Bruce, you’re in top form. Whether you like it or not, I suspect that the thoughts you express are appreciated by quite a few stark, raving atheists. I could be mistaken, however.
Morality is simply a teaching tool, Andy, as with anger and other punishments. They can tend to spiral out of control, of course, which you refer to. Sometimes the loss of control and its attendant chaos ends up being beneficial and sometimes terribly destructive and, yes, quite evil. The e-word is not something I use often, but I certainly do use it.
I’m not sure what else to say, other than that my goal with my dissection of morality was to distance myself, as well as anyone reading my words, from morality as it’s commonly understood or misunderstood. I appreciate the simplicity of duck morality, cat morality, and mentally-retarded human morality, as it makes better sense to me, overall, than the type I grew up with and continue to be surrounded by.
Thanks, and I’ll tackle your other questions later.
In the American board game “Life,” the object is to go through the usual phases of life and end up with as much play money and assets as possible - he who dies with the most toys wins. The loser goes bankrupt and “becomes a philosopher.”
Making money is a consequence of doing what other people (think they) want you to do. As you get richer, you become locked into cyclic flows that get bigger and bigger. All this is very much like gaining good karma in Hinduism. Whether the karma, the loot, the toys make you happier in any deeper sense is left as an exercise for the philosophers.
Bill Gates echoes earlier plutocrats who said it was shameful to die rich. You should give it all away to support causes you believe in. Both Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein did just that. They started out rich and gave away their fortunes so that they could devote themselves to the study of philosophy. Bill is burning his loot for similar reasons, even if his are silghtly less, er, narcissistic.
Fact will conquer meaning at every level. There will not even be any need for philosophers to create myths or miphs for us to aspire to, as everything will be made known. The “philosophy of the gaps” will disappear right along with the “god of the gaps,” as there will be no more gap to mind.
Facts are like money. You can accumulate them all you like, but whether they make you happier is for the philosophers to ponder. As for gaps, openings, opportunities, they are always there. You only have to look hard enough. Scientists find gaps every day, and plug them with new experiments, which open new horizons, revealing new gaps, and so on. If you think there are no more gaps, then your soul is boxed and buried already.
My argument is that philosophy depends, to a certain degree, on religion. If there is a God, philosophy has something to do as we grope for the meaning of meaning.
Let me use a computer metaphor. In any SAP landscape there is a “central instance” that performs the tasks required to keep the topology in order. Or a governance metaphor: in any political system there is a monarch or a president or a dictator where the buck stops. In any judicial system, there is a court of last appeal. And so on. The role and powers of these metaphorical demigods are infinite in principle but mostly trivial in practice.
Simlarly, in my mindworld constructions there is always a limit. A mindworld loops the loop at some point and becomes, as it were, balled up for its successor mindworlds to build on (or kick aside). The point of closure is a singularity or a limit from within, perhaps made inaccessible by some kind of infinity, but ordinary from outside. For example, the ordinal number omega is the infinite limit of the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, ... but is accepted in higher math as a just another counting ordinal. The North Pole is a limit for a Mercator map but trivial on a globe.
It is possible to come to agree with moral stances that are totally against everything that you learned during the initial socialization process. This process says nothing about the validity of the moral code that we settle upon, but it does seem to indicate that we have been geared & wired to determine meaning. Even nihilism itself is a form of moral philosophy whose acceptance may have moral consequences.
Sure. By playing Grand Auto Theft often enough or lusting to enough online porn, you can wire up your neuronet to make you a sociopath or a psychopath. This is the ongoing nature of evolutionary morality. We are doomed to take it all a step further at each generation, and this gives us the freedom to get it wrong and make monsters of ourselves. Verily, the righteous family men and women shall inherit the Earth.
And no one is certified to inquire for further clarification of your acronymic salad of GOOF balls?
All are welcome to ask. A question that drills down on a specific point of reference would help, but in the absence of such a starter I shall do what I can.
The Abrahamic monotheisms sweep all the mysteries of life under one big carpet and say God knows. The sheer bulk and variety of these mysteries make this tactic utterly futile. Mystery upon mystery, paradox on paradox, and rigid reference to ancient texts that look like nonsense discredit the entire institutional infrastructure build to honor this God. How can anyone take an entity seriously that resists all rational analysis?
But junking the whole lot and going back to facts and common sense is no longer an option. Recent evidence in the industrialized world suggests that many people need more than that to feel good enough to be fruitful and multiply in a world of dog eat dog. Some institutional recognition of the human predicament and the need for social solidarity is apparently welcome to those who flock to the monotheisms despite their manifest absurdity.
My top-down approach here is to start by peeling away two sets of issues that cannot reasonably be assimilated to a god conceived as the GOOF. One is the whole range of concerns addressed in miph—mathematics, informatics, and physics—which seem to me to have a depth and intractability incommensurable with the traditional phenomenology of the GOOF. The other is the domain of human psychology, as revealed by introspection and neuroscience, where a self can obviously ground itself in miph and facts and common sense independently of the GOOF and its mad institutions.
My “aha” moment came when I saw that the idea of selfish genes has great relevance to the GOOF thus trimmed. The self explained as a more or less rational being in a miphic world of facts is in effect a robot—a cognitive agent attempting to maximize various things (satisfaction, income, whatever) in a precut landscape. Such a self is ultimately a Turing machine. In evolutionary terms, what is missing in the picture is any sense that the machine can be driven to replicate or has any drive toward anything beyond its own incarnation. Genes would drive such a machine by imposing a self beyond the self.
So if each of us has an ordinary self, which is the biological robot in the standard story and the familiar self of everyday life, it would be natural to expect also an extraordinary self, as a phenomenal manifestion of the selfish genes package. This extraordinary self would have strange, paradoxical, apparently irrational attributes—just like the GOOF. The Abrahamic religions have homed in, as if by sleepwalking, on precisely the genetic attractor that an evolutionary picture would predict. Once we strip away the miphic and psychic irrelevancies, what is left is a fetish that accompanies and comforts people in their birth, marriage and death preoccupations and thus complements the rational robot self-image.
Once you see the story here, the religious hostility to evolutionary biology is apparent. Darwin and Dawkins (and all the others) between them hit the nail on the head so smartly, once we trim the miphic and psychic issues from the GOOF and see what is left, that what we now confront is a huge monster in its death agonies, like a vampire with a stake in its heart. As scientists, we have killed the beast. But now we find we need some of the things the beast-placating religions provided. Of course we can make them anew, but to do so we may do well to look to old-time religion for a few helpful hints.
As scientists, we have killed the beast. But now we find we need some of the things the beast-placating religions provided. Of course we can make them anew, but to do so we may do well to look to old-time religion for a few helpful hints.
First, how did you come by such a mind-bendingly low opinion of human beings in general? Probably from the same Abrahamic religious crap you are pretending to critique and reject. You can’t quite shed it, can you? You hate it like the devil, but you just can’t seem to get it out of your system.
Second, how did you come by such a mind-bendingly low opinion of scientists? After all “we” are just human beings. Probably from the residues of your religious indoctrination. So, I’ve answered it for you. You don’t appear really to consider yourself one of them, so tuck it up your arse with the first person plural bullshit.
I think your true colors are showing. You’re schizically trying to keep the guttering flame alive and are trying to pass the self off as the god. It just looks fucking loony to me. It’s like watching a sick drunk bent over a gutter with the dry-heaves.
I’m still looking forward to at least mildly engaging my narcissism by answering Andy’s questions about my feelings on morality. My ego will have to wait, unfortunately, as this week is turning out to be all about other people and their problems. Poor me, but at least I’m getting paid for my selflessness, and in the long run, money can energize my ego, too.
Andy, will you do me a favor and tease apart at least a couple of differences between scientific-based and philosophy-based epistemology? As my English teachers use to direct us: Compare and Contrast. Do you really imagine it’s necessary for humanity to invent more and more illusions? If you and one woman were the last two people on earth and you were to procreate, what would you teach your children?
Andy, will you do me a favor and tease apart at least a couple of differences between scientific-based and philosophy-based epistemology? If you and one woman were the last two people on earth and you were to procreate, what would you teach your children?
A couple of differences? There are none. Epistemology is the methodology of science.
I would tell my kids: love others like yourself, respect nature, keep working methodically and patiently, and all this—the natural world—will be ample reward for your efforts.
“Scientific epistemology” is much simpler than “philosophical epistemology” because it resists the temptation to obfuscate words like “experience” and “substance”.
For example, the subfield of physics known as “continuum mechanics” studies materials as undivided continua so that it can specify the state of stress in a physical body at a geometric point, thereby enabling it to use the methods of calculus and the mathematical properties of continuous functions to study the dynamics that proceeds from various states of stress. Thus materials as diverse as air, water, wet concrete, and dry concrete can all be treated profitably by this methodology, as aerospace engineers, civil engineers, and water treatment technologists alike can attest. The predictions made from this theory are in accord with the “experience” of the designers of technology with the “substances” to which they apply it, and users of this technology appreciate the consequent regularity of their own experience with those products.
Just coincidentally, these branches of knowledge are not undernourished, despite the facts (not obfuscated) that earthquakes bring down buildings and metal fatigue brings down airplanes. Other branches of science are busily at work on these problems even at the moment, leaving us free to wibble cacophonously about the fundamental nature of reality. Us! Oh, there’s that dreaded third person plural again. Some of “us” are obfuscating.
Actually, I want to invent a new word to describe what some philosophers do: Obfuskankin’.
. . .
Returning to the triggering issue here, what does a nihilist rejection of morality amount to? A rejection of the whole moral side of our evolutionary heritage? A rejection of moral verdicts that are out of their depth in a modern setting? A rejection of ethical systems that fail to reflect moral truths? These are very different things.
I’m no expert on philosophical exploration and terminology, so I have no idea what a nihilistic rejection of morality commonly amounts to. If I’m misusing the term “nihilism,” I’ll trust your explanation. I have, on the other hand, attempted to describe what morality itself amounts to. My descriptions seem so at odds with what is commonly referred to as “morality” that I almost never even speak about these issues. Can you imagine waiting for a bus—whether in New York’s alphabet city or in West Des Moines, IA—and striking up a discussion about morality as we’ve done here? I’d either get shot or stabbed, or at least shunned and ostracized. That’s the sort of rejection of morality I refer to. My rejection is motivated out of recognition that issues tending to be positioned under the umbrella term “morality” are so subjectively derived that they’ve stopped making much if any sense to me.
I’m no expert on philosophical exploration and terminology, so I have no idea what a nihilistic rejection of morality commonly amounts to. ... My rejection is motivated out of recognition that issues tending to be positioned under the umbrella term “morality” are so subjectively derived that they’ve stopped making much if any sense to me.
Subjective is right—that’s the basis for the positivist rejection of the objectivity of morals. My problem with that is that things can be subjective and objective at once. The best example is mathematics. When I say “1 + 1 = 2” it is my direct subjective apprehension of its truth that convinces me, yet the truth is as objective as any truth. Similarly for binding character of a law like “Love thy neighbor as thyself” which again is validated subjectively yet arguably as objectively valid as any law of physics.
Similarly pithy and often quoted—clichéd even—instructions include “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But how useful are such instructions? Do you remember the last time you recommended to someone that they treat others as they’d like to be treated, or words that effect? Machen sie zum anderen . . . . (Wait, now I’m revealing my tragic attention deficiencies back in junior-high German class.) Even when talking to children, who says such things? I suppose those who also tell their children when they’re being Bad or Good. Why not just go all the way, and tell your brat that he’s being an evil fucking bastard, when those words technically describe him or her with some precision?
Actually instructing someone—whether a child who still needs to learn certain lessons or an errant adult—in such a way, it seems to me, amounts to using an empty tautology that nicely describes philosophical advice but has become fairly useless in a practical sense. It’s like saying, “Be nice to people and they may be nice to you, though some of course will not, and humanity as a whole will certainly benefit if every person, whether or not they’ve been properly instructed, abides by it as an overall trend.”
Actually, I don’t mean to mock any golden-type rules. They print well and may even assist in hypnotizing some personality types. Certainly their message is to be applauded. But how practical are they when it comes to convincing unruly types to behave themselves? I’ve found that other less vague methodologies work extremely well on humans. On the other hand, if you’re a duck or a robin, various Golden Rules may be just the thing, and I shouldn’t be too harsh.