Morality

Thread starter #1

ambush80

Senior Member
Sam Harris' latest podcast was awesome. One of the best things about it was the commentary on it in Harris' forum. A poster wrote:

"It’s an aggravating exchange when Shapiro persists in trying to bolster his theistic world view that morality can only be acquired through religion. Harris, who himself holds onto a contorted claim for absolute morality, tries to argue on the same shaky ground that “morality” is a thing. Morality is a convenient word for a class of judgments.

The argument here is backwards. Why presume that this thing “morality” exists from the outset? The idea of morality arises out of the fact that human actions must follow only one actual course out of a multitude of potential paths. When making a choice to do one thing versus another, one judges the course that will lead to the desired outcome. Depending on whether one chooses the path leading to benefit or to suffering, that choice is later labeled with the words “moral” or “not moral”. Over time, humans become more confident in predicting which choices will be more beneficial than harmful, and they are able to judge an action as moral based on such projections- before observing the actual outcome. The ability to make this judgment is a useful social tool, and we call this tool “morality”. But that is what morality is, a tool. Imperfect, but convenient. It is not some cosmic force of nature."


What do you think of this guys analysis? I see it as Utilitarian.



This response from the forum is also good:

"Yeah, Ben actually did a great job going back and forth. It seemed like Sam was dodging some of his points and looked quite silly trying to argue that his morality doesn’t come from growing up where he did as one example. It would be nice to get Ben in on the podcast as it may have been just the format that made things go the way they did. I also really liked Eric’s epigenetics analogy with religious text. Seemed to be a powerful way of arguing for that side of the spectrum."

This one, too:

"Brick Bungalow’s point about Shapiro’s mindset is dead on.

01:02:40
Shapiro: “why do you think that the firing of certain neurons is more morally appropriate than the firing of other neurons?”

And this is right after Eric’s comment about needing to avoid the category error of applying “morality” to lower level events.

“Morality” is like the metric system. It’s a tool for measuring and comparing human actions by their relative impacts.
It’s a man-made code and an aid in social harmony. But to ask how determinism vs. free will can best accommodate (the need for ) morality is nonsensical.
It’s like asking how one can best accommodate the existence of the metric system."
 
Thread starter #2

ambush80

Senior Member
More:

"Sam’s arguments for using rationality as a baseline for consensus are mostly just bald assertions of wishful thinking. He wishes that all humans would default to applying reason as the basis of their beliefs. It is absolutely not the case that people will accept that 2 plus 2 equals 4 if that fact opposes their prior beliefs. Ben points out that in the real world, people’s beliefs are not at all hindered by facts, and Sam dismisses that as a failure of rationality.

If that is all Sam thinks is happening, then he is holding up rationality as some kind of unassailable power to which all other human drives must defer. But this is not how humans operate. When facts are rejected, it is rarely because of a failure of rationality.


Sam: “Rationality is the quintessential moment where free will is not in evidence.”
This is a wishful assertion. One could just as easily make the same case for emotions or instinct.
If anything, human emotional responses (fear, arousal, disgust) are more innate and more universal than the capacity for reason. Reason is acquired, whereas emotions and instincts are innate and therefore a greater impediment to free will.

Ben: “You cannot have reason without making an assumption about the function of the human mind.”

Ben is correct about this. Sam is wishfully assuming a lot about the way human minds operate.

I personally share Sam’s wishes, but as presented here, his is a weak argument."


I disagree with this but I find it compelling.
 

Israel

Senior Member
More:

"Sam’s arguments for using rationality as a baseline for consensus are mostly just bald assertions of wishful thinking. He wishes that all humans would default to applying reason as the basis of their beliefs. It is absolutely not the case that people will accept that 2 plus 2 equals 4 if that fact opposes their prior beliefs. Ben points out that in the real world, people’s beliefs are not at all hindered by facts, and Sam dismisses that as a failure of rationality.

If that is all Sam thinks is happening, then he is holding up rationality as some kind of unassailable power to which all other human drives must defer. But this is not how humans operate. When facts are rejected, it is rarely because of a failure of rationality.


Sam: “Rationality is the quintessential moment where free will is not in evidence.”
This is a wishful assertion. One could just as easily make the same case for emotions or instinct.
If anything, human emotional responses (fear, arousal, disgust) are more innate and more universal than the capacity for reason. Reason is acquired, whereas emotions and instincts are innate and therefore a greater impediment to free will.

Ben: “You cannot have reason without making an assumption about the function of the human mind.”
Ben is correct about this. Sam is wishfully assuming a lot about the way human minds operate.

I personally share Sam’s wishes, but as presented here, his is a weak argument."


I disagree with this but I find it compelling.
Ben: “You cannot have reason without making an assumption about the function of the human mind.”


The assumption the mind can know itself might be one.
 
Thread starter #4

ambush80

Senior Member
Ben: “You cannot have reason without making an assumption about the function of the human mind.”


The assumption the mind can know itself might be one.
On thing I disagree with the poster on is:

Sam: “Rationality is the quintessential moment where free will is not in evidence.”
This is a wishful assertion. One could just as easily make the same case for emotions or instinct.
If anything, human emotional responses (fear, arousal, disgust) are more innate and more universal than the capacity for reason. Reason is acquired, whereas emotions and instincts are innate and therefore a greater impediment to free will.


I think rationality is just as innate. It requires more refinement than emotion or instinct, which are more closely linked to immediate threats, but with relatively little interaction with the world ex-utero a baby will understand that the ball placed under the cup is still there, under the cup. I would refine Sam's statement and say that rationality, emotions, and instinct equally reinforce the notion of determinism. It's only after reading some King James version or Sartre that the idea that the ball can magically disappear from under the cup is instilled.

Ben's statement: Ben: “You cannot have reason without making an assumption about the function of the human mind.”

The only assumption that I see being made is that there was a designer involved in the shaping of our brains. They agree on the functions, just not the origin.

I've tried real hard to see what Ben is talking about (indeed what all you deists are talking about) and as far as I can decipher, the argument is that "reason" and love and beauty and any other mysterious and compelling experience couldn't arise without a programmer. Is that the essence of the argument? If so, what will eventually happen, and it often does, is that the discussion will infinitely regress to "Nothing can exist without a prime mover. Nothing happens unless a force is exerted." The only question I've ever had is "Why is it SO important that that force be a 'guy'?" Why interject a being with a personality? I can come up with all kinds of explanations why the notion of a guy is so appealing. None of them point to the necessity of a guy. It's merely an idea that some people prefer.
 
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Thread starter #5

ambush80

Senior Member
Also from the Sam Harris forum:

"The debate itself offered very little in the way of valuable insights. It did offer plenty of creative and original ways of wording fallacies, which in turn lead to the effect of clarifying my own thinking in the form of counter arguments.

The most important takeaway for me:

The insistence on the part of both Ben and Sam that there must exist some objective foundation for morality stems from the same impulse. In the case of Ben, it is God. In the case of Sam, it is reason (rationality). The argument against “subjective morality” is that it reduces moral principles to mere opinion or personal preference. A kind of post-modern free-for-all. But the fact is, that by claiming to be basing their moral views on some foundation external to themselves, they are actually doing no more than stating a personal preference. It is a charade. They are shifting their opinion to that of an objective standard whereas that standard is merely their own opinion dressed up in a respectable guise."


That's what I'm talking about.
 
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Thread starter #6

ambush80

Senior Member
Seems to me that the most honest thing to say, the only thing that we can actually observe, is that if a pile of goo is arranged just so it has the capacity to dream, imagine, reflect, tinker, analyze, and all manner of other interesting things. One of the things that the pile of goo is capable of is conceiving of god(s).

That seems to be the truth as far as I can tell.
 

Israel

Senior Member
Though I don't think you will find any of my posts (and I surely can be wrong) arguing/contending from a position of "there has to be a God because of the way I feel when I see a sunrise"...or a naked pair of breasts, or a ten pound bass, or an 8 pointer ambling toward me, or a newborn baby...etc, I do not despise these testimonies simply because there may be found a pleasure in them that speaks.

Nor can I argue successfully against what one may present of seeming total opposite..."the terror of the universe far outweighs any "good" thing that is manifestly temporal...and indeed only fleeting when compared to death."

For me, it is, at best...a wash. Present a well fed, healthy, happy child, and some will inevitably call up a photo of a starving infant. And even if the argument is made by contrast only "show me a prayer answered and I'll show you a thousand seemingly not", I find in this matter that God's presence or seeming absence cannot come down to merely matters of sheer volumes of number. (let alone seeking to include all the possible permutations of whether or not prayer being answered according to some preconceived measure of success contains in itself the proper metric in any agreement as to what constitutes success.)

If we go at these things as though some portion of God can be seized for proof, and no less seize upon something else of portion as refutation, we still find at best...a wash. The cause/effect argument falls apart in like manner; for if one contends everything must have a cause, a prime source or mover, or an ultimate starting point...because..."everything must have a start, a particular indivisible point of origin" it surely leaves the door open to "then when [or how] did the god start?" But this is such old and stale ground as I am almost embarrassed to reference it. In short, how can reason present what reason cannot comprehend?

For whether we agree or not in any, or even some particulars, I think we can agree (now, there's a big assumption/presumption, no?) that if discussing the matter of "God's being" (and the word being there I use is to convey both activity in being and type of being)that is alone...without reason. And at the very same time, all that is of reason. Though I often stand accused of seeking to dazzle with bull chips, this is nevertheless, where I live.

God does not "be"...because. He has no reason, nor need of it...to be. He is...what is. And it is precisely because "he" is not owing to any form of reason to be, but all instead "of being" observable owes its reason for being to Him (if my use of that pronoun offends, I cannot help that), that all, and everything has reason "to be" that can only be found if, and only if, He cares to share some knowledge of it.

But, this is where another wash...presents itself. But also where considerations of consciousness if not, tip the scales, at least show in manifestly practical terms an undercut of precluding God based solely upon consciousness, is also bereft of value.

The: "why then are you conscious of God, (or have God in your consciousness) and I not?" or vice versa, if need be. For I think we can concede (am I being presumptuous?) that even though to a man we might all say "I know I have consciousness"...we might all as easily say "but I surely don't know all about my own, let alone consciousness in any more general sense".
Do we agree that to "know" a thing it must be observed in toto, as though the observer must stand apart from it...for he can never know its bounds, its constituency in full (if at all, even in part except to say "I know it's there"). He must be able to observe all of it...but how can he ever even hope to do so...when consciousness itself is the rudiment of tool for discovery and measurement?

Isn't all the sound and fury that takes place here in arguments, contentions, casting of judgments with measured opprobrium (easily seen in micro) also the macro taking place in all the world? Our "little" wars? Each one holding fast to:

"I am somewhere in my consciousness...that you are not".

Even using argument (on both sides, if you will) "I used to be in consciousness where you are now, but I have expanded past that". The believer says "I too was once unbeliever" then I saw "the light". Unbeliever (depending upon their own confession, strictly...for I surely don't know) "I once was a believer...but then I too, saw the light." Each one contending their light is "better"...more true. But the truth of it all may be...because of "self" consciousness (only) each (and both) say: "I must hold to this, for it is what makes me who I am, the me I perceive...and I dare not let go...of being "me". There can be nothing else...if I do. I am "lost" if I let go.

But this is where salvation takes place, must, and only can.

Jesus saw this, spoke this, lived in this. And in proof, died to all the "holding of himself" as anything to accomplish of himself.


But, I think I tell you nothing you don't already perceive.
 
Thread starter #8

ambush80

Senior Member
Though I don't think you will find any of my posts (and I surely can be wrong) arguing/contending from a position of "there has to be a God because of the way I feel when I see a sunrise"...or a naked pair of breasts, or a ten pound bass, or an 8 pointer ambling toward me, or a newborn baby...etc, I do not despise these testimonies simply because there may be found a pleasure in them that speaks.

Nor can I argue successfully against what one may present of seeming total opposite..."the terror of the universe far outweighs any "good" thing that is manifestly temporal...and indeed only fleeting when compared to death."

For me, it is, at best...a wash. Present a well fed, healthy, happy child, and some will inevitably call up a photo of a starving infant. And even if the argument is made by contrast only "show me a prayer answered and I'll show you a thousand seemingly not", I find in this matter that God's presence or seeming absence cannot come down to merely matters of sheer volumes of number. (let alone seeking to include all the possible permutations of whether or not prayer being answered according to some preconceived measure of success contains in itself the proper metric in any agreement as to what constitutes success.)

If we go at these things as though some portion of God can be seized for proof, and no less seize upon something else of portion as refutation, we still find at best...a wash. The cause/effect argument falls apart in like manner; for if one contends everything must have a cause, a prime source or mover, or an ultimate starting point...because..."everything must have a start, a particular indivisible point of origin" it surely leaves the door open to "then when [or how] did the god start?" But this is such old and stale ground as I am almost embarrassed to reference it. In short, how can reason present what reason cannot comprehend?

For whether we agree or not in any, or even some particulars, I think we can agree (now, there's a big assumption/presumption, no?) that if discussing the matter of "God's being" (and the word being there I use is to convey both activity in being and type of being)that is alone...without reason. And at the very same time, all that is of reason. Though I often stand accused of seeking to dazzle with bull chips, this is nevertheless, where I live.

God does not "be"...because. He has no reason, nor need of it...to be. He is...what is. And it is precisely because "he" is not owing to any form of reason to be, but all instead "of being" observable owes its reason for being to Him (if my use of that pronoun offends, I cannot help that), that all, and everything has reason "to be" that can only be found if, and only if, He cares to share some knowledge of it.

But, this is where another wash...presents itself. But also where considerations of consciousness if not, tip the scales, at least show in manifestly practical terms an undercut of precluding God based solely upon consciousness, is also bereft of value.

The: "why then are you conscious of God, (or have God in your consciousness) and I not?" or vice versa, if need be. For I think we can concede (am I being presumptuous?) that even though to a man we might all say "I know I have consciousness"...we might all as easily say "but I surely don't know all about my own, let alone consciousness in any more general sense".
Do we agree that to "know" a thing it must be observed in toto, as though the observer must stand apart from it...for he can never know its bounds, its constituency in full (if at all, even in part except to say "I know it's there"). He must be able to observe all of it...but how can he ever even hope to do so...when consciousness itself is the rudiment of tool for discovery and measurement?

Isn't all the sound and fury that takes place here in arguments, contentions, casting of judgments with measured opprobrium (easily seen in micro) also the macro taking place in all the world? Our "little" wars? Each one holding fast to:

"I am somewhere in my consciousness...that you are not".

Even using argument (on both sides, if you will) "I used to be in consciousness where you are now, but I have expanded past that". The believer says "I too was once unbeliever" then I saw "the light". Unbeliever (depending upon their own confession, strictly...for I surely don't know) "I once was a believer...but then I too, saw the light." Each one contending their light is "better"...more true. But the truth of it all may be...because of "self" consciousness (only) each (and both) say: "I must hold to this, for it is what makes me who I am, the me I perceive...and I dare not let go...of being "me". There can be nothing else...if I do. I am "lost" if I let go.

But this is where salvation takes place, must, and only can.

Jesus saw this, spoke this, lived in this. And in proof, died to all the "holding of himself" as anything to accomplish of himself.


But, I think I tell you nothing you don't already perceive.
All that to say that you know God through personal revelation.:banginghe
 
It's terminology and, as such, is entirely a construct of man and subject to change. Just like Pluto that was a planet and isn't any longer.

Morality isn't confined to that which does or does not cause harm, because it has to be put through the crucible of end result. That is unless you would argue that a surgeon's actions of slicing the body are immoral regardless of whether the patient benefits or not.

There is no such things as objective morality, it is only very broadly subjective. In that I mean that most Christians, and most Buddhists, and most atheists, all within their own demographics, can come to an agreement about the bulk of what they would consider moral and immoral. But you won't get 100% even within those groups and you're going to get far less than that when speaking about disparate groups.

It's a fine mental exercise and an interesting question but it would be folly to ever think it could be reconciled, IMO.
 
Though I don't think you will find any of my posts (and I surely can be wrong) arguing/contending from a position of "there has to be a God because of the way I feel when I see a sunrise"...or a naked pair of breasts, or a ten pound bass, or an 8 pointer ambling toward me, or a newborn baby...etc, I do not despise these testimonies simply because there may be found a pleasure in them that speaks.

Nor can I argue successfully against what one may present of seeming total opposite..."the terror of the universe far outweighs any "good" thing that is manifestly temporal...and indeed only fleeting when compared to death."

For me, it is, at best...a wash. Present a well fed, healthy, happy child, and some will inevitably call up a photo of a starving infant. And even if the argument is made by contrast only "show me a prayer answered and I'll show you a thousand seemingly not", I find in this matter that God's presence or seeming absence cannot come down to merely matters of sheer volumes of number. (let alone seeking to include all the possible permutations of whether or not prayer being answered according to some preconceived measure of success contains in itself the proper metric in any agreement as to what constitutes success.)

If we go at these things as though some portion of God can be seized for proof, and no less seize upon something else of portion as refutation, we still find at best...a wash. The cause/effect argument falls apart in like manner; for if one contends everything must have a cause, a prime source or mover, or an ultimate starting point...because..."everything must have a start, a particular indivisible point of origin" it surely leaves the door open to "then when [or how] did the god start?" But this is such old and stale ground as I am almost embarrassed to reference it. In short, how can reason present what reason cannot comprehend?

For whether we agree or not in any, or even some particulars, I think we can agree (now, there's a big assumption/presumption, no?) that if discussing the matter of "God's being" (and the word being there I use is to convey both activity in being and type of being)that is alone...without reason. And at the very same time, all that is of reason. Though I often stand accused of seeking to dazzle with bull chips, this is nevertheless, where I live.

God does not "be"...because. He has no reason, nor need of it...to be. He is...what is. And it is precisely because "he" is not owing to any form of reason to be, but all instead "of being" observable owes its reason for being to Him (if my use of that pronoun offends, I cannot help that), that all, and everything has reason "to be" that can only be found if, and only if, He cares to share some knowledge of it.

But, this is where another wash...presents itself. But also where considerations of consciousness if not, tip the scales, at least show in manifestly practical terms an undercut of precluding God based solely upon consciousness, is also bereft of value.

The: "why then are you conscious of God, (or have God in your consciousness) and I not?" or vice versa, if need be. For I think we can concede (am I being presumptuous?) that even though to a man we might all say "I know I have consciousness"...we might all as easily say "but I surely don't know all about my own, let alone consciousness in any more general sense".
Do we agree that to "know" a thing it must be observed in toto, as though the observer must stand apart from it...for he can never know its bounds, its constituency in full (if at all, even in part except to say "I know it's there"). He must be able to observe all of it...but how can he ever even hope to do so...when consciousness itself is the rudiment of tool for discovery and measurement?

Isn't all the sound and fury that takes place here in arguments, contentions, casting of judgments with measured opprobrium (easily seen in micro) also the macro taking place in all the world? Our "little" wars? Each one holding fast to:

"I am somewhere in my consciousness...that you are not".

Even using argument (on both sides, if you will) "I used to be in consciousness where you are now, but I have expanded past that". The believer says "I too was once unbeliever" then I saw "the light". Unbeliever (depending upon their own confession, strictly...for I surely don't know) "I once was a believer...but then I too, saw the light." Each one contending their light is "better"...more true. But the truth of it all may be...because of "self" consciousness (only) each (and both) say: "I must hold to this, for it is what makes me who I am, the me I perceive...and I dare not let go...of being "me". There can be nothing else...if I do. I am "lost" if I let go.

But this is where salvation takes place, must, and only can.

Jesus saw this, spoke this, lived in this. And in proof, died to all the "holding of himself" as anything to accomplish of himself.


But, I think I tell you nothing you don't already perceive.
The parts in blue take away from the rest, which we definitely not only perceive but have mentioned a couple dozen times ourselves.
 

Spineyman

Senior Member
Shapiro is correct. Because there is only one Moral absolute, and that is God's Word! Man's morality changes every other day. That is obvious by what is going on around us. There is only One True God who says: THOU SHALT NOT!!! That is the only absolute that does not change with the wind, the seasons, the tide, the sun , the moon or any thing else. It is absolute.
 
I find it peculiar that the amount of words spoken by gods are heard nowhere but in the writings of man.
 

Israel

Senior Member
The parts in blue take away from the rest, which we definitely not only perceive but have mentioned a couple dozen times ourselves.
That you see it that way I will not dispute, your view in all things is precisely what makes you...you.
 

Israel

Senior Member
It's terminology and, as such, is entirely a construct of man and subject to change. Just like Pluto that was a planet and isn't any longer.

Morality isn't confined to that which does or does not cause harm, because it has to be put through the crucible of end result. That is unless you would argue that a surgeon's actions of slicing the body are immoral regardless of whether the patient benefits or not.

There is no such things as objective morality, it is only very broadly subjective. In that I mean that most Christians, and most Buddhists, and most atheists, all within their own demographics, can come to an agreement about the bulk of what they would consider moral and immoral. But you won't get 100% even within those groups and you're going to get far less than that when speaking about disparate groups.

It's a fine mental exercise and an interesting question but it would be folly to ever think it could be reconciled, IMO.
What man could possibly surrender to another..."yes, your morality (attributable to your point of view) is in every way...superior"? (If we care to describe morality as rightness)
It is saying it is better to be you, than for me to be...me.
You...alone...are always right.

Show me the man who says this...but more...does this.
 
Shapiro is correct. Because there is only one Moral absolute, and that is God's Word! Man's morality changes every other day. That is obvious by what is going on around us. There is only One True God who says: THOU SHALT NOT!!! That is the only absolute that does not change with the wind, the seasons, the tide, the sun , the moon or any thing else. It is absolute.
Must be nice to have a source of absolute and unchanging morality. What does that source tell us about the morality of slavery?
 
What man could possibly surrender to another..."yes, your morality (attributable to your point of view) is in every way...superior"? (If we care to describe morality as rightness)
It is saying it is better to be you, than for me to be...me.
You...alone...are always right.

Show me the man who says this...but more...does this.
That's my point, no one says this and no one does it because the end result is impossible. A fine mental exercise but ultimately unattainable.
 

Israel

Senior Member
That's my point, no one says this and no one does it because the end result is impossible. A fine mental exercise but ultimately unattainable.
It would seem so.
 
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