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Thread: Atheism And Moral Progress

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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    So the definition you offered has three constituent elements: 1) give orders, 2) make decisions, and 3) and enforce obedience. You seem to want to ignore 1) and 2) and focus only on 3). You apparently want the definition of "authority" to be "the power or right to enforce obedience." You can if you wish - but then you're cherry picking the definition in order to hold your position. Redefining your way to a conclusion is not a very good form of argumentation.

    BTW - you are very focused on one definition. Here are a few others:

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/authority
    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/...lish/authority
    https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us...lish/authority

    Yours selected one is apparently from the Oxford dictionary.
    Carp from one of your links :the power to control or demand obedience from others

    And I'm not focusing on number three:

    the power or right to give orders and make decisions. That would apply to God and His moral law.


    Your two objections have nothing to do with God's power to give orders or His ability to or make decisions.
    Last edited by seer; 08-08-2019 at 03:05 PM.
    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...

  2. #1032
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Carp from one of your links :the power to control or demand obedience from others

    And I'm not focusing on number three:

    the power or right to give orders and make decisions. That would apply to God and His moral law.
    The power - yes. The right? No. I'm a sentient being. Morality is something I work out for myself. You are unilaterally assuming the creator gets to call the shots. Your hypothetical creator would have created a sentient being capable of moralizing. At that point, the creator becomes just another sentient being with its own moral framework.

    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Your two objections have nothing to do with God's power to give orders or His ability to or make decisions.
    Your hypothetical god can give any order it wishes - and make any decision it wishes. It has no authority over me to comply outside of the fact that it has more power and can punish me if I don't. As I have said numerous times, I do not subscribe to a "might makes right" theory of morality. I didn't think you did either, but apparently you do...
    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

  3. #1033
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    I believe morality is both subjective to the individual and relative to the situation/circumstance/time/place etc.
    How can both of those things be true? They would naturally tend to come into conflict with each other, and when they do, how do you negotiate between them? Which takes precedence and under what circumstances?



    The ultimate moral authority is the individual. What we think of as social moral norms are nothing more than moral norms held by a significant percentage of the members of a given society.
    With all due respect, carp, that makes no sense. First, you're saying that morality is subjective, the ultimate moral authority being the individual's, but that makes morality a useless concept. Morality isn't about what I personally want but what anyone in the same situation ought to do. It's a judgment that is at least in principle universalizable. Subjectivism reduces morality to a matter of personal taste. Subjective morality, if that term even makes sense, would cease to have interpersonal evaluative meaning. It couldn't be used to resolve interpersonal conflict.

    But then you say that it's a matter of what a significant percentage of the members of a given society hold. That contradicts the first assertion that it's a matter of personal judgment.

    First of all, how do you define what a 'society' or a 'culture' is? I belong to several different cultural groups. Which group's code takes precedence? Let's say one of my cultures is the Mafia. I have every right, even a duty, under your scenario, to be a good mafioso.

    Secondly, is it majoritarian rule that decides what's 'right' and wrong'? When 50% of the population of a given society, assuming you can define that society, plus one person, comes to think that action A is permissible, then it's okay, but when it slips down to 50% minus 1 person it becomes morally wrong again? Surely you see that this is nuts.

    Your idea also rules out the possibility that a 'society' can simply be mistaken, as in Nazi Germany or the antebellum South. Truth would always be with the crowd and error with the minority and the individual, which seems to be in tension with your first subjectivist thesis. Also, moral reformers would always be wrong. Even the possibility of moral critique across cultures or even within a single culture would be impossible. There would be no recourse or protection for persecuted or oppressed minorities within a culture.



    It's not hard to defend something that is evident all around us, Jim. Indeed, I have never heard an argument against moral subjectivism that does not reduce to "it cannot be subjective because then it is not objective." If you look at that statement, it's not an argument; it's a restatement of (part of) the definition. It's like saying "that car cannot be red because then it wouldn't be blue."
    My main argument is that subjectivism is not morality by any standard definition of morality but taste and personal preference. It doesn't meet any of the stadard criteria of moral systems.



    Yes - it does. All sentient beings derive a moral framework as a means for determining acts that ought or ought not be done.
    You're begging the question. We're debating whether or not subjectivism is true regarding morality. You cannot assume it regarding God or anyone else.



    That is essentially what Seer's arguments reduce to: might makes right. God has moral authority because god can enforce.
    Maybe that's seer's position. I'm not that familiar with all of his positions. It's not my position.



    Written on the heart? Jim, the heart pumps blood. It doesn't think. That's what the brain does. And what you describe as "written on the heart" is nothing more than the accumulation of cultural, social, religious, and familial norms - may of which have developed from the very dawn of human sentience.
    You're familiar with what a metaphor is? The "heart" means the intuition, what one knows instinctively as part of being a social rational creature. Like sentence formation. Moral norms are pretty universal across cultures. Language acquisition like morality has to be triggered through acculturation, but doesn't seem to be reducible to it. Otherwise we wouldn't see the commonalities we do.



    I am not assuming anything about "god." I don't believe such a being exists. I am taking the definitions offered by Seer (and others) and working with that.
    Yeah, I know you're an atheist. I meant 'God' as in the concept. Again I'm not overly familiar with seer's definitions, and I guess you have to work with who you're responding to.

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  5. #1034
    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post

    If God has a moral framework, that doesn't necessarily mean that that would be the subjective moral framework of that sentient being. And it also doesn't mean that that moral framework's 'authority' would be wielded over you externally like a civil law through threat of penalty. The moral law is written on the heart; it's internal to our nature as rational, social beings. Also, you're assuming God is just a big powerful guy who can only wield authority by exacting punishment. But we could even leave God out of it if you'd rather. And I may be misreading your position.
    I actually agree that “the moral law is written on the heart”, but for different reasons than you. It’s not written by a deity; whose very existence is open to question. It’s “written”, i.e. programmed, by natural selection over millions of years of evolution.
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

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    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post


    OK - it appears we are more in agreement than disagreement. It is possible that I have left the impression that I think all of us are "free as birds" with respect to moral choice. Your posts have definitely left me with the impression that you think moral positions are determined by evolution and society. Perhaps the truth, for both of us, is closer to the middle.
    You’d be right to a degree. Every animal, including us is an assemblage of genetic algorithms shaped largely by natural selection over millions of years of evolution. They take their decisions either deterministically or randomly – but not freely other than as a sort of feed-back loop which has a degree of impact in the decision-making process. This "feed-back" loop" is what Dennett refers to as our "elbow-room".

    How could it be otherwise?
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

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    tWebber seer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    The power - yes. The right? No. I'm a sentient being. Morality is something I work out for myself. You are unilaterally assuming the creator gets to call the shots. Your hypothetical creator would have created a sentient being capable of moralizing. At that point, the creator becomes just another sentient being with its own moral framework.
    That is not the point Carp, an earthly King or the majority in a society, or God, would have the right to make and enforce laws. Just because you may not agree with those laws or that right has no bearing. So yes God does have authority over you whether you agree to that or not. You agreement or rejection makes no difference to the definition, it is not a consideration in any of the definitions we looked at, including yours.



    Your hypothetical god can give any order it wishes - and make any decision it wishes. It has no authority over me to comply outside of the fact that it has more power and can punish me if I don't. As I have said numerous times, I do not subscribe to a "might makes right" theory of morality. I didn't think you did either, but apparently you do...
    Again Carp, by definition God would have authority over you. And I never said that might makes right, I said that good was defined by God's immutable moral character and His omniscience. Knowing the long term consequences and possible consequences of all moral acts. So what defines right in your relative world Carp? A fickle moral character that is ignorant of future consequences? And again Carp in your relative world there is actually nothing objectively wrong with "might making right."
    Last edited by seer; 08-09-2019 at 02:52 AM.
    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...

  8. #1037
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    How can both of those things be true? They would naturally tend to come into conflict with each other, and when they do, how do you negotiate between them? Which takes precedence and under what circumstances?
    I'm not seeing a conflict. Perhaps if you provide an example?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    With all due respect, carp, that makes no sense.
    You guys certain seem to like to start a post with this type of opening. Do you really think saying it makes the thing nonsensical or adds to your argument? That you cannot make sense of it does not mean it makes no sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    First, you're saying that morality is subjective, the ultimate moral authority being the individual's, but that makes morality a useless concept. Morality isn't about what I personally want but what anyone in the same situation ought to do. It's a judgment that is at least in principle universalizable. Subjectivism reduces morality to a matter of personal taste. Subjective morality, if that term even makes sense, would cease to have interpersonal evaluative meaning. It couldn't be used to resolve interpersonal conflict.
    Nothing you are saying here is in conflict with subjective moralism. And yes, as I have noted to Seer multiple times, morality IS about "personal preference." It is the term we use for decisions about behavior that have to do with the things we most value.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    But then you say that it's a matter of what a significant percentage of the members of a given society hold. That contradicts the first assertion that it's a matter of personal judgment.
    You have misunderstood. What I said was that what we call social moral norms are simply the collection of things we hold in common. For example, for many years, the social moral norm was that homosexual intimacy was immoral. Not everyone thought this - but so many did that it was considered the "moral norm." Since then individual moral positions have shifted on the topic, and now the social norm has become "homosexual intimacy is subject to the same moral guidelines as heterosexual intimacy." The social moral norm has shifted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    First of all, how do you define what a 'society' or a 'culture' is?
    It can be any particular group in question: a religious group, a local community, a neighborhood, the country, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    I belong to several different cultural groups. Which group's code takes precedence?
    The individual's moral framework takes precedence. Which group has more influence on the individual differs from individual to individual,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Let's say one of my cultures is the Mafia. I have every right, even a duty, under your scenario, to be a good mafioso.
    It is possible that an individual's moral framework would see "being a good mafioso" as a moral good. Most of us would probably disagree. I certainly would.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Secondly, is it majoritarian rule that decides what's 'right' and wrong'?
    The individual always decides what is "right" or "wrong." The "will of the group" is nothing more than the collective will of its members.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    When 50% of the population of a given society, assuming you can define that society, plus one person, comes to think that action A is permissible, then it's okay, but when it slips down to 50% minus 1 person it becomes morally wrong again? Surely you see that this is nuts.
    The individual decides what is wrong or right - not the group. The statistics just tell us what the majority does or does not think. If a moral position were as close as you describe, I'd say that particular group/society/culture was split on the moral question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Your idea also rules out the possibility that a 'society' can simply be mistaken, as in Nazi Germany or the antebellum South. Truth would always be with the crowd and error with the minority and the individual, which seems to be in tension with your first subjectivist thesis. Also, moral reformers would always be wrong. Even the possibility of moral critique across cultures or even within a single culture would be impossible. There would be no recourse or protection for persecuted or oppressed minorities within a culture.
    You seem to be under the mistake impression that I think the group has primacy in morality. The group can and does influence the individual. The individual has primacy and determines their moral framework. It has always been this way. It's not my "idea." It's show morality has always worked.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    My main argument is that subjectivism is not morality by any standard definition of morality but taste and personal preference. It doesn't meet any of the stadard criteria of moral systems.
    What "stated criteria" are you referring to?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    You're begging the question. We're debating whether or not subjectivism is true regarding morality. You cannot assume it regarding God or anyone else.
    I assume it, Jim, because I see it all around me, and experience it within me. I assume it for the same reason I assume my car is blue: because that is what I observe to be true. It is not "begging the question" to report what one observes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Maybe that's seer's position. I'm not that familiar with all of his positions. It's not my position.
    Nor mine. Seer also says it is not his, but then immediately returns to it. It's pretty confusing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    You're familiar with what a metaphor is? The "heart" means the intuition, what one knows instinctively as part of being a social rational creature. Like sentence formation. Moral norms are pretty universal across cultures. Language acquisition like morality has to be triggered through acculturation, but doesn't seem to be reducible to it. Otherwise we wouldn't see the commonalities we do.
    I am familiar with a metaphor - but what you call "intuition" I call "habit." We are raised in a combination (as you note) of overlapping cultures, each with their own moral influence. We initially derive our moral positions on that basis of authority (Mom says so, Dad says so, the teacher says so, the policeman says so, the priest/minister says so). Eventually, hopefully, we mature as moralizers and begin to examine moral issues on their own merits and come to our own moral conclusions. This is an individual act, but it is strongly influenced by our context. We see the commonalities that we do because we value similarly, and we value similarly because we share more in common than most people consider (life, humanity, bipedalism, this planet, social/cultural contexts, religions, etc.).

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Yeah, I know you're an atheist. I meant 'God' as in the concept.
    Jim, there is not "a" concept of god - there are many of them. Each religion has its own nuanced view. Humanity has created an enormous number of gods over its brief existence. I don't think any of them exist in reality. When discussing, I try to keep in mind the particular definition of god being used by whoever I'm talking with. It's not easy, because most of these ideas of god are internally inconsistent - but I try.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Again I'm not overly familiar with seer's definitions, and I guess you have to work with who you're responding to.
    I do indeed..
    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

  9. #1038
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
    You’d be right to a degree. Every animal, including us is an assemblage of genetic algorithms shaped largely by natural selection over millions of years of evolution. They take their decisions either deterministically or randomly – but not freely other than as a sort of feed-back loop which has a degree of impact in the decision-making process. This "feed-back" loop" is what Dennett refers to as our "elbow-room".

    How could it be otherwise?
    I think I'm not so far into the deterministic camp as you appear to be.
    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

  10. #1039
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    That is not the point Carp, an earthly King or the majority in a society, or God, would have the right to make and enforce laws.
    No. You have asserted this multiple times - and understand you believe it. The case has not been made.

    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Just because you may not agree with those laws or that right has no bearing. So yes God does have authority over you whether you agree to that or not. You agreement or rejection makes no difference to the definition, it is not a consideration in any of the definitions we looked at, including yours.
    Your hypothetical god would have power over me, Seer, but not moral authority. Your continued insistence that it would doesn't make it so, except (apparently) in your own mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Again Carp, by definition God would have authority over you.
    No. I am an autonomous moral agent. I don't cede my moral authority to anyone else. God cannot take it without overriding my will - at which point I cease to be an independent moral agent. Like I said - power - not authority.

    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    And I never said that might makes right, I said that good was defined by God's immutable moral character and His omniscience. Knowing the long term consequences and possible consequences of all moral acts. So what defines right in your relative world Carp? A fickle moral character that is ignorant of future consequences? And again Carp in your relative world there is actually nothing objectively wrong with "might making right."
    Yes, you have said this many, many times. It doesn't get better with the repetition. It's still wrong.
    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. #1040
    tWebber seer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    No. You have asserted this multiple times - and understand you believe it. The case has not been made.
    Sheesh Carp it is in the definitions even yours:the power to control or demand obedience from others Why you argue against your own definition is beyond me.


    Your hypothetical god would have power over me, Seer, but not moral authority. Your continued insistence that it would doesn't make it so, except (apparently) in your own mind
    .

    I don't care about moral authority, neither do the definitions we both used. You are just moving the goal posts.


    No. I am an autonomous moral agent. I don't cede my moral authority to anyone else. God cannot take it without overriding my will - at which point I cease to be an independent moral agent. Like I said - power - not authority.
    Again with the moral authority! Nothing in the definitions say you need to morally, or otherwise, accept the authority. The authority of God, a King, or the culture at large. That has nothing to do with the definitions.

    Yes, you have said this many, many times. It doesn't get better with the repetition. It's still wrong.
    What exactly is wrong?
    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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