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Author Topic:   How do you know truth?
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 5 of 114 (26012)
12-09-2002 4:06 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by funkmasterfreaky
12-08-2002 6:56 PM


I'm also a tad curious - not for John's take on it, but for others. What is "truth" as you understand it? Second, related question, "Why is it important to seek it?" IOW, what is this concept that everyone seems so hot and bothered about seeking?
Most theists of whatever stripe seem know what truth is, so I'd be interested in hearing what they think.
Most non-theists of whatever stripe seem to agree they don't know what it is. Some claim to be seeking it, some argue there isn't any such thing. Some claim that it's an unapproachable ideal.
So what is it?

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 Message 1 by funkmasterfreaky, posted 12-08-2002 6:56 PM funkmasterfreaky has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by robinrohan, posted 12-09-2002 10:46 AM Quetzal has replied
 Message 11 by forgiven, posted 12-09-2002 8:33 PM Quetzal has replied
 Message 55 by nator, posted 12-18-2002 9:55 AM Quetzal has not replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 12 of 114 (26148)
12-10-2002 3:20 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by robinrohan
12-09-2002 10:46 AM


Robin:
quote:
To say that there isn't any such thing as truth doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps someone can explain that. That's not the same thing as saying we have no access to it.
I think it would only make sense if you had an operational definition of "truth". Without that, I agree the question is fairly meaningless. As far as "no access" to it, we need to figure out what "it" is...
quote:
The problem with philosophy (or religion) is the inability of language to express any proposition other than vaguely. In my attempts to define "consciousness," say, or "mentality," no matter what I come up with, the terms in the definition beg the question.
I agree, although I would probably say that it wasn't begging the question so much as trying to define something using terms that are themselves undefined. One of the reasons I tend to prefer science over philosophy - scientific terms usually have fairly precise meanings (consider "theory", for instance).

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 Message 6 by robinrohan, posted 12-09-2002 10:46 AM robinrohan has not replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 13 of 114 (26149)
12-10-2002 3:30 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by John
12-09-2002 11:36 AM


Nice reply, John. I think I probably subscribe to the view you mentioned in the last line:
quote:
[Truth is] a component of the relationship between two or more ideas...
However, I'm not sure that's a complete thought. To say that one idea is "true" or at least "truer" than another means what, exactly? How is it determined?
I would be inclined to rely on empirical evidence, inference, etc to determine the relative "truth" of an idea (using the principles of sufficiency, replicability and falsifiability a la Popper). However, this still begs the question: is there Truth? Or is there only little bitty truths?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by John, posted 12-09-2002 11:36 AM John has not replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 14 of 114 (26153)
12-10-2002 3:43 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by robinrohan
12-09-2002 3:37 PM


quote:
There are obvious practical reasons why it is important to seek particular truths, but I assume that Quetzal is referring to total truth. Actually, come to think of it, total truth might be just as practical.
That is certainly the question I asked. The problem is, I'm not sure what "truth" is we are supposed to be seeking. Evaluating the relative truth or falsehood of a particular claim, for instance, is certainly a valid undertaking. It's something we all do on a daily basis to a greater or lesser extent. In that, the "search for truth" has practical value. If, as I suspect, all that exist are itty bitty truths, rather than a whopping Big Universal Truth, then my question is answered because the whole thing is pretty trivial. On the other hand, if you postulate Truth as a goal, I'm looking for 1) a definition of what it is (and how you expect to know it when you find it), and 2) why is it important to seek it?
I pretty much follow the rest of your post, and have no real comment, except on this bit:
quote:
And the reason is that one wants to know if one's little stay here on Earth has any meaning or
not.
It seems like you're saying Truth is the same as Purpose. Is it? Also, I disagree with the quoted statement - I think you are presenting a false dichotomy. There is a third option (at least): that one can make their own "meaning", thus making purpose intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Your life is what you make of it (all other things being equal), for "good" or "ill".

This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by robinrohan, posted 12-09-2002 3:37 PM robinrohan has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 18 by robinrohan, posted 12-10-2002 9:35 AM Quetzal has replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 15 of 114 (26156)
12-10-2002 4:02 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by forgiven
12-09-2002 8:33 PM


quote:
i find this interesting because i've never (never!! can you believe?) met an atheist who said anything other than "there isn't any such thing as truth"... or, "truth is subjective, an objective truth doesn't exist"...
Well, to be honest, that was the question. Is there any such thing as objective Truth? If so, what is it and how do you know? Are there alternatives (i.e., is your Truth the only possible Truth, or are there others)?
I'd say from the standpoint of metaphysical naturalism, the default position would be that there "ain't no such animal". That only the itty bitty everyday "truths" exist. However, theists tend to claim that there IS a Big Universal Truth. My problem with this idea is that ALL theists - of whatever stripe - make this claim and their respective Truths often appear to be quite contradictory. I would be curious as to your take on the question...
quote:
if one possesses truth (granting the existence of this entity), one possesses knowledge... would you agree?
Hmm, not sure whether I agree with this or not. How is Truth related to knowledge? In my experience, it is quite possible for us to "know" something that isn't true. This observation is especially accurate when we make claims about things that are "self evident", or assign values to something. Utility is another concept that gets squishy when we talk about knowing something. The validity of our knowledge, IMO, depends on the confidence level we assign to the evidence we use to determine what is "known", if that makes any sense. How does this relate to Truth?
[This message has been edited by Quetzal, 12-10-2002]

This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by forgiven, posted 12-09-2002 8:33 PM forgiven has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by forgiven, posted 12-10-2002 6:52 AM Quetzal has replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 17 of 114 (26179)
12-10-2002 8:46 AM
Reply to: Message 16 by forgiven
12-10-2002 6:52 AM


quote:
for one to possess knowledge it seems to me that the claimed knowledge must be true... it's almost tautological, in my mind... how can one "know" something if that something is not true?
Quite easily - in fact people do it all the time. Human memory and thought are heavily influenced by our ability to infer a relationship between two stimuli or phenomena. Whether there is in fact any actual relationship between them is utterly immaterial to the way we think about them. The Aztec priest "knows" that a sacrifice must be made at a certain time of year in order to insure a successful growing season. The sacrifice is made, things grow, voila! From our perspective, we consider this "knowledge" to be fallacious. We "know" better - because we have identified the actual causal factors involved in planting and growing. Consider:
- 500 years ago we "knew" the Earth was the center of the universe
- 400 years ago we "knew" fossils were merely interesting rocks
- 300 years ago we "knew" there were only four elements, and that disease was caused by an imbalance in "humors"
- 200 years ago we "knew" that all life forms - living and dead - were separately created 6000 years ago
- 100 years ago we "knew" that the continents were immobile
- today we "know" there's nothing smaller than a Higgs boson
Think what we'll "know" tomorrow...
Knowledge does not equate to Universal Truth. Knowledge is ever-changing. Knowledge increases exponentially, building on or overturning past knowledge. What we think we know may or may not be True (or even true).
quote:
take two opposing views, one true and one false... semantics aside, isn't the view that's false merely a strongly held belief? take my "knowledge" that God exists... if it is not true, what would you label it if not belief? notice this has nothing to do with the means by which one possesses knowledge, merely the possession itself
I don't think you meant to say what this part seems to read: a belief is a view that's false? By definition, a belief is held to be true (or even True) by the holder of that belief. Why would anyone believe something that they knew wasn't true (small "t")? I would say that it's quite easy to hold beliefs that are false, but that doesn't imply or presuppose falsity.
This is where I agree with you - the epistemology one uses to determine the truth (small "t") or falsity of a belief will have a tremendous impact on the final determination. It's pretty easy to do with itty bitty truths (like evolution ) - evidence, reason, evidence, inference, evidence, deduction, evidence, etc are all that's needed to determine whether an itty bitty truth is accurate or not.
However, to determine the validity or even existence of a transcendental, objective Truth (capital "T") is somewhat more difficult. Which, of course, brings me back to my original questions: what is Truth (big t)? How do you know what you call Truth (big t) is valid? Once you answer that question, we can go on to the "why do we seek it?" question.
I hope that makes sense. I'm a lousy philosopher. Wanna talk about genetic bottlenecks?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 16 by forgiven, posted 12-10-2002 6:52 AM forgiven has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 23 by forgiven, posted 12-12-2002 7:34 AM Quetzal has replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 20 of 114 (26200)
12-10-2002 11:10 AM
Reply to: Message 18 by robinrohan
12-10-2002 9:35 AM


Hi robin,
quote:
I suspect that is what is at the back of the whole religious urge, to make death make sense. We live out our lives trying to accomplish some little something and after it is over, that vain striving is hardly any more account than of some dog that died in a ditch. Your friends might raise a monument over your grave, and say some fine words, and then in a few days you are as forgotten as though you had never existed. Some one else takes your place and the world moves on in its meaningless struggle. Man's life consists of struggling to grow up, struggling to find a place in adulthood (many fail), licking a little of the honey that life offers, and suffering, and growing old, and dying. That's what it all amounts to.
Ouch. I agree with your first sentence, at least in so far as it is ONE of the things religious belief does for some people. As for the rest: ouch again. What a gloomy view of life! I don't mean to denigrate your outlook, but I personally find a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction in simply living. I take life as it comes - the good and the bad - and strive, maybe, to make even a little bit of difference in "the grand scheme of things" (to use a really stupid expression). My personal take is that if you can leave the world even a submicroscopically better place than it would have been had you never existed, then that is quite enough. I worry little about any "legacy" I might leave beyond that.
I have helped bring up two unique, interesting personalities. They may or may not end up being mass murderers, but I have done what I could to give them an little understanding of and respect for the unity of life. In other spheres, I have done my limited best to stave off the darkness for a little while. And I've tried to live my life in conformance with my personal creed. I can't imagine wanting more than that. Even if I were to die tomorrow, although I'd regret everything I hadn't yet done or experienced, I would - in the main - say that my existence had more value than my non-existence would have. What more can anyone ask?
[This message has been edited by Quetzal, 12-10-2002]

This message is a reply to:
 Message 18 by robinrohan, posted 12-10-2002 9:35 AM robinrohan has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 21 by robinrohan, posted 12-11-2002 5:28 PM Quetzal has replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 22 of 114 (26382)
12-12-2002 3:58 AM
Reply to: Message 21 by robinrohan
12-11-2002 5:28 PM


Hi robin:
quote:
It's all physical, Quetzal.
Yep, it is. However, that doesn't mean that it's "all bad" as you seem to imply (if you'll allow me to get away with a subjective value statement like "bad"), from either an individual or species perspective. The one doesn't follow from the other. The fact that many behaviors have biological roots doesn't presuppose anarchy or the absence of morality, for instance. We are a gregarious species, shaped by millions of years of biological evolution to enable us to cooperate effectively - at least in small groups - and by hundreds of thousands of years of cultural and social "evolution". Our earliest non-human but socialized ancestors found that cooperation facilitated survival in the face of predators that were substantially better equipped by nature for their roles. Behaviors that enhanced this cooperation were selected for. Groups or group members that didn't cooperate effectively became snacks. This is the biological foundation for morality. Since we are predisposed towards cooperation, when groups became larger, more complex interactions were required to maintain this system. Ultimately, rules of behavior were codified to allow ever-more complex, reasonably smooth interactions. (Apologies for the gross oversimplification.)
quote:
What this means is that all of our legal and moral systems are a complete charade. The mighty judge pontificating with all his solemnity in his chambers is engaging in an activity that is about as intellectually respectable as a witch hunt.
Again, this doesn't follow from the idea that behavior has a biological foundation. The only way to justify your statement here is to accept, a priori, that humans for some reason must have an extrinsic morality imposed upon them from without; that the judge in your example must derive "authority" (meaning something beyond the legal codes s/he's operating under) from some external source or his/her actions are morally bankrupt. I think you'd be hard-pressed to justify this contention.
quote:
In reality, the more we learn about us, the more we realize that all sorts of behavior--in fact all behavior--is determined by certain physical conditions in the brain and perhaps the glands. Chemical imbalances and the like create paranoid schizophrenics and murderers. We speak of their lack of moral fiber. It's really the lack of something physical--because everything is physical.
This is highly inaccurate. On the one hand, chemical imbalance, brain lesions, or certain genetic disorders CAN lead to psychological problems and aberrant behavior (note the key words "can" and "aberrant" here). However, no scientist believes that ALL human behavior is determined by either genetics or physical state. We ARE a species able - through use of our highly developed cognitive faculties - in most instances to overcome our purely biological programming. We are rational agents (with apologies to Kant, because I stole his term but don't mean what he meant*). We are NOT simply suites of instinctual, pre-programmed behaviors.
*Before the philosophers on the board jump up and down and accuse me of Kantian metaphysics, I use "rational agent" to mean an organism that has not only the capability to represent outcomes of different behaviors but also to represent and analyze the effects of other's differential responses to the behavior. Kant leaves it at acting in accordance with the rational perception of natural law. I think my construction is defensible in light of evolutionary theory and actual behavior (see anything by f. B. de Waal, for example).
[This message has been edited by Quetzal, 12-12-2002]

This message is a reply to:
 Message 21 by robinrohan, posted 12-11-2002 5:28 PM robinrohan has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 24 by robinrohan, posted 12-12-2002 8:39 AM Quetzal has replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 26 of 114 (26482)
12-13-2002 6:27 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by robinrohan
12-12-2002 8:39 AM


Hi robin,
quote:
What is it that is going to "overcome" the biological programming? Sounds to me like it has to be more biological programming. If everything is physical, there is nothing else around to overcome the biology. You can call it "cognitive faculties" but it is still physical and still programming.
If morality is to make sense, we have to have a Will to "overcome" all this programming. But the Will itself, being physical, is more programming.
I apologize for dragging in the programming bit — I hate computer-brain analogies because they’re simplistic and tend to fall apart fairly quickly. However, if you look at humans as computers that are capable of self-programming, that might help understand how it is possible to overcome the initial program (yuck — see why I hate these analogies?). Yes, it is still physical, in the sense that the substrate is physical. I’ve explained how morality could have appeared, and the adaptive value of cooperation/morality (at least as it concerns our own group). Since humans are rational agents as I defined the term above, one of the factors we take into consideration when evaluating a course of action is the morality of the action (i.e., the way our group will view the action and the potential consequences of the group’s reaction).
Will (although you didn’t define it so I’m not 100% sure what you mean), I would describe as simply the deliberate or instinctual balance between individual selfishness or aggression on the one hand, and the potential negative consequences of suiting thought to action on the other. Where the line is drawn — and what actions produce negative consequences — is dependent on the cultural norms of the particular society, not on biology. The physical ability to construct a representation of the actions of OTHER individuals in response to our own actions in advance is a part of what I was referring to as cognitive faculty. I’m honestly confused as to why you keep harping on this.
quote:
Suppose a person is born with a tendency toward addictive behavior (I believe there's evidence this tendency is inherited). So there's a tendency in him to become addicted to, say, alcohol. Suppose this person, yielding to this tendency, wrecks his homelife and kills people while DUI and is convicted of manslaughter. Obviously the court thought him morally culpable. The court is saying he could have "overcome" his biological programming. So why did he not do it? He wanted to do it and feels terrible that he did not. Is it his fault that his "cognitive faculties" were not sufficient to overcome the biological tendency? The view of him by others is that he is weak--that he lacks moral fiber. Where is he supposed to obtain this "fiber"?
Oh, well, says the jury, he should have sought help before all this happened. Should have? He had not the Will to seek help. How is he supposed to empower this Will that he was born with?
Bad person, says the judge. It's your own fault.
Stop right there. You are conflating morality with legality. While they may coincide in specific instances, they are not synonymous. In your example of the alcoholic, s/he has given in to a biological predisposition and ruined his/her homelife. You might be able to make a case that the behaviors up to this point are immoral (assuming that the behavior isn’t normative for the particular society). BUT, and this is a big but, is the genetic predisposition to alcoholism the cause of the problem (a biological problem), or is an inability to correctly identify the consequences (a cognitive failure), or even an inability to recognize the behavior in his/herself (also cognitive failure) at fault? Or are there other environmental factors, say, that come into it? Consider that this person’s behavior is abnormal (self-destructive) from the standpoint of individual fitness. Consider also that the tendency for addictive behavior, if indeed inheritable, is undoubtedly possessed by thousands if not millions of other individuals who do NOT exhibit this behavior. Whose fault could it be? Given that alcoholism and other addictive behaviors can be treated through behavior modification (I know a few reformed alcoholics and one reformed gambler), I would say that the biological tendency to addiction is easily overtrumped — in this case by learned behaviors that compensate for the biological addiction.
Remark that up to this point, there have been no legal problems. It is only when the drunk kills someone — manslaughter — that the behavior becomes a legal problem. I think you are incorrect in believing that the court would consider him morally culpable. He is guilty of the non-sanctioned killing of another human. IOW, he violated one of the codified behavioral rules governing the particular society. Morality doesn’t even enter into it. Killing is bad says the law. Guilty, says the court. End of story.
Now, as to what people might say, such as s/he lacks moral fiber, etc, that is a subjective valuation or condemnation of the individual’s abnormal behavior by other members of the society. It is neither helpful, nor particularly meaningful. Unless the society is set up to deal with each individual who exhibits abnormal behavior (preferably before it gets to the point where the legal system is invoked), who cares what people say about a given behavior out of ignorance? And no, I doubt very much whether the judge in this case would say You’re a bad person so I’m sending you to jail. The judge is going to say, You have broken one of society’s laws, so I’m sending you to jail. IOW, the judge isn’t sending the person to prison for being an addictive personality or immoral. The judge is punishing the person — in the name of society — because s/he violated the laws of the society.
quote:
Nonsense. It's all physical. He couldn't help it. This is the case with all crime.
Quite possibly. However, that doesn’t condone or excuse the behavior. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the society I was raised in for example has no provision for forcing someone to seek help for abnormal behavior. Unless the legal system is invoked after a violation of one of the codified rules of behavior, the individual is quite free to quietly self-destruct. Claiming someone’s behavior is immoral after the fact is both self-righteously arrogant and completely vacuous. And will do nothing to prevent future problems.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 24 by robinrohan, posted 12-12-2002 8:39 AM robinrohan has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 29 by robinrohan, posted 12-13-2002 11:53 AM Quetzal has replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 27 of 114 (26487)
12-13-2002 7:52 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by forgiven
12-12-2002 7:34 AM


Hi forgiven,
quote:
i simply disagree... if it isn't true, it isn't knowledge... it can pass, or pose, for knowledge... but read again what i wrote about 2 opposing worldviews, both of which make knowledge claims
Yeah, I can see where we're coming at this from two different directions. You are apparently presupposing that there is some kind of Ultimate Knowledge which is immutable and which you equate with Ultimate Truth. I'm saying that knowledge is highly mutable - what we think we know is amenable to revision as new information is derived. It may or may not be true, and especially isn't Truth (if there is any such animal). I'm not sure there's any possibility of ever "meeting in the middle" on this, but at least I understand where you're coming from, and will take that into consideration any time we argue about what is known. Hopefully you will do the same.
quote:
no i don't think i said that... i did say a belief can be false, even a belief that claims to be true or claims to be "knowledge"... take your flat earth example... if you believe the earth is flat and espouse that view as knowledge ("i KNOW the earth is flat") and i hold an opposing view ("i KNOW the earth is spherical"), one of us would be in possession of truth and the other not (assuming the earth was one of those two shapes)... therefore one of us would be in possession of knowledge and one not.
I agree this is an example. If we had lived 500 years ago, we both would have held that the Earth is flat - because that was what was "known" at the time. For you, at the time, this would have been true (and for the Church of the time, it was Truth). It's only now, with our 20/20 hindsight, that we can declare that the knowledge the Earth is flat was in error - that what was known then was actually untrue. From my perspective, this implies that what we "know", even at the best of times, may not be true. I have no problem with this uncertainty - it just makes life interesting. You apparently feel that there must be some pure "knowledge" out there somewhere. Is it possible to attain it? Or is it some unrealizable "ideal"?
quote:
lol no thanks!!.. i do read those g.b. threads tho, find 'em fascinating... i agree that determining T-ruth is difficult if not impossible, given relative states of discovery etc... that doesn't mean such a truth doesn't exist, nor that it won't eventually be discovered... so i guess, if forced, i'd define truth as "a knowledge claim lacking in falsity"... i much prefer defining knowledge tho, seems less ambiguous, as true warranted belief (tho i really don't wanna get mired in that epistemological debate again )
I'll certainly agree that Truth (big "t"), if it exists, would be a difficult proposition. I can't really see how you could find it without supposing you know everything there is to know in the universe. Which, of course, means that you can't claim knowledge must be True to be knowledge - since if the axiom is "you must know everything to know anything", I'm not sure how we can even get out of bed in the morning. Anyway, thanks for the discussion.
BTW: Isn't your last bit about truth being "a knowledge claim lacking falsity" where you define knowledge as "a true warranted belief" circular or something? Truth is a true belief lacking falsity? It just sounds weird to me the way you've phrased it. I suppose that's what I get for taking science courses instead of philosophy...

This message is a reply to:
 Message 23 by forgiven, posted 12-12-2002 7:34 AM forgiven has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 30 by forgiven, posted 12-13-2002 9:50 PM Quetzal has not replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 28 of 114 (26488)
12-13-2002 8:09 AM
Reply to: Message 25 by robinrohan
12-12-2002 2:42 PM


quote:
Quetzal, I would like to add that this argument here is not an indirect way of getting back to the mental/physical issue.
Okay, if you say so.
quote:
Suppose there was such a thing as mentality--as I have suggested--and that it was different from physicality. It would not matter as to our ability, or rather our inability, to be rational or moral agents: because our mental make-up would be dependent on our physical make-up, and so we would have mental limitations or strengths insofar as we had physical limitations or stengths. The problem is that there is no way to "overcome" those limitations in cases where they in fact are not overcome.
However, you haven’t shown that there is such a thing as mentality, especially as something non-physical. That being the case, any attributes you assign to this construct or limitations you impose on it are meaningless. Please take a moment to either support your assertion on the mind/body dichotomy, or rephrase your statements on strengths/limitation of cognition in terms of what really exists.
quote:
People have different levels of will power. Some have more than others. If we regress from biological weaknesses (tendency to be an addict) to will-power weaknesses (inability to overcome being an addict), the moral situation has not changed at all. And you can substitute any tendency you want--say the tendency to be violent. It also does not matter if he who has a tendency to be violent wants or does not want to change. If he doesn't want to change, his biological make-up is ultimately responsible for his not wanting to change.
It's not that the physical is "bad"--it's that it is morally meaningless. You might as well blame a person for having a heart attack.
I agree with you that some people are better than others at coping with their situation — whether biological or social. However, NONE of this has anything to do with morals. Biology is morally neutral — because morals and morality and ethics are simply terms used to describe normative behaviors all or nearly all of which are culturally dependent. You keep implying that morality is some kind of extrinsic ideal, but have provided absolutely no support or even cogent argument in favor of it — or even a reasonable example. I’m looking forward to your argument.

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 Message 25 by robinrohan, posted 12-12-2002 2:42 PM robinrohan has not replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 33 of 114 (26700)
12-16-2002 3:24 AM
Reply to: Message 29 by robinrohan
12-13-2002 11:53 AM


quote:
You, however, refuse to admit this because you want to have your cake and eat it too. We are natural products of the universe. We are complicated combinations of star-stuff which knows nothing and prefers nothing and has no morality. We are natural machines. Ah, but that's ok, say you. My culturally dependent morality tells me that in my small way, if I add a little light to stave off the darkness, if I help one fainting robin back to its nest again, I shall not live in vain. Sweetness and light! True, my morality is meaningless since I could not help but think the way I do, but who cares?
My nihilism is more honest.
I suppose you want me to define nihilism.
You're right. Who cares? If this entire discussion is simply you trying to justify your nihilism, you're barking up the wrong tree with me. "Sweetness and light", hunh? LOL. Nice dismissal of someone who disagrees with you. I have witnessed, up close and personal, most of the worst things that humans are capable of doing to each other both individually and in the aggregate. I have narrowly avoided losing my own life at the hands of others - primarily through pure luck and slightly faster reactions - and have been forced, to my eternal regret and (for many years) recurring nightmares, to take the life of others in order to preserve my own. And yet, at the same time I have seen many selfless and even "heroic" acts; I've witnessed much kindness; I've been the recipient of deep friendship; and I've experienced great beauty - both man-made and natural.
I arrived at the philosophical position I adhere to, and which you dismiss so cavalierly, after many years of quite difficult reflection - "soul searching" the theists would call it. Guess what? In spite of my experiences, I haven't given up. I haven't come to the conclusion that "life sucks and then you die". I haven't lost "faith" in humanity. Nihilism honest? Nihilism is defeatist, utterly selfish, supremely arrogant, intellectually vacuous, and morally bankrupt. It's the default position of people who haven't got the strength to face up to the vicissitudes of life. It consigns the entirety of humanity to hopelessness and dispair while abrogating any personal responsibility to make any effort to change the situation. I can't imagine how a true nihilist can even get out of bed in the morning.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 29 by robinrohan, posted 12-13-2002 11:53 AM robinrohan has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 34 by forgiven, posted 12-16-2002 6:32 AM Quetzal has replied
 Message 40 by robinrohan, posted 12-16-2002 3:27 PM Quetzal has replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 36 of 114 (26723)
12-16-2002 9:17 AM
Reply to: Message 34 by forgiven
12-16-2002 6:32 AM


quote:
a nihilist can make one tired, yes? ... but it's always seemed to me that a person who denies the transcendent God has only nihilism to fall back on, and has to make a concious effort to avoid nihilistic thoughts... if all we have is the accidental bumping and grinding of molecules, if there is no more, then life really is meaningless...
On the contrary, life - human life anyway - is entirely what you make of it. It is only meaningless if you allow it to be so - for good or ill. I'm kind of surprised you would say that. Isn't there an old Christian prayer that talks about (and apologies if I misquote), "1. Grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, 2. the courage to change that which I can, 3. and the wisdom to know the difference"? Think of it from a non-theist perspective and it still makes sense.
1. Take the world and the universe as it is, not what you wish it to be. Accept that humans, being a highly aggressive and territorial species, are quite capable of committing the most heinous acts. But realize at the same time that we are ALSO capable of an incredible amount of greatness. We are a study in contrasts. The same species that can fly and land on another world and whose vision can probe the furthest reaches of the sidereal universe, also condemns the vast majority of its populations to abject misery, starvation and death. The same species that can produce Rembrandt, Bach, Darwin or Einstein, can also produce Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Pizarro. The same species that can imagine the existence of an all-loving God, can turn around and use this same God as justification for slaughtering its own. We are an amazing species: full of contradictions and complexity. Accept it - it's what we are. No one individual will ever be able to change it. An attempt to try changing the entire species is doomed to failure.
2. If you can't change the human condition, then what's the point? The point is every individual CAN make a difference, even if infintessimal. You effect what you are able, you improve where you can. Just imagine if everyone thought that way? Even if they don't, so what? The motivation to act where you can comes from within. The act becomes its own reward. I would argue that this is the third option you neglected to mention: neither theist nor nihilist. A "humanist" (although the term has become more and more empty over the years, hence the quotation marks) outlook. Wholly secular, and a refusal to chuck the whole thing as a bad job. Can't change the overall misery index? Nope - but I CAN change it in my immediate environment, which is all that can be asked of a selfish organism anyway.
3. You have to pick your battles. Some simply can't be won - accept it. The trick is to know when to attack and when to retreat; when to try and improve things, and when your efforts will be vain. Anything else is stupid.
quote:
i read your post very closely, and many of the things you wrote can be said of my own life... i think you have made a mature and wise decision to live your life the way you do... i simply believe that your worldview, your philosophy of life, has been chosen *because* nihilism is the only, and distasteful, alternative... i hope that makes sense
Thank you. I appreciate your candor. As I hope I've pointed out, nihilism isn't the only alternative to theism. There are many other roads, more than I can imagine, I'm sure. I feel mine is pretty internally consistent. It accepts life as it is, allows understanding of the whys and wherefores, and seeks to make things incrementally better where possible. I don't necessarily advocate it - it is an outgrowth of my experience and may not even make sense to someone else. It ain't all roses - I currently work in a country that has one of the most corrupt governments on the planet. Trust me that I haven't lost any of my cynicism . I am constitutionally incapable of simply giving up...

This message is a reply to:
 Message 34 by forgiven, posted 12-16-2002 6:32 AM forgiven has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 37 by funkmasterfreaky, posted 12-16-2002 9:22 AM Quetzal has replied
 Message 42 by forgiven, posted 12-16-2002 7:13 PM Quetzal has replied
 Message 46 by forgiven, posted 12-17-2002 7:22 AM Quetzal has replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 38 of 114 (26728)
12-16-2002 9:41 AM
Reply to: Message 37 by funkmasterfreaky
12-16-2002 9:22 AM


quote:
Originally posted by funkmasterfreaky:
Where are you from Quetzal?
Colorado, why?
(I know what you meant. Just pulling your chain.) I currently live and work in Ukraine. I've spent most of the last 20+ years living and/or working in the developing world. Ukraine is actually the most "civilized" - yet oddly enough, the most corrupt - country I've ever lived in.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 37 by funkmasterfreaky, posted 12-16-2002 9:22 AM funkmasterfreaky has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 39 by funkmasterfreaky, posted 12-16-2002 9:48 AM Quetzal has not replied

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 5983 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 44 of 114 (26938)
12-17-2002 2:53 AM
Reply to: Message 40 by robinrohan
12-16-2002 3:27 PM


quote:
My point is that materialism and moralism do not mix. Materialism precludes free will and moralism demands it.
You apparently have paid no attention to anything I have posted in this thread, have you? Morality is an evolutionary and cultural adaptation designed to facilitate intragroup cooperation and hence maximize fitness. It is perfectly compatible with materialism (if by materialism you mean functionalism, naturalism, and empricism). I have no idea what "moralism" means in this context. Regardless, you have again made a bald assertion without supporting argument.
quote:
It's not a matter of what makes us feel good or what is good for us or any other sentiment--it's a matter of what's true.
You have not made a case for your assertion being "true". In fact, you have consistently failed to make any case for any of your assertions in this thread or the other. You pretend that "everything is physical" equates to "all of our legal and moral systems are a complete charade" without providing any justification for this conclusion. When challenged, you simply ignore the counter argument or explanation. Rather than addressing the points I've made, you handwave them away, ignore them, or dismiss them.
If you wish to continue this discussion, please begin by responding directly to the points raised in post #22 countering your assertions, then proceed to debate in an honest fashion.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 40 by robinrohan, posted 12-16-2002 3:27 PM robinrohan has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 49 by robinrohan, posted 12-17-2002 2:54 PM Quetzal has replied

  
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