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Thread: Atheism And Moral Progress

  1. #541
    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
    The USA a also secular state as per Israel and is no more in a position to legislate against abortion than Israel is to legislate for it.
    A valiant attempt to move the goalposts....
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  2. #542
    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cow Poke View Post
    Tass, you're talking to yourself! And then you proceed to post the same crap over and over and over.....
    No, he's directlly responding to a brick wall, and I'm sure he's well aware of that, but the brick wall is not necessarily his target.

  3. #543
    See, the Thing is... Cow Poke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    A valiant attempt to move the goalposts....
    Valiant?
    Every problem is the result of a previous solution.

  4. #544
    tWebber mattbballman31's Avatar
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    1. So you understand ‘progress’ in terms of branching, where each branch B branches into a sub-branch S such that it’s possible that the rules of optimization for S might change relative to B. So, an B’s progress ends and S’s progress begins. Call the tree on which such branching happens T. Progress in T would have to be explained in terms of all the different little types of progress that persist along all the B’s until B ceases and S’s begin. Progress could be attributed to T in a divisional sense: in the sense that, for any B or S picked out on T, there are varying phenomena of progress with their own optimizations. But it’s hard for me to make sense of the thesis that T as a whole has any kind of set progress; instances of progress are properties of the parts of T (B or S), but not a property of T itself - like saying that every part of an elephant is light, but that it would be illicit to infer that the elephant as a whole is therefore light.

    2. Morality might not have an objective, fixed goal relative to T, but it would be hard to deny objective, fixed goals relative to the particular optimizations of B or S. The ‘protections of what people value’ couldn’t be understood in terms of T, but only in terms of B or S. From the premise that what people value changes over time is completely compatible with their being an objective morality governing T: what would change wouldn’t be the values inherent in objective morality itself, but its relative application in relation to whatever evolutionary optimizations happen to be going on. I’ve never seen evolution as debunking objective morality, but I have seen evolution espoused by atheists spelling trouble for the notion of moral progress in terms of T. Species-optimizations in terms of environmental niches could overlap with moral goodness or evil, unless you want to qualify the conditions of this criterion a bit. But if whatever the optimizations churn out is good, then goodness becomes trivial and without content. Goodness is jump from fact to value. Any outlining of the facts of environmental optimizations aren’t going to be enough for me to jump from sociological, anthropological data to moral data.
    Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made, for settling points of [this] kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject.
    George Horne

  5. Amen seer amen'd this post.
  6. #545
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbballman31 View Post
    1. So you understand ‘progress’ in terms of branching, where each branch B branches into a sub-branch S such that it’s possible that the rules of optimization for S might change relative to B. So, an B’s progress ends and S’s progress begins. Call the tree on which such branching happens T. Progress in T would have to be explained in terms of all the different little types of progress that persist along all the B’s until B ceases and S’s begin. Progress could be attributed to T in a divisional sense: in the sense that, for any B or S picked out on T, there are varying phenomena of progress with their own optimizations. But it’s hard for me to make sense of the thesis that T as a whole has any kind of set progress; instances of progress are properties of the parts of T (B or S), but not a property of T itself - like saying that every part of an elephant is light, but that it would be illicit to infer that the elephant as a whole is therefore light.

    2. Morality might not have an objective, fixed goal relative to T, but it would be hard to deny objective, fixed goals relative to the particular optimizations of B or S. The ‘protections of what people value’ couldn’t be understood in terms of T, but only in terms of B or S. From the premise that what people value changes over time is completely compatible with their being an objective morality governing T: what would change wouldn’t be the values inherent in objective morality itself, but its relative application in relation to whatever evolutionary optimizations happen to be going on. I’ve never seen evolution as debunking objective morality, but I have seen evolution espoused by atheists spelling trouble for the notion of moral progress in terms of T. Species-optimizations in terms of environmental niches could overlap with moral goodness or evil, unless you want to qualify the conditions of this criterion a bit. But if whatever the optimizations churn out is good, then goodness becomes trivial and without content. Goodness is jump from fact to value. Any outlining of the facts of environmental optimizations aren’t going to be enough for me to jump from sociological, anthropological data to moral data.
    My response is to harness the imagery of the tree. Even B and S have no "fixed" objective or goal, except to optimize sunlight for the tree. B continues to grow even when an S forms, and S gives rise to other S, and each branch arcs towards the best available sunlight to maximize photosynthesis for the tree. But the specific path any B or S takes is a function of the position of the sun and the paths the other Bs and Ss take. It also depends on the existence of other Ts and their position with relation to this T. That's how a tree grows. That's how evolution works. Essentially, that's how morality works as well. As with evolution, you can only understand "progress" in relation to the context and environment - it is not an "absolute" measure because, like evolution, it does not have a fixed objective (except as a tool to sort the actions of a sentient being, as related to things most valued, into "ought" and "ought not").
    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

  7. #546
    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
    The USA a also secular state as per Israel and is no more in a position to legislate against abortion than Israel is to legislate for it.
    I do not consider Israel to be a secular state. The secular status of the US government is loosing ground.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

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  8. #547
    tWebber mattbballman31's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    My response is to harness the imagery of the tree. Even B and S have no "fixed" objective or goal, except to optimize sunlight for the tree. B continues to grow even when an S forms, and S gives rise to other S, and each branch arcs towards the best available sunlight to maximize photosynthesis for the tree. But the specific path any B or S takes is a function of the position of the sun and the paths the other Bs and Ss take. It also depends on the existence of other Ts and their position with relation to this T. That's how a tree grows. That's how evolution works. Essentially, that's how morality works as well. As with evolution, you can only understand "progress" in relation to the context and environment - it is not an "absolute" measure because, like evolution, it does not have a fixed objective (except as a tool to sort the actions of a sentient being, as related to things most valued, into "ought" and "ought not").
    As an aside, I’m not sure what these other T’s would be. In the confines of my analogy, T just is the Tree of Life, either biologically on this planet or writ large cosmically that lead to the B on this planet.

    You keep mentioning progress in terms of this relation to context and environment - what I had mentioned as the rules of optimization previously. The problem is that it’s really easy to formulate this absolute measure or fixed objective that you’re saying is incompatible with this picture.

    Consider the following as a Proposed Moral Maxim (PMM): For any environmental context EC, and for all evolved agents capable of grasping morality A, if the rules for EC are sufficiently optimized, then A ought to value the end that’s built-in to whatever B or S that A happens to be populating.

    Not only does PMM seem absolute (e.g. exceptionless), but it also seems universal, since PMM would equally apply to any and every A no matter where they’re populated on any part of T. Moreover, PMM would seem undeniably objective, since PMM would be an indicative (capable of being true or false, and so excluding non-cognitivism), universally quantified conditional proposition whose consequent follows necessarily from its antecedent. PMM would be a maxim that was ‘about’ the moral status of properties and states of affairs in the world, rather than psychological states of A. You note that it’s objective as well, as a tool for sorting actions. Right. Sorting those actions that, per PMM, are objectively, universally, and absolutely to be valued (no matter what), relative to whatever B or S that A happens to populate. But relativity here would do nothing to inject relativity into PMM. So, we’re back where we started: relative applications of morality vs. the objective, absolute, universal morality itself.
    Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made, for settling points of [this] kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject.
    George Horne

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    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shunyadragon View Post
    I do not consider Israel to be a secular state. The secular status of the US government is loosing ground.
    I think technically Israel is a secular state as is the USA, but in practise not so much.
    “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 carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbballman31 View Post
    As an aside, I’m not sure what these other T’s would be. In the confines of my analogy, T just is the Tree of Life, either biologically on this planet or writ large cosmically that lead to the B on this planet.
    Since morality is relative, the other T's are the moral frameworks of other sentient beings.

    Quote Originally Posted by mattbballman31 View Post
    You keep mentioning progress in terms of this relation to context and environment - what I had mentioned as the rules of optimization previously. The problem is that it’s really easy to formulate this absolute measure or fixed objective that you’re saying is incompatible with this picture.

    Consider the following as a Proposed Moral Maxim (PMM): For any environmental context EC, and for all evolved agents capable of grasping morality A, if the rules for EC are sufficiently optimized, then A ought to value the end that’s built-in to whatever B or S that A happens to be populating.

    Not only does PMM seem absolute (e.g. exceptionless), but it also seems universal, since PMM would equally apply to any and every A no matter where they’re populated on any part of T. Moreover, PMM would seem undeniably objective, since PMM would be an indicative (capable of being true or false, and so excluding non-cognitivism), universally quantified conditional proposition whose consequent follows necessarily from its antecedent. PMM would be a maxim that was ‘about’ the moral status of properties and states of affairs in the world, rather than psychological states of A. You note that it’s objective as well, as a tool for sorting actions. Right. Sorting those actions that, per PMM, are objectively, universally, and absolutely to be valued (no matter what), relative to whatever B or S that A happens to populate. But relativity here would do nothing to inject relativity into PMM. So, we’re back where we started: relative applications of morality vs. the objective, absolute, universal morality itself.
    Of course, things get a bit convoluted when you understand that the moral agent is itself part of the environment being defined. To whit - what the moral agent fundamentally values (e.g., liberty, life, happiness, etc.), and their ability to reason is what will serve as the basis for their moral framework. If Moral Agent A values life, and Moral Agent B does not, their moral frameworks will not align. If Moral Agent C values life, they will see a shift by Moral Agent A to not valuing life as a "retreat" or "regress" rather than progress. They will see a shift by Moral Agent B to valuing life as "progress." From any "objective" assessment, there is no progress or regress - only change.

    But we measure changes in other moral frameworks against our own - so we see progress when alignment is increased, and regress when alignment is decreased.
    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. #550
    tWebber mattbballman31's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Since morality is relative, the other T's are the moral frameworks of other sentient beings.



    Of course, things get a bit convoluted when you understand that the moral agent is itself part of the environment being defined. To whit - what the moral agent fundamentally values (e.g., liberty, life, happiness, etc.), and their ability to reason is what will serve as the basis for their moral framework. If Moral Agent A values life, and Moral Agent B does not, their moral frameworks will not align. If Moral Agent C values life, they will see a shift by Moral Agent A to not valuing life as a "retreat" or "regress" rather than progress. They will see a shift by Moral Agent B to valuing life as "progress." From any "objective" assessment, there is no progress or regress - only change.

    But we measure changes in other moral frameworks against our own - so we see progress when alignment is increased, and regress when alignment is decreased.
    I didn’t see any interaction with the sense in which I already agree that morality is relative in its application without sacrificing the objective, absolute, universal nature of morality in terms of what I pointed out regarding PMM, above. All of this is compatible with the moral agent being part of the environment being defined. The ability for the moral agent to reason wouldn’t do anything either: PMM is a product of a particular moral agent’s reasoning about the nature of relative application of an objective, absolute, universal moral principle. The misalignment of moral frameworks is explained by the varying applications of PMM in their particular environments and the environment’s framework of optimization, if the optimization includes valuing life. Per PMM, if such an optimization includes valuing life for agent C, and agent A and B also populate that particular optimization-framework in that environment, then it will absolutely, objectively, and universally be the case that A and B are wrong and C is right. If A and B were to come around and ‘progress’ toward valuing life in alignment with C, the progress will be in terms of relative application of PMM to their particular optimization frameworks. This distinction needs to be taken into account. You either need to provide reason for discarding PMM in a such a way that it couldn’t be relevant to the relativity of application or bite the bullet and admit that optimization-frameworks don’t logically exclude PMM-type principles.
    Last edited by mattbballman31; 10-21-2018 at 03:47 PM.
    Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made, for settling points of [this] kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject.
    George Horne

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