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Thread: Atheism And Moral Progress

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    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    And again, that is just untrue. And I suspect that your circle of friends is rather limited.
    Seer - they can say anything they wish - if they accept citizenship and remain within a country based on "consent of the governed," their choice to stay and their citizenship IS their consent. They may disagree with this law or that law - and they may practice any form of civil disobedience they wish, but their citizenship is an agreement to abide by the law and confers on the government the right (which combined with power constitutes authority) to enforce those laws.

    You can ignore this reality all you wish. It is the basis for our political experiment. "I want it all my way" is a common theme from many people today. That is not the nature of a democratic republic, which is the form of government "we the people" have selected.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

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    tWebber seer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Seer - they can say anything they wish - if they accept citizenship and remain within a country based on "consent of the governed," their choice to stay and their citizenship IS their consent. They may disagree with this law or that law - and they may practice any form of civil disobedience they wish, but their citizenship is an agreement to abide by the law and confers on the government the right (which combined with power constitutes authority) to enforce those laws.
    And you can say anything that you wish - like a government has no authority over you unless you consent to that authority. And no their choice to stay does not confer consent, that is your opinion, not theirs.
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    And you can say anything that you wish - like a government has no authority over you unless you consent to that authority. And no their choice to stay does not confer consent, that is your opinion, not theirs.
    You're the one not following the definition of "authority," Seer. And, at this point, I think we've long since run this into the ground. Last word to you.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

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    tWebber seer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    You're the one not following the definition of "authority," Seer. And, at this point, I think we've long since run this into the ground. Last word to you.
    Of course I'm following the definition since it does not tell us who/what grants said "right" to authority. Not one definition that you or I used said anything about that right or power being granted by general consent.
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Jim -

    I have been through both of your posts and it strikes me that further back and forth is not going to get us anywhere, Furthermore, they are consuming a great deal of time. So I'm going to leave them and attempt a different approach. You seem to want to argue that morality is fundamentally an objective exercise. That is to say, there are moral principles that are objectively true and not subject to individual thoughts, ideas, or opinions. You should therefore be able to cite one objectively true moral principle and identify what makes that particular principle "moral" without any reference to subjectively selected valuing. That is the basis for my position concerning morality: that we cannot arrive at a moral claim without it being rooted in something we value that is subjectively selected, making the entire edifice of morality a subjective exercise. If you can demonstrate a moral claim that is NOT so rooted, then I would have to rethink my position.
    I wrote a long post then lost it because my network adapter kicked me off the internet. Let me try again. If I write fast...

    Morality is objective but there are no absolute, ie exceptionless, moral principles. My principles often clash with each other so that I have to 'rank' them and I have to apply them to individual situations, so that there is an element of 'individual thoughts, ideas, and opinions.' There is a subjective aspect of application but I am aiming at an objective framework

    As for a moral claim that is not rooted in subjective choice, consider truth-telling. Language is premised on the assumption of accurate observation and reporting. That is the background assumption of verbal communication. Even lying would not be possible without this assumption, because the liar takes advantage of the fact that his listeners believe he is telling the truth. This doesn't mean there aren't justifiable times to lie, like the famous example of lying to the Nazis about the Jewish family in your attic, etc. But in considering when it's justifiable to lie, its not a matter of one's individual choice that decides the matter. To save a family's life justifies a lie, but to take money that is not yours does not justify a lie. So the second-order calculus of whether the lie is just or not is not a matter of choice, even if there may be cases that are difficult to decide. (Is it justifiable to lie to Mary and tell her that she is not dying of cancer? If she told us earlier that she did not want to know, then it is. If she had insisted she DID want to know, then it isn't. The point is that it's not necessarily up to us.)

    The point is that there is a norm of truth that is inherent in being a language-user, and consequently, a prima facie (not exceptionless) duty to tell the truth as a language-user, and this duty is not a matter of individual choice.
    Last edited by Jim B.; 08-15-2019 at 01:19 PM.

  6. Amen Chrawnus, Adrift amen'd this post.
  7. #1146
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    I wrote a long post then lost it because my network adapter kicked me off the internet. Let me try again. If I write fast...

    Morality is objective but there are no ojective, ie exceptionless, moral principles. My principles often clash with each other so that i have to 'rank' them and I have to apply them to individual situations, so that there is an element of 'individual thoughts, ideas, and opinions.' There is a subjective aspect of application but i am aiming at an objective framework.
    OK - what is that "objective framework" and demonstrate that it is, actually, objective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    As for a moral claim that is not rooted in subjective choice, consider truth-telling. Language is premised on the assumption of accurate observation and reporting. That is the background assumption of verbal communication. Even lying would not be possible without this assumption, because the liar takes advantage of the fact that his listeners believe he is telling the truth. This doesn't mean there aren't justifiable times to lie, like the famous example of lying to the Nazis about the Jewish family in your attic, etc. But in considering when it's justifiable to lie, its not a matter of one's individual choice that decides the matter. To save a family's life justifies a lie, but to take money that is not yours does not justify a lie. So the second-order calculus of whether the lie is just or not is not a matter of choice, even if there may be cases that are difficult to decide. (Is it justifiable to lie to Mary and tell her that she is not dying of cancer? If she told us earlier that she did not want to know, the it is. If she had insisted she DID want to know, then it isn't. The point is that it's not necessarily up to us.)
    OK - there are so many problems here, I don't know where to start. First, it is not language that is premised on accurate observation and reporting. Language is simply the creation of symbols to express concepts verbally and in written form. It has nothing directly to do with truth or lying, except in so far as we can use language to do either. You are closer to the truth in noting that a liar takes advantage of the expectation of truth and THAT is because society is rooted in the concept of trust. Without trust, society breaks down. Then you boldly state "to save a family's life justifies a lie, but to take money that is not yours does not justify a lie," and claim there is no choice about this, as if these are objectively true moral norms without one shred of evidence that they are other than your assertion. I submit that they are widely held moral norms, but there is no means by which you can show them to be "objectively true" moral norms. However, feel free to try if you wish. And what exactly does "justify" mean in this context? And, finally, who says it is not "up to us." To quote someone I am just getting to know, that appears to be "begging the question" pretty badly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    The point is that there is a norm of truth that is inherent in being a language-user, and consequently, a prima facie (not exceptionless) duty to tell the truth as a language-user, and this duty is not a matter of individual choice.
    Yes - there is a widely held moral norm that truth telling is moral and lying is immoral, and each of us has or list of exceptions in which this moral norm can be violated. If you think, however, that you have even begun to establish that this is an "objectively true moral norm," I don't see anything in your argument that makes that case.

    But subjective morality explains the dynamics quite well. In order for someone to see truth-telling as moral and lying as immoral, they would first have to highly value "society" or "community" or "personal interactions." If I value these things, I will see actions that threaten them (i.e., lying) as immoral and actions that enhance/support them (truth-telling) as moral. The exceptions to that basic moral principle occur when something I value more is threatened by truth-telling or enhanced/protected by lying. However, if I value money or personal ego or power above community/society, I may well see lying as a perfectly moral, "justified" means to achieving those ends. This is what we see in the current occupant of the White House every day of the week. The objective reality is the impact of lying on community/society/relationship. But the moral principle "lying is immoral" arises from valuing the things that lying attacks/degrades/destroys.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

  8. #1147
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post



    OK - there are so many problems here, I don't know where to start. First, it is not language that is premised on accurate observation and reporting. Language is simply the creation of symbols to express concepts verbally and in written form. It has nothing directly to do with truth or lying, except in so far as we can use language to do either. You are closer to the truth in noting that a liar takes advantage of the expectation of truth and THAT is because society is rooted in the concept of trust. Without trust, society breaks down. Then you boldly state "to save a family's life justifies a lie, but to take money that is not yours does not justify a lie," and claim there is no choice about this, as if these are objectively true moral norms without one shred of evidence that they are other than your assertion. I submit that they are widely held moral norms, but there is no means by which you can show them to be "objectively true" moral norms. However, feel free to try if you wish. And what exactly does "justify" mean in this context? And, finally, who says it is not "up to us." To quote someone I am just getting to know, that appears to be "begging the question" pretty badly.
    No, language is not just "the creation of symbols to express concepts verbally and in writing." That's a laughably reductive and impoverished definition that no linguist or philosopher of language would accept. We're not machines. And there is a 'norm of truth' implicit in language use. Try saying one sentence to anyone, even to yourself, without it. There are tacit background assumptions and capabilities to human activities that are not explicit but implicit. This is part of what differentiates us from machines.



    Yes - there is a widely held moral norm that truth telling is moral and lying is immoral, and each of us has or list of exceptions in which this moral norm can be violated. If you think, however, that you have even begun to establish that this is an "objectively true moral norm," I don't see anything in your argument that makes that case.
    Yes, society would break down without trust, but why do you think trust is such a paramount value among humans? Could it be that humans are linguistic? MY point was that there was an inherent logic and norm to language-use that lying violates. Why is it that only infra-linguistic humans and animals are held morally unaccountable, and that language proficiency is the exact threshold at which moral culpability begins? Is that mere coincidence?
    Last edited by Jim B.; 08-15-2019 at 03:17 PM.

  9. #1148
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    OK - there are so many problems here, I don't know where to start. First, it is not language that is premised on accurate observation and reporting. Language is simply the creation of symbols to express concepts verbally and in written form. It has nothing directly to do with truth or lying, except in so far as we can use language to do either. You are closer to the truth in noting that a liar takes advantage of the expectation of truth and THAT is because society is rooted in the concept of trust. Without trust, society breaks down. Then you boldly state "to save a family's life justifies a lie, but to take money that is not yours does not justify a lie," and claim there is no choice about this, as if these are objectively true moral norms without one shred of evidence that they are other than your assertion. I submit that they are widely held moral norms, but there is no means by which you can show them to be "objectively true" moral norms. However, feel free to try if you wish. And what exactly does "justify" mean in this context? And, finally, who says it is not "up to us." To quote someone I am just getting to know, that appears to be "begging the question" pretty badly.
    I have to keep re-posting because of computer problems. This is getting really old!

    As far as the justifiability of lying, according to the argument, Ive already established an 'objective' moral value to truth. If this is right, then we're in world O, the world of objective moral facts. So it's not begging the question to allow for objective moral facts in such a world - it's assuming the argument goes through. Your question-begging isn't based on an argument but on the assumption that your worldview is the correct one. In world O, some reasons for lying, such as protecting innocent life, would rank higher than others, such as acquiring money that isn't mine. This is because, just as there is an inherent logic and norm to truth, there is an inherent logic and norm to justice or fairness (equitable distribution), as in what rightfully belongs to an individual, as in one's life and property.



    Yes - there is a widely held moral norm that truth telling is moral and lying is immoral, and each of us has or list of exceptions in which this moral norm can be violated. If you think, however, that you have even begun to establish that this is an "objectively true moral norm," I don't see anything in your argument that makes that case.
    Well, make an actual argument for once, or an actual counter-argument, or something,

    But subjective morality explains the dynamics quite well. In order for someone to see truth-telling as moral and lying as immoral, they would first have to highly value "society" or "community" or "personal interactions." If I value these things, I will see actions that threaten them (i.e., lying) as immoral and actions that enhance/support them (truth-telling) as moral. The exceptions to that basic moral principle occur when something I value more is threatened by truth-telling or enhanced/protected by lying. However, if I value money or personal ego or power above community/society, I may well see lying as a perfectly moral, "justified" means to achieving those ends. This is what we see in the current occupant of the White House every day of the week. The objective reality is the impact of lying on community/society/relationship. But the moral principle "lying is immoral" arises from valuing the things that lying attacks/degrades/destroys.
    Why value community, etc? Eventually you have to arrive at a good or set of goods that are intrinsically valuable. People are more than value-seeking machines. We can apprehend and appreciate goods-in-themselves. Some things are not negotiable. Even when lying benefits us, this fact doesn't alter lying's moral status. How can you be sure that you have the causal direction right, that lying is wrong BECAUSE it is destructive and not that it is destructive because it is wrong? Neither of us can be dogmatic about it. And it is not essentially an empirical matter but a conceptual matter. es, Trump is immoral, but I think you let him off the hook too easily. You treat him like a natural disaster. You reduce him to his external effects like a tropical storm. He has a diseased soul and character. even if his lies benefitted me, and many of them arguably have in terms of the stock market, that has not affected my moral assessment of him one iota and never will.
    Last edited by Jim B.; 08-15-2019 at 03:55 PM.

  10. #1149
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    I have to keep re-posting because of computer problems. This is getting really old!

    As far as the justifiability of lying, according to the argument, Ive already established an 'objective' moral value to truth.
    No - you haven't. You've identified an impact on society/communication when lies (or truth) become common. That is not a "moral" value. Someone who does not value either society or communication will see no moral value to "telling the truth." Case in point: Donald Trump - who not only lies regularly, but defends lying as justified if it serves the end of "winning" whatever it is he wants to win.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    If this is right, then we're in world O, the world of objective moral facts.
    It's not right - so we're not in the world of objective moral facts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    So it's not begging the question to allow for objective moral facts in such a world - it's assuming the argument goes through. Your question-begging isn't based on an argument but on the assumption that your worldview is the correct one. In world O, some reasons for lying, such as protecting innocent life, would rank higher than others, such as acquiring money that isn't mine. This is because, just as there is an inherent logic and norm to truth, there is an inherent logic and norm to justice or fairness (equitable distribution), as in what rightfully belongs to an individual, as in one's life and property.
    Subjective morality addresses all of this, as I did in my previous post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    SWell, make an actual argument for once, or an actual counter-argument, or something,
    I did. Several points, actually, most of which you did not respond to and simply declared you had pointed out an "objective moral truth."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Why value community, etc?
    There are many reasons one might value community. It might be a matter of upbringing. It might be indoctrinated as a religious precept. It might simply the the utilitarian observation of "safety in numbers" or the mutual benefit of neighbor helping neighbor. There is no one reason why any of us values any particular thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Eventually you have to arrive at a good or set of goods that are intrinsically valuable.
    Says who? You are assuming your conclusion here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    People are more than value-seeking machines. We can apprehend and appreciate goods-in-themselves.
    No - nothing is "good in itself." Something is "good" as measured by "Metric X" by "Person Y." What is "good" to one may be (and commonly is) "bad" to another. You cannot cite a single example of a thing that is good without citing "as measured by whom" and "according to what metric?" It is these things that make such a value judgement subjective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Some things are not negotiable.
    What does negotiation have to do with anything? I have many principles I will not negotiate on. That does not make them any less subjectively mine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Even when lying benefits us, this fact doesn't alter lying's moral status. How can you be sure that you have the causal direction right, that lying is wrong BECAUSE it is destructive and not that it is destructive because it is wrong?
    Your question introduces causality in a very odd way. We're talking about how one classifies actions (ought, ought not; moral, immoral). Your question is somewhat like asking "how do you know you have the causal direction right? How do you know horses are mammals because they bear living young and not that they bear living young because they are mammals?" We establish criteria for sorting animals into phyla, family, genus, etc. and then sort accordingly. Likewise, we establish criteria for sorting action into ought and ought not, and the sort accordingly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Neither of us can be dogmatic about it. And it is not essentially an empirical matter but a conceptual matter. es, Trump is immoral, but I think you let him off the hook too easily. You treat him like a natural disaster. You reduce him to his external effects like a tropical storm. He has a diseased soul and character. even if his lies benefitted me, and many of them arguably have in terms of the stock market, that has not affected my moral assessment of him one iota and never will.
    Trump is not a "natural disaster." He's a "sign of the times." Trump is an immoral man as measured by my moral framework. I share much of my moral framework in common with many (most) people, so he is an immoral man to many (most?) people as well. It boggles my mind that so many continue to support/defend him when he has shown himself to be so vile. I understand the forces that led to him being elected. But it is a sad commentary to our society in general that he continues to have so high a level of support by so much of our country. But all of that is tangential to the subjective/objective discussion, so I'll let you have the last word on Trump.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

  11. #1150
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    No, language is not just "the creation of symbols to express concepts verbally and in writing." That's a laughably reductive and impoverished definition that no linguist or philosopher of language would accept.
    Jim - you have this pattern to your posts. I make an observation, and you say, "no it's not that way - and others would laugh." I frankly don't care who does or does not laugh. Language is a collection of symbols that represent some aspect of reality and exists so we can communicate in verbal and written form. One definition is "the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way," which is consistent with what I have said. Most other definitions are along a similar vein. A dictionary is the recording of those symbols and their meaning associations. If you think language is other than that - by all means feel free to define what you think language is. But the response you just made is a good example of what I mean when I say "you haven't made an argument."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    We're not machines.
    At no point did I claim we were - so I don't see the point of this sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    And there is a 'norm of truth' implicit in language use.
    No - there isn't. There is a "norm" of truth in how we expect others interacting with us to USE language in communicating. We expect communication to be done with truth, and are surprised if/when it is not. But truth is not endemic to language per se. Language can be used equally to lie or to tell the truth, and it is still "language."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Try saying one sentence to anyone, even to yourself, without it.
    Without what? Truth?

    "I have blond hair and weigh 165 pounds." Where is the "norm of truth" in this statement?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    There are tacit background assumptions and capabilities to human activities that are not explicit but implicit. This is part of what differentiates us from machines.
    I have no idea what this sentence means or how it even begins to apply to our discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Yes, society would break down without trust, but why do you think trust is such a paramount value among humans?
    Because of the interdependency we have with many (most?) other humans. Without a framework of trust, we are extremely limited in what we can do and the quality of our lives.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Could it be that humans are linguistic?
    I see no reason to think "trust" is valued because we are linguistic - if that is what you are claiming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    MY point was that there was an inherent logic and norm to language-use that lying violates.
    There is a common valuing of trust that lying violates. We can betray trust by language OR action OR inaction.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Why is it that only infra-linguistic humans and animals are held morally unaccountable, and that language proficiency is the exact threshold at which moral culpability begins? Is that mere coincidence?
    No, I don't think it is coincidence. Both are attributes of a particular level of sentience. When I am self-aware, and can reflect on my actions, I sort them. I am also aware of the actions of others, and sort those too. Language is a tool we developed to communicate with those others and express ideas and needs.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

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