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The Religion and Philosophy Thread

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Comments

  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    edited December 2018
    @JLee What's illogical about that position, given how I've defined it?
    Grond0 said:

    @Grond0 I couldn't be clearer in my definition. As for your two categories, 2 is a subset of 1. 1 is the more general definition of atheist. Also, I think you're doing the same error in logic as my analogy demonstrates. Whether it can be determined or not is irrelevant to the logic.

    2 is not a subset of 1 (which is a point you've made yourself in several of your posts). There is a big difference between not taking a position about belief in gods and specifically denying such a belief. If you look at dictionary definitions you will see that most dictionaries define 'atheist' as someone who rejects any belief in gods, i.e. the second definition I gave - that fits in with my own experiences of what people think the word means. I do accept though that if you look into more detailed definitions the first definition is also given as a possibility, which is why I made the point that other people's experience (particularly those from different cultures and language groups) might be different.

    I think my logic is fine. I've explained twice now why I think that, if something is unknowable (such as the existence of a supernatural god) there is no significant difference between claiming knowledge or belief about that something. If you reject that logic I think it's your turn to explain why you think there's a flaw in it.
    @Grond0 2 is a subset of 1. In order to believe there is no god, you must also not believe gods exist. You cannot believe gods exist (not in group 1) and believe no gods exist (in group 2). Therefore, 2 is a subset of 1.

    I agree with your logic, "if something is unknowable (such as the existence of a supernatural god) there is no significant difference between claiming knowledge or belief about that something" but not the strikethrough. Let me ask you, if something is unknowable, can there be a rational argument for believing it?

  • JLeeJLee Member Posts: 648
    @FinneousPJ It seemed to me that if you believe that something is unknowable, then taking the next step of asserting its existence or lack thereof is superfluous.

    But, you have clarified your view of athiests to include a subset that I did not account for, i.e. I don't believe x exists vs. I believe X does NOT exist.

  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    @JLee You're still not getting it. The most general atheist position "I don't believe a god or gods exist" does not assert its existence or lack thereof. Once again, "I don't believe a god or gods exist" is not the same as "I believe no god or gods exist".

  • JLeeJLee Member Posts: 648
    I am. I used a past tense (seemed) to describe a state of understanding prior to your clarification which I now understand (and related back to you).

    FinneousPJ
  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 8,559

    ThacoBell said:

    @FinneousPJ And there is no evidence to suggest such a place doesn't. Being certain of its non-existence is equally as irrational as being certain of its existence. We both believe in something unprovable.

    I have never said I was certain of its non-existence. Please don't tell me what I do or do not believe.
    That was what I've taken from numerous religious talks with you. My bad if I misunderstood.

  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    JLee said:

    I am. I used a past tense (seemed) to describe a state of understanding prior to your clarification which I now understand (and related back to you).

    I see, I didn't understand that.
    ThacoBell said:

    ThacoBell said:

    @FinneousPJ And there is no evidence to suggest such a place doesn't. Being certain of its non-existence is equally as irrational as being certain of its existence. We both believe in something unprovable.

    I have never said I was certain of its non-existence. Please don't tell me what I do or do not believe.
    That was what I've taken from numerous religious talks with you. My bad if I misunderstood.
    No worries. I don't think I've ever asserted certainty. If I have, then I misspoke.

    ThacoBellJLee
  • mashedtatersmashedtaters Member Posts: 1,907
    edited December 2018

    Okay first of all you gave a general statement: "Abstaining from theft is irrational." You cannot justify that With a specific example.

    "So, given this scenario and many others like it (including my own), why do you believe that people who wish to be reasonable should give up their irattionsl beliefs purely on that basis? They could believe things for very good reasons that have nothing to do with science or logic."

    I looked up your comment and if your definition of reasonable is "someone you can have a conversation with" then there is no conflict between irrationality and being reasonable. I don't agree with your definition.

    @FinneousPJ
    You cherry picked what I said. I put in a very important qualifier. Let me repeat it.

    As long as you can find some way to escape the consequences, from a purely Dawrenian/scientific standpoint, abstaining from theft is irrational.

    I then presented you with a scenario on how someone could escape the consequences of theft, and then illustrated how it could be rational to steal and even murder, given certain circumstances of history, personality, and especially the certainty of avoiding consequences.

    I would call it rational to murder someone under the circumstance I presented you, but I certainly wouldn’t call it reasonable. You also cherry picked my definition of reasonable. It’s fine if you don’t agree with my definition, but it was significantly more than being able to have a conversation. I certainly don’t think everyone I have ever spoken to is reasonable. But I don’t want to argue semantics with you.

    To get to the root of the purpose of the illustration: If you can get ahead without having to face any negative consequences, what could possibly be stopping you other than so-called irrational beliefs?

    ThacoBell
  • mashedtatersmashedtaters Member Posts: 1,907
    JLee said:

    Grond0 said:


    In fact you could reasonably argue that a belief in the non-existence of God is itself irrational. In a situation where there is no direct evidence available, there should certainly be skepticism about God's existence, but to elevate that to the certainty of a belief doesn't seem justified.

    I wonder how much our conversation would differ if instead of describing our relationship to god, we instead described our attitudes towards the ineffable. Athiesm is a projection and, just like any belief, it can inhibit one from seeing reality as it is. Logically, agnosticism seems a good choice. If you wish to see reality as it is, to the extent you can, you must be very aware of your projections. The position of "I don't know" is quite powerful and fertile.
    Grond0 said:


    I may of course be misunderstanding your views about reason and logic. Western approaches to logic have tended to be very linear 'it's either true or false', but that's not the only way to use logic. I came across this article which is quite approachable in the way it describes how logical mathematical analysis can be used to better understand Eastern philosophy, which doesn't follow a simple true or false pattern.

    That was an interesting article. I'm surprised the author did not delve into Jainist logic, the seven fold Anekantavada

    In order to describe a phenomenon, you must describe it with respect to seven aspects (from wikipedia):
    Affirmation: syād-asti—in some ways, it is,
    Denial: syān-nāsti—in some ways, it is not,
    Joint but successive affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syān-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.

    I don't believe they are being ironic, but it is hard for me to not see it that way. I get it already! Language is limiting!


    Grond0 said:

    @FinneousPJ

    I feel like I answered that question here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036470/#Comment_1036470 , but maybe I wasn’t that clear. If you could ask more specifically, I could try to explain.

    But you didn’t answer my question. I don’t see that your qualifier is particularly relevant, because many people want, or at least think they want, to be/appear as reasonable.

    Why do you believe that someone who wants to be reasonable should give up their irrational beliefs as they discover them?

    Well because irrational beliefs are unreasonable by definition.
    @FinneousPJ
    That doesn’t really answer the question. That’s just repeating what you said already again.

    Let me try again:
    Rationality is hardly a human’s only motivation. It’s not even one of our primary motivations.

    Aside from that, from a purely Darwinian standard, most standards of morality are almost entirely irrational.
    As long as you can find some way to escape the consequences:
    Abstaining from theft is irrational.
    Abstaining from violent revenge is irrational.
    Abstaining from the pursuit of power is irrational.
    Even abstaining from murdering someone who is a threat is irrational.

    There are many more beliefs that are irrational by scientific standards, but why do you believe that is reason enough to abandon them?
    Whoa, please show how those statements are irrational.
    This is where rationality gets intertwined with game theory. In order to determine what behaviors are rational you need a lot more information, such as:
    - are you considering short term or long term consequences?
    - are behaviors one-off or repeated?
    - what's the chance of being caught?
    - what sanctions are imposed for known misbehavior?

    In the case of theft it could well be that a one-off theft of high value items would seem totally rational for an individual, whereas repeated thefts of low value items could seem totally irrational - in terms of the balance between risk and reward. However, I don't think questions of rationality can be considered only at the individual level. There's good evidence that complex human societies perform better when individuals cooperate and levels of crime and corruption are low. That means that successful societies are likely to provide an incentive for individuals to cooperate. That can be done partly through a legal framework and sanctions, but moral sanctions and rewards are at least as important and religion is one means that can be used to apply those. That is one of the reasons for saying that, even if you believe that religion is not rational at the individual level, it may still be rational at a wider society level.
    @Grond0
    I agree that religion was a convenient way for the leaders of the past to impose what they believe is “best” for their societies. (Certainly doesn’t make it right, imo, and I think it’s one reason of many as to why religion has a bad modern rep and is also abused).
    But applying moral standards can really only be achieved at the individual level, most effectively in families. Things like, “What’s best for society,” is far more abstract and removed, and far less powerful and motivating, than, “YOU will personally benefit/suffer from the consequences of your actions one day.”

    Think of it like working for a top-heavy, inefficient bureaucratic corporation (another analogy her folks). Some people certainly care about the illusive abstraction of, “What’s best for the company,” but most people aren’t personally invested. They come in, punch in, do their thing, just naturally get away with stuff if they can, try not to get in trouble, and then punch out.

    If they have a good manager that rewards them, they become personally invested. If it is their own company, they already are personally invested. If there are general incentives based on performance, some people become personally invested sometimes, but only to a certain extent.

    We aren’t motivated by the vague greater good. I cannot see how the overarching good for society would ever be enough motivation alone, even for myself (who am committed to my honor and morals), for people in their personal life to hold to standards of morality. Thus, even though it may be “better” for societies (though not sure that’s even definable), I don’t think it matters.

  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    edited December 2018

    Okay first of all you gave a general statement: "Abstaining from theft is irrational." You cannot justify that With a specific example.

    "So, given this scenario and many others like it (including my own), why do you believe that people who wish to be reasonable should give up their irattionsl beliefs purely on that basis? They could believe things for very good reasons that have nothing to do with science or logic."

    I looked up your comment and if your definition of reasonable is "someone you can have a conversation with" then there is no conflict between irrationality and being reasonable. I don't agree with your definition.

    @FinneousPJ
    You cherry picked what I said. I put in a very important qualifier. Let me repeat it.

    As long as you can find some way to escape the consequences, from a purely Dawrenian/scientific standpoint, abstaining from theft is irrational.

    I then presented you with a scenario on how someone could escape the consequences of theft, and then illustrated how it could be rational to steal and even murder, given certain circumstances of history, personality, and especially the certainty of avoiding consequences.

    I would call it rational to murder someone under the circumstance I presented you, but I certainly wouldn’t call it reasonable. You also cherry picked my definition of reasonable. It’s fine if you don’t agree with my definition, but it was significantly more than being able to have a conversation. I certainly don’t think everyone I have ever spoken to is reasonable. But I don’t want to argue semantics with you.

    To get to the root of the purpose of the illustration: If you can get ahead without having to face any negative consequences, what could possibly be stopping you other than so-called irrational beliefs?
    @mashedtaters You made these very sweeping claims and now you're shifting the burden of proof on me to prove them wrong. Sorry, I won't have it. Please show your argument for the first of your earlier claims "Abstaining from theft is irrational." Let's see if I cannot refute it. Also, @Grond0 already offered solid counterpoints, even though I don't agree with the last few points about religion.

    If you had a point to make about being reasonable, please explain what you mean. Apparently I misunderstood something.

    mashedtaters
  • Grond0Grond0 Member, Moderator Posts: 4,868
    edited December 2018

    Grond0 said:

    @Grond0 I couldn't be clearer in my definition. As for your two categories, 2 is a subset of 1. 1 is the more general definition of atheist. Also, I think you're doing the same error in logic as my analogy demonstrates. Whether it can be determined or not is irrelevant to the logic.

    2 is not a subset of 1 (which is a point you've made yourself in several of your posts). There is a big difference between not taking a position about belief in gods and specifically denying such a belief. If you look at dictionary definitions you will see that most dictionaries define 'atheist' as someone who rejects any belief in gods, i.e. the second definition I gave - that fits in with my own experiences of what people think the word means. I do accept though that if you look into more detailed definitions the first definition is also given as a possibility, which is why I made the point that other people's experience (particularly those from different cultures and language groups) might be different.

    I think my logic is fine. I've explained twice now why I think that, if something is unknowable (such as the existence of a supernatural god) there is no significant difference between claiming knowledge or belief about that something. If you reject that logic I think it's your turn to explain why you think there's a flaw in it.
    @Grond0 2 is a subset of 1. In order to believe there is no god, you must also not believe gods exist. You cannot believe gods exist (not in group 1) and believe no gods exist (in group 2). Therefore, 2 is a subset of 1.
    @FinneousPJ 2 is not a subset of 1 - as I think your previous posts have in fact showed. It is not possible to both have no belief about the existence of gods (group 1) and to believe that gods do not exist (group 2). While group 2 cannot be a subset of group 1, it is true that the groups are related - both are a subset of a more general group. Perhaps this illustration will clarify the position.

    I agree with your logic, "if something is unknowable (such as the existence of a supernatural god) there is no significant difference between claiming knowledge or belief about that something" but not the strikethrough. Let me ask you, if something is unknowable, can there be a rational argument for believing it?

    My interpretation of your position has been that you are arguing for a belief system founded on logic and rationality and your final sentence above continues to suggest that. While I follow that system myself, I am not willing to rule out any value of an alternative belief system (such as one based on perceived direct experience). However, if I am correct about your position, I don't understand why you have struck out part of my sentence above. I specifically added the word "supernatural" to make it clear I was talking about an unknowable god (supernatural being defined something like "attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature"). If an entity is beyond scientific understanding and you believe that all knowledge needs to be explicable by science, you should have no problem with defining that entity as unknowable.

  • Grond0Grond0 Member, Moderator Posts: 4,868

    JLee said:

    Grond0 said:


    In fact you could reasonably argue that a belief in the non-existence of God is itself irrational. In a situation where there is no direct evidence available, there should certainly be skepticism about God's existence, but to elevate that to the certainty of a belief doesn't seem justified.

    I wonder how much our conversation would differ if instead of describing our relationship to god, we instead described our attitudes towards the ineffable. Athiesm is a projection and, just like any belief, it can inhibit one from seeing reality as it is. Logically, agnosticism seems a good choice. If you wish to see reality as it is, to the extent you can, you must be very aware of your projections. The position of "I don't know" is quite powerful and fertile.
    Grond0 said:


    I may of course be misunderstanding your views about reason and logic. Western approaches to logic have tended to be very linear 'it's either true or false', but that's not the only way to use logic. I came across this article which is quite approachable in the way it describes how logical mathematical analysis can be used to better understand Eastern philosophy, which doesn't follow a simple true or false pattern.

    That was an interesting article. I'm surprised the author did not delve into Jainist logic, the seven fold Anekantavada

    In order to describe a phenomenon, you must describe it with respect to seven aspects (from wikipedia):
    Affirmation: syād-asti—in some ways, it is,
    Denial: syān-nāsti—in some ways, it is not,
    Joint but successive affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syān-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.

    I don't believe they are being ironic, but it is hard for me to not see it that way. I get it already! Language is limiting!


    Grond0 said:

    @FinneousPJ

    I feel like I answered that question here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036470/#Comment_1036470 , but maybe I wasn’t that clear. If you could ask more specifically, I could try to explain.

    But you didn’t answer my question. I don’t see that your qualifier is particularly relevant, because many people want, or at least think they want, to be/appear as reasonable.

    Why do you believe that someone who wants to be reasonable should give up their irrational beliefs as they discover them?

    Well because irrational beliefs are unreasonable by definition.
    @FinneousPJ
    That doesn’t really answer the question. That’s just repeating what you said already again.

    Let me try again:
    Rationality is hardly a human’s only motivation. It’s not even one of our primary motivations.

    Aside from that, from a purely Darwinian standard, most standards of morality are almost entirely irrational.
    As long as you can find some way to escape the consequences:
    Abstaining from theft is irrational.
    Abstaining from violent revenge is irrational.
    Abstaining from the pursuit of power is irrational.
    Even abstaining from murdering someone who is a threat is irrational.

    There are many more beliefs that are irrational by scientific standards, but why do you believe that is reason enough to abandon them?
    Whoa, please show how those statements are irrational.
    This is where rationality gets intertwined with game theory. In order to determine what behaviors are rational you need a lot more information, such as:
    - are you considering short term or long term consequences?
    - are behaviors one-off or repeated?
    - what's the chance of being caught?
    - what sanctions are imposed for known misbehavior?

    In the case of theft it could well be that a one-off theft of high value items would seem totally rational for an individual, whereas repeated thefts of low value items could seem totally irrational - in terms of the balance between risk and reward. However, I don't think questions of rationality can be considered only at the individual level. There's good evidence that complex human societies perform better when individuals cooperate and levels of crime and corruption are low. That means that successful societies are likely to provide an incentive for individuals to cooperate. That can be done partly through a legal framework and sanctions, but moral sanctions and rewards are at least as important and religion is one means that can be used to apply those. That is one of the reasons for saying that, even if you believe that religion is not rational at the individual level, it may still be rational at a wider society level.
    @Grond0
    I agree that religion was a convenient way for the leaders of the past to impose what they believe is “best” for their societies. (Certainly doesn’t make it right, imo, and I think it’s one reason of many as to why religion has a bad modern rep and is also abused).
    But applying moral standards can really only be achieved at the individual level, most effectively in families. Things like, “What’s best for society,” is far more abstract and removed, and far less powerful and motivating, than, “YOU will personally benefit/suffer from the consequences of your actions one day.”

    Think of it like working for a top-heavy, inefficient bureaucratic corporation (another analogy her folks). Some people certainly care about the illusive abstraction of, “What’s best for the company,” but most people aren’t personally invested. They come in, punch in, do their thing, just naturally get away with stuff if they can, try not to get in trouble, and then punch out.

    If they have a good manager that rewards them, they become personally invested. If it is their own company, they already are personally invested. If there are general incentives based on performance, some people become personally invested sometimes, but only to a certain extent.

    We aren’t motivated by the vague greater good. I cannot see how the overarching good for society would ever be enough motivation alone, even for myself (who am committed to my honor and morals), for people in their personal life to hold to standards of morality. Thus, even though it may be “better” for societies (though not sure that’s even definable), I don’t think it matters.
    @mashedtaters I think you're understating the strength of social coercion - I would actually say that is more important than the law, not less so, as a means of regulating the behavior of individuals. The fact that a law exists at all is, in itself, of relatively little importance - it's the enforcement of the law, not its existence that makes the main difference. The same is true of social coercion, which can be powerful (as we're in the religion thread, think about activities like "shunning" as a means of exerting control).

    Perhaps I can illustrate my point by talking about an issue like smoking. Looking at this report I see that use of tobacco products declined a bit in the US between 2002 and 2012 - from 30.8% of the adult population to 27.3%. That's a significant drop, but in itself wouldn't cause a major change in group behaviors - such as the number of groups which include someone smoking while they meet. However, I suspect that there was a far greater change in this type of smoking behavior over that period (it's many years since I went to the US, so I may be wrong about the situation there - there certainly has been such a major change in the UK though). While social pressures and legal pressures interact, I think it's pretty clear that on this issue social pressures are a major factor in themselves. When I was growing up it was socially acceptable to smoke in the presence of other people - and people used to keep ashtrays in their houses for visitors even if they did not smoke themselves. I would be surprised if going into someone's house and lighting a cigarette without permission is now generally considered socially acceptable in the US.

    In relation to the greater good, my point was not that people will be strongly motivated by that directly (though I think some are), but that social pressures can be used to direct behavior towards what certain people consider the greater good. One of the reasons for the development of religions is to provide a mechanism for social control - whether that's things like the abusive behaviors of modern cults, a requirement to attend church during the Middle Ages or ancient dietary rules for Jews. I agree that it can be argued whether religion has in fact been a net positive for the greater good. I don't think though that it can reasonably be argued that religion has had no influence.

    mashedtatersThacoBell
  • mashedtatersmashedtaters Member Posts: 1,907

    Okay first of all you gave a general statement: "Abstaining from theft is irrational." You cannot justify that With a specific example.

    "So, given this scenario and many others like it (including my own), why do you believe that people who wish to be reasonable should give up their irattionsl beliefs purely on that basis? They could believe things for very good reasons that have nothing to do with science or logic."

    I looked up your comment and if your definition of reasonable is "someone you can have a conversation with" then there is no conflict between irrationality and being reasonable. I don't agree with your definition.

    @FinneousPJ
    You cherry picked what I said. I put in a very important qualifier. Let me repeat it.

    As long as you can find some way to escape the consequences, from a purely Dawrenian/scientific standpoint, abstaining from theft is irrational.

    I then presented you with a scenario on how someone could escape the consequences of theft, and then illustrated how it could be rational to steal and even murder, given certain circumstances of history, personality, and especially the certainty of avoiding consequences.

    I would call it rational to murder someone under the circumstance I presented you, but I certainly wouldn’t call it reasonable. You also cherry picked my definition of reasonable. It’s fine if you don’t agree with my definition, but it was significantly more than being able to have a conversation. I certainly don’t think everyone I have ever spoken to is reasonable. But I don’t want to argue semantics with you.

    To get to the root of the purpose of the illustration: If you can get ahead without having to face any negative consequences, what could possibly be stopping you other than so-called irrational beliefs?
    @mashedtaters You made these very sweeping claims and now you're shifting the burden of proof on me to prove them wrong. Sorry, I won't have it. Please show your argument for the first of your earlier claims "Abstaining from theft is irrational." Let's see if I cannot refute it. Also, @Grond0 already offered solid counterpoints, even though I don't agree with the last few points about religion.

    If you had a point to make about being reasonable, please explain what you mean. Apparently I misunderstood something.
    I believe I have made the argument without making sweeping claims. If you have a criticism or do not understand, please be more specific about a certain point and I will try to clarify.

    This is the argument:

    1a) Believing that you shouldn’t “steal” (or insert most moral standards here) if you can escape the consequences is an irrational belief.

    1b) The proof/argument, as I have illustrated here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036562/#Comment_1036562 , of this is in the desire of all humans to survive and to better their circumstances, which is our most powerful instinct—disobeying these instincts to survive would be considered irrational by most, I believe it is fair to say (unless you are deferring gratification).

    1c) If you can enhance your quality of life (or what you believe to be the quality of your life), then restraining your capacity to do so for abstractions like “the greater good of society” is irrational because...

    1d) ...abstractions don’t directly affect you and your personal or tribal/family survival—we did not evolve to care about abstractions.

    1e) The principle of deferral of gratification would be a rational reason to not steal, such as fear of the law. But if you can escape the consequences, as I have qualified, this would not apply.

    I will assume that you believe you shouldn’t steal if you can get away with it (if you believe theft is moral, we can change this discussion).

    2a) Since this is an irrational belief, why do you not abandon it as you said you should here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036526/#Comment_1036526 ?

    2b) If you could somehow escape the law or other consequences, why would you not steal to better your life and the life of your loved ones if the opportunity presented itself? It’s not like God is going to thrust you down to hell.

    3) If you do believe it IS rational to abstain from theft even when you can escape the consequences, then I invite you to justify it as rational.

    Grond0ThacoBell
  • mashedtatersmashedtaters Member Posts: 1,907
    edited December 2018
    Grond0 said:

    JLee said:

    Grond0 said:


    In fact you could reasonably argue that a belief in the non-existence of God is itself irrational. In a situation where there is no direct evidence available, there should certainly be skepticism about God's existence, but to elevate that to the certainty of a belief doesn't seem justified.

    I wonder how much our conversation would differ if instead of describing our relationship to god, we instead described our attitudes towards the ineffable. Athiesm is a projection and, just like any belief, it can inhibit one from seeing reality as it is. Logically, agnosticism seems a good choice. If you wish to see reality as it is, to the extent you can, you must be very aware of your projections. The position of "I don't know" is quite powerful and fertile.
    Grond0 said:


    I may of course be misunderstanding your views about reason and logic. Western approaches to logic have tended to be very linear 'it's either true or false', but that's not the only way to use logic. I came across this article which is quite approachable in the way it describes how logical mathematical analysis can be used to better understand Eastern philosophy, which doesn't follow a simple true or false pattern.

    That was an interesting article. I'm surprised the author did not delve into Jainist logic, the seven fold Anekantavada

    In order to describe a phenomenon, you must describe it with respect to seven aspects (from wikipedia):
    Affirmation: syād-asti—in some ways, it is,
    Denial: syān-nāsti—in some ways, it is not,
    Joint but successive affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syān-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable,
    Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.

    I don't believe they are being ironic, but it is hard for me to not see it that way. I get it already! Language is limiting!


    Grond0 said:

    @FinneousPJ

    I feel like I answered that question here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036470/#Comment_1036470 , but maybe I wasn’t that clear. If you could ask more specifically, I could try to explain.

    But you didn’t answer my question. I don’t see that your qualifier is particularly relevant, because many people want, or at least think they want, to be/appear as reasonable.

    Why do you believe that someone who wants to be reasonable should give up their irrational beliefs as they discover them?

    Well because irrational beliefs are unreasonable by definition.
    @FinneousPJ
    That doesn’t really answer the question. That’s just repeating what you said already again.

    Let me try again:
    Rationality is hardly a human’s only motivation. It’s not even one of our primary motivations.

    Aside from that, from a purely Darwinian standard, most standards of morality are almost entirely irrational.
    As long as you can find some way to escape the consequences:
    Abstaining from theft is irrational.
    Abstaining from violent revenge is irrational.
    Abstaining from the pursuit of power is irrational.
    Even abstaining from murdering someone who is a threat is irrational.

    There are many more beliefs that are irrational by scientific standards, but why do you believe that is reason enough to abandon them?
    Whoa, please show how those statements are irrational.
    This is where rationality gets intertwined with game theory. In order to determine what behaviors are rational you need a lot more information, such as:
    - are you considering short term or long term consequences?
    - are behaviors one-off or repeated?
    - what's the chance of being caught?
    - what sanctions are imposed for known misbehavior?

    In the case of theft it could well be that a one-off theft of high value items would seem totally rational for an individual, whereas repeated thefts of low value items could seem totally irrational - in terms of the balance between risk and reward. However, I don't think questions of rationality can be considered only at the individual level. There's good evidence that complex human societies perform better when individuals cooperate and levels of crime and corruption are low. That means that successful societies are likely to provide an incentive for individuals to cooperate. That can be done partly through a legal framework and sanctions, but moral sanctions and rewards are at least as important and religion is one means that can be used to apply those. That is one of the reasons for saying that, even if you believe that religion is not rational at the individual level, it may still be rational at a wider society level.
    @Grond0
    I agree that religion was a convenient way for the leaders of the past to impose what they believe is “best” for their societies. (Certainly doesn’t make it right, imo, and I think it’s one reason of many as to why religion has a bad modern rep and is also abused).
    But applying moral standards can really only be achieved at the individual level, most effectively in families. Things like, “What’s best for society,” is far more abstract and removed, and far less powerful and motivating, than, “YOU will personally benefit/suffer from the consequences of your actions one day.”

    Think of it like working for a top-heavy, inefficient bureaucratic corporation (another analogy her folks). Some people certainly care about the illusive abstraction of, “What’s best for the company,” but most people aren’t personally invested. They come in, punch in, do their thing, just naturally get away with stuff if they can, try not to get in trouble, and then punch out.

    If they have a good manager that rewards them, they become personally invested. If it is their own company, they already are personally invested. If there are general incentives based on performance, some people become personally invested sometimes, but only to a certain extent.

    We aren’t motivated by the vague greater good. I cannot see how the overarching good for society would ever be enough motivation alone, even for myself (who am committed to my honor and morals), for people in their personal life to hold to standards of morality. Thus, even though it may be “better” for societies (though not sure that’s even definable), I don’t think it matters.
    @mashedtaters I think you're understating the strength of social coercion - I would actually say that is more important than the law, not less so, as a means of regulating the behavior of individuals. The fact that a law exists at all is, in itself, of relatively little importance - it's the enforcement of the law, not its existence that makes the main difference. The same is true of social coercion, which can be powerful (as we're in the religion thread, think about activities like "shunning" as a means of exerting control).

    Perhaps I can illustrate my point by talking about an issue like smoking. Looking at this report I see that use of tobacco products declined a bit in the US between 2002 and 2012 - from 30.8% of the adult population to 27.3%. That's a significant drop, but in itself wouldn't cause a major change in group behaviors - such as the number of groups which include someone smoking while they meet. However, I suspect that there was a far greater change in this type of smoking behavior over that period (it's many years since I went to the US, so I may be wrong about the situation there - there certainly has been such a major change in the UK though). While social pressures and legal pressures interact, I think it's pretty clear that on this issue social pressures are a major factor in themselves. When I was growing up it was socially acceptable to smoke in the presence of other people - and people used to keep ashtrays in their houses for visitors even if they did not smoke themselves. I would be surprised if going into someone's house and lighting a cigarette without permission is now generally considered socially acceptable in the US.

    In relation to the greater good, my point was not that people will be strongly motivated by that directly (though I think some are), but that social pressures can be used to direct behavior towards what certain people consider the greater good. One of the reasons for the development of religions is to provide a mechanism for social control - whether that's things like the abusive behaviors of modern cults, a requirement to attend church during the Middle Ages or ancient dietary rules for Jews. I agree that it can be argued whether religion has in fact been a net positive for the greater good. I don't think though that it can reasonably be argued that religion has had no influence.
    I actually believe that social coercion is significantly more powerful than the law. In comparison, I do not believe that the law is even effective.

    That is why I believewe need religion and so-called irrational beliefs. To your point, it has served as that social fabric that holds our society in place (though I believe there are far more valuable reasons than abstractions like the greater good of society).

    However, with the so-called “death of god” in recent years, as religions have been discredited (or dicredited themselves), people have drifted away from God and THUS that social fabric of morality. Nothing has stepped in to replace the morality we all once shared, other than hand-me-down, dying traditions and vague standards like “being a good person,” which is entirely subjective.

    As an example, there are hardly any social pressures any more to abstain from sex before marriage anymore, unless you are in certain religious circles. There are many reasons for or against this (and I don’t want to argue this point specifically), but there was a time in our nation’s recent history that if you had a child out of wedlock, you were socially ostracized. That is simply no longer the case because, imo, we have stepped away from God and that moral social fabric: now, in some communities, over 70% of children are raised without their biological fathers in the home.

    You are correct that social pressures have decreased smoking far more effectively than any government program or “greater good” abstract could have. That is because it affected smokers in the here and now directly via their loved ones.

    Grond0ThacoBell
  • GrammarsaladGrammarsalad Member Posts: 2,433
    edited December 2018
    1a) Believing that you shouldn’t “steal” (or insert most moral standards here) if you can escape the consequences is an irrational belief


    Very controversial. If you believe that stealing is wrong, then you have a reason to believe that you shouldn't steal. As such, the belief is rational, no?

    1b) The proof/argument, as I have illustrated here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036562/#Comment_1036562 , of this is in the desire of all humans to survive and to better their circumstances, which is our most powerful instinct—disobeying these instincts to survive would be considered irrational by most, I believe it is fair to say (unless you are deferring gratification)


    Desires aren't the only things that come into play when it comes you ethical action. You can desire to beat up an elderly woman for blocking your view to the television, but you might refrain from doing so because you believe that beating up elderly women is wrong. I think that would be a rational thing to do (even if you knew or at least believed that you could get away with it).

    1c) If you can enhance your quality of life (or what you believe to be the quality of your life), then restraining your capacity to do so for abstractions like “the greater good of society” is irrational because...

    1d) ...abstractions don’t directly affect you and your personal or tribal/family survival—we did not evolve to care about abstractions.


    We do care about abstractions. A lot. People die in war for abstractions, 'for king and country!', for 'freedom', for 'Justice', etc., all the time. Further, if we didn't care about abstractions, then we wouldn't form societies, institutions, economies, etc. and we'd all be worse off for it.

    1e) The principle of deferral of gratification would be a rational reason to not steal, such as fear of the law. But if you can escape the consequences, as I have qualified, this would not apply


    Putting beliefs aside, we care about more than personal consequences, as well. We care about justice. We care about right and wrong. The desire to make the world a better place is a reason for action, and thus can make that action rational.

    mashedtatersFinneousPJThacoBell
  • Grond0Grond0 Member, Moderator Posts: 4,868
    edited December 2018
    @mashedtaters people may have drifted away from God, but I don't think that's the same as saying they have drifted away from morality. While we're in a period of rapid social change, I think much of that is positive and overdue change - which to at least some extent has been inhibited from taking place in the past as a result of religion. As an example, most people wouldn't argue with the moral principle of a statement like "treat others as you would wish to be treated", yet nearly all religions do discriminate between groups to at least some extent (and often to a very considerable extent).

    You've referred to children born out of wedlock and the reduction in social pressures related to that. I agree there has been a major change there, but to my mind that's been generally a good change. I don't think it's moral to visit the sins of the father on a child and I'm not convinced that pressurizing people to stay together does in fact benefit the social fabric of society in any case. I don't think anyone would argue that children are not helped by having the involvement of a loving father, but it's not realistic to compare the success of such children with a cohort that has no involvement by a father (which is the typical comparison I see made, e.g. see this site). In most cases a loving father would not abandon their family, so a more realistic comparison would be to compare the effect of children living without a father to children living with an uninvolved father (likely to be an unhappy situation and possibly an abusive one). One of the reasons for children living without fathers is also the greater economic and social freedom for women to make their own decisions. I accept that there are costs as well as benefits to that, but overall it seems to me to be a very positive trend (that women can make their own decisions).

    I know the above discussion about children and fathers is at a very basic level. I'm happy to discuss further if you want, but I'm conscious your post said you didn't want to argue the point. My intention has therefore just been to make clear that there are arguable points that can be made, rather than go into detail.

    mashedtatersThacoBell
  • QuickbladeQuickblade Member Posts: 769

    Okay first of all you gave a general statement: "Abstaining from theft is irrational." You cannot justify that With a specific example.

    "So, given this scenario and many others like it (including my own), why do you believe that people who wish to be reasonable should give up their irattionsl beliefs purely on that basis? They could believe things for very good reasons that have nothing to do with science or logic."

    I looked up your comment and if your definition of reasonable is "someone you can have a conversation with" then there is no conflict between irrationality and being reasonable. I don't agree with your definition.

    @FinneousPJ
    You cherry picked what I said. I put in a very important qualifier. Let me repeat it.

    As long as you can find some way to escape the consequences, from a purely Dawrenian/scientific standpoint, abstaining from theft is irrational.

    I then presented you with a scenario on how someone could escape the consequences of theft, and then illustrated how it could be rational to steal and even murder, given certain circumstances of history, personality, and especially the certainty of avoiding consequences.

    I would call it rational to murder someone under the circumstance I presented you, but I certainly wouldn’t call it reasonable. You also cherry picked my definition of reasonable. It’s fine if you don’t agree with my definition, but it was significantly more than being able to have a conversation. I certainly don’t think everyone I have ever spoken to is reasonable. But I don’t want to argue semantics with you.

    To get to the root of the purpose of the illustration: If you can get ahead without having to face any negative consequences, what could possibly be stopping you other than so-called irrational beliefs?
    @mashedtaters You made these very sweeping claims and now you're shifting the burden of proof on me to prove them wrong. Sorry, I won't have it. Please show your argument for the first of your earlier claims "Abstaining from theft is irrational." Let's see if I cannot refute it. Also, @Grond0 already offered solid counterpoints, even though I don't agree with the last few points about religion.

    If you had a point to make about being reasonable, please explain what you mean. Apparently I misunderstood something.
    I believe I have made the argument without making sweeping claims. If you have a criticism or do not understand, please be more specific about a certain point and I will try to clarify.

    This is the argument:

    1a) Believing that you shouldn’t “steal” (or insert most moral standards here) if you can escape the consequences is an irrational belief.

    1b) The proof/argument, as I have illustrated here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036562/#Comment_1036562 , of this is in the desire of all humans to survive and to better their circumstances, which is our most powerful instinct—disobeying these instincts to survive would be considered irrational by most, I believe it is fair to say (unless you are deferring gratification).

    1c) If you can enhance your quality of life (or what you believe to be the quality of your life), then restraining your capacity to do so for abstractions like “the greater good of society” is irrational because...

    1d) ...abstractions don’t directly affect you and your personal or tribal/family survival—we did not evolve to care about abstractions.

    1e) The principle of deferral of gratification would be a rational reason to not steal, such as fear of the law. But if you can escape the consequences, as I have qualified, this would not apply.

    I will assume that you believe you shouldn’t steal if you can get away with it (if you believe theft is moral, we can change this discussion).

    2a) Since this is an irrational belief, why do you not abandon it as you said you should here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036526/#Comment_1036526 ?

    2b) If you could somehow escape the law or other consequences, why would you not steal to better your life and the life of your loved ones if the opportunity presented itself? It’s not like God is going to thrust you down to hell.

    3) If you do believe it IS rational to abstain from theft even when you can escape the consequences, then I invite you to justify it as rational.
    In the hypothetical, sure, it's irrational to abstain from theft.

    However, in reality, how are you going to know that you are going to escape the consequences?

    We do not know everything. Maybe a day after the case opens for investigation, some event gets publicized and now the police and DA have to be seen as "ough on crime", and your case gets investigated, you get caught, and so on.

    There's the simple "calculus of fraud", which is basically the chance of punishment times the cost of punishment against the payoff to determine whether to engage in an action. A simple math model of risk vs. reward I've seen in several courses in the last year covering several topics, such as whether to engage in a financial action or no in Finance or the aforementioned fraud calculus.

    mashedtatersThacoBell
  • QuickbladeQuickblade Member Posts: 769
    LadyRhian said:

    LadyRhian said:

    Heaven has always seemed weird to me. Basically (according to classical heaven) you sit/stand around praising God and/or playing the harp all day, which, honestly, sounds extremely boring, but I am assured that will be all I want to do. Others assure me that Heaven will make me as omniscient as God, so that I will never want to do anything or go anywhere else- and that sounds boring, too.

    Praising God forever sounds like being part of Donald Trump's Cabinet, forever. If God is god, why does he want such praise forever? It sounds very Trumpian, someone who must be praised forever.

    @LadyRhian
    There’s a reason why heaven isn’t detailed to any extent in the Christian scriptures. Anyone telling you abour heaven is selling it to themselves, or repeating mantras, or, like @ThacoBell said, just trying to interpret something vague with ambivalence

    Unlike God, there really are no descriptions of heaven except for the emotions felt there. “All we really know” about the afterlife is that heaven will be worth it.

    Oh, and that hell totally sucks.

    I think the idea of heaven/hell has been influenced in part by the requirement to defer gratification in order to survive.
    “Work now and you’ll eat, or else you’ll starve in the winter,” “Save some of your harvest for planting or you’ll starve next year,” “Don’t slaughter all the pigs and you can have bacon for a long time, or else you’ll have no pigs left to make more.”

    It’s basically the same concept. “Live this moral principle and you’ll go to heaven, or else you’ll go to hell.” Of course, failure to abide by moral principles often has horrible, observable real life consequences, though some people manage to escape a lot of them through power and money.
    I think it hasn't been said what heaven or hell is because it would be different for everyone. Like the old joke that Kitty heaven is Mousie hell, and the probably equally hoary quote, "The mind is its own place and itself, can make a hell of heaven; a heaven of hell," Heaven and hell differs by the person. For some, Heaven is not complete without a window into Hell so that they can point and laugh at the sinners. (and I would find such a heaven hellish, myself.) It allows everyone to imagine what they would find heavenly and hellish, and to imagine oneself either there, or not there.

    Similarly, imagine getting to Heaven and finding someone you loved deeply isn't there. Would that still be heaven, to you? Imagine somehow that you are the only one of all your friends and family, to make it to heaven. Would that still be heaven, to you? And if not, how does where you go signify as heaven?
    I prefer another line from another game called 'Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising'. The central theme to the game is nanotechnology, and using it to fight a robotic war to defend a now pacifistic Earth utopian society against the capitalistic elite powermongers of the past after their overthrow 20 years earlier in 2012.

    Anyways, one of the movie cinematics has a voiceover that goes "What human invention gives with one hand, it takes with the other. Hell lies implicit in a gift of Eden. The cornucopia of the nanotech assembler has also given the world its worst weapon since the atomic bomb: The disassembler. Nanotech engines programmed only to rip their host apart from the atomic level upwards." (video of millions of nanobots flooding in to destroy a tree). "The terrible versatility of the technology makes everything equally vulnerable. Buildings, trees, people...societies."

    Likewise, I consider religion a tool. It has had beneficial uses. It has also wreaked havoc over the last 8000 or more years.

    Grond0FinneousPJLadyRhian
  • mashedtatersmashedtaters Member Posts: 1,907

    1a) Believing that you shouldn’t “steal” (or insert most moral standards here) if you can escape the consequences is an irrational belief


    Very controversial. If you believe that stealing is wrong, then you have a reason to believe that you shouldn't steal. As such, the belief is rational, no?

    1b) The proof/argument, as I have illustrated here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036562/#Comment_1036562 , of this is in the desire of all humans to survive and to better their circumstances, which is our most powerful instinct—disobeying these instincts to survive would be considered irrational by most, I believe it is fair to say (unless you are deferring gratification)


    Desires aren't the only things that come into play when it comes you ethical action. You can desire to beat up an elderly woman for blocking your view to the television, but you might refrain from doing so because you believe that beating up elderly women is wrong. I think that would be a rational thing to do (even if you knew or at least believed that you could get away with it).

    1c) If you can enhance your quality of life (or what you believe to be the quality of your life), then restraining your capacity to do so for abstractions like “the greater good of society” is irrational because...

    1d) ...abstractions don’t directly affect you and your personal or tribal/family survival—we did not evolve to care about abstractions.


    We do care about abstractions. A lot. People die in war for abstractions, 'for king and country!', for 'freedom', for 'Justice', etc., all the time. Further, if we didn't care about abstractions, then we wouldn't form societies, institutions, economies, etc. and we'd all be worse off for it.

    1e) The principle of deferral of gratification would be a rational reason to not steal, such as fear of the law. But if you can escape the consequences, as I have qualified, this would not apply


    Putting beliefs aside, we care about more than personal consequences, as well. We care about justice. We care about right and wrong. The desire to make the world a better place is a reason for action, and thus can make that action rational.

    @Grammarsalad
    I’m not saying people DON’T care about these things. I’m saying it is obvious that they do. The question is WHY? Is it because it is rational on a Darwinian level? Obviously not.

    I believe you are missing the context of the conversation. We have been discussing that a belief in God is irrational (not that we aren’t motivated to believe in things for some reason) and that any belief that is irrational should be abandoned. I then drew the same line to morality as an illustration (an argument which has been sidestepped and sidetracked).

    The point I am making is that people have irrational beliefs.

    One of those is certain prinicples of morality (when capable of avoiding the consequences).

    Another is God.

    Should we not believe these things just because they are irrational?

    ThacoBell
  • mashedtatersmashedtaters Member Posts: 1,907

    Okay first of all you gave a general statement: "Abstaining from theft is irrational." You cannot justify that With a specific example.

    "So, given this scenario and many others like it (including my own), why do you believe that people who wish to be reasonable should give up their irattionsl beliefs purely on that basis? They could believe things for very good reasons that have nothing to do with science or logic."

    I looked up your comment and if your definition of reasonable is "someone you can have a conversation with" then there is no conflict between irrationality and being reasonable. I don't agree with your definition.

    @FinneousPJ
    You cherry picked what I said. I put in a very important qualifier. Let me repeat it.

    As long as you can find some way to escape the consequences, from a purely Dawrenian/scientific standpoint, abstaining from theft is irrational.

    I then presented you with a scenario on how someone could escape the consequences of theft, and then illustrated how it could be rational to steal and even murder, given certain circumstances of history, personality, and especially the certainty of avoiding consequences.

    I would call it rational to murder someone under the circumstance I presented you, but I certainly wouldn’t call it reasonable. You also cherry picked my definition of reasonable. It’s fine if you don’t agree with my definition, but it was significantly more than being able to have a conversation. I certainly don’t think everyone I have ever spoken to is reasonable. But I don’t want to argue semantics with you.

    To get to the root of the purpose of the illustration: If you can get ahead without having to face any negative consequences, what could possibly be stopping you other than so-called irrational beliefs?
    @mashedtaters You made these very sweeping claims and now you're shifting the burden of proof on me to prove them wrong. Sorry, I won't have it. Please show your argument for the first of your earlier claims "Abstaining from theft is irrational." Let's see if I cannot refute it. Also, @Grond0 already offered solid counterpoints, even though I don't agree with the last few points about religion.

    If you had a point to make about being reasonable, please explain what you mean. Apparently I misunderstood something.
    I believe I have made the argument without making sweeping claims. If you have a criticism or do not understand, please be more specific about a certain point and I will try to clarify.

    This is the argument:

    1a) Believing that you shouldn’t “steal” (or insert most moral standards here) if you can escape the consequences is an irrational belief.

    1b) The proof/argument, as I have illustrated here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036562/#Comment_1036562 , of this is in the desire of all humans to survive and to better their circumstances, which is our most powerful instinct—disobeying these instincts to survive would be considered irrational by most, I believe it is fair to say (unless you are deferring gratification).

    1c) If you can enhance your quality of life (or what you believe to be the quality of your life), then restraining your capacity to do so for abstractions like “the greater good of society” is irrational because...

    1d) ...abstractions don’t directly affect you and your personal or tribal/family survival—we did not evolve to care about abstractions.

    1e) The principle of deferral of gratification would be a rational reason to not steal, such as fear of the law. But if you can escape the consequences, as I have qualified, this would not apply.

    I will assume that you believe you shouldn’t steal if you can get away with it (if you believe theft is moral, we can change this discussion).

    2a) Since this is an irrational belief, why do you not abandon it as you said you should here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036526/#Comment_1036526 ?

    2b) If you could somehow escape the law or other consequences, why would you not steal to better your life and the life of your loved ones if the opportunity presented itself? It’s not like God is going to thrust you down to hell.

    3) If you do believe it IS rational to abstain from theft even when you can escape the consequences, then I invite you to justify it as rational.
    In the hypothetical, sure, it's irrational to abstain from theft.

    However, in reality, how are you going to know that you are going to escape the consequences?

    We do not know everything. Maybe a day after the case opens for investigation, some event gets publicized and now the police and DA have to be seen as "ough on crime", and your case gets investigated, you get caught, and so on.

    There's the simple "calculus of fraud", which is basically the chance of punishment times the cost of punishment against the payoff to determine whether to engage in an action. A simple math model of risk vs. reward I've seen in several courses in the last year covering several topics, such as whether to engage in a financial action or no in Finance or the aforementioned fraud calculus.
    The question isn’t about whether or not you could get away with it. The question is IF you could get away with it, would you violate a morale principle? If not, why? (And that it would be irrational not to on a Darwinian level.)

    People get away with horrible things in real life all the time. Even if you get caught, it’s only a matter of power/influence/money to escape things like jail time.

    ThacoBell
  • mashedtatersmashedtaters Member Posts: 1,907
    @Grond0

    So this actually basically brings us back to a conversation you and I had about two months ago.

    How do you know that we haven’t drifted away from morality? What is the metric that you use to measure that?

    You told me last time you mostly considered morality to be subjective. Is that still true?

    If that is still true, then how do you know the changes have been positive or negative, moral or immoral? As I understand it, subjectivist specifically eschew moral prinicples in favor of “what is best for society,” but that of course in and of itself is subjective.

    (Thanks for your thoughts on fatherlessness.)

    ThacoBell
  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    @Grammarsalad read my mind. I was going to start with: stealing hurts other people, which makes me feel bad. What scares me sometimes is how religious people require something beyond this... But if @mashedtaters is going to qualify this with "If you remove all consequences" then it also ceases to be a moral dilemma.

    Grond0mashedtatersThacoBell
  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    edited December 2018
    Grond0 said:

    @FinneousPJ 2 is not a subset of 1 - as I think your previous posts have in fact showed. It is not possible to both have no belief about the existence of gods (group 1) and to believe that gods do not exist (group 2). While group 2 cannot be a subset of group 1, it is true that the groups are related - both are a subset of a more general group. Perhaps this illustration will clarify the position.

    Interesting. Here's why I think you're wrong: the two categories are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, please see attachment.


    Grond0 said:

    I agree with your logic, "if something is unknowable (such as the existence of a supernatural god) there is no significant difference between claiming knowledge or belief about that something" but not the strikethrough. Let me ask you, if something is unknowable, can there be a rational argument for believing it?

    My interpretation of your position has been that you are arguing for a belief system founded on logic and rationality and your final sentence above continues to suggest that. While I follow that system myself, I am not willing to rule out any value of an alternative belief system (such as one based on perceived direct experience). However, if I am correct about your position, I don't understand why you have struck out part of my sentence above. I specifically added the word "supernatural" to make it clear I was talking about an unknowable god (supernatural being defined something like "attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature"). If an entity is beyond scientific understanding and you believe that all knowledge needs to be explicable by science, you should have no problem with defining that entity as unknowable.
    Sure, if you define supernatural as unknowable, then it's a tautology.

  • Grond0Grond0 Member, Moderator Posts: 4,868

    @Grond0

    So this actually basically brings us back to a conversation you and I had about two months ago.

    How do you know that we haven’t drifted away from morality? What is the metric that you use to measure that?

    You told me last time you mostly considered morality to be subjective. Is that still true?

    If that is still true, then how do you know the changes have been positive or negative, moral or immoral? As I understand it, subjectivist specifically eschew moral prinicples in favor of “what is best for society,” but that of course in and of itself is subjective.

    @mashedtaters I'm impressed you can remember the details of previous conversations - you obviously have a far better memory than me :p.

    I do still think morality is largely subjective and I agree that causes certain problems when you try to assess what's changed over time. The way I tackle that is by considering how things have changed in relation to what we now consider moral, rather than to consider how closely actual events reflected the moral ideals at any previous point in time. My view on that is that there has been a general trend for moral improvement in the world over time - you can see that reflected in things like more equality, less violence and less crime. That doesn't mean I think everything has improved - I think there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the stability of the family unit for instance - but it seems clear to me that the overall trend for the world has been to become more moral.

    Incidentally, I don't think I'm a subjectivist in the way you suggest as I do think there is a need for separate moral principles rather than simply measuring everything against what's best for society. I agree that the latter is important though, for instance:
    - in helping to establish what morality should be in the first place
    - in weighing up actions where different moral principles are competing (like the starving child stealing food)

    FinneousPJmashedtatersThacoBell
  • Grond0Grond0 Member, Moderator Posts: 4,868

    Grond0 said:

    @FinneousPJ 2 is not a subset of 1 - as I think your previous posts have in fact showed. It is not possible to both have no belief about the existence of gods (group 1) and to believe that gods do not exist (group 2). While group 2 cannot be a subset of group 1, it is true that the groups are related - both are a subset of a more general group. Perhaps this illustration will clarify the position.

    Interesting. Here's why I think you're wrong: the two categories are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, please see attachment.

    OK - I can see why you say that, but that's the result of you applying your own definition of atheism, rather than using the ones I provided in my original statement. The post I made said:
    "I think part of the confusion is that the term atheist has 2 possible meanings:
    1) I don't believe (or disbelieve) that a god or gods exist.
    2) I believe that a god or gods do not exist."

    I deliberately chose those definitions because they are competing definitions. One is not a subset of the other, which is why it's so difficult to talk about atheism without defining what you mean by it. However, you've based your analysis on a third and looser possible meaning that can encompass both the others, i.e. "I don't believe that a god or gods exist".

    ThacoBell
  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    Grond0 said:

    Grond0 said:

    @FinneousPJ 2 is not a subset of 1 - as I think your previous posts have in fact showed. It is not possible to both have no belief about the existence of gods (group 1) and to believe that gods do not exist (group 2). While group 2 cannot be a subset of group 1, it is true that the groups are related - both are a subset of a more general group. Perhaps this illustration will clarify the position.

    Interesting. Here's why I think you're wrong: the two categories are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, please see attachment.

    OK - I can see why you say that, but that's the result of you applying your own definition of atheism, rather than using the ones I provided in my original statement. The post I made said:
    "I think part of the confusion is that the term atheist has 2 possible meanings:
    1) I don't believe (or disbelieve) that a god or gods exist.
    2) I believe that a god or gods do not exist."

    I deliberately chose those definitions because they are competing definitions. One is not a subset of the other, which is why it's so difficult to talk about atheism without defining what you mean by it. However, you've based your analysis on a third and looser possible meaning that can encompass both the others, i.e. "I don't believe that a god or gods exist".
    The first and third look the same to me...

  • mashedtatersmashedtaters Member Posts: 1,907
    edited December 2018

    @Grammarsalad read my mind. I was going to start with: stealing hurts other people, which makes me feel bad. What scares me sometimes is how religious people require something beyond this... But if @mashedtaters is going to qualify this with "If you remove all consequences" then it also ceases to be a moral dilemma.

    @FinneousPJ
    Ok, so stealing from other people makes you feel bad, which is why you don’t do it: in a way, you could say that you believe in not stealing, and your feelings are your motivation for maintaining that belief (correct if I’m wrong, please).

    (I should have qualifed that I was referring to external consequences, such as social ostracism, punishment from the law, etc., not consequences internal to oneself, which can be rationalized away.)

    Why does hurting other people by stealing make you feel bad?

    Would you say that is a rational position to feel bad when you steal from someone?

    Grond0ThacoBell
  • Grond0Grond0 Member, Moderator Posts: 4,868

    Grond0 said:

    Grond0 said:

    @FinneousPJ 2 is not a subset of 1 - as I think your previous posts have in fact showed. It is not possible to both have no belief about the existence of gods (group 1) and to believe that gods do not exist (group 2). While group 2 cannot be a subset of group 1, it is true that the groups are related - both are a subset of a more general group. Perhaps this illustration will clarify the position.

    Interesting. Here's why I think you're wrong: the two categories are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, please see attachment.

    OK - I can see why you say that, but that's the result of you applying your own definition of atheism, rather than using the ones I provided in my original statement. The post I made said:
    "I think part of the confusion is that the term atheist has 2 possible meanings:
    1) I don't believe (or disbelieve) that a god or gods exist.
    2) I believe that a god or gods do not exist."

    I deliberately chose those definitions because they are competing definitions. One is not a subset of the other, which is why it's so difficult to talk about atheism without defining what you mean by it. However, you've based your analysis on a third and looser possible meaning that can encompass both the others, i.e. "I don't believe that a god or gods exist".
    The first and third look the same to me...

    Let me rephrase my definitions then, this time concentrating on the portion of the first one that you keep disregarding.
    1) I don't disbelieve god exists.
    2) I do disbelieve god exists.
    Stated in that form I think it's pretty clear that 2) is not a subset of 1). However, I don't have any further interest in discussing this.

    ThacoBell
  • mashedtatersmashedtaters Member Posts: 1,907
    Grond0 said:

    @Grond0

    So this actually basically brings us back to a conversation you and I had about two months ago.

    How do you know that we haven’t drifted away from morality? What is the metric that you use to measure that?

    You told me last time you mostly considered morality to be subjective. Is that still true?

    If that is still true, then how do you know the changes have been positive or negative, moral or immoral? As I understand it, subjectivist specifically eschew moral prinicples in favor of “what is best for society,” but that of course in and of itself is subjective.

    @mashedtaters I'm impressed you can remember the details of previous conversations - you obviously have a far better memory than me :p.

    I do still think morality is largely subjective and I agree that causes certain problems when you try to assess what's changed over time. The way I tackle that is by considering how things have changed in relation to what we now consider moral, rather than to consider how closely actual events reflected the moral ideals at any previous point in time. My view on that is that there has been a general trend for moral improvement in the world over time - you can see that reflected in things like more equality, less violence and less crime. That doesn't mean I think everything has improved - I think there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the stability of the family unit for instance - but it seems clear to me that the overall trend for the world has been to become more moral.

    Incidentally, I don't think I'm a subjectivist in the way you suggest as I do think there is a need for separate moral principles rather than simply measuring everything against what's best for society. I agree that the latter is important though, for instance:
    - in helping to establish what morality should be in the first place
    - in weighing up actions where different moral principles are competing (like the starving child stealing food)
    So correct me if I’m wrong, but what it seems like you’re saying in your second paragraph is that the goals posts for both morality AND how you measure that morality shift and move?
    I would argue that trend has happened (in the west, over a large picture, though not necessarily recently) in general, because people become more committed to objective standards of universal morality.

    In your last paragraph, I must take a moment to say that every time someone invoked the cliche picture of the starving child, my first instinct is to always ask why is the child starving? In other words, what moral principle has been violated that led to this child being starved?

    ThacoBell
  • GrammarsaladGrammarsalad Member Posts: 2,433
    edited December 2018

    1a) Believing that you shouldn’t “steal” (or insert most moral standards here) if you can escape the consequences is an irrational belief


    Very controversial. If you believe that stealing is wrong, then you have a reason to believe that you shouldn't steal. As such, the belief is rational, no?

    1b) The proof/argument, as I have illustrated here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036562/#Comment_1036562 , of this is in the desire of all humans to survive and to better their circumstances, which is our most powerful instinct—disobeying these instincts to survive would be considered irrational by most, I believe it is fair to say (unless you are deferring gratification)


    Desires aren't the only things that come into play when it comes you ethical action. You can desire to beat up an elderly woman for blocking your view to the television, but you might refrain from doing so because you believe that beating up elderly women is wrong. I think that would be a rational thing to do (even if you knew or at least believed that you could get away with it).

    1c) If you can enhance your quality of life (or what you believe to be the quality of your life), then restraining your capacity to do so for abstractions like “the greater good of society” is irrational because...

    1d) ...abstractions don’t directly affect you and your personal or tribal/family survival—we did not evolve to care about abstractions.


    We do care about abstractions. A lot. People die in war for abstractions, 'for king and country!', for 'freedom', for 'Justice', etc., all the time. Further, if we didn't care about abstractions, then we wouldn't form societies, institutions, economies, etc. and we'd all be worse off for it.

    1e) The principle of deferral of gratification would be a rational reason to not steal, such as fear of the law. But if you can escape the consequences, as I have qualified, this would not apply


    Putting beliefs aside, we care about more than personal consequences, as well. We care about justice. We care about right and wrong. The desire to make the world a better place is a reason for action, and thus can make that action rational.

    @Grammarsalad
    I’m not saying people DON’T care about these things. I’m saying it is obvious that they do. The question is WHY? Is it because it is rational on a Darwinian level? Obviously not.

    I believe you are missing the context of the conversation. We have been discussing that a belief in God is irrational (not that we aren’t motivated to believe in things for some reason) and that any belief that is irrational should be abandoned. I then drew the same line to morality as an illustration (an argument which has been sidestepped and sidetracked).

    The point I am making is that people have irrational beliefs.

    One of those is certain prinicples of morality (when capable of avoiding the consequences).

    Another is God.

    Should we not believe these things just because they are irrational?
    I'm not sure what that means, 'rational on a Darwinian level'. Mother love exists because if mothers don't love their children, their children are less likely to survive and thus are less likely to pass their genes to successive generations, but mothers do not love their children because they want to pass their genes to successive generations. That's just not how mother love works.

    However, mother love does give mothers a kind of reason for action, a 'reason' why they may act altruistically towards their children. This is basic instrumental rationality: if you desire x, and you take y to be an acceptable means for achieving x, then it is rational For You to do y.

    Rationality comes in more or less two 'flavors': instrumental and intrinsic. Instrumental rationality is purely desire based, and there are philosophers, such as Hume, that believe that rationality only comes in this form. That is why he says,

    'reason is and ought only to be a slave of the passions.'

    It doesn't really matter for the purpose of the discussion why you want x (e.g. whether or not a Darwinian justification can be given for your desire that x). The desire for x gives you a reason for y, and that is all that is required for instrumental rationality.

    Well, as you might guess, it's more complicated than that:
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationality-instrumental/

    Intrinsic rationality is more contraversial (for philosophers) and the idea here is that there are some ends that are objectively valuable in themselves, independent of desire, and thus are always rational for agents to set. Moral ends are typically the kinds of ends we are talking about, here (e.g. see Kant's groundwork for the metaphysics of morals--you can get a free PDF of it with a Google search).

    But, one might argue that belief in God--in some form or other--is rational in this, or rather a similar, sense. Kant argues that it is rational to believe in God in his second critique (the critique of practical reason, which you almost certainly can get for free online, as well).

    Regardless, even if one sticks to instrumental rationality--that's not my bag, but I'm happy to carry it to move things along--many things can be justified as 'rational'.

    An overview:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_and_value_rationality

    Edit: but sure, I'll agree that people have irrational beliefs. But we would need a good definition of the sense of rationality we are talking about--REALLY not an easy thing to develop--in order to get a sense of what an irrational belief might look like in order to argue that a belief in God is irrational.

    Here, we might look to theories on belief justification:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-coherence/

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/

    FinneousPJGrond0
  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456

    @Grammarsalad read my mind. I was going to start with: stealing hurts other people, which makes me feel bad. What scares me sometimes is how religious people require something beyond this... But if @mashedtaters is going to qualify this with "If you remove all consequences" then it also ceases to be a moral dilemma.

    @FinneousPJ
    Ok, so stealing from other people makes you feel bad, which is why you don’t do it: in a way, you could say that you believe in not stealing, and your feelings are your motivation for maintaining that belief (correct if I’m wrong, please).

    (I should have qualifed that I was referring to external consequences, such as social ostracism, punishment from the law, etc., not consequences internal to oneself, which can be rationalized away.)

    Why does hurting other people by stealing make you feel bad?

    Would you say that is a rational position to feel bad when you steal from someone?
    What about the consequence of harming another person? Is that also removed in your hypothetical? If not, why is that not reason enough?
    Grond0 said:

    Grond0 said:

    Grond0 said:

    @FinneousPJ 2 is not a subset of 1 - as I think your previous posts have in fact showed. It is not possible to both have no belief about the existence of gods (group 1) and to believe that gods do not exist (group 2). While group 2 cannot be a subset of group 1, it is true that the groups are related - both are a subset of a more general group. Perhaps this illustration will clarify the position.

    Interesting. Here's why I think you're wrong: the two categories are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, please see attachment.

    OK - I can see why you say that, but that's the result of you applying your own definition of atheism, rather than using the ones I provided in my original statement. The post I made said:
    "I think part of the confusion is that the term atheist has 2 possible meanings:
    1) I don't believe (or disbelieve) that a god or gods exist.
    2) I believe that a god or gods do not exist."

    I deliberately chose those definitions because they are competing definitions. One is not a subset of the other, which is why it's so difficult to talk about atheism without defining what you mean by it. However, you've based your analysis on a third and looser possible meaning that can encompass both the others, i.e. "I don't believe that a god or gods exist".
    The first and third look the same to me...

    Let me rephrase my definitions then, this time concentrating on the portion of the first one that you keep disregarding.
    1) I don't disbelieve god exists.
    2) I do disbelieve god exists.
    Stated in that form I think it's pretty clear that 2) is not a subset of 1). However, I don't have any further interest in discussing this.
    Yes, I agree. However, this is not analogous to your previous categories.

    1a) Believing that you shouldn’t “steal” (or insert most moral standards here) if you can escape the consequences is an irrational belief


    Very controversial. If you believe that stealing is wrong, then you have a reason to believe that you shouldn't steal. As such, the belief is rational, no?

    1b) The proof/argument, as I have illustrated here https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1036562/#Comment_1036562 , of this is in the desire of all humans to survive and to better their circumstances, which is our most powerful instinct—disobeying these instincts to survive would be considered irrational by most, I believe it is fair to say (unless you are deferring gratification)


    Desires aren't the only things that come into play when it comes you ethical action. You can desire to beat up an elderly woman for blocking your view to the television, but you might refrain from doing so because you believe that beating up elderly women is wrong. I think that would be a rational thing to do (even if you knew or at least believed that you could get away with it).

    1c) If you can enhance your quality of life (or what you believe to be the quality of your life), then restraining your capacity to do so for abstractions like “the greater good of society” is irrational because...

    1d) ...abstractions don’t directly affect you and your personal or tribal/family survival—we did not evolve to care about abstractions.


    We do care about abstractions. A lot. People die in war for abstractions, 'for king and country!', for 'freedom', for 'Justice', etc., all the time. Further, if we didn't care about abstractions, then we wouldn't form societies, institutions, economies, etc. and we'd all be worse off for it.

    1e) The principle of deferral of gratification would be a rational reason to not steal, such as fear of the law. But if you can escape the consequences, as I have qualified, this would not apply


    Putting beliefs aside, we care about more than personal consequences, as well. We care about justice. We care about right and wrong. The desire to make the world a better place is a reason for action, and thus can make that action rational.

    @Grammarsalad
    I’m not saying people DON’T care about these things. I’m saying it is obvious that they do. The question is WHY? Is it because it is rational on a Darwinian level? Obviously not.

    I believe you are missing the context of the conversation. We have been discussing that a belief in God is irrational (not that we aren’t motivated to believe in things for some reason) and that any belief that is irrational should be abandoned. I then drew the same line to morality as an illustration (an argument which has been sidestepped and sidetracked).

    The point I am making is that people have irrational beliefs.

    One of those is certain prinicples of morality (when capable of avoiding the consequences).

    Another is God.

    Should we not believe these things just because they are irrational?
    I'm not sure what that means, 'rational on a Darwinian level'. Mother love exists because if mothers don't love their children, their children are less likely to survive and thus are less likely to pass their genes to successive generations, but mothers do not love their children because they want to pass their genes to successive generations. That's just not how mother love works.

    However, mother love does give mothers a kind of reason for action, a 'reason' why they may act altruistically towards their children. This is basic instrumental rationality: if you desire x, and you take y to be an acceptable means for achieving x, then it is rational For You to do y.

    Rationality comes in more or less two 'flavors': instrumental and intrinsic. Instrumental rationality is purely desire based, and there are philosophers, such as Hume, that believe that rationality only comes in this form. That is why he says,

    'reason is and ought only to be a slave of the passions.'

    It doesn't really matter for the purpose of the discussion why you want x (e.g. whether or not a Darwinian justification can be given for your desire that x). The desire for x gives you a reason for y, and that is all that is required for instrumental rationality.

    Well, as you might guess, it's more complicated than that:
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationality-instrumental/

    Intrinsic rationality is more contraversial (for philosophers) and the idea here is that there are some ends that are objectively valuable in themselves, independent of desire, and thus are always rational for agents to set. Moral ends are typically the kinds of ends we are talking about, here (e.g. see Kant's groundwork for the metaphysics of morals--you can get a free PDF of it with a Google search).

    But, one might argue that belief in God--in some form or other--is rational in this, or rather a similar, sense. Kant argues that it is rational to believe in God in his second critique (the critique of practical reason, which you almost certainly can get for free online, as well).

    Regardless, even if one sticks to instrumental rationality--that's not my bag, but I'm happy to carry it to move things along--many things can be justified as 'rational'.

    An overview:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_and_value_rationality

    Edit: but sure, I'll agree that people have irrational beliefs. But we would need a good definition of the sense of rationality we are talking about--REALLY not an easy thing to develop--in order to get a sense of what an irrational belief might look like in order to argue that a belief in God is irrational.

    Here, we might look to theories on belief justification:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-coherence/

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/
    To me, there is a big difference between when assessing whether a motivation is rational

    if you desire x, and you take y to be an acceptable means for achieving x, then it is rational For You to do y.

    And whether a belief in a claim about existence is rational

    Believing X exists makes me feel good, therefore the belief is rational.

    It does not follow that X exists just because believing it does makes you feel good.

    GrammarsaladJLee
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