Please help me understand the fundamentals of his argument.
Posted: 27 August 2012 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Hey chaps,

Quick question. Ive just finished reading ML. I went into the book ready to accept his premise but I had a few specific doubts, and I did not find them dealt with at any point. Quite likely Sam did mention them I am just too dumb to notice- if so please point it out!

Essentially, I cant accept his essential premise that it is possible to objectively have a ‘worst possible misery for everone’ and a ‘best possible well-being for everyone’.

For example, in the latter case, what if the best possible well-being, however that was defined, included a society where gay marriage was illegal, because 99% of the population draw significant happiness from this being the case?

Other issues include, how do we determine which creates more misery, a person who has X amount of unhappiness, or a person who is dead?

Please help!

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Posted: 27 August 2012 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Quite a can of worms, considering that in many cases, death is the better option.

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I prefer the full-on embrace of reality to the spiritual masturbation that is religion.
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I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people
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Posted: 29 August 2012 11:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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pumpkin_feet - 27 August 2012 06:26 AM

Hey chaps,

what if the best possible well-being, however that was defined, included a society where gay marriage was illegal, because 99% of the population draw significant happiness from this being the case?

Please help!

The utopian scenario he is describing in the best possible well-being for everyone could not, as you point out, achieve maximum happiness for 100% of the population because conflicts of interest would preclude that.  presumably however, the people of that state would be free from the bigotry that motivates anti gay marriage laws.  In any case, I wouldn’t dwell too much on this since it is merely a thought exercise of an ideal. If society ever reached such a state, it would not look anything like any of us may guess so we can only hope our progeny enjoys it. 

pumpkin_feet - 27 August 2012 06:26 AM

Hey chaps,

Other issues include, how do we determine which creates more misery, a person who has X amount of unhappiness, or a person who is dead?

Please help!

I don’t think Dr. Harris was foolhardy enough to actually propose a model for an objective moral landscape or criteria therefore.  His point was limited to describing how an objective morality is possible.  Though weighing a quantity of unhappiness against the value of life seems like an insurmountable problem, there’s no reason to suppose we couldn’t tackle it if we made a serious study of moral questions and developed a scientific literature on the topic.  It may not be a question we can answer, but we won’t know if don’t start tackling the questions we can handle in a serious and methodical way.

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Posted: 29 August 2012 11:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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pumpkin_feet - 27 August 2012 06:26 AM

Hey chaps,

what if the best possible well-being, however that was defined, included a society where gay marriage was illegal, because 99% of the population draw significant happiness from this being the case?

Please help!

The utopian scenario he is describing in the best possible well-being for everyone could not, as you point out, achieve maximum happiness for 100% of the population because conflicts of interest would preclude that.  presumably however, the people of that state would be free from the bigotry that motivates anti gay marriage laws.  In any case, I wouldn’t dwell too much on this since it is merely a thought exercise of an ideal. If society ever reached such a state, it would not look anything like any of us may guess so we can only hope our progeny enjoys it. 

pumpkin_feet - 27 August 2012 06:26 AM

Hey chaps,

Other issues include, how do we determine which creates more misery, a person who has X amount of unhappiness, or a person who is dead?

Please help!

I don’t think Dr. Harris was foolhardy enough to actually propose a model for an objective moral landscape or criteria therefore.  His point was limited to describing how an objective morality is possible.  Though weighing a quantity of unhappiness against the value of life seems like an insurmountable problem, there’s no reason to suppose we couldn’t tackle it if we made a serious study of moral questions and developed a scientific literature on the topic.  It may not be a question we can answer, but we won’t know if don’t start tackling the questions we can handle in a serious and methodical way.

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Posted: 31 August 2012 11:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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The problem with assuming a different kind of morality than the one expressed by humanity in past and present time, is the failure to divide observable and measurable reality from that conjured by imagination.

The mentioned example of bigotry can be used to elaborate what I am trying to say. The idea or concept of a society or state free from any variation falling under the label of bigotry is founded on something known as wishful thinking. Do not confuse the acknowledgment of bigotry as something found in reality as support of it. I am only stating the fact that it exists, and that is not some external force influencing the often imagined and fabricated idealistic portrayal of humanity.

Since bigotry exists there can be no other conclusion than it is a part of humanity rather than some external limiting force imposed upon humanity. Happiness or well being are states given meaning only in relation to existence of misery and lack of well being. The idea of some tribal people living according to tradition experience happiness and sense of well being in any inferior way than what we usually describe as criteria for happiness and well being accordingly to own culture, is bigotry in itself.


But as you say “Coolinator”, sometimes utopian or idealistic thoughts and concepts are needed to broaden and expand our frame of mind. The objective moral landscape presented by Dr. Harris serve a purpose not by defining and outlining a perfect attainable state, but provide a basis from which inquiry and research can expand knowledge of value to humanity. The questions with no clear answer are by far more interesting than those questions with answer, as they demand a continued push forward when it comes to exploring the mystery of experiencing reality. Although incomprehensible to the human mind we question the beginning and end of our universe, we ponder about alternate realities, the event horizon and beyond. Value of answers gained can be debated, the value of the fascinating and interesting experience such quests presents is not.

TheCoolinator - 29 August 2012 11:39 PM

  It may not be a question we can answer, but we won’t know if don’t start tackling the questions we can handle in a serious and methodical way.

This is as I understand it the essence of argument put forward by Dr. Harris, nicely summarized into argument I think no one would disagree with.

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Posted: 31 August 2012 09:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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I’m not sure I’ve take the full meaning of the point you were trying to make Vallhall, but I do need to comment on the following:

Vallhall - 31 August 2012 11:10 AM

The idea of some tribal people living according to tradition experience happiness and sense of well being in any inferior way than what we usually describe as criteria for happiness and well being accordingly to own culture, is bigotry in itself.

Do I read this correctly to be a defense of bigotry so long as it makes the tribal traditionalists that hold a particular prejudice happy?  I think Dr. Harris has already delivered the knockdown to multiculturalist equality of morality, so I won’t belabor that point here.  However, I should say that I find it likely that abandoning bigotry will always lead to an increase in total well being in the world, both on the part of the bigot who drops his prejudice, and the class of people who had too recently been maligned by it.


If I have your point, you have said effectively that I am at risk of bigotry against homophobes who derive their prejudice from their traditions and culture.  Again, this argument would rely on multiculturalism an is therefore invalid.  I would further point out that being intolerant of certain destructive ideas is not at all the same thing as being intolerant of certain people, so the term bigotry would be an inappropriate charge to level against my argument.

 

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Posted: 02 September 2012 03:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 31 August 2012 09:19 PM

Do I read this correctly to be a defense of bigotry so long as it makes the tribal traditionalists that hold a particular prejudice happy?  I think Dr. Harris has already delivered the knockdown to multiculturalist equality of morality, so I won’t belabor that point here.  However, I should say that I find it likely that abandoning bigotry will always lead to an increase in total well being in the world, both on the part of the bigot who drops his prejudice, and the class of people who had too recently been maligned by it.

No, I just stated bigotry as something that evidently have and do exist in human societies. It comes out of, or is some expression of the biological influence on human social behavior. The idea of bigotry or any other human social behavior can be perceived as exclusive to those outside our own bubble.

What I said about the tribal traditional culture was that they would probably experience well being and happiness even if they do not have a television, junk food and other things that gives our lives meaning.. My point was that we are all influenced by reactions we define as bigotry or prejudice.

When someone talks about having abandoned bigotry and prejudice, they in reality put forward a claim of having elevated themselves to a higher superior state than the ignorant inferior people. The problem with a view of being the representative of such superior state comes is prejudice that bigotry is founded upon, something claimed to have been abandoned.

TheCoolinator - 31 August 2012 09:19 PM

If I have your point, you have said effectively that I am at risk of bigotry against homophobes who derive their prejudice from their traditions and culture.  Again, this argument would rely on multiculturalism an is therefore invalid.  I would further point out that being intolerant of certain destructive ideas is not at all the same thing as being intolerant of certain people, so the term bigotry would be an inappropriate charge to level against my argument.

My point is that a negative description or perception is always stronger when externalized.

Have you noticed how easy it is to be surrounded by idiots in traffic. Have you noticed why those in front of you in the queue are way to slow, while those behind you seem pushy and should chill down.Have you noticed that you make unfortunate mistakes, while others do same things out of stupidity.. I know I do, so I try to remind myself of from time to time about the negative as something not exclusively external factor.


Understand that we agree on humanity abandoning bigotry as something we can create imaginations and visions of how such achievement could reward humanity.

Nonetheless we must to the reality of the natural world as it is, and not as if it is how we would like it to be. I assume we agree on the natural world we are a part of, is the present state as the result of natural causes and natural laws. When we then observe the existence of bigotry and prejudice as common to human behavior. Here is where we seem to part ways. I see it as, and would argue in favor for there being a natural cause and explanation to mentioned human traits. By that I mean we must understand the situation as not one of choice, neither adopt nor abandon.

I put forward the argument of probability of not having same traits I regard as negative. Now if others seem to be blind to things I find obvious. I most likely am exposed to same blindness at times, without ever being able to notice,

I just find the other argument as incredibly weak. The notion of being the rational amongst the irrational, the enlightened amongst the clouded minds ot the religious, having abandoned human flaws, a new elevated human will appear, A beautiful expression of mythological archetypes so many stories seem to repeat. The claim of ideas being something separate from people is absurd and falls flat, Influences related to biology is not of choice, and you can not simply abandon these influences. The denial of being influenced are one of belief, finding strength in faith.

He he… Which brings us to the point where we both perceive each other as blind to the obvious. Confirming me probable are more similar than we are able to perceive.

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Posted: 02 September 2012 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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If I believe my own position superior to anyone else’s, that may be either from an emotional reflexive attitude, or from a rational and dispassionate comparison.  The beliefs I adopt based on those analyses are not equally exposed relativistic bias.  This idea cuts to the quick of the premise of the Moral Landscape.

One need not be completely free from bias in order to be acquitted on the charge of bigotry.  And a good thing too since results from modern psychological research prevents anyone from claiming to be free from the former.  This is, I think, the idea on which you rest your argument.  However, our being intrinsically irrational creatures does not mean our efforts to achieve objectivity are in vain.  There is a mechanism by which our confidence in preferring one idea to another can be tethered to reality. 

This is precisely the means through which you have achieved a more enlightened perspective on traffic conflict than that which prevails in the mainstream.  You need not inoculate yourself from feeling the emotions which motivate the more aggressive driver in order to recognize that those emotions lack objective validity.  Moreover, you would not be prejudiced in believing your perspective to be superior to the one evidence by a person that cuts you off with an obscene gesture.

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Posted: 03 September 2012 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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It makes me happy to see you put effort into understanding what I said. Sometimes things seems so clear before you put it into writing, and then when you see what you have written so much seems to have been lost in the process.

I never implied efforts to achieve objectivity are in vain. We fully agree on the importance of such efforts to be important and rewarding.

One of the reasons behind by great respect for Dr. Harris in comparison to other leading figures and following in this more or less recent “Anglo-Atheist movement”, also know as “New Atheism”, is how Dr. Harris when describing the human condition refers to we and us. Unfortunately there seems to be a very accepted and unchallenged reference as they or them in relation to undesired elements of the human condition.

Coming from a somewhat different background I observe this newer movement influenced by the Scandinavian/Germanic frame of mind.  The conflict and challenges I see in “Anglo” influenced countries as USA/Britain/Australia is difficult to fully comprehend, as “God” was declared dead some time ago where I come from. My concern relates to the emerging elements within the “New Atheism” movement who seems to view themselves as representing objectivity, as if it was achievable and not just a beacon we use as guidance when we navigate this experience we call reality.

My point is the need to be careful with belief in being enlightened, as it is not something you are, it is a path you walk. In a historical perspective the claim of religion was to know, while science grew out of the humility to question if we really knew all these things claimed to be known.

Although I ramble on, I do not really think we disagree so much as I initially believed. Remember if you in the future are cut of in the traffic by a crazy man giving you the finger, please forgive him as it could be me. I am after all, only human.

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Posted: 03 September 2012 04:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Vallhall - 03 September 2012 09:55 AM

My concern relates to the emerging elements within the “New Atheism” movement who seems to view themselves as representing objectivity, as if it was achievable and not just a beacon we use as guidance when we navigate this experience we call reality.

I agree that we are like minded on the majority of important topics on which we’ve touched, but I do disagree with the above.  Certainly, there are arrogant atheists as often as there are arrogant theists.  However, the serious leaders of the New Atheist movement are not advancing themselves as perfect or near perfect representations of objectivity.  They are simply faulting the faithful for lacking an adequate commitment to that ideal.  This criticism cuts to the quick of most moderate believers who have a commitment to scientific thought but sequester their faith from the logical conclusions resulting therefrom.  That cognitive dissonance explains their visceral reactions far better than the any malignity behind the critique.

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Posted: 07 September 2012 02:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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I am not so much talking about the serious leading figures, but the following and those who draw momentum from serious leading figures. I understand people like Dr. Harris promote some arguments to raise debate and provoke responses. Personally I would not careful to argue for or against by just using arguments shaped out of extensive knowledge on specific subjects. On arenas like Youtube you are likely to find discussions with depth like this ;
“You are stupid. No, you are stupid. No, you are. You…. “. For some reason they think, imagine or believe they represent a case for or against something remotely carrying same weight as the well founded and explored arguments presented by people like Dr. Harris.

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Posted: 07 September 2012 10:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Vallhall - 07 September 2012 02:46 PM

I am not so much talking about the serious leading figures, but the following and those who draw momentum from serious leading figures. I understand people like Dr. Harris promote some arguments to raise debate and provoke responses. Personally I would not careful to argue for or against by just using arguments shaped out of extensive knowledge on specific subjects. On arenas like Youtube you are likely to find discussions with depth like this ;
“You are stupid. No, you are stupid. No, you are. You…. “. For some reason they think, imagine or believe they represent a case for or against something remotely carrying same weight as the well founded and explored arguments presented by people like Dr. Harris.

Fair enough.  But let’s not call them ‘emerging elements’.  I think trolls is more apt.  Sam’s most recent post on the blog is excellent on this point.

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Posted: 20 September 2012 08:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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I read the post you recommended, and agree it was excellent on this point. It was comforting to see Dr. Harris mention the exact “elements” I have in mind when I express my concern. Thank you for directing me to this article by the way.

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