 31 May 2012 06:48 PM

The destination is happiness? Nonsense. As a musician/writer, I hear that type of nonsense all the time. “Music is supposed to make you feel good,” is a clunker I come across almost daily.

?I was hoping for a more sophisticated interpretation of the suitcase word ‘happiness’ given the general context spelled out in the ‘Moral Landscape’. But for the sake of clarity I will tweedlate a bit more on it for my own happiness. Happiness is the destination and sometimes to get there, you will encounter peaks and troughs that define the only subjective route to this destination. So when you listen to music that might evoke memories of long lost lovers or family, it is always carried out with the long term goal of happiness in mind whether explicit (reminiscence) or implicit (unconscious experience of dopamine). I guarantee that when it starts to sound like nails on a chalk board you will stop, as this is itself is a form of torture (white noise).

gsmonks - 31 May 2012 06:48 PM

The fact of the matter is that music not only expresses all emotion, but in the hands of a skilled composer/arranger can bring you to places nowhere else possible. It’s not about happiness. That’s like saying happiness is the best emotion or the most desirable emotion. It’s neither. It’s just one of a set of possible emotions.

Again in the context of the ‘Moral Landscape’ and as expressed here, ‘happiness’ is a suitcase word, and instead of being a one dimensional term with a singular cardinality, it is a set made up of a taxonomic spectrum of blended emotions which have the effect of releasing the ‘positive’ neurotransmitters. Unfortunately the word has both a general and specific connotations. I mean happiness in the long term general sense as opposed to the short term specific sense. I will try to be more careful in future to spell this out…mea culpa.

gsmonks - 31 May 2012 06:48 PM

?People like to be scared witless. This is why horror/slasher movies and roller-coasters are so popular. The greater percentage of the population prefer these to blissfully gathering posies while listening to the tweedlebirds tweedlating and ruminating to the rhythms of Nature.

Yes people do, “like” to be scared witless. But as you may know it is more entertaining watching horror/slasher movies than snuff movies or gruesome news coverage…or maybe a beheading. Here’s a little note for you, if you enjoy watching beheadings then I strongly suggest to check yourself into the next psychiatric ward as your DNA might be too divergent from ours for you to get away with that fetish for too long before you become unstuck. No, the difference you are either ignoring or not appreciating, is that all of these actions require the user to carry out a mental risk assessment beforehand.  Once the actor realises that the activity is very safe (including stunts by dare-devils) they become cooperative in their execution…not before, unless suicide is the destination. But heres a really interesting fact when the action concludes safely the brain will be flooded with endorphins, and that is what you’re really after. Would you rather watch a slasher movie or be the next victim? Apples and oranges can’t really be compared.

gsmonks - 31 May 2012 06:48 PM

?There are times when whole populations just love to slaughter other whole populations.

This is a particularly pernicious statement, sorry to say, as it implies that the perpetrators are all psychopaths, and while there are no doubt always some present, I am certain no where near to the same extent as this statement implies. This is where memes play a crucial role in setting up perceived threats to their subjects. When you are led to believe that your existence is on the brink and you are kept in the dark and fed on shinona propaganda you cannot be surprised when turned into a mushroom. I do not doubt that there is a very nasty and violent streak in the human psyche, no different in principle to that of chimpanzee troops that hunt down and savagely butcher spider monkeys. Our species, however, have one fundamental difference that precludes this kind of behaviour from being rational and that is the presence of a reason engine. We can predict things that other mammals can’t which allows us to set up models in our minds of what certain behaviours are likely to yield in long term benefits. These people had their engines highjacked by a virulent and potent meme, but at no time were they pursuing ‘happiness’ from any rational calculated perspective…they may have had Calais in mind but because of their indoctrination they set off for it via New York.

gsmonks - 31 May 2012 06:48 PM

Sociopathy isn’t an anomaly or an illness.

Yes sociopathy isn’t a biological anomaly or illness in the same way as psychopathy is, but the memes from which they are derived are as much a part of the physical landscape as the churches & mosques in which they dwell. Memes have the same ability to release all the ‘happy’ neurotransmitters, whether they are based on reality or not as they are of driving relentless aggression. Here is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to moral discernment.

Values ARE memes and are therefore in a sense either physical obstacles or useful tools…and so when we evaluate them we must do so with great care as they have the potential of leading us to Kandahar. This, in my opinion, is the currency with which this article is trading.

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