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Happiness and Suffering as the Basis for Morality
Posted: 19 December 2007 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 91 ]  
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derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

The hypothesis is either true or it’s not.

That’s pretty simplistic thinking for all but the most banal hypotheses. For most complex phenomena there are no black-and-white answers. Scientists don’t sit around with check-boxes and mark hypotheses as either true or false.

This was a really careless statement on my part. What I better ought to have said is that a hypothesis is either rejected or it is not. I apologize for this error.

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Posted: 19 December 2007 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 92 ]  
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Reflecting generally on this thread, I’m wondering why you guys don’t hold Harris’ feet to the fire for tossing around “fuzzwords” like happiness and suffering, without supplying you with detailed treatises outlining precisely what he means by those terms.

Perhaps it is a trap to allow the conversation to devolve into recursive demands for semantic clarification. For example, if someone defined happiness as “a positive subjective mental state”, I imagine this crowd demanding follow-up definitions for “positive”, “subjective”, “mental”, and “state”. And so on, for the definitions of those terms, ad infinitum. It doesn’t really matter what the supplied definition might be…you could do this with anything.

Or…you could do what most people do in everyday conversation, relying on pragmatics and assuming some shared conceptual overlap unless there seems to be a stark difference in the thing concept we’re talking about.

Otherwise, there’s a double-standard at work here. Does Harris need to supply detailed definitions of “happiness” and “suffering”, along with detailed definitions of all the words in the definitions, and so on (for how many levels?). Or can we accept that our conceptions of these terms are roughly equivalent for the sake of argument?

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Posted: 19 December 2007 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 93 ]  
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derekjames - 19 December 2007 02:48 PM

Perhaps it is a trap to allow the conversation to devolve into recursive demands for semantic clarification. For example, if someone defined happiness as “a positive subjective mental state”, I imagine this crowd demanding follow-up definitions for “positive”, “subjective”, “mental”, and “state”.

Otherwise, there’s a double-standard at work here. Does Harris need to supply detailed definitions of “happiness” and “suffering”, along with detailed definitions of all the words in the definitions, and so on (for how many levels?). Or can we accept that our conceptions of these terms are roughly equivalent for the sake of argument?

Sam purports to be a neuroscientist attempting to perform repeatable observations about what “happiness” and “suffering” might, uh, “represent” in terms of physical brain states. I do not think he will succeed in our lifetimes or his, but that does not mean he should not pursue the investigation. You, on the other hand, seem to prefer

derekjames - 19 December 2007 02:48 PM

...what most people do in everyday conversation, relying on pragmatics and assuming some shared conceptual overlap unless there seems to be a stark difference in the thing concept we’re talking about.

Sam wants to measure. And you want to talk. Yak yak yak, Derek. You are not getting my point. Unless, of course, you want to suggest that there’s no real difference between an orgasm and a punch in the nose.

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Posted: 19 December 2007 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 94 ]  
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Salt Creek - 19 December 2007 03:13 PM

Sam purports to be a neuroscientist attempting to perform repeatable observations about what “happiness” and “suffering” might, uh, “represent” in terms of physical brain states. I do not think he will succeed in our lifetimes or his, but that does not mean he should not pursue the investigation. You, on the other hand, seem to prefer

derekjames - 19 December 2007 02:48 PM

...what most people do in everyday conversation, relying on pragmatics and assuming some shared conceptual overlap unless there seems to be a stark difference in the thing concept we’re talking about.

Sam wants to measure. And you want to talk. Yak yak yak, Derek. You are not getting my point. Unless, of course, you want to suggest that there’s no real difference between an orgasm and a punch in the nose.

So The End of Faith is a work of science? And all of Harris’ um, talks, aren’t basically talking? Yeah, I’m not getting your point because you basically don’t have one.

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Posted: 19 December 2007 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 95 ]  
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derekjames - 19 December 2007 03:24 PM

And all of Harris’ um, talks, aren’t basically talking?

Well, not entirely, Derek. Harris has, indeed, done some research. Have you? As the guy who stirred up this whole thread in the first place, you bear the burden of justifying its continuation. Either that or hijack it to another matter. Over to you, pal.

You seem to be one of those people who doesn’t seem to get that he is arguing with forum members rather than with Harris himself.

The real aim of a scientist, with respect to any particular hypothesis he tests is to put himself out of the job of defending it, because a better hypothesis has instead come down the pike for him to test. Now, you may feel that the purpose of “investigation” is not to identify and discard defunct hypotheses, but to relabel them with obscurantist names in order to keep discussing them, more or less as an approach to job security.

Some people seem to think it important to continue to mystify the human condition rather than to understand it. Ah, me. We all have to eat, don’t we?

[ Edited: 19 December 2007 11:13 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 19 December 2007 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 96 ]  
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duplicate post

[ Edited: 19 December 2007 11:12 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 19 December 2007 04:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 97 ]  
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Sander - 16 December 2007 10:45 PM

http://www.christian-forum.net/

My name there is Visarion.

Enjoy.

Well Sander, that was an interesting experience.  There were a few folks who came across as pretty defensive and a few who seemed to have a pretty good sense of humor.  But for the most part, they seemed to me to be either extremely stoked about being Christians, or else they were trying awfully hard to convince themselves of the “truth” of it all.  Maybe this pretense SC sees isn’t about fooling other people as much as it is about fooling themselves. 

And yes, there did seem to be some scared and lonely people on the forum, especially on a few threads where they were talking about their personal problems.  But the folks with the problems weren’t the hard core believers, they were people on the fringe of religion, drawn to the forum looking for support.  The fact that they’re there isn’t necessarily an indication of religion’s harmfulness, but rather of religion’s appeal to scared and lonely people, wouldn’t you say?

I remain convinced that some people are better off with religion, although I no longer feel comfortable saying that and “religion is bullshit” in the same sentence.  You’re right about that.  Religion is mostly bullshit, but there sure seems to be a component of it that’s good for some people’s morale.  And that’s not bullshit.

[ Edited: 19 December 2007 04:34 PM by Antisocialdarwinist]
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Posted: 19 December 2007 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 98 ]  
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Salt Creek - 19 December 2007 03:54 PM

Well, not entirely, Derek. Harris has, indeed, done some research. Have you?

I’m a 3rd-year grad student, and I’ve presented 3 conference papers (on neural network modeling), but nothing published in a journal yet. I’m currently working on a computational model of cortical function and hope to publish some results soon. Nothing I’ve brought up here bears directly on my primary line of research, though.

You seem to be one of those people who doesn’t seem to get that he is arguing with forum members rather than with Harris himself.

Oh, I get that loud and clear. It’s doubtful Harris would have come across as a vitriolic jackass.

The real aim of a scientist, with respect to any particular hypothesis he tests is to put himself out of the job of defending it, because a better hypothesis has instead come down the pike for him to test. Now, you may feel that the purpose of “investigation” is not to identify and discard defunct hypotheses, but to relabel them with obscurantist names in order to keep discussing them, more or less as an approach to job security.

Some people seem to think it important to continue to mystify the human condition rather than to understand it. Ah, me. We all have to eat, don’t we?

Well, I am interested in trying to clarify issues as much as I can. The topic at hand was mostly a philosophical issue, dealing with the basis for secular values and the issue of whether or not happiness works as a good foundation. But instead of really discussing that like reasonable adults, there was an awful lot of sniping and snideness, along with an inability to take some common ground for granted and actually have a decent conversation.

As the guy who stirred up this whole thread in the first place, you bear the burden of justifying its continuation. Either that or hijack it to another matter. Over to you, pal.

I’m not exactly going to take my ball and go home. I’ll lurk around a bit and possibly chime in on other threads. Who knows…maybe if I’m feeling masochistic, I’ll even start another thread.

[ Edited: 19 December 2007 06:29 PM by derekjames]
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Posted: 19 December 2007 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 99 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 19 December 2007 09:19 PM

And yes, there did seem to be some scared and lonely people on the forum, especially on a few threads where they were talking about their personal problems.  But the folks with the problems weren’t the hard core believers, they were people on the fringe of religion, drawn to the forum looking for support.  The fact that they’re there isn’t necessarily an indication of religion’s harmfulness, but rather of religion’s appeal to scared and lonely people, wouldn’t you say?

Sure, I agree with your last statement.
It probably didn’t show in my posts but I felt bad for a lot of these people.
Their world seems so small and threatening.
I lost my composure at one point and told one guy that he lives on his knees, like a frightened child. That wasn’t very nice but I did mean it.

I remain convinced that some people are better off with religion, although I no longer feel comfortable saying that and “religion is bullshit” in the same sentence.  You’re right about that.  Religion is mostly bullshit, but there sure seems to be a component of it that’s good for some people’s morale.  And that’s not bullshit.

Well, let’s leave that one for another day.
I feel a bit battle-weary.

Thanks for reading the threads.
I can recommend a venture such as this if it were only for the experience of reversing the roles.
Here we can gang up on believers but on a Christian site you are on your own and I found that an interesting challenge.

Cheers.

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But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever.”

From the autobiography of A.A.Mills, ‘The passage of time, according to an estranged, casual tyrant.’

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