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Posted by: blindguy ( )
Date: May 16, 2019 01:17AM

Seeing as the original thread on this topic is just about full, I thought I'd continue the line of inquiry by placing my own thoughts.

First, the subjects of good and evil are complicated, because they were concepts invented by humans (hands up, all of those who thought that a God or gods came up with these concepts--you're wrong!), and we humans, by seeking our own individual interests while being social animals have complicated and muddied the waters of the definitions for both concepts. Basically, whether you think something is evil or good depends on the glasses you're wearing (your frame of mine) when you approach whatever needs to be judged in this fashion.

Religion, of course, one of the social creations of human beings, has tried desperately to define the subjects of good and evil, but it (or they, since human beings worship using several different religions) have failed enormously, partly because of the individual nature of good and evil (see above) and partly because religious leaders know full well that they cannot use bureaucratic, precise language to define either concept, because such language would not be accepted by all adherents.

Some fiction writers have tried to categorize good and evil in some interesting ways. "Lord of the Flies," by William Golding, a book written in the 1950s about schoolboys being stranded on a desert island, does a fascinating job of looking at good and evil by the (spoiler alert coming up) two main antagonists, Ralph and Jack.

I actually had to read "Lord of the Flies," for my honors English class during my senior year in high school. During the class discussion that followed our reading this tome, the Jesuit high school English teacher wanted to know why Ralph (one of the antagonists) was considered the good leader while Jack (the other antagonist) was considered the bad. It has taken me a long time (almost 40 years) but I think that I have finally found the answer to this question. During the story's final scene when the British ship with the adults comes into the harbor and the ship's captain asks who the leader is, the answer given by all, including those following Jack, is that Ralph is the leader; this despite the fact that during the novel's previous scenes, Ralph is running around the island being chased by a fire that Jack and all of his followers have set to force Ralph to come out into the open (their intent is to kill him.

For those of you who haven't read "Lord of the Flies,", I would encourage you to do just that. Besides dealing with good and evil, the novel presents a lot of religious and philosophical themes that are very much worth the review.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: May 16, 2019 03:20AM

Golding is great.

Flies merits several readings. I also love Darkness Visible, which is another exploration of good and evil. He was a deeply troubled man whose autobiographical materials show that he was much of what he exposed in Flies and other books.

His insights, for whatever reason, will endure for a long time.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: May 16, 2019 11:42AM

"First, the subjects of good and evil are complicated, because they were concepts invented by humans (hands up, all of those who thought that a God or gods came up with these concepts--you're wrong!), and we humans, by seeking our own individual interests while being social animals have complicated and muddied the waters of the definitions for both concepts."

COMMENT: The idea of a "concept" is itself complicated. In the literature of cognitive psychology a "concept" is not synonymous with a "word" or definition. (That is why my dog has no idea what the word "food" means, but surely has the concept "food.") A concept is a mental state or intuition. Like all such concepts, humans then invent a word in a language to represent that mental state. So, we feel, or intuit, certain thoughts and feelings and assign the words "good" or "evil" to those thoughts and feelings.

There are three (at least) questions that arise from this analysis, all of which plague cognitive psychology:

First, what is the "content" of theses concepts; i.e. what do they at bottom mean, both individually and socially? (The typical answer is that they "represent" some combination of sensory experiences and memory, which somehow creates meaning.);

Second, what is the ontology of these concepts; i.e. are they merely human emotions, states of the brain, or do they have a transcendent reality? (This depends upon you view of consciousness, mind, the self, freewill, etc.);

Third, what is the source for the existence of such mental concepts? (God, evolution, culture?)

As might be expected, religious tradition and secular humanism answer these questions quite differently. The problem in both cases is the same: to provide rational answers to the above questions that preserve moral authority; in other words some explanation or theory that dictates to some extent why a person should do (or refrain from doing) one thing as opposed to another on moral grounds. This is where the "ought-is" problem surfaces.

Note that the waters were already inherently "muddied" before theists and philosophers began trying to sort out the questions and answers through the application of a variety of moral theories.

_________________________________________

Basically, whether you think something is evil or good depends on the glasses you're wearing (your frame of mine) when you approach whatever needs to be judged in this fashion.

COMMENT: In other words, how one responds to a moral dilemma is determined, to some extent, on one's worldview. Notice, however, that one can act against one's moral worldview for the sake of self-interest. In this way, a person's conduct can be adjudged good or evil in the context of that person's own worldview. (Thus, the concepts of remorse, forgiveness, repentance, etc.)
______________________________________

"Religion, of course, one of the social creations of human beings, has tried desperately to define the subjects of good and evil, but it (or they, since human beings worship using several different religions) have failed enormously, partly because of the individual nature of good and evil (see above) and partly because religious leaders know full well that they cannot use bureaucratic, precise language to define either concept, because such language would not be accepted by all adherents."

COMMENT: The desperation of religion to come to terms with good and evil pales in comparison to the desperation of secular humanists to address the same issue. At least religion has a "supreme lawgiver" to fall back on. Secular humanists basically start from scratch; the mere assumption that good and evil exist. And remember, the problem is not just to provide the platitudes of definitions, but to actually provide a logical basis for moral authority! Talk about a quagmire (mud)!
___________________________________________

It has been a long time since I read "Lord of the Flies" but it seems to me that one way this might be interpreted (by your description) is that there was a sense of morality (conscious or unconscious) that transcended the behavior of the two factions, and that surfaced when the social structure of the environment dissipated. In a sense, the minds of the boys suddenly opened to a moral reality (and authority) that they had not previously tuned into. If I were religious (which I am not), I might suggest the same type of "revelation" when humans pass into the afterlife. At that point the social structure of earth life dissipates, and an ontological moral clarity sets in; whether such clarity is based on the dictates of God, or a morality (good and evil) that is encompassed by the natural order in some way.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: May 16, 2019 02:20PM

"your frame of mine" <- love this play on words.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: May 16, 2019 02:31PM

The "root" of the problem of evil as I see it lies in the penchant of modern people to entangle a "self" with an "others" world view.

We seem to me to move our opinions and estimations of actions of people with little restraint between our self evaluating things as if we were an objective observer and our self as a supporter or enemy of others in their actions as well as a self concerned with self. How can we truly dissect a subject like evil or any other concept too general to do more than applying it to examples and thoughts that support our opinions and estimations?

But we don't let this get in our way of discussion paths to wherever they may lead us at this moment.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 12:46AM

There are a couple of problems that complicate the subject. First is herd mentality, which gives rise to mass movements as well as mass hysteria. People in a crowd adopt the crowd’s sentiment whether good or evil.

The other, which fell out of favor with the rise of materialism, is possession. Some people are more given to possession due to genetics or traumatic experience fracturing their soul in a way that allows “spirits” to slip in when their energy is down. That could explain why Borderline Personality Disorder seems like possession. Maybe it is. This bit of fanciful conjecture would also explain the actions of Joseph Smith. Our Puritan notions of personal responsibility don’t take possession into account. Humans are assumed to be free agents. But how free are we? Is it just us behind the wheel of our consciousness or is it a group effort?

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Posted by: Humberto ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 04:00AM

I like how you made up a bunch of stuff in your head and then just went with it, as if you were serious. How very funny of you.

Joseph Smith was possessed?
BPD is a spiritual disorder?

Hahaha, you crack me up.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 11:34AM

Humberto Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I like how you made up a bunch of stuff in your
> head and then just went with it, as if you were
> serious.

The human condition. This is why it feels so good when other agree with us.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 01:52PM

It’s more thinking out loud than wanting to be agreed with. Maybe I’ve lived with too many crazies. Or I’m going nuts myself.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 12:09PM

Didn’t see the original thread, but have seen many such threads on RfM to continue my bafflement that many don’t believe good and evil exist outside our language for it.

[See Henry Bemis for distinction between language and concept.]

Is not tossing a baby, any living breathing baby, into a fire evil? Of course it is. What context, concept or string of words makes this not so? And if you balk at the word “evil”, what other word is better?

What context can mitigate the evil of out-and-out rape?

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t contexts or concepts or strings of language that can go to explaining why someone would choose to rape a mother and burn a baby alive, for of course there are; but does that make the acts any less evil?

No, it does not.

Human

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Posted by: Tevai ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 12:37PM

I deeply agree.

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Posted by: schrodingerscat ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 12:38PM

I quit attending the local atheist meetup group when everybody but me argued there was no such thing as evil, that it was just a human construct that didn't exist in nature.
I figured if we can't all agree that genocide is the epitome of evil, not just bad, we can't agree on anything.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 01:06PM

#grumpySchrödinger'scat

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Posted by: Jordan ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 01:19PM

schrodingerscat Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I quit attending the local atheist meetup group
> when everybody but me argued there was no such
> thing as evil, that it was just a human construct
> that didn't exist in nature.
> I figured if we can't all agree that genocide is
> the epitome of evil, not just bad, we can't agree
> on anything.

I quit my one, because they were even more pretentious about me. They seemed to blame religion for everything without looking at the other factors that cause harm in our society.

The sexual abuse of small children is evil. It happens regularly all the time outside religious institutions.

The mass slaughter caused by Communist regimes, which runs into the tens of millions, is evil.

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Posted by: Tevai ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 01:26PM

Jordan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The mass slaughter caused by Communist regimes,
> which runs into the tens of millions, is evil.

Genocides are always evil--regardless of which particular political proclivities prompt and support them.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 01:55PM

Mass genocides have a bright side. They make Mormonism seem not so bad.

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Posted by: Jordan ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 06:08PM

Tevai Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Jordan Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > The mass slaughter caused by Communist regimes,
> > which runs into the tens of millions, is evil.
>
> Genocides are always evil--regardless of which
> particular political proclivities prompt and
> support them.

Communism have a higher body count than other ideologies, including National Socialism. At least within the past century or so. Communism is a death cult, as exemplified by the fact it uses a blood red flag.

While there are fellow travelers and "useful idiots" (Lenin's phrase for them) who don't know what they are getting into, the people who head up such organizations are truly evil because they know what they're doing and aren't afraid to murder and imprison innocent people.

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Posted by: jacob ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 06:17PM

You familiar with that one tree in that one forest? When I'm there I can only see that one tree because it has such a striking shape. It's almost as if the rest of the forest melts away when I'm staring at that one tree.

It's almost spiritual.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 07:27PM

Dude, can I shroom with you?

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Posted by: Jordan ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 07:54PM

Yes, and that tree is an aspen tree. It shakes at the slightest provocation, and sends out suckers into the rest of the woods to produce new trees. Before you know it, the woods are full of aspen, and it's squeezing out the other ones.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 01:28PM

Jordan Wrote:


> The mass slaughter caused by Communist regimes,
> which runs into the tens of millions, is evil.

Is not the mass slaughter caused by the American Empire, which runs into the tens of millions, also evil?

One problem with evil is the propensity to only see it in others.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 04:28PM

Human Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> One problem with evil is the propensity to only
> see it in others.

Excellent observation.

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Posted by: Jordan ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 06:15PM

Human Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Jordan Wrote:
>
>
> > The mass slaughter caused by Communist regimes,
> > which runs into the tens of millions, is evil.
>
> Is not the mass slaughter caused by the American
> Empire, which runs into the tens of millions, also
> evil?
>
> One problem with evil is the propensity to only
> see it in others.

The USA has an overexpanded military & secret police sector and is heading towards statism.

Our priority should be scientific research. We should be colonizing the Moon by now and getting ready to terraform Mars. Instead, we spend money on mass public surveillance, funding Muslim fundamentalists, and aid packages to prop up corrupt and failing nations etc.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 03:01PM

"Is not tossing a baby, any living breathing baby, into a fire evil? Of course it is. What context, concept or string of words makes this not so? And if you balk at the word “evil”, what other word is better?"

COMMENT: Since we can easily think of a hypothetical (if not actual) primitive culture where tossing a baby into a fire was NOT considered evil (but rather good), perhaps as part of some sacrificial practice, we are forced even in these seemingly straightforward cases to ask what is the source of our determination that such act is "evil" if not some cultural norm, or shared intuition. What is it that these primitive tribespeople don't understand about morality itself? They clearly know what a baby is, and clearly know that the baby will suffer and die. So, what is it, specifically, that they don't get? If we cannot answer this question, your insistence that this is a uncontroversial example of evil per se is rhetorical and cultural, not empirical or logical.

It is tempting to say that if this culture just had more facts they would see it as the evil that it is. Suppose, upon inquiry, you find out that they exercise this ritual because they think that it will appease their gods and result in an abundant harvest. And suppose you convince them that all of this is nonsense; that there are no such causal connections, and so for a time they stop doing it. Have you taught them anything about morality, about good and evil? No! You have only taught them that sacrificing babies is ineffective. They may say, for example, well we know you are right, but its a good thing for us to continue to do this in order to curb our population growth and preserve our limited resources. So, you have not made a moral connection. You had better get missionaries in there to teach morality per se; and to change their moral mind-set so that they see things as we do! For you are not going to get *moral* enlightenment by preaching facts.

Having wrestled with this issue for literally decades--most of my life--and being (humanistically) desperate to preserve an ontological objective morality, I have concluded that good and evil, and morality generally, must somehow exist as a property of the human soul (Yes, I will use the "s" word), and particularly a property closely linked to genuine freewill. Perhaps it is some sort of platonic reality, ontologically similar to mathematics, and purely manifests itself in deep, unmasked intuitions. Culture does not change this reality but disguises it. As such, tossing a baby into a fire *is* evil per se, regardless of cultural norms and justifications. In the example of the burning baby, on this view changing facts might indeed lay bare a new and deeper moral intuition, without the need for moral missionaries.

I realize, of course, that this view has its problems, not the least of which is that it leaves *practical* morality entirely subjective. (Who is to say what this deep moral reality actually demands; particularly in the hard cases?) So, I do not present this view as a viable theory, but as a worldview. When faced with a moral dilemma I try to "dig deep" to access the moral requirement. (Whether I do the required act or not.) If nothing else, I know, or think I know, when I have fallen morally short. That's worth something.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 03:41PM

I solve your hypothetical this way:

Sometimes you have to commit evil to ward off a greater evil.

It is not necessary to recast an evil thing as good. Primitives, too, understood the concept of the lesser of two evils.

A chieftain can hold that it is evil to burn his own virgin daughter alive, along with six other virgins, in order to avoid the worse evil of the entire tribe dying from famine.

Burning seven virgins alive every year is evil. But a worse evil is allowing seven thousand to starve. No where in this calculation is it necessary to believe burning a young girl alive is good.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 04:18PM

Human Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> A chieftain can hold that it is evil to burn his
> own virgin daughter alive, along with six other
> virgins, in order to avoid the worse evil of the
> entire tribe dying from famine.

How can you know this? He and they could have considered it an honor.

We love to project our culture...



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/17/2019 04:18PM by Elder Berry.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 04:39PM

Elder Berry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> How can you know this? He and they could have
> considered it an honor.

In fact, that was the workaround. The sacrifice was heroic. But this doesn’t require recasting an evil thing as good.

Even in the cases of Mardi Gras or fools day or the multitude of variations thereof, evil isn’t recast as good. For example, rape is common on these days, but nowhere is it suddenly believed that the evil of rape is suddenly good on these special days. No. These days are understood as a ‘day off’ from the norms where evil is permitted. Rape is evil, but on this special day it is permitted, or at least unpunished.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 05:29PM

You have no idea. Anthropologist error.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 06:02PM

Elder Berry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You have no idea. Anthropologist error.

Can you explain my error?


This is the problem posed as I understand it:

Good and evil don’t exist because people call different things evil and different things good.

I gave the example of burning babies alive as evil in itself, which you are unwilling to call evil because in some hypothetical time and place people might have called it something other than evil. And then you conclude that therefore evil doesn’t exist.

I say in that hypothetical time and place where babies are burned alive the people committed evil. You say I’m projecting my culture by calling this evil.

But in either case, it is not necessary to recast evil as something else. People have long understood the concepts of necessary evil, the lesser of two evils, and permitted evil. Burning babies alive in your hypothetical place and time can be understood as evil in itself but otherwise permitted, or the lesser of two evils, or necessary.

What idea am I missing?

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 02:11PM

It’s not much different from the abortion argument. If you had to assist in abortion procedure, you might freak TF out like my late DW did. Butchering a fetus and vacuuming out the remains is accepted practice in our society. A sacrifice to the money gods.

The people who most want to protect the unborn the most are also the most hell bent on war with other nations. So what exactly makes us qualified to judge what is evil? If it happens, could it not be divine perfection?

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 06:23PM

Sometimes you have to commit evil to ward off a greater evil.

COMMENT: Well, if that is the case, then the action was not evil, i.e. not morally blameworthy. Morality always involves trade-offs between outcomes, but ultimately an *action* is deemed good or evil within a context of complex outcomes. Moreover, it is not obvious that such a utilitarian view of morality is acceptable. For example, my intuitions tell me that in general it would be wrong for me to kill an innocent regardless of how many other innocents would die by my inaction.
_________________________________________

It is not necessary to recast an evil thing as good. Primitives, too, understood the concept of the lesser of two evils.

COMMENT: The outcome of alternative actions is one thing, the morality of the deed is quite another. You may for utilitarian reasons cast an outcome as evil; while insisting that the action that brought it about was morally right (good). In the tribal case, the outcome may or may not be viewed as the lessor of two evils, but the action clearly would be viewed as good.
___________________________________________

A chieftain can hold that it is evil to burn his own virgin daughter alive, along with six other virgins, in order to avoid the worse evil of the entire tribe dying from famine.

COMMENT: But arguably his action would not be evil if it was a legitimate utilitarian choice between two adverse outcomes; it would be good. So, "evil" outcomes sometimes result from moral actions. In moral reasoning it is first and foremost about the conduct, the choice to do one thing rather than another.
_____________________________________________

Burning seven virgins alive every year is evil. But a worse evil is allowing seven thousand to starve. No where in this calculation is it necessary to believe burning a young girl alive is good.

COMMENT: If you mean "morally" good, then I disagree. It is arguably morally good to choose an action that you believe is the lessor of two evils. It comes down to whether the person "did the right thing" not whether the outcome was pleasant, disturbing, or whatever.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 07:15PM

> Sometimes you have to commit evil to ward off a
> greater evil.
>
> COMMENT: Well, if that is the case, then the
> action was not evil, i.e. not morally blameworthy.
> Morality always involves trade-offs between
> outcomes, but ultimately an *action* is deemed
> good or evil within a context of complex outcomes.
> Moreover, it is not obvious that such a
> utilitarian view of morality is acceptable. For
> example, my intuitions tell me that in general it
> would be wrong for me to kill an innocent
> regardless of how many other innocents would die
> by my inaction.

I disagree. Trade-offs, outcomes, context, or what you will does not change evil into something else. For example, no one says that burning babies alive is something other than evil just because the U.S. burnt however many babies alive when it dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. People may say it was a necessary evil or the lesser of two or more evils. People may even say they are glad that the evil was committed, to avoid more deaths or gain world hegemony or whatever the reasoning may be. But no one says that burning babies alive is somehow not evil just because people find ways to justify it, and this goes for the very people creating the justifications.
> _________________________________________



>
> It is not necessary to recast an evil thing as
> good. Primitives, too, understood the concept of
> the lesser of two evils.
>
> COMMENT: The outcome of alternative actions is one
> thing, the morality of the deed is quite another.
> You may for utilitarian reasons cast an outcome as
> evil; while insisting that the action that brought
> it about was morally right (good). In the tribal
> case, the outcome may or may not be viewed as the
> lessor of two evils, but the action clearly would
> be viewed as good.

No. People do not suddenly think burning babies alive in Japan was good in itself, even if they believe that it led to a good outcome.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 08:04PM

I disagree. Trade-offs, outcomes, context, or what you will does not change evil into something else. For example, no one says that burning babies alive is something other than evil just because the U.S. burnt however many babies alive when it dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. People may say it was a necessary evil or the lesser of two or more evils. People may even say they are glad that the evil was committed, to avoid more deaths or gain world hegemony or whatever the reasoning may be. But no one says that burning babies alive is somehow not evil just because people find ways to justify it, and this goes for the very people creating the justifications.

COMMENT: The moral question is not found in the result. If people do not think that at some level in the chain of accountability some person or persons committed an immoral act, i.e. was morally blameworthy, there is no moral point to say that the outcome was evil. "Evil" implies the act of a moral agent. Suppose, for example, that the babies were burned by a natural event, not involving human conduct; say a massive wildfire, or earthquake. Would people say that the outcome was "evil" or just horribly unfortunate?

I will add my own view, which I assume is consistent with yours, that the bombing of H and N was morally outrageous, and that there is a lot of moral blame to go around on this issue. But, I know there are a lot of people who think such bombing was necessary to end the war (unsupportable in my view) and that the players were therefore justified (not morally blameworthy) for their actions.




> _________________________________________



>
> It is not necessary to recast an evil thing as
> good. Primitives, too, understood the concept of
> the lesser of two evils.
>
> COMMENT: The outcome of alternative actions is one
> thing, the morality of the deed is quite another.
> You may for utilitarian reasons cast an outcome as
> evil; while insisting that the action that brought
> it about was morally right (good). In the tribal
> case, the outcome may or may not be viewed as the
> lessor of two evils, but the action clearly would
> be viewed as good.

No. People do not suddenly think burning babies alive in Japan was good in itself, even if they believe that it led to a good outcome.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 04:31PM

If they were out of their minds then, why aren’t you now?

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Posted by: Jordan ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 01:28PM

The key premise of Lord of the Flies is that civilization is just a veneer. This is a correct view IMHO.

When people assume they are not being watched and/or won't be punished for wrongdoing, a considerable portion will go off and steal, rape or even kill.

This has been proven time and time again in history. It often happens during wars and invasions.

Our power went out for about forty minutes one night. It was fun to begin with, with the candles burning, but I soon realized with the street lights out that it would be easy for people to get up to no good. Forty minutes is okay, but try a week or a month without power and a combination of the violent and the desperate would wreak chaos.

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Posted by: dagny ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 01:51PM

I think most of it is biology driven. We know when we are doing something that we would not like being done to us. This does not require anything external. We know what can cause pain or safety issues for us and we also know what might get us sex, resources or the interaction we need. Other apes show empathy and also aggression. Whether or not the actions are good or evil, they both result in a biological reward to thrive in the genepool.

If you keep in the genepool by rape or by compassionate companionship, the genes don't care about which was good or evil. We will see a mix of behavior that works biological.

Then of course we run into the gray areas where stealing to feed your child is evil but not as evil as stealing for other reasons. You know all the scenarios in ethics philosophy courses I mean. Evil can be situational.

Predictably, I don't see any external explanations needed to explain good and evil and I certainly don't see it as requiring things like transcendence. There are plausible explanations on the science of good and evil that can stand alone, IMO.

When my dog does something wrong, she appears to try what she thinks she can get away with (evil). I don't think humans are a lot different.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 01:57PM

dagny Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> When my dog does something wrong, she appears to
> try what she thinks she can get away with (evil).
> I don't think humans are a lot different.

What does your dog think of "Justice?"

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Posted by: dagny ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 04:17PM

She plans ways to avoid it later. :-)

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 04:19PM

Good girl.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 06:44PM

Isn’t that more of a cat thing?

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 03:29PM

I think most of it is biology driven.

COMMENT: Spoken by a true biologist! :)
__________________________________________

We know when we are doing something that we would not like being done to us. This does not require anything external. We know what can cause pain or safety issues for us and we also know what might get us sex, resources or the interaction we need. Other apes show empathy and also aggression. Whether or not the actions are good or evil, they both result in a biological reward to thrive in the genepool.

COMMENT: The problem with this biology driven "golden rule" approach is that it does not provide any basis for moral authority whatsoever; i.e. a reason why some action is morally right (or good) and some action is morally wrong (or evil). There is no reason from any standard in biology why I should have the slightest concern for anyone beside myself--even if I have to pretend to care about others to advance my best reproductive and survival interest. Even if you argue that altruism is biologically driven--which I deeply doubt--it still does not make altruism moral! For it to be moral, altruism must depend upon a free act that is motivated by the interest of others. In short, there is no morality without freewill, and biology denies freewill. Case closed!
_______________________________________________

If you keep in the genepool by rape or by compassionate companionship, the genes don't care about which was good or evil. We will see a mix of behavior that works biological.

COMMENT: Exactly. For the genes there is no such thing as good and evil. The same is true for neurons, or anything else biological--a moral distinction takes something more than mere biology.
______________________________________________

Then of course we run into the gray areas where stealing to feed your child is evil but not as evil as stealing for other reasons. You know all the scenarios in ethics philosophy courses I mean. Evil can be situational.

COMMENT: But, we still do not have good and evil; there is still no point of contact between biology and morality.
_______________________________________________

Predictably, I don't see any external explanations needed to explain good and evil and I certainly don't see it as requiring things like transcendence. There are plausible explanations on the science of good and evil that can stand alone, IMO.

COMMENT: O.K. I disagree. But, if this is your position, then you need to provide an account as to how biology alone gets human beings to objective morality, and in particular moral authority. Otherwise, morality is nothing more than reproduction and survival. Certainly that is not how most people view morality.
_______________________________________________

When my dog does something wrong, she appears to try what she thinks she can get away with (evil). I don't think humans are a lot different.

COMMENT: So human morality can be compared with the actions of a dog. Its all about what we and they can get away with. That view is precisely the view that biology dictates. But let's not pretend that lurking somewhere in there is some genuine morality. After all, if our moral intuitions, however powerful, are at root just biology, they contain no moral force. They are just genes and neurons acting up; for whatever evolutionary reason.

So, if you want to take morality seriously you *do* need transcendence!

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Posted by: dagny ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 04:15PM

I don't see the need for there to be an actual moral "authority" as you describe. There's a big spectrum of gray actions that might be good in one situation and bad in another as examples above describe. Biological behavior includes what the individual can "spend" or invest in good will and altruism (yes, I do feel altruism can be explained by biology).


HB said:
>you need to provide an account as to how biology alone gets human beings to objective morality, and in particular moral authority.


I don't think it is out of the scope of biology for people to weigh their options and act, based on what they think would work best to their advantage and consequences (add in contingency). We are biologically driven to do things to aid the survival of our offspring. For the most part, doing "good" and altruism make the world a safer place for survival. This is a primary driver for me to be a good person. I want to be safe and I want a safe world for my grandchildren.

I don't think objectivity requires much more than that. I don't think there is an actual moral authority behind this. People are conditioned to think there is something out there driving these actions. I don't see any reason to add additional layers of some external unprovable authority.

It seems you have hypothesized a very complex external force that gets involved in things like consciousness and morals and transcendence. I would be more hard pressed to have to explain that on top of biology. It doesn't add anything except unnecessary mystery.


(Disclaimer. My views might change next week.)

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 04:20PM

"I would be more hard pressed to have to explain that on top of biology."

Its those evil turtles all the way down to Hell.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 06:00PM

I don't see the need for there to be an actual moral "authority" as you describe. There's a big spectrum of gray actions that might be good in one situation and bad in another as examples above describe. Biological behavior includes what the individual can "spend" or invest in good will and altruism (yes, I do feel altruism can be explained by biology).

COMMENT: Well, we can leave the altruism debate for another time, but usually when one ponders morality what they are looking for is some basis for explaining why a person *ought* (morally) to do one thing rather than another, and why some action is morally "right" and another morally "wrong." It is the response to this "ought" question that provides moral authority to such judgments. (I am not talking about some divine or governmental authority) Without it, morality evaporates into uncontrolled moral relativism. (i.e. intuition)
_________________________________________

I don't think it is out of the scope of biology for people to weigh their options and act, based on what they think would work best to their advantage and consequences (add in contingency). We are biologically driven to do things to aid the survival of our offspring. For the most part, doing "good" and altruism make the world a safer place for survival. This is a primary driver for me to be a good person. I want to be safe and I want a safe world for my grandchildren.

COMMENT: You just introduced freewill into biology by the suggestion that people can "weigh their options and act." Where in biology is freewill explained? How does it arise? How does it evolve from otherwise purely mechanistic, biochemical interactions. You need an explanation for this--if you think it is all biology. Other than as a rhetorical acknowledgement, I know of only one prominent theoretical biologist who has advocated for genuine freewill. And he did this by acknowledging the transcendent. Here is a quote:

"Choice emerges with consciousness. We have argued that the fitness of consciousness is that, given the huge variety of environments, one can distinguish far more states than can be encoded for. Making the fit choice then becomes advantageous. This is the beginning of free will. When it is finally combined with the ability to understand the consequences of interactions, our collective behavior becomes transcendence. I am aware that this is a startling, frightening, and thoroughly heretical conclusion. If our evolving minds are the transcendence of the immanent God, then the responsibility of making a better world is ours, as is the responsibility of figuring out what we mean by a better world."

(Harold J. Morowitz, The Emergence of Everything (2002), p. 195-196) Stuart Kauffman also comes close, but then effectively denies it. (See Reinventing the Sacred, pages 227-228, where this issue is discussed at some length)
____________________________________________________

I don't think objectivity requires much more than that. I don't think there is an actual moral authority behind this. People are conditioned to think there is something out there driving these actions. I don't see any reason to add additional layers of some external unprovable authority.

COMMENT: See comments above. Without moral authority (the theoretical basis for an action being right or wrong), there is only intuition, and thus moral relativism.
____________________________________________________

It seems you have hypothesized a very complex external force that gets involved in things like consciousness and morals and transcendence. I would be more hard pressed to have to explain that on top of biology. It doesn't add anything except unnecessary mystery.

COMMENT: True, it adds mystery, but not unnecessary mystery. If it is unnecessary, then give me a *substantive* account of how morality emerged or evolved from biochemistry. (Not just how people come to have moral intuitions, but how such intuitions mirror something objective (authoritative) about what *is* morally right and wrong.

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Posted by: dagny ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 06:49PM

It may ~seem~ like free will, but I'm not sure we can rule out that the decision is determined.

I'm on the fence with free will. I don't think whether or not it exists changes how we make decisions for good or evil. IMO, we can't know the fixed determined actions, so we ACT as if we have free will at least.

This seems like yet another unnecessary thing to add to the mix.

FWIW, if I were one of a million marbles dumped on a floor, it might seem like I have free will to roll and bump into this marble or that marble at the time. However, in the big picture, the physics and math could predict the collisions at the time of impact. It's too complicated with all the collisions to see them all laid out in advance. Maybe this is the extent of free will for us marbles. We know some things are definitely not our free will, but maybe it is not a 100% requirement. Maybe there are some details that really don't impact anything upstream. I haven't see any arguments one way or the other that I buy yet.

HB said:
>True, it adds mystery, but not unnecessary mystery. If it is unnecessary, then give me a *substantive* account of how morality emerged or evolved from biochemistry. (Not just how people come to have moral intuitions, but how such intuitions mirror something objective (authoritative) about what *is* morally right and wrong.


You're asking me for a substantive account and you, OTOH, default to saying it is part of a soul? Your claim is further out there than biology by far.

That said, biochem in humans include multiple feedback mechanisms for well being, fear, hunger, etc. Feelings are biochemical. We feel good when we are doing what we think is good (aka moral). I just don't see the need to make it more complicated. I don't see the need to create some objective authoritative obfuscation layer.

Say you help drag Thor, a fellow cave man, with a broken leg away from a lion. You feel good. You know it helps with survival. It was a "moral" act. You hope for reciprocity. You hope Thor won't do something "immoral" and steal your food later. You and Thor feel good.
The end.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 07:44PM

It may ~seem~ like free will, but I'm not sure we can rule out that the decision is determined.

COMMENT: I am not sure either. But, as a humanist I have to live my life with that assumption. And since I believe in consistency, I need some theory to support it. And, admittedly I do not have one, or at least a good one. But for me the answer is not to deny freewill in the name of "science," because that pulls the rug out of everything it means to be human.
___________________________________

I'm on the fence with free will. I don't think whether or not it exists changes how we make decisions for good or evil. IMO, we can't know the fixed determined actions, so we ACT as if we have free will at least.

COMMENT: But that's the point. Without freewill we cannot "make decisions." We are only complex automatons who think we make decisions. (See, Wegner, The Illusion of Freewill)
__________________________________

This seems like yet another unnecessary thing to add to the mix.

COMMENT: Why is it unnecessary to insist on genuine freewill? When I disciplined my children (when they were young) for making a bad or "immoral" decision; or scolded myself for the same reason, it was because I believed that they and I could have freely chosen something else. Take that away, and what is left? What is the point of anything?
__________________________________________

FWIW, if I were one of a million marbles dumped on a floor, it might seem like I have free will to roll and bump into this marble or that marble at the time. However, in the big picture, the physics and math could predict the collisions at the time of impact. It's too complicated with all the collisions to see them all laid out in advance. Maybe this is the extent of free will for us marbles. We know some things are definitely not our free will, but maybe it is not a 100% requirement. Maybe there are some details that really don't impact anything upstream. I haven't see any arguments one way or the other that I buy yet.

COMMENT: Well, no doubt it is all very complicated, including the philosophical, psychological, and neurological arguments. So, my dogmatism on this issue is definitely NOT out of certainty, by any stretch. It is out of human necessity, coupled with the particular explanatory holes in scientific materialism.
_____________________________________

You're asking me for a substantive account and you, OTOH, default to saying it is part of a soul? Your claim is further out there than biology by far.

COMMENT: This is absolutely a legitimate complaint. Except, I am not sure it is "further out there" than biology, for this reason. Biology, in principle, does not get us to freewill. It is a non-starter. It does not even explain consciousness, mind, or subjectivity; all of which we know absolutely exist in the universe. Moreover, there is nothing more intuitive than the idea that our actions are free; that we are autonomous agents making choices and living lives based upon those choices. That is how we live our daily life. So, where should we look for an explanation? Science does not seem to provide one--even in principle! It is materialistic and encompasses the causal closure of the physical. Given that, it seems to me that we need to look to some additional metaphysical reality that we are not familiar with? A reality that explains consciousness, mind and freewill.
_________________________________________

That said, biochem in humans include multiple feedback mechanisms for well being, fear, hunger, etc. Feelings are biochemical. We feel good when we are doing what we think is good (aka moral). I just don't see the need to make it more complicated. I don't see the need to create some objective authoritative obfuscation layer.

COMMENT: Granted, there are biological correlates and feedback mechanisms offer some level of explanation for much of the "qualia" humans routinely experience. The "need" for an additional layer of explanation is based upon the limited scope of such explanations in explaining ALL there is to be human; including, once again, consciousness, mind, and (hopefully) freewill. But, there is a lot that is encompassed by this limitation. Human creativity is not explained by neuroscience; Human thought and reasoning processes are not explained by neuroscience (The brain as a neural network is thought to be computational whereas human reasoning is largely non-computational.); The binding of sense date in experience is not explained; Attention is not explained; Memory is not explained. Although, there are theories for all of these things, in my judgment, they are very tenuous, speculative, and at best grossly incomplete. In short, we have no idea how the brain, as complicated as it is, works to explain the vast variety of human experiences. Is it just a matter of time? Maybe, but for me these gaps are such as to point to something more fundamental that is missing.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 04:57PM

“It may ~seem~ like free will, but I'm not sure we can rule out that the decision is determined.”

But that’s what free will is. It’s the pre-911 days of the airline pilot letting a toddler experience the thrill of flying the plane. That doesn’t mean the plane isn’t real or that those guiding it have completely lost their marbles.

It’s all a ride, look up Bill Hicks.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 05:09PM

It’s all good to appreciate what fools we were. But why not appreciate the fools we currently are? What makes you think Mormonism wasn’t all part of the ride? Michael Douglas was so good, wasn’t he? Broken glass indeed.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 05:18PM

I’m just a guy pissing in the wind. If you see the grass growing greener over there, maybe you should come on over. Mormonism had me pissing Roundup. Not a bad game if you’ve completely lost it. But how does one find the marbles without losing them first?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/18/2019 05:22PM by babyloncansuckit.

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Posted by: dagny ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 07:16PM

If the end result is determined but we don't know the outcome, we behave as though we have free will.

If the end result is not determined and we don't know the outcome, we behave as though we have free will.

Obviously I flounder with the whole topic and how some of the authors on free will have been describing it. It seems like in the short term we have free will but in the long term we don't.

I don't have many marbles left to spare for this topic. Seems like a dead end to me.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 07:50PM

But it’s all Rubik’s Cube. There’s a certain geometry or topology it’s hinting at, begging to be described in a tangible way.

Think of Drew Carey running pachinko on The Price is Right. Which bin will the ball land in? The ball lands in all of them. That an outcome space exists is a matter of perception. The ball’s path that we see is limited to that which underwent the formality of actually occurring. It’s an effect of dimensionally. We are hyper spatial beings living in a simulation of our own creation. Hey you bought Mormonism didn’t you?

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Posted by: dagny ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 08:36PM

It's bad enough that you just made me think of Drew Carey against my free will.

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Posted by: baura ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 06:47PM

blindguy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Some fiction writers have tried to categorize good
> and evil in some interesting ways. "Lord of the
> Flies," by William Golding, a book written in the
> 1950s about schoolboys being stranded on a desert
> island, does a fascinating job of looking at good
> and evil by the (spoiler alert coming up) two main
> antagonists, Ralph and Jack.

Ah yes, "Lord of the Flies." As I recall it's a book about a
group of people who journey to a place where man has never
been. There they fashion their society but murmuring takes
place and they separate into two groups, the righteous,
civilized group and the savage war-like group. They have
various clashes and wars with each other until a white savior
shows up in their land to save them.

Yes, it seems familiar for some reason.

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Posted by: jacob ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 09:09PM

I'm confused.

Now I'm not a psychic, or is it psychoist, or maybe a philosophic, I'm not sure. So I'm not a psychic but I do know that sociological constructs are built on something. Take money for example, absent some fairy-tale gold standard, money has always only had the value that society assigns to it. It isn't anything but what we perceive it to be. But it is hella valuable, in fact I can give pieces of paper and get real property back for it. Something that has intrinsic value like a piece of land can be had for something that only has theoretical value.

In my mind evil, or morality is definitely a theoretical value.

But just because morality is affirmed by a societal fiat doesn't make it any less valuable.

Having a discussion about the root or origin of evil, to me, adds a confusing metaphysical element to a fairly straight forward issue. I laugh at the Supreme Court opinion "I know it when I see it" but it does show the subjectivity of this concept.

So morality is subjective and I see no problem with that. For the most part, I consider myself a moral person. I'm an atheist and I consider myself moral. So maybe I'm just confused because I'm not a psychic.

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Posted by: elderolddog ( )
Date: May 17, 2019 09:35PM

Sure, but you haven't told us where you stand on throwing babies into a fire!

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 10:04AM

Now I'm not a psychic, or is it psychoist, or maybe a philosophic, I'm not sure. So I'm not a psychic but I do know that sociological constructs are built on something. Take money for example, absent some fairy-tale gold standard, money has always only had the value that society assigns to it. It isn't anything but what we perceive it to be. But it is hella valuable, in fact I can give pieces of paper and get real property back for it. Something that has intrinsic value like a piece of land can be had for something that only has theoretical value.

COMMENT: Yes. This is just a pragmatic, social structure to facilitate commerce. It is a system of representation. So, although a piece of paper has no intrinsic value, it represents, in one way or another, things that do. Nothing mysterious about this.
________________________________________

In my mind evil, or morality is definitely a theoretical value.

COMMENT: "Theoretical value?" What does that mean? Are you suggesting that, like a monetary system, morality is just another social system? If so, what are its foundational principles? What is its theoretical basis? That is the whole point! In the monetary system, "value" is not just "theoretical" and not illusive, as you seem to imply. The foundational principles of the system are clear; "value" is determined by human needs and desires as established by the market; i.e. what humans want to buy and do buy.
__________________________________________

But just because morality is affirmed by a societal fiat doesn't make it any less valuable.

COMMENT: The question with regard to morality is not its value for a society, nobody questions that. Rather, the question is its foundation; what do these moral terms "good" and "evil" represent in the system, over and about our moral sense, if anything. After all, we know what a dollar represents in the monetary system, even if its precise value fluctuates over time. It represents the ability to purchase goods and services within the monetary system in which it functions. The fact that it is no longer based upon a "gold standard" has nothing to do with its value within the system.
_________________________________________

Having a discussion about the root or origin of evil, to me, adds a confusing metaphysical element to a fairly straight forward issue. I laugh at the Supreme Court opinion "I know it when I see it" but it does show the subjectivity of this concept.

COMMENT: If the issue is straightforwardly "subjective" where does that leave *you* when making moral choices and judgments, both personally and within a society. We know how to exchange money; and how money relates to value. Give me a similar explanation as to morality. (After all, it was you that made this analogy) And if you can't answer that, what does social morality even mean, other than what most people "think" is right or wrong. Surely, if the monetary system worked that way, each of us could just announce what we believed something was worth and demand that others acquiesce in such monetary "intuitions." What implications does this relativism have in the context of arguments over such social issues as abortion, gender identity, socialism, capitalism, war, etc. etc. Everyone is free to believe whatever they want, and there is no moral "fact of the matter" about anything.
___________________________________________

So morality is subjective and I see no problem with that. For the most part, I consider myself a moral person. I'm an atheist and I consider myself moral. So maybe I'm just confused because I'm not a psychic.

COMMENT: You see no problem with that because you haven't considered the implications of such a view, which I find quite astonishing. Let me help you further. Suppose the American social structure evolved (backwards) such that the majority of "moral intuitions" or the social "moral sense" determined that atheism was "morally wrong" and worse "evil," and that for the good of the nation all atheists (yourself included) are to be round up and put in labor camps. What would be your response? Given your "no problem" position, all of your moral outrage (and that of a minority of others) would fall completely flat. After all, the majority would just say, "I don't know what evil is, but I know it when I see it." And don't think this example is far-fetched. It is quite historical with respect to minority groups, as you well know.

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Posted by: jacob ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 06:05PM

Henry Bemis Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Now I'm not a psychic, or is it psychoist, or
> maybe a philosophic, I'm not sure. So I'm not a
> psychic but I do know that sociological constructs
> are built on something. Take money for example,
> absent some fairy-tale gold standard, money has
> always only had the value that society assigns to
> it. It isn't anything but what we perceive it to
> be. But it is hella valuable, in fact I can give
> pieces of paper and get real property back for it.
> Something that has intrinsic value like a piece of
> land can be had for something that only has
> theoretical value.
>
> COMMENT: Yes. This is just a pragmatic, social
> structure to facilitate commerce. It is a system
> of representation. So, although a piece of paper
> has no intrinsic value, it represents, in one way
> or another, things that do. Nothing mysterious
> about this.
> ________________________________________

And I contend that there is no mystery about the origin of evil or morality. It is a just a pragmatic social structure that facilities societal living. So while it in and of itself has no intrinsic value it represents things that do. Like for example being able to have neighbors or have private ownership of things. I would go so far that an individual absent society, let's say Adam, cannot be immoral or evil. There could be no good or evil for Adam because there existed no need for either.

>
> In my mind evil, or morality is definitely a
> theoretical value.
>
> COMMENT: "Theoretical value?" What does that mean?
> Are you suggesting that, like a monetary system,
> morality is just another social system? If so,
> what are its foundational principles? What is its
> theoretical basis? That is the whole point! In
> the monetary system, "value" is not just
> "theoretical" and not illusive, as you seem to
> imply. The foundational principles of the system
> are clear; "value" is determined by human needs
> and desires as established by the market; i.e.
> what humans want to buy and do buy.
> __________________________________________

You keep saying things that I read as affirming my point. The foundational principals of morality are clear. The value is determined by human needs and desires as established my the market.

>
> But just because morality is affirmed by a
> societal fiat doesn't make it any less valuable.
>
> COMMENT: The question with regard to morality is
> not its value for a society, nobody questions
> that. Rather, the question is its foundation;
> what do these moral terms "good" and "evil"
> represent in the system, over and about our moral
> sense, if anything. After all, we know what a
> dollar represents in the monetary system, even if
> its precise value fluctuates over time. It
> represents the ability to purchase goods and
> services within the monetary system in which it
> functions. The fact that it is no longer based
> upon a "gold standard" has nothing to do with its
> value within the system.
> _________________________________________

I think this is simply a perception issue. You continue to make my point. The "gold standard" was always a myth. Just as some sort of deep seated intrinsic value of morality is a myth. Morality acts exactly as you have explained the monetary system. It fluctuates over time but it all ways functions to provide structure to societal living.

>
> Having a discussion about the root or origin of
> evil, to me, adds a confusing metaphysical element
> to a fairly straight forward issue. I laugh at the
> Supreme Court opinion "I know it when I see it"
> but it does show the subjectivity of this
> concept.
>
> COMMENT: If the issue is straightforwardly
> "subjective" where does that leave *you* when
> making moral choices and judgments, both
> personally and within a society. We know how to
> exchange money; and how money relates to value.
> Give me a similar explanation as to morality.
> (After all, it was you that made this analogy)
> And if you can't answer that, what does social
> morality even mean, other than what most people
> "think" is right or wrong. Surely, if the monetary
> system worked that way, each of us could just
> announce what we believed something was worth and
> demand that others acquiesce in such monetary
> "intuitions." What implications does this
> relativism have in the context of arguments over
> such social issues as abortion, gender identity,
> socialism, capitalism, war, etc. etc. Everyone is
> free to believe whatever they want, and there is
> no moral "fact of the matter" about anything.
> ___________________________________________

I think you misrepresent my point here and I'm not sure why. I'm not free to chose the morality of a system just as one individual isn't free to claim value in something and have it be automatically granted, which you strangely claim is possible. The invisible hand theory is perfectly applicable in the discussion of what is moral. Again, I think that your need to apply some sort of otherworldly meaning to morality clouds your perception.

>
> So morality is subjective and I see no problem
> with that. For the most part, I consider myself a
> moral person. I'm an atheist and I consider myself
> moral. So maybe I'm just confused because I'm not
> a psychic.
>
> COMMENT: You see no problem with that because you
> haven't considered the implications of such a
> view, which I find quite astonishing. Let me help
> you further. Suppose the American social
> structure evolved (backwards) such that the
> majority of "moral intuitions" or the social
> "moral sense" determined that atheism was "morally
> wrong" and worse "evil," and that for the good of
> the nation all atheists (yourself included) are to
> be round up and put in labor camps. What would be
> your response? Given your "no problem" position,
> all of your moral outrage (and that of a minority
> of others) would fall completely flat. After all,
> the majority would just say, "I don't know what
> evil is, but I know it when I see it." And don't
> think this example is far-fetched. It is quite
> historical with respect to minority groups, as you
> well know.

And this is the crux of what I'm trying to say. Morality has no intrinsic value. It is simply the sum of an equation. Were the morality of a system such that I would be imprisoned I would have two choices. And those two choices have been repeated countless time. Accept or rebel. I'll refer back to John Locke. There are certain things that are of more value to me than living in my society. I am a free, equal, and independent person. Shockingly I choose those over morality every day.

And before you get on me for quoting "natural law" I'll tell you that freedom, equality, and independence have been defined in such erratic ways in the past that I consider those words to have on intrinsic value either. I simply state them as my highest personal ethic.




HB, you are much more read than I am and I appreciate your input but I think you simply have blinders on in this discussion. For what it's worth.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: May 19, 2019 08:30AM

"For what it's worth"

CONFESSION 1: I have never—ever—posted anything on this Board that was original. All of the positions, arguments, theories, refutations, etc. are offered as a synthesis of the writings of others, each of whom was much more knowledgeable than me in their given field of expertise.

CONFESSION 2: Within 15 feet of my computer I have a library of 600 plus books on a wide variety of topics in theoretical science and philosophy; all of which have been read, and most of which have been annotated by me personally, with literally hundreds of quotes and references on my computer. Have you ever noticed that I can come up with a supporting quote seemingly at the drop of a hat? That’s why. (And it really is an unfair advantage!)

CONFESSION 3: I never—ever—post anything on this Board where I do not know what I am talking about and where I cannot back up everything I say with scholarly quotations, whether I actually do or not. Now, that does not mean much, because I could also document the opposite point of view. (And point out why I think it is wrong!)

Now, the above confessions do not mean that I am either smart or always right. It just means that after 40 years of substantial effort, I am highly prepared. This should be obvious by now to anyone on the Board, even critics, or those who for whatever reason do not like me personally. So, when you, or someone else, substitute providing a logical refutation with a rhetorical suggestion, for example, that I must have blinders on an issue, it likely indicates a failure on *your* part, not mine.

When I was a young student, many years ago, I had a very patient mentor who on one occasion pointedly gave me the best advice I have ever received in all my academic or intellectual pursuits. He said, “The most important thing you can ever learn as you pursue an academic career is to know when it is appropriate to take the position of a critic and when it is appropriate to take the position of a student.” He added, “If you are a critic when you need to be a student, you will not learn what you need to learn; and if you are a student when you need to be a critic, you might very well learn something that is false.” I have tried to follow this advice. In my daily life, I read on average 3-4 hours a day. During about 90 percent of this time I assume the attitude of a student, and 10 percent a critic. Of course here on the Board the dynamic is a little different.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: May 18, 2019 06:02PM

The mad do not question their own sanity.



Okay, I only wrote that to make you feel better.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/18/2019 06:52PM by babyloncansuckit.

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