Tuesday, January 04, 2005

This response to a post by Jack at the Evangelical Outpost:

Good thoughts, Jack. Especially the distinction between origin and conveyence. Note, however, that many would simply ascribe a utilitarian origin to morals: we have the ones they have because they have evolved to be the best for sustaining human civilization. And the reason similar morals show up throughout all cultures and time in human history is because certain moral laws just work better to sustain a human civilization - no magic or transcendance required.

Note, however, that the Nazis still believed murder was wrong, they just defined Jews an inhuman so that killing them wasn't murder. And while this "final solution" may have been in the best interests of the non-Jewish German civilization, we all agree that such behaviour is immoral. Why? If this fit their civilization best, who are we to judge?

The answer is that morality as we all understand it in our non-polemic moments of honesty and lucidity, spans civilizations and cultures so that we can look into each of them and pass judgment on whether their (and necessarily, our) actions were, ultimately, moral.

This kinds of origin, as ~DS~ rightly alludes to, comes from the outside.
Now, where? That is a question rational people can disagree about, I suppose.


This response to a post by ~DS~ at the Evangelical Outpost:

The monistic atheist has no capability or obligation to make sense of his/her morality or rationality since, in that worldview, such things don't exist except as the random, meaningless epiphenomena of purely chemically derivative neuronal activity.

An atheist can no more give you an objective reason why 2+2=4 than why Hitler's actions were evil. There is no a priori frame of reference left to the materialist. Hence, there is no definition of good, evil, justice, truth, morality or beauty that rises above the level of the individual - and is, therefore, meaningless to anyone else.

This desperate vacuum of nihilistic philosophy is, of course, entirely wrong and easily refuted. People cling to it not for philosophical or intellectual reasons, but, generally, for moral ones.

But, under such a view, the person has no choice but to believe as he/she does, as all such belief is not rationally arrived at through reasoned discourse and Socratic method or Aristotelian logic, but merely through the chance result of external stimuli and a few pounds of chemicals undergoing a mild electrical shock. I suppose one could make themselves feel better by replacing "chance" in that previous sentence with "complex" or possibly "quantum mechanical"!

If one would agree that he/she reasons and reaches conclusions because of the independent agency of his/her consciousness based on rational processes, "poof", he/she can no longer rationally hold to the belief that "this is all there is" in light of the internal inconsistency of such views.

This, of course, is only one step along the path toward any specific sort of "god", but it is on the path, nonetheless.

Logical positivism, empiricism, naturalism and foundationalism - along with all the miscreant children of radical monistic materialism have essentially been eclipsed in philosophical circles with the odd, recalcitrant hangers-on here or there.

A more extensive discussion of the internal inconsistency of materialism can be found here.

Also note my reference on the other thread regarding unprovable beliefs to Inwagen's treatment of Clifford's Dictum which ~DS~ refers to earlier when he/she says, "unless you can produce an absolute authority for morality I can independently verify through direct interview and testing".

The upshot is that if you attempt to live by Clifford's Dictum, you are living by an unverifiable tenet of faith - you are behaving fideistically. Noetically, you are no different from teh aboriginal shaman or the Catholic priest.


Further, it seems that ~DS~ is trying to have a little fun at the expense of we believers by attempting to appear as though he/she is commenting "from the outside" or "above" those of us operating under some religious "belief system" - or "metanarrative".

But, regardless of one's acknowledgement of the fact, we're all operating under a metanarrative. Any claims to be "objective" or "unbiased" in analyzing the data is, sadly, only self-delusion: there is no "lens-less" eye to view reality with. The question is which one makes the most sense of the data. And as I discussed earlier, it isn't atheism!



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