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Some Serious Thinking On Evolved Morality

Posted on Apr 16, 2014 by Tom Gilson

We’ve been discussing the moral argument for God here lately in a two-part short series, where I introduced this version of the argument:

AB1. We cannot know whether any action really is right or wrong unless right and wrong are real.
AB2. We know that some actions really are right and others are wrong.
AB3. Therefore (AB1 and AB2) right and wrong are real.
AB4. If there is no God, then right and wrong cannot be real.
AB5. Therefore (AB3 and AB4) there is a God.

(In this context “action” includes thoughts, intentions, and so on, and “real” and “really” are intended to be synonymous with “objective” and “objectively:” that rightness and wrongness have objective reality that transcends human opinion and does not depend on human judgment.”

That’s the summary form of a much longer argument.

This week I came across one of the more challenging rebuttals to this argument, in a paper by Oliver Curry in Evolutionary Psychology:Who’s Afraid of the Naturalistic Fallacy.” Curry wasn’t addressing theism or the moral argument in this paper, but his conclusions, if accurate, would seriously undermine the moral argument.

I’m just beginning to study his paper. I have an extended response to evolutionary morality that I’ve been holding back on for a few years, trying to decide whether to work it up for a journal article or just publish it here. I’m still trying to decide. In the meantime I’ll leave this here for you to work through as you wish, and I’ll plan on posting a specific response of my own before too long.

Also in view: Sharon Street, “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value.”

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173 Responses to “ Some Serious Thinking On Evolved Morality ”

  1. scbrownlhrm says:

    There seems to be an odd equivocation in the language of the moral evolutionary appeal. Normative is, first, claimed to be non-entity, as is ought. Then, bit by bit, a subtle background of a more “modest” “pan-world” is described, not real, mind you, but sort of “there” (in our evolved construct) and so we can in fact “not really but still really” justify talking about the normative. In the same way, ought is never claimed to be free of us, but is, in a subtle background of a more “modest” “pan-world”, described as being, bit by bit, not real, mind you, but sort of “there” (in our construct) and so we can really talk about the ought which precedes our (non-free) choice. And so, no, it is not binding beyond us, but its in us, and so it is, in a way, pulling on us, and yes, pull’s enslavement replaces ought’s freedom, and that’s not an ought, but we think that is enough to get by on. So we’ve accounted for the ought, though it isn’t an ought that we’ve accounted for. But that’s close enough for us to justify using our preferred epistemology of Theism. So, bottom line, we ought to love. Well, not really, but, it’s close enough to lend just enough of a hint of credibility that the subtle illusory shouldn’t be noticed.

    It is quite easy to replace Theism with Naturalism when one simply employs Theism’s epistemology while creating non-real-realities by which to tie, anchor, Naturalism to that language.

    The desire to embrace such illusory pseudo-anchors is the desire in question. It finds no anchor, of course, but one is not needed when the implied “we get by” and the implied “it’s close enough” is deemed to be enough of an anchor. While every Mind’s perception is, pan-world, of an anchor, and there is none, the claim of evolutionary morality itself is, on equivocation, of an anchor

    We’re not supposed to notice the “it’s close enough”, because, after all, it’s close enough to lend just enough credibility that the subtle illusory shouldn’t be noticed. “More-Modest” is supposed to rise to the level of what is actually perceived pan-mind, pan-world, that is, it is supposed to get “close enough” such that we won’t notice that the explanation of an X is being navigated by presenting us with a Y. They look so much alike, after all.

    Evolutionary morality thus fails to account for what the Real Mind of the Real Man actually perceives, pan-mind, pan-world and thus seems implausible given the light of more robust explanations. It also insists that what is must be, and that “ought not have been” be ripped from our hands, though pan-mind (every mind), pan-world perceives otherwise. Over and over the theory fails to account for what the Real Mind of the Real Man actually perceives, pan-world.

    And, it necessitates, of me, that I embrace a whole array of evils as valid means to what are at bottom illusory anchors, and, perceiving what I perceive, I am not prepared to embrace such real evils in order to gain such illusory anchors.

    The topography within the God Who is Love not only explains an X with an X, and is thus more plausible, not only lacks the need to attempt the bait and switch of “…..a more modest….”, and is thus more plausible, not only explains the world actually perceived, and is thus more plausible, but also never asks us to embrace real evils and with it an illusory anchor and an illusory evil, and is thus more plausible. Further, Immutable Love’s (God’s) landscape never insists that what is must be, never insists that “ought not have been” is at bottom some illusory anchor (for which naturalism asks us to embrace real evil in order to obtain), though our minds perceive otherwise, and is thus more plausible. These are but a few of the reasons why the landscape of that fully singular, that fully triune “Self-Other-Us” Who is Himself E Pluribus Unum necessarily houses the most gritty and robust explanatory power in all possible worlds.

  2. Ray Ingles says:

    Very interesting. I’ll have to give it a good read.

  3. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    The proximate “location” of moral principles lies in the nature of the rational agent considered—in the case, in human nature. In that sense, morality is subjective because the knowing and acting subject is man. But in the ultimate or distal sense, the “location” of moral principles is in God as the creator of natures.

    For example, it is not natural—and I’m speaking biologically with a wealth of medical research to back it up—for human males to engage in homosexual acts: it’s not natural operationally because it’s dangerous, and it not natural ontologically because it’s not “in” the nature of a human to engage in such acts—warped and confused desires and passions notwithstanding—and hence it’s not natural morally, which means it’s wrong.

    No matter how passionate one is about homosexual acts, there’s no way this changes to anti-biological (hence anti-nature) character of it. No matter how much one rationalizes about flying, one cannot fly like a bird because it’s not in our natures to fly like birds. But, that doesn’t preclude our making artifacts that help us to actually fly: we don’t fly like birds, but we do fly like humans. Moreover, it is good—really good—for a human to fly because he/she has exercised that most unique aspect of what it means to be a human—reason—to attain a good end (goal, telos). It is also in the nature of human beings to procreate—and biologically, we are “made” that way. It is a good—a real good—that is also subject to that highest and most uniquely-human power/capacity: reason.

    The homosexual act, however, is not natural because the end (goal, telos) of procreation is intentionally thwarted—not by reason but by appetite and misinformed (or mis-reasoned) passion, which by definition is then misdirected. Even if one uses an artifact called a condom, the result is still a thwarting of the natural procreative act… with an artifactual layer added, as if that morally justifies the act, all while rationalizing that the thin artificially membrane will protect the agents engaged in the act from… wait for it… an act that is objectively, biologically, dangerous, i.e., unnatural.

    In his article Curry adopts the Humean view that humans (in fact, all things) “have” no nature. So, naturally (pun intended) the paper takes a logically valid direction but comes to a logically unsound conclusion precisely because the premises are Hume-loaded. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. It’s ho-hum. And, to the extent that he sets things up to reach a pre-conceived end, it’s certainly not science: it’s stupid.

    Here’s a summary—albeit a fair one—of Hume: we have no knowledge of material substances; bodies are collections of ideas not under our control (“impressions”) (so far he’s following Berkeley, but…); we also have no knowledge of mental substances. What I call “me” is not a mental substance because it is not enduring: it is nothing but a changing collection of ideas and feelings which come and go with different frequencies upon the stage of consciousness… and even “stage” does not refer to any definite thing of which we have an idea. It follows from his very silly and utterly pessimistic view of the reach of human reason when he, ahem, “thinks” about causality: just because we can’t “see” causality, therefore it doesn’t exist and all we have is causality “by convention.” The warped Humean view of reality contains not reasons but causes… and not even causes but “convention.” (Since science is certain knowledge through causes, Hume is one of the greatest enemy of the particularly-human, wonderfully-cognitive adventure known as science.)

    Here is the 800-lb gorilla in the room Hume misses (I would argue intentionally avoids): One can answer the ethical question “what should we be and do, individually and socially, what is the good life and the good society?” only if one answers the prior anthropological question “what is a human being?” (Is humanity merely a lucky cosmic accident—a fortunate arrangement of molecules, a chemical equation, an evolved slime pool, an animal which has learned to wear clothes? Is the mind reducible to the mere brain? Or, the opposite extreme: is man really God in disguise, or a god, or an angel? Or, is man a double thing: half-beast and half-angel? Or, is man something between beast and angel?)

    But, one can answer this anthropological question, “what is man?” only if one answers the prior metaphysical question, “what is” or “what is real?” “what is reality?” (We all know Hume’s childish, literally book-burning bigotry against metaphysics, don’t we?) If spirit does not exist, we cannot be a spirit or a God or an angel, and if matter does not exist, that’s the only thing we could be—immaterial. And, involved in all these questions—metaphysics, anthropology, ethics, politics—is also another question, that of epistemology: “how can we know these things?” Well, Hume takes an a priori position that we can’t know certain things simply because he wants it that way. (Please, read what he writes: it’s all there in black on white.) Hume’s view is typically “modern” in the worst sense: it’s anti-reality and hence wrong because he reduces knowledge to what can be seen and touched, i.e., he reduces evidence (without a shred of argumentation) to evidence that suits him. (Sound familiar regarding atheists, huh?) He’s wrong about causality; he’s wrong about substance, essence, nature, metaphysics, etc. They are targeted by him because they get in the way of his flawed thinking.

    Permit me this final expansion: Freud is non-thinking in his aping of the Humean pedigree: Freud says on the last page of his, Civilization and Its Discontents, that “the only thing we are certain of is that all our reasoning is nothing more than the rationalizing of our desires.” Well, that’s the sentence we can be absolutely certain is false on its face, because it’s self-contradictory: if it’s true, then that piece of reasoning as well is mere rationalization. So, why should I believe it if it is Freud rationalizing his own desires? Why should I permit Freud’s desires determine my beliefs? If reason is subjective, then that “piece” of reason is subjective as well: it’s only subjective that it’s only subjective. So, it refutes itself—committing rational suicide.

    Reason must be in touch with objective truth (understood not in the scientistic sense)—at least some of the time. If it wasn’t, we could have no standard for judging when it wasn’t true. Recall C.S. Lewis: you need to understand objectively what straight is before judging something to be crooked. If there’s no real money, we have no real basis by which to judge money to be counterfeit. If there’s no ultimate truth, we can’t judge any thought as erroneous.

    So, there’s no other way to say it: on its face what Curry writes is self-serving balderdash, fit only for those living in the shadowlands of their own little Platonic caves.

  4. G. Rodrigues says:

    Here is the 800-lb gorilla in the room Hume misses (I would argue intentionally avoids): One can answer the ethical question “what should we be and do, individually and socially, what is the good life and the good society?” only if one answers the prior anthropological question “what is a human being?”

    Bingo. And if there is no such thing as a “human nature”, meaning the latter question has no meaningful answer, neither does the former.

  5. bigbird says:

    To someone who believes we are here because of a fortunate accident via undirected evolution, it is meaningless to talk of telos or goals, or even what is “natural”. Right and wrong are simply evolved preferences.

    As I’ve said in another thread, there is really no arguing with someone who truly believes this. The moral argument has no force when someone is happy to admit there is no real right or wrong.

  6. scbrownlhrm says:

    Bigbird is right. The psychotic who fails to perceive moral love’s archetypes within the sadistic, or within motions such as child sacrifice, is a Mind in the dark, unaware of the Real. Or, such a one is aware of the Dark but prefers the delusion over the Real and thus explains X by offering Y and by autohypnosis embraces the equivocation as reality.

    Reality will impress neither the psychotic nor the wish-fulfillment of escapism.

    However, though evolutionary morality’s “A more modest “It’s close enough”” is a failed hypothesis in that a Y fails to explain an X, neither psychosis nor autohypnosis are without a cure. The brutal repeatability and patience of both Truth and Grace need not be abandoned.

    If the naturalist should persist in stealing Real and granting it to Delusion then all vectors will bring us to mereological nihilism’s failure to grant the naturalist’s existence. Mind dependence will there on force of reason, or necessity, or both, discover the naturalist’s own i-am to be contingent upon the end of regress of the immutable I-AM.

    For now, it is enough to refuse this hypothesis simply on the grounds that, over and over again, it fails to explain what every mind, pan world perceives, for Y’s in aggregation never will sum to an X.

  7. Ray Ingles says:

    bigbird – What if someone believes that there’s a human nature (a la G. Rodrigues) that’s arisen from evolution? One can believe that humans can have goals even if evolution doesn’t.

  8. scbrownlhrm says:

    There are no goals, anywhere, in nature, for, the only forces at work in nature are those of nature. Goalless, blind, deterministic reverberations of fluxes.

    There is no “supra-nature” free of nature, though, the naturalist’s appeal to some sort of spooky supra-nature that is mysteriously free of nature is telling as to his perception of reality and evolutionary morality’s failure to account for such.

    And it gets worse:

    Volitionality is necessary, but not sufficient, for moral love’s archetypes. The naturalist can’t find volition in his physical systems, but even if he does, he’s gotten nowhere, as A “is” is, in all vectors, equivalent to B “is”.

    One cannot have goals, on naturalism, as Sam Harris honestly concedes. We may choose, but we may not choose what we choose. Preference (irrationally conditioned neuronal reflex) here ends the regress and we find just no reason that A is different than B. That A is is the [moral] equivalent of the fact that B is. (Oddly, such is the case between A and B with or without volition.)

    Physical systems just fail to sum to intentionality / volitionality as no physical system is free of nature, free of goalless, deterministic forces, and there again we must charge pan-mind’s perception of volition (and ought, and…..) with the status of delusion, and we must do so with no justification at all – and in fact we must do so against all known and perceived evidence, and this we must do only for a commitment to a presupposition.

    Here as in other arenas trading out Reality for Delusion seems to be the necessary fall back of the naturalist. That is to say, denying the undeniable is an equation this hypothesis must include in its mathematics, else God.

  9. djc says:

    Tom,

    I do wonder, though, djc, when do we see the result of which you spoke: “less Nazis, less human tracking, less violence.” Is that an empirical finding on your part? Or a faith expression? (I’m aware of Pinker’s book, though I haven’t read it. Maybe you could summarize it.)

    Definitely not faith, I don’t bring faith into arguments (as far as I can help it). I think the Wikipedia entry on the Better Angels of Our Nature has an excellent summary: “The decline in violence, [Pinker] argues, is enormous in magnitude, visible on both long and short time scales, and found in many domains, including military conflict, homicide, genocide, torture, criminal justice, treatment of children, homosexuals, animals and racial and ethnic minorities.”

    If “the good stuff and the ugly stuff is all nature,” then why is some of it good while some of it is bad?

    I have said in the past that values under naturalistic assumptions ultimately come from emotions–i.e. the ineffable quality of joy, sorrow for example–, and Curry expands that much better than I could do. Indeed, Hume said it first about the “passions”.

  10. djc says:

    G. Rodrigues,

    Here is the 800-lb gorilla in the room Hume misses (I would argue intentionally avoids): One can answer the ethical question “what should we be and do, individually and socially, what is the good life and the good society?” only if one answers the prior anthropological question “what is a human being?”

    Bingo. And if there is no such thing as a “human nature”, meaning the latter question has no meaningful answer, neither does the former.

    Under naturalistic assumptions, human nature is well defined just incredibly complex: numerous behavioral modules shaped by natural selection over eons, some as recent as hundreds of thousands of years, some as old as millions. Studies seem to show that human nature is not one “will” but many “wills” represented by many potentially conflicting brain modules jockeying for priority depending on circumstances. The illusion of a single will seems likely to be the result of a more recent module, the “agent awareness” module, viewing the brain itself as an agent and the winner of the battle of strengths among modules as the agent’s “decision” only in hindsight.

    Complexity alone should not be a problem for naturalistic assumptions. In the above sketch, understanding each behavioral module (and I use “module” in the conceptual sense, not the physical sense) is expected to lead to a complete understanding of human nature. So I’m not sure why you’re saying human nature has no meaningful definition under naturalistic assumptions.

  11. djc says:

    bigbird,

    To someone who believes we are here because of a fortunate accident via undirected evolution, it is meaningless to talk of telos or goals, or even what is “natural”. Right and wrong are simply evolved preferences.

    Not evolved “preferences” but something much deeper and more fundamental. To quote Hume from the paper: “Something must be desirable on its own account.” It would be strange to call joy or sorrow a “preference”. The quality of joy that makes it joyful is not something we can choose to like or dislike, likewise for sorrow. Moral values are the same way. I think theists and non-theists have to agree on this. Where we disagree is how those moral values got to be there.

  12. Melissa says:

    djc,

    The quality of joy that makes it joyful is not something we can choose to like or dislike, likewise for sorrow. Moral values are the same way. I think theists and non-theists have to agree on this. Where we disagree is how those moral values got to be there.

    Yes, but what affects a person to produce these emotions varies which I think is where preference comes in. Unless there is something that it means to be human, which naturalism denies, then on what basis do we judge that some actions are wrong for all these things that we happen to label human?

  13. Melissa says:

    Ray,

    What if someone believes that there’s a human nature (a la G. Rodrigues) that’s arisen from evolution? One can believe that humans can have goals even if evolution doesn’t.

    Do you mean from evolution or through evolution? The distinction is important. I think you need to work through what it means for there to be a real human nature. What are the implication if this? And how can you affirm this coherently while avoiding God?

  14. Melissa says:

    Ray,

    To clarify, I do not expect you to have answers to those questions now but they are questions you probably should be working towards answering. In the meantime asserting that objective goals can arise without God is a little premature.

  15. Holopupenko says:

    @10: #delusional reductionism (is there any other kind?)

  16. Jenna Black says:

    I am reading Alvin Plantinga’s 2011 book, “Where the conflict really lies: Science, religion and naturalism.” Plantinga convincingly makes the case that the science of evolution is not a “defeater” of theism and that in fact, the science of evolution does not support naturalism. I highly recommend to debunk many arguments for naturalism that have been made here.

    I also observe that for the most part, these arguments for a sort of moral evolution seem to me to be a classic example of equivocation: using the term “evolution” to mean both biological evolution and learning since human learning is cumulative and therefore appears to “evolve” over time, such as movement from barbarism to civilization. However, atheists/naturalists fail to make a clear and scientific linkage between biological evolution and the “evolution” or development of morality through learned behaviors in civilized societies.

  17. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc,

    We are viewing observed behavior through a frame.

    But which frame accounts for said behaviors? Theism’s or Evolutionary morality’s?

    First, we find that our genomic / neuronal constructs have not changed (and thus cannot account for any observed change in behavior) with your comment:

    “I’m saying that something as complex as the genetic blueprint for an emotion is unlikely to have evolved much in a hundred thousand years, and certainly not in the last century over which we’ve seen the most dramatic drop in violence (refer again to Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Human Nature for copious references).”

    Yes, certainly not in the last hundred years. Or even the last 50K to 100K years.

    But you still like to point out a few centuries of calm (Nadir) as a proof against future Spikes, and yet history has proven to us, over and over and over…… and…. over….. that this entire appeal to Nadir/Spike is baseless. Quoting Pinker does not make this any different. It only shows that he is as mistaken as are you for believing him despite obvious evidence to the contrary.

    Then you seem to want to imply that our genomic content is changing with your comment:

    “Those [violent] people are shrinking in number and likely to become extinct”

    Extinct? How? You are asserting here that a future Nadir will become impossible (extinct…there are no neuronal constructs that will react “badly”). But if the last 100K years has seen little if any change, and certainly not the last 100 years, how is it that Mankind will become immune (extinct traits cannot manifest, right?) to Nadirs/Sikes given that it is not genomic / neuronal constructs which are driving the change?

    Then we find that if we swap infants from 100K years ago till now, and so on, each infant processes the same moral and intellectual capacity (potential) for, given that our genomic content / neuronal constructs have not changed, each infant is the same, as you comment:

    “Throw a bunch of newborns back in time into a Stone Age family and I predict we would see little if any modern moral development in their later child and adult behavior.”

    Thus you are arguing that something has always been there, and through various levels of sight, of light and dark, we behave differently, depending on – not evolution / selection / structural change in any way at all – but on our lack of or our possession of said sight, said light, said dark.

    You’ve argued evolution’s prescriptive out of the frame through which we are viewing observed behavior, and have argued for Scripture’s descriptive into that frame’s sightline, and quite well, in fact.

  18. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc,

    You comment:

    “Studies seem to show that human nature is not one “will” but many “wills” represented by many potentially conflicting brain modules jockeying for priority depending on circumstances. The illusion of a single will seems likely to be the result of a more recent module, the “agent awareness” module, viewing the brain itself as an agent and the winner of the battle of strengths among modules as the agent’s “decision” only in hindsight.”

    What do you mean by “jockeying”?

    Do aimless fluxes aim? Compete?

    Is that what you are seeking to “hint at”? To “smuggle in”?

    You state we don’t have a will, but instead we have many wills (many parts aiming, jockeying).

    Of course, after these “hints” and “subtle implications” are employed to get us “close enough” to garnish “just enough of a hint of an X”, you then plug in the word “illusion” and in comes the inevitable Y that is supposed to be an X.

    Only, illusion is the wrong word.

    An illusion is a misrepresentation of an actual X as a skewed X. A delusion is what you are describing, for, there is no X, no choice, no will, no jockeying, no aiming.

    Your are presenting us with a Y and claiming to have accounted for an X. We are not volitional, but we – pan-mind, pan-world – only suffer from a psychotic delusion of volitionality.

    And I guess we are supposed to believe Pan-Mind, Pan-World is delusional/psychotic because…….because why?

    You don’t justify your assertion, your premise, that every mind, pan-mind, pan-world is psychotic / delusional.

    Since you don’t justify your assertion, but simply foist it into this discussion, it remains baseless.

    So, again, we are supposed to believe your assertion that every mind, pan-mind, pan-world is delusional/psychotic because …….?

    Your hypothesis of evolutionary morality is not plausible given that there are coherent ontological descriptive-prescriptives which actually do explain an X with an X. Every mind, Pan-Mind, Pan-World perceives having a head, or intentionality, or will, or existing, and so on. Such are undeniable. Evolutionary morality must deny the undeniable, else God. The problem, though, with telling us that we don’t “really” have a head but simply suffer from the delusion of such, is that such a radical claim had better come to the table with more than a commitment to a presupposition.

    Another problem: Mereological Nihilism flowing into Mind Dependence brings us to the question of whether or not you and I actually exist, (do you exist? How do you know?) and thus to our own i-am, and such flows into contingency upon the Immutable I-AM, else absurdity.

  19. scbrownlhrm says:

    Jenna,

    “…..a classic example of equivocation: using the term “evolution” to mean both biological evolution and learning…..”

    Great point!

    There are all sorts of models on rates of genomic change, and all are far, far away from our own viewed window of recorded history. The fastest I could find in a claim is 5,000 years ago, putting any change in behavior since then in the hands of sight and light and dark, and not genomic, neuronal change. That was the most friendly that I viewed, the others were far more devastating to the claims of evolutionary morality. Of course, even 5K years of stability is devastating and necessitates the equivocation you point out.

  20. scbrownlhrm says:

    There is this quote which I’ve taken from the Christian Blog, Stand To Reason, from a commentator from whom I’ve learned much:

    “”…there has been relative peace especially in the developed countries for 50 years.”

    Joking right?

    1946-1949 Chinese Civil War
    1946-1954 French Indochina War
    1948 Israel’s War of Independence
    1950-1953 Korean War
    1954-1962 French-Algerian War
    1955-1972 First Sudanese Civil War
    1956 Second Arab-Israeli War
    1959 Cuban Revolution
    1959-1973 Vietnam War
    1967 Six-Day War
    1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan War
    1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War
    1990-1991 Persian Gulf War
    1991 Ten-Day War (Slovenia)
    1991-1995 Croatian War of Independence
    1990-1994 Rwandan Civil War
    1991-2002 Sierra Leone Civil War
    1991-Now Somalia

    And on and on….” (end quote)

    From 2002 till 2014…..well….. and so on.

    The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) fears that human trafficking is getting worse, but offers no evidence, claiming obstruction in data gathering.

    This is not to downplay the moral progress that comes, does come, has come, with the light of the Judeo-Christian origins of democracy and innate human worth of all members of mankind, as even an enemy must be loved, valued, even served, as slaves and women must be treated as being on par with Christ, for….. they….. are, as the deformed and ill are found to be valuable as worth transcends physicality, and as kindness is to be returned for violence. With such light, such sight, comes, as expected, moral progress, the many and varied and gross sins of Christians being just no threat at all to Immutable Love’s Ontology for they are just that: sins. Evil is not a delusion in His Ontology, as it is in Naturalism. No. It is real, actual, evil. Sin. But we digress. Rather, the brief list is given (quoted) simply to show the gross misuse, overuse, and dishonest amplification of our current 100 year Nadir with comments such as, “The decline in violence, [Pinker] argues, is enormous in magnitude….”

    Added to this is the equivocation on “evolution” and “learning” (sight) which Jenna pointed out.

    Added to this is the lack of any change in genome / neuronal structure over the last (on the principle of charity) 5000 years.

    We find that Man awakes to find himself there upon the stage, Man Alive, throughout all of recorded history, Man interacting with Falsehoods and Dark, Man interacting with Truth and Light, Man motioning within the confines of the knowledge of Good and Evil, motioning within those confines which Scripture defines as the Outside, that which somehow lacks Love’s Immutable E Pluribus Unum.

  21. djc says:

    Melissa,

    Yes, but what affects a person to produce these emotions varies which I think is where preference comes in.

    Well, that’s true under theistic assumptions too, isn’t it? For example, wouldn’t you agree that Muslims are at least sincere in their moral practices even if misled? Sincerity I would take to mean being ultimately anchored by a set of core moral feelings very similar to my own.

    Naturalists might not always use the word “misled” but would argue that moral practices should change if they are self-defeating in the larger picture, and that people can be persuaded to change moral practices as long as the changes lead to the same core set of moral feelings. I don’t think this would be much different from the way you might attempt to persuade a Muslim to abandon Islam and convert to Christianity, by appealing to the larger picture.

    Unless there is something that it means to be human, which naturalism denies, then on what basis do we judge that some actions are wrong for all these things that we happen to label human?

    “Something that it means to be” is an esoteric phrase that I’m not even sure I fully grasp in all contexts. I do know that if this phrase is rejected by physicalism/naturalism, it intends a very specific and narrow rejection meaning that there is no experience of being that is not captured by physical arrangements of atoms. But that is very different from saying there is no experience of being. “Experience” is likely to be something very different from introspective appearance, “being” is likely to be to be something very different from introspective appearance, but experience of being is undeniable. What it means to be human is captured entirely by the physical arrangement of atoms of human beings.

    If “experience of being” is called an illusion by naturalism, that can not ever mean that the experience of being is of no import in society, laws, rules, morality. It can only mean that the “experience of being” is probably misunderstood and capable of being broken down and analyzed much further.

  22. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Sincerity and coming out on top are naturalism’s ceiling. You’re misguided attempt at equating them to Love’s Ontology reveals your lack of insight into Christianity.

  23. djc says:

    scbrownlhrm,

    First, we find that our genomic / neuronal constructs have not changed

    I’m saying genomic content of human beings has likely not changed enough in 100k years to explain the last few century’s downward trend in violence as a change in genes.

    However, genomic content of human beings is certainly changing at some small rate by genetic drift and natural selection. The human brain certainly is assumed by naturalism to have evolved from primitive structures, and moral behaviour most likely requires multiple structures in the brain, each of which have evolved at different times. The reptilian brain– our brainstem and cerebellum– first appeared 500 million years ago, the limbic brain (hippocampus, amygdala) emerged in first mammals 150 million years ago, and the neocortex emerged 2-3 million years ago. All three of these structures are likely important to moral behavior.

    But you still like to point out a few centuries of calm (Nadir) as a proof against future Spikes,

    It’s not Nadirs and Spikes that Pinker highlights but a fairly steady, fairly gradual trend overall, that’s the key result from the data. And no one is saying anything about this providing proof of the future, least of all Pinker.

    If the data is statistical noise, then there is no trend. But Pinker’s work is solid and there clearly is a downward trend in violence.

    how is it that Mankind will become immune (extinct traits cannot manifest, right?) to Nadirs/Sikes given that it is not genomic / neuronal constructs which are driving the change?

    No one is saying anything about “immune”. Projecting the trend into the future seems to be your concern, not mine. I’m simply acknowledging the trend, noting that it differs from religious assumptions that would be expected to show the inverse.

    You don’t justify your assertion

    I’m not making assertions except to the existence of data that appears to support naturalistic assumptions about morality and the brain.

  24. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    It’s not “illusion”.

    It’s “delusion”.

    And you are right, the delusion is of a delusional import.

    The distinction is important.

  25. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    What trend?

    Learning?

  26. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    The infant “evolves” in the process of learning?

  27. djc says:

    Jenna,

    I also observe that for the most part, these arguments for a sort of moral evolution seem to me to be a classic example of equivocation: using the term “evolution” to mean both biological evolution and learning since human learning is cumulative and therefore appears to “evolve” over time, such as movement from barbarism to civilization.

    This is exactly my point. Most of the moral development in the last few centuries is not due to biological evolution but to “learning” or, more specifically, the ability of humans to optimize their environments and endeavors. The core moral emotions have “finished” evolving biologically in some sense and now human intelligence seems to be the dominant factor in change.

    As Pinker notes, the decline in violence is enormous in magnitude, visible on both long and short time scales, and found in many domains. Since this moral development took place in spite of increasing secularization, it has been my argument that naturalistic morality doesn’t need religious assumptions to be successful.

  28. Jenna Black says:

    djc, RE: #21

    You say this: “What it means to be human is captured entirely by the physical arrangement of atoms of human beings.”

    This is a good summary of the fundamental premise of naturalism: that the physical arrangement of atoms is all there is to a human being.

    This is the premise that theism challenges.

  29. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    You are correct to point out the impact of the moral progress that comes, does come, has come, with the light of the Judeo-Christian origins of democracy and innate human worth of all members of mankind, as even an enemy must be loved, valued, even served, as slaves and women must be treated as being on par with Christ, for… they… are, as the deformed and ill are found to be valuable as worth transcends physicality, and as kindness is to be returned for violence. With such light, such sight, comes, as expected, moral progress.

    That you value those Truths even though you call it all – at bottom – delusions is a testimony to their veracity and a testimony to your own incoherence.

  30. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Of course, you are welcome to borrow Theism’s epistemology. I didn’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t, given that you prefer them to naturalism’s epistemology of indifference.

  31. Jenna Black says:

    djc, RE: #27

    First, in terms of the alleged “decline in violence,” it seems to me that you overlook the sad tale of the 20th century, where a greater number of human beings were victims of violence, on a much grander scale, than any other time in recorded human history. See, for example, Rabbi David Wolpe’s book, “Why faith matters.” On p.61, Rabbi Wolpe states this: “The twentieth century was by far the bloodiest in human history.” He then backs up this statement with research and statistics.

    It may be the case that you disagree with Rabbi Wolpe, but his argument certainly calls into question your claim that violence is on the decline.

    The concept of “naturalistic morality” is a philosophical rather than scientific notion or argument, which is Alvin Plantinga’s point in his 2011 book that science doesn’t concord with naturalism. As philosophical arguments go, naturalism does not defeat arguments for and the reasoning behind theism.

  32. scbrownlhrm says:

    Evolutionary Morality escapes the criticism of committing that pesky Fallacy:

    The paper quoted in this thread’s opening piece, “Who is afraid of the Naturalistic Fallacy” is a disappointment for the paper takes us through a maze going exactly nowhere. If we happen to have the taste for, the preference for, Child Sacrifice, then, that is Morally Good and the “escape” from the fallacy ends up being to assert that we cannot ask it to differentiate between Love and Child Sacrifice. Both are neutrally equal. Whim (taste) A is on par with Whim (taste) B. A = B = C in this morality, and, so, there cannot be any fallacy.

    Of course this is what so many have been avoiding intellectually embracing all along as their obviously theistically contaminated opinions are getting in the way of their teleology.

    A quote from the (disappointing) essay:

    “In case this is all rather abstract, let me re-state the point by way of an analogy. Suppose
    that instead of being about morality and why people find certain things morally good and bad,
    this article had been about sweetness, and why people find certain things sweet and certain things
    sour. The Humean-Darwinian would have argued that humans have an evolved digestive system
    that distinguishes between good and bad sources of nutrition and energy; and that the human
    ‘sweet tooth’ is an evolved preference for foods with high sugar-content over foods with low
    sugar-content. If one accepted this premise, it would make no sense to complain that evolution
    may have explained why humans find certain things sweet, but it cannot tell us whether these
    things are really sweet or not. It follows from the premises of the argument that there is no
    criterion of sweetness independent of human psychology, and hence this question cannot arise.” (bold mine)

    And so we end exactly where we knew we would despite all the fancy and empty talk about “goals” and “aims”. What I want is what is good. Period. And, what we want is morally good. Period. I rule. Period. Mob rule. Period. Both rule. Period. A = B = C because the taste buds that like power are no different or worse or better than the taste buds that like acquiescence, and, so, you see, there is no fallacy. Assault or Serve. A = B. Assault and Conquering are not “really good” even though the taste buds ask for more of it, just as, Service is not “really bad” even though our taste buds may prefer being served, just as, Service isn’t “really” good even though… and so on.

    The way this essay “escapes” the fallacy is, and this is comical, to simply state that the question cannot be asked. “…and hence this question cannot be asked..”

    Huh?

    In other words, if you press evolutionary morality for justification in calling Whim A better/different than Whim B, there is a fallacy, for all whims are neutrally equal, all branches are part of the same tree, but, if you just don’t ask them about it, there is no fallacy. And, you see, you just “cannot” ask this of evolutionary morality, so don’t ask.

  33. Melissa says:

    djc,

    Well, that’s true under theistic assumptions too, isn’t it? For example, wouldn’t you agree that Muslims are at least sincere in their moral practices even if misled?

    In the areas where they are wrong, they are wrong on matters of fact, which is exactly what is at issue and what you agree naturalism cannot provide an argument for.

  34. djc says:

    Jenna Black,

    First, in terms of the alleged “decline in violence,” it seems to me that you overlook the sad tale of the 20th century, where a greater number of human beings were victims of violence, on a much grander scale, than any other time in recorded human history.

    As background, Steven Pinker makes the claim that violence is on the decline and does it persuasively with voluminous data and arguments in his 2011 book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.” I am strongly convinced by his arguments and I expect anyone who reads the book will be convinced as well. The data he relies on isn’t that subtle or controversial.

    Pinker specifically addresses the 20th century in Chapter 5, section “Was the 20th Century Really the Worst?”. While the 20th century has likely seen the greatest number of deaths in a century in absolute terms, the real measure of violence must be taken relative to the population. If you live in a village of 100 people and there is 1 violent death per year, it is clearly much safer than living in a village of 10 people with 1 violent death per year. Figure 5-3 in his book gives a better picture of the last 1500 years showing that our century is barely in the top 10 of violence due to war.

    Further, the second half of the 20th century has seen an unprecedented avoidance of war between the great powers which has been called the Long Peace. So it is a stretch indeed to claim the 20th century is the worst in terms of violence.

    There’s much much more that can be said, but perhaps it is a little off-topic for the current post.

    As philosophical arguments go, naturalism does not defeat arguments for and the reasoning behind theism.

    I have never tried to use naturalism to defeat theism in this forum. The context of all my replies have been to claims of weaknesses in naturalism as a world view.

    I should also add that the paper by Curry is not an attack on theism either but a defense of naturalism.

  35. bigbird says:

    Pinker specifically addresses the 20th century in Chapter 5, section “Was the 20th Century Really the Worst?”. While the 20th century has likely seen the greatest number of deaths in a century in absolute terms, the real measure of violence must be taken relative to the population.

    Of course, this argument itself depends heavily on one’s moral views.

    If you take abortion to be a violent act (as I do), then the 20th century is probably by far the most violent century ever (although the 21st century will eventually be worse).

  36. Melissa says:

    djc,

    As Pinker notes, the decline in violence is enormous in magnitude, visible on both long and short time scales, and found in many domains. Since this moral development took place in spite of increasing secularization, it has been my argument that naturalistic morality doesn’t need religious assumptions to be successful.

    I think you misunderstand the argument. Our actions can become more moral just by having better information to make decisions which we do have. Of course if we use that information to pursue a morally bad objective then the opposite is true. In a small subset of morality the secular still affirms as good what really is good, but naturalism cannot rationally justify such a thing as good and bad that is true for those humans that don’t share your moral preferences. It cannot justify the concept of defects, except as a subjective feeling where the feelings do not point to any objective reality or with reference to cultural conventions.

  37. djc says:

    Melissa,

    In the areas where [Muslims] are wrong, they are wrong on matters of fact, which is exactly what is at issue and what you agree naturalism cannot provide an argument for.

    I don’t agree with that. Let’s suppose the reasons Muslims have certain moral practices is they’re mistaken about the facts of the origin and purpose of those moral practices. To persuade a Muslim, a Christian would have to appeal to facts that support Christian moral practices as both the real truth and best long-term (afterlife) strategy for the individual. A naturalist would appeal to facts that support non-religious moral practices as the real truth and best long-term (this life) strategy for an individual.

    As for which exact moral practices, the Christian would appeal to the general guidelines of the Bible and currently understood best moral practices for honoring God, the naturalist would appeal to the “greater good”, golden rule, and currently understood best moral practices for ensuring that individuals’ emotional moral needs are met by society.

  38. djc says:

    Melissa,

    As Pinker notes, the decline in violence is enormous in magnitude, visible on both long and short time scales, and found in many domains. Since this moral development took place in spite of increasing secularization, it has been my argument that naturalistic morality doesn’t need religious assumptions to be successful.

    I think you misunderstand the argument.

    Let me clarify. If the premises and data are correct, the argument shows that naturalistic morality can lead to a decline in violence. Justifying naturalistic morality is a different argument, although I think it is a lot more palatable if one can show that naturalistic morality leads to peace rather than war.

  39. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc,

    Again you’re confused.

    You state, first, the last 100 years is the nadir of violence. You then claim that secularism is thus credited, as the percentage of truly non-religious folks is, though still the minority planet wide (atheism last century, anyone?), on the rise. I’ll leave that bit of dis-logic alone as I think its flaw speaks for itself. Then, you tell us it isn’t 100 years, it is 1500 years, which I guess brings the credit back to theism, and perhaps Christianity, on your terms, as the “root” of it all.

    Then, again, we realize this is all a discussion of, not evolution (huh?), but of Man’s encountering the truth of human worth, a truth which naturalism cannot affirm. So there too the credit goes, again, to theism, on your terms.

    I’m not sure what you think you are gaining for naturalism here.

    The only gain I can see is that theism is not needed just as long as people believe, think, and act according to a paradigm which only theism can provide.

    That’s a very poor argument if you mean to “defend the weak spots” of naturalism and morality.

    Of course, as the opening (linked) essay concedes, there is no fallacy because there is no asking evolutionary morality to differentiate between appetites. No question, no fallacy. No differentiating, no fallacy. No better/worse, no fallacy.

    And The Winner Is:

    Fortunately, though, we can bypass the fallacy because we can just get everyone to believe the last 2000 years (your data asserts/supports this) of the value of every slave, every woman, every, well, every human being, and to then think that way, act that way, and hold those truths to house a veracity which transcends the delusional. Since the last 1500 years started it, and since you assert world views get credit, then the unavoidable Christianized conscience (which Gandhi referenced) which peaked about 100 years ago bore its natural fruit. And gets the credit.

    That is your argument along your own terms. Care to change them? History is stubborn. If you now refute this, I’d like to talk further with you about the last 2000, 1500, 100 years and about Gandhi’s reference on appealing to end evil/slavery having the necessary substrate of that pesky (and unavoidable) Christianized conscience in which to take root. Our own nation’s abolition has identical ties, of course.

    These are your terms. Care to change them? History is stubborn.

    That’s a very poor argument if you mean to “defend the weak spots” of naturalism and morality.

    And as far as I can see, that has been your whole argument, and your only argument.

    So, okay, sure, theism is not needed, but:

    What is needed is that people believe the truths of, think according to, act on, and hold dear the moral paradigm which Theism grants and which Naturalism fails to even utter.

    In case you missed it, no, that is not a good defense of the “weak spots” of naturalism. It is just ignoring inconvenient facts, inconvenient history, and inconvenient ties within ontology/mind and then blindly carrying on as if no one will notice.

    But facts are hard to miss.

    It’s really a bit silly.

  40. Melissa says:

    djc,

    Let me clarify. If the premises and data are correct, the argument shows that naturalistic morality can lead to a decline in violence. Justifying naturalistic morality is a different argument, although I think it is a lot more palatable if one can show that naturalistic morality leads to peace rather than war.

    So your argument is that naturalists can successfully make improvements in working towards particular goals? Or once we agree that a particular goal is good we can work towards it without referring to the rational justification for it’s goodness? No one claims otherwise, the question is what, in naturalism, good means.

  41. scbrownlhrm says:

    Melissa,

    djc is advancing a theistic substrate of conscience.

    As per #39

  42. scbrownlhrm says:

    Atheists need to know their history, particularly as it relates to the last 2000 year, 1500 year, and 100 year timelines.

    There are some interesting letters from Pastor MLK Jr. on Gandhi’s references on Christ and love in his own push for equal worth, as well as the afore mentioned Bertrand Russell reference on Gandhi’s efforts landing atop a “Christianized conscience” placed over Gandhi’s home, in which the atheist (Russell) credits history’s change (Gandhi’s success) with just that substrate.

    The atheist, Russell, knew his history.

  43. bigbird says:

    bigbird – What if someone believes that there’s a human nature (a la G. Rodrigues) that’s arisen from evolution? One can believe that humans can have goals even if evolution doesn’t.

    Sure, if you are willing to believe human nature has arisen via evolution, creating our own goals is just part of that human nature.

    My reference to telos and goals (which is really the same word) was in relation to the purpose of human beings, not the purposes we make up for ourselves. If we evolved from undirected evolution, then there’s obviously no purpose or telos for us whatsoever. We just are.

  44. bigbird says:

    The atheist, Russell, knew his history.

    He knew a lot of history, but he was wrong about the so-called Dark Ages (see the History of Western Philosophy for his views).

  45. scbrownlhrm says:

    bigbird,

    Yes, I was simply pointing out the obvious “winner of credit” in djc’s game of inaccuracies and referring to the end of various enslavements within mammoth pits such as within Wilberforce’s arena, Gandhi’s arena, and our own Nation’s Abolition. And, of course, Pastor Martin Luther King Jr.’s appeal to the innate worth and equality of all human beings would be a forth pit so traversed. Lest we forget, the economic consequences of Paul’s letter to Philemon would prove to be of less import than the moral truth told therein, as history has, slowly, proved, as, eventually, Truth wins out.

  46. Ray Ingles says:

    One cannot have goals, on naturalism, as Sam Harris honestly concedes… We may choose, but we may not choose what we choose.

    Sam Harris isn’t my pope, scbrownlhrm. I don’t have to agree with him on all things, and in fact I don’t. You’re wrong here, too. A choice is motivated by a desire or preference. They put it better in the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”: ‘A man can do whatever he wants, but he can’t want whatever he wants.’

    Looked at a certain way, choice is a process of sorting through our wants, and applying those wants to the available options. Even someone who does something altruistically, with no thought for their own benefit, is still doing it with the intent of benefitting others – i.e. because they desire good for another.

    When we speak of ‘mastering our desires’ we don’t mean being able to turn them on and off like a switch. We mean recognizing what’s most important (to us), and not being swayed by the passions of the moment into doing something contrary to those things we deem more important. It’s not an easy process – and nobody does it perfectly – but it’s necessary, if there actually are things that are more important to us than others.

    How can you choose to change what you want, like, say, giving up an addiction? It’s always decision motivated by a more powerful, more fundamental desire – say, being there for one’s family, or maybe just staying alive.

  47. Ray Ingles says:

    Melissa – I actually have looked at the questions you pose. As you should know.

    Jenna –

    I also observe that for the most part, these arguments for a sort of moral evolution seem to me to be a classic example of equivocation

    Funny, seems the opposite from my perspective. I’ve been trying to make that distinction and theists keep denying or misunderstanding it.

  48. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    I know. You believe physical systems in our skull are free of nature’s indifferent fluxes.

    I don’t, because of physics.

    And learning = some sort of link to “evolution” is implied in your argument, otherwise, how is ANY of it ANY “evidence” for naturalism?

  49. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Describing our moral interior and saying we can’t not have a moral interior is not saying anything.

    I know I can’t be a tree, or a rock.

    That is the sum of such a line.

    As a moral being, I choose, freely, thus materialism is false, and, wants just don’t sum to oughts, thus materialism is false.

    Be careful for that fallacy described in #32.

  50. Jenna Black says:

    djc, RE: #37

    You say this: “As for which exact moral practices, the Christian would appeal to the general guidelines of the Bible and currently understood best moral practices for honoring God, the naturalist would appeal to the “greater good”, golden rule, and currently understood best moral practices for ensuring that individuals’ emotional moral needs are met by society.”

    This conversation has gotten rather bizarre, IMO, since this seems to be a claim that naturalism proposes a paradigm of moral reasoning based on an abstract notion of a “greater good.” Which “greater good” might that be that nature proposes that we strive to achieve? Of course, this suggests that nature has a goal, a purpose, above and beyond itself, which is anathema to naturalism. Tell us, please: How much difference is there between the “greater good” of naturalism and the Greatest Good of theism?

    While you are formulating your answer, you might want to check out the history of how the theory of evolution and “survival of the fittest” has been abused as a justification for some violent and oppressive ideologies. Naturalism does not have a sterling track record as a rationale for a paradigm for moral reasoning.

  51. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    If you ever get around to justifying any form of better/worse amid the various branches necessarily part of the only tree in the garden, I’ll refer you to #32 here and ask whyyou disagree with the linked essay, given that it is based solely on naturalism’s paradigm.

    As the opening (linked) essay concedes, there is no fallacy because there is no asking evolutionary morality to differentiate between appetites. No question, no fallacy. No differentiating, no fallacy. No better/worse, no fallacy.

    All I see in your assertion is said fallacy.

  52. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    Be careful for that fallacy described in #32.

    You don’t understand evolution, scblhrm. What’s worse, you don’t understand that you don’t understand.

    You actually quoted why you were wrong there, and didn’t realize it.

    The essay is talking about why we have the moral impulses, the instinctive sense of right or wrong that we do. (AB2 above.) Reread the sweetness analogy again, you quoted it. The sensation of sweetness evolved, and is ‘sufficient unto itself’ in the sense that sweetness is a consequence of human physiology.

    But the sensation of sweetness evolved in response to something: “good and bad sources of nutrition and energy”. The instinctive sense of right and wrong is a mental, internal phenomenon – but it’s tied to real-world phenomena of strategies and consequences.

    You don’t grasp the evolutionary distinction between ‘proximate’ and ‘ultimate’ causes. Again, I prescribe a dose of “Evolution for Everyone” by David Sloan Wilson. My local library has a copy; I’d bet yours does too.

    (Look at it this way; if you’re actually interested in communicating with people, it might help you understand them better, translate your ideas into terms they’ll better understand.)

  53. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Sweetness in the liking the ugly stuff.

    You’re ignoring evil.

    Or perhaps you mean to assert that nothing we like, nothing we call sweet, is ever evil?

    If so:

    What world are you in?

    It’s not mine.

  54. Jenna Black says:

    Ray,

    Quite frankly, at this point I’m not at all clear about what you are arguing. Let me attempt to clarify. It seems to me that your claim is that the science of evolution, which doesn’t as far as I know address morality at all, is sufficient to explain human morality and to serve as a basis for a philosophy of morality (or ethics). Is this correct?

  55. djc says:

    Melissa,

    So your argument is that naturalists can successfully make improvements in working towards particular goals? Or once we agree that a particular goal is good we can work towards it without referring to the rational justification for it’s goodness? No one claims otherwise, the question is what, in naturalism, good means.

    The moral emotions (passions) determine what human beings find good and bad and form the origin of moral values. The naturalist approach looks for ways to maximize moral values, which is another way of saying “pursuit of common good”.

    From the Curry paper:

    Recent developments in game theory, evolutionary biology, animal behaviour and neuroscience suggest that Hume was right to think that humans have natural dispositions to act ‘in the common good’. Evolutionary theory leads us to expect that organisms will be social, cooperative and even altruistic under certain circumstances. Under the headings of kin altruism, coordination, reciprocity and conflict resolution, evolutionary theory can explain why and how some organisms care for their offspring and their wider families, aggregate in herds, work in teams, practice a division of labor, communicate, share food, trade favors, build alliances, punish cheats, exact revenge, settle disputes peacefully, provide altruistic displays of status, and respect property.

    Let us assume, for argument’s sake, that humans are in possession of a suitably-modified suite of primate adaptations for cooperation. Such a discovery would update Hume’s psychology and moral philosophy in the following ways. “Passions” would be revealed as a certain kind of evolved motivational system and moral passions would be revealed as evolved motivational systems for cooperation. And an updated psychology would lead to an updated meta-ethics.

    As we have seen, according to the Humean-Darwinian thesis the test of whether a passion is moral is whether it promotes ‘the common good’, not whether it is natural.

  56. djc says:

    Jenna,

    This conversation has gotten rather bizarre, IMO, since this seems to be a claim that naturalism proposes a paradigm of moral reasoning based on an abstract notion of a “greater good.”

    While you are formulating your answer, you might want to check out the history of how the theory of evolution and “survival of the fittest” has been abused as a justification for some violent and oppressive ideologies. Naturalism does not have a sterling track record as a rationale for a paradigm for moral reasoning.

    I think it would greatly help if you read the Curry paper in the OP. “Greater good” refers to meeting the moral values of social organisms. Curry specifically addresses both your objections:

    The Humean-Darwinian thesis argues that ‘all moral values are natural phenomena’, but it does not argue, and nor does it follow, that ‘all natural phenomena are moral’ or even ‘all natural values are moral’. As we have seen, according to the Humean-Darwinian thesis the test of whether a passion is moral is whether it promotes ‘the common good’, not whether it is natural. And besides, to a naturalist, all possible states of the universe are equally natural, and therefore ‘naturalness’ cannot act as a criterion of anything.

  57. Ray Ingles says:

    Jenna –

    It seems to me that your claim is that the science of evolution, which doesn’t as far as I know address morality at all, is sufficient to explain human morality and to serve as a basis for a philosophy of morality (or ethics). Is this correct?

    No, and I already told you that, specifically. And then I answered a question you had about what I wrote… and you didn’t respond to me any more on that thread. Now you seem to have started over again, apparently from scratch, in this thread.

    As you might imagine, I’m just a trifle frustrated. If you actually want to converse with me, you might try reading what SteveK and I discussed after you moved on.

  58. Jenna Black says:

    Ray,

    I’m rather puzzled by your response to my attempt to clarify what your claim(s) is/are. Yes, I saw your response to my statement of my preference for terms other than “supernatural” but I did not see an answer to my question as to whether or not you believe that there is a spiritual dimension to reality. This was right before the big server problem that put a halt to commenting for several days and produced, IMO, some discontinuity in following the argument.

    If you don’t want to provide a summary statement of your claim/argument, okay, so be it. But in that case, I really feel uncomfortable about engaging in a discussion without clarity about what people are arguing about/for/against, since this is, as you point out, frustrating.

  59. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Pure fallacy.

  60. Ray Ingles says:

    Jenna –

    I did not see an answer to my question as to whether or not you believe that there is a spiritual dimension to reality

    I thought I did answer it: “And, no, a la Laplace, I’ve had no need of that hypothesis.” In other words: No, I do not believe there’s a “spiritual dimension to reality” because I haven’t seen any reason to.

    If you don’t want to provide a summary statement of your claim/argument, okay, so be it.

    That’s just it. I have so provided. Heck, the very first link in comment #57 is to such a summary. Then at the end of #57 I linked to the start of SteveK and I elaborating and clarifying it.

    I mean, I explicitly say that “Evolution is responding to something real [by developing] an inbuilt talent for reasoning in a particular way… morality isn’t “evolutionary hardwiring”. Morality is something else, that the hardwiring is in response to.” So I confess I can’t follow why you would then claim I’m saying “that the science of evolution… is sufficient to explain human morality and to serve as a basis for a philosophy of morality (or ethics)”.

  61. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Your fallacy is that of Ray’s. The sweetness of evil is left ignored.

  62. Melissa says:

    djc,

    The moral emotions (passions) determine what human beings find good and bad and form the origin of moral values. The naturalist approach looks for ways to maximize moral values, which is another way of saying “pursuit of common good”.

    The problem here is that there is no reason why the person who has a passion for something other than the common good should act to pursue the common good. By this I do not mean no reason that person would find convincing because we all know that there are people that are so damaged they cannot rationally see good and bad. What I mean is any rational reason why a person should act to pursue the common good if they don’t have a passion for the common good. Clearly you can’t argue, given your other commitments, that they should have a passion for the common good. There is plenty of variation among these clumps of atoms that we label human beings and nothing that they should be like.

  63. djc says:

    bigbird,

    If you take abortion to be a violent act (as I do), then the 20th century is probably by far the most violent century ever (although the 21st century will eventually be worse).

    I would generally agree that abortion is a form of violence. Pinker discusses this actually. Statistics show that rates of abortion are dropping in almost every country (the US rate has been dropping pretty steadily since 1990 see this article for example).

  64. djc says:

    Melissa,

    The problem here is that there is no reason why the person who has a passion for something other than the common good should act to pursue the common good. By this I do not mean no reason that person would find convincing because we all know that there are people that are so damaged they cannot rationally see good and bad. What I mean is any rational reason why a person should act to pursue the common good if they don’t have a passion for the common good. Clearly you can’t argue, given your other commitments, that they should have a passion for the common good. There is plenty of variation among these clumps of atoms that we label human beings and nothing that they should be like.

    Not having a moral feeling or emotion that values the common good describes a sociopath or psychopath, and, indeed, I agree that no naturalistic morality can have any sway on such people. But can any moral system do better? The only option we seem to have available to the outliers of society are threats of punishment.

  65. bigbird says:

    I would generally agree that abortion is a form of violence. Pinker discusses this actually. Statistics show that rates of abortion are dropping in almost every country (the US rate has been dropping pretty steadily since 1990

    Surely that implicitly concedes that the 20th century has been one of the most violent ever if abortion is included, irrespective of whether rates have declined in the last decade or two?

    Since 1971, China reports 336 million abortions have taken place! That, to me, is a staggering number, especially for just one country.

    In Russia, abortion rates have declined but still far more abortions than births are recorded.

    Literally, the most dangerous place for a child is when the child is in its mother’s womb. I doubt that has been the case at any other time in history.

  66. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Sociopath.

    Nice way to avoid the question.

  67. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Sociopath?

    Nice way to avoid the question.

    You know, about the other 99% …..sweetness….

  68. scblhrm says:

    big bird,

    But it was for the common good…..

    djc will equivocate and redefine……

    336 million?

    I didn’t know that.

    Secularism in China?

  69. Jenna Black says:

    Ray, RE: #60

    Okay, so you don’t believe that there is a spiritual dimension to reality. So let’s go to Oliver Curry’s article, most particularly to his conclusion on p. 243: “Of course, there may be other versions of the naturalistic fallcy, or other arguments altogether, that succeed in establishing that moral values inhabit a realm distinct from the natural, rendering Humean-Darwinian and other naturalistic meta-ethics untenable…. In the absence of such arguments, we can conclude that the Humean-Darwinian version of ethical naturalism remains a ‘live option’.”

    This is where the problem resides: Exactly what “realm” is it that you think moral values “inhabit” if there is no spiritual realm? And who has claimed that moral values are not “natural”? Certainly theists don’t make this argument, so this is a straw man argument that Curry is making.

    We theists argue that “morality” (perhaps what Curry means by “meta-ethics”) falls into a “realm” referred to as the spiritual or metaphysical. You reject this notion. In that case, whatever is meant by “Humean-Darwinian ethical naturalism” appears to be something you accept as a “live option” among naturalist arguments for the origins and “realm of habitation” of morality. However, as I stated before, the naturalist (philosophical) arguments about morality do not defeat theism and theistic arguments as to a divine, metaphysical ontology of morality or theistic moral reasoning.

    Keep in mind that, as I learned from Alvin Plantinga’s 2011 book “Where the conflict really lies.” the statement by Laplace was made in response to a query from Napoleon regarding what role God plays in evolution, not in regard to the origins of human moral values. See Plantinga’s extended discussion of the “Laplacean picture” on pp. 84-90.

  70. Melissa says:

    djc,

    Not having a moral feeling or emotion that values the common good describes a sociopath or psychopath, and, indeed, I agree that no naturalistic morality can have any sway on such people. But can any moral system do better? The only option we seem to have available to the outliers of society are threats of punishment.

    In the section that you quote a plainly wrote that I was not referring to what might sway outliers of society. The problem is that what is good for a person is defined by their passions and we know these vary. The only thing that makes what the sociopath does wrong is the majority decree. Might makes right. There is nothing objectively wrong with the sociopath, they’re just outliers, part of the natural variation, and as such our efforts to prevent them satisfying their passions is just the favouring of our passions over theirs.

  71. scbrownlhrm says:

    The linked paper, “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value” was, as was the first linked essay, disappointing. I briefly touched on my disappointments with the first linked essay (“Who’s Afraid of The Naturalistic Fallacy”) in comment #32 in which we found that the escape from the Fallacy comes by merely asserting that whatever we find “sweetness” in, is, well, sweet (good) and thus evolutionary morality forfeits any claim on better/worse for everything that tastes good (sweet) to us is sweet (good). Thus there cannot be a Fallacy because evolutionary morality necessarily cannot, does not, differentiate for it concedes that nothing we like, nothing we call sweet, is non-sweet (evil). [No claim of better/worse/evil] = [No Fallacy].

    This second paper is disappointing as well, but for different reasons. The paper simply grants a presupposition, that of naturalism’s mechanisms as the only game in town, and then proceeds to feign a sort of “dilemma” for a moral realist (theism, etc.) as being unable to accommodate that game’s necessary embrace of the irrational when it comes to our values, and then concludes that only the anti-realist (naturalism’s “delusions”) can accommodate naturalism’s clearly irrational mechanisms in regress. In short, because Naturalism is true, Naturalism’s regress to delusion (non-real / anti-realism) is the only regress that makes sense in light of the mammoth array of irrational fluxes which have, clearly, shaped our values. Or, in short, because Naturalism is true, realism cannot accommodate all of the irrational fluxes which have, clearly, shaped our values. Or, in short, given the presupposition of Naturalism, Theism (Realism) is false. Or, in short, given the presupposition of Naturalism, Mind’s brutally repeatable perceptions perceived Pan-Mind, Pan-World cannot be of some real X but must be of some Non-Real X, X being, necessarily, No-Thing.

    Anti-Realism’s forfeiture of Every Mind’s, Pan-Mind’s, Pan-World’s perceptions is fatal in its nihilism but this move is necessary for the Naturalist to make if he wishes to retain hope.

    Inexplicably the Naturalist’s own “truth” perception itself about “perception itself” being a delusion seems magically immune to the anti-real….how odd…. how inexplicable…. how magical…. how convenient for the naturalist.

    The Naturalist must tear down obvious (actual) mountains (like the universe being “real”) and thereby create “gaps” by his regress into antirealism, else God, and then charge the Theist with the crime of “filling in gaps”.

    The Universe is a good example, as we will see shortly.

    The Naturalist’s nihilistic absurdity creates gaps in order to escape any topography necessitating God:

    This paper ultimately necessitates that Pan-Mind (every mind) Pan-World truly does land in anti-realism’s mereological nihilism in which the conclusion is that the brutally repeatable perceptions which every mind perceives, pan-mind, pan-world are in fact the perceptions of Anti-Real, or of No-Thing, that is, of the Non-Real. Now, here in reality, Every mind, pan-mind, pan-world perceives the undeniable, such as “I have a head”, such as “I exist”, such as “I think intentionally”, such as “I choose”, such as “Ought’s Moral Archetypes embedded Pan-Mind”, and so on. Such actualities such as intention, such as ought (and Etc.) are absurdity in physical systems, as the neuroscientist Sam Harris concedes and thus the naturalist’s only escape from such materialistically impossible actualities finds its hope inside of anti-realism: all such truth statements are (must be) necessarily of non-real X’s. Now, X’s which are non-real do not exist and thus the perception of these X’s cannot be “illusions” as such would imply that there is a Real-Something there that is, say, round, but we are in part mistaken in our view of it being, not round, but, say, egg-shaped; we’re “close” but not quite fully “precise”, or we’re “somewhat mistaken”.

    No, “somewhat mistaken” won’t do, else God, and thus “somewhat mistaken” is forfeited as the Non-Real of Anti-Realism necessitates – not illusion – but rather delusion as the end of regress. That which is brutally, repeatedly perceived Pan-Mind, Pan-World is not “somewhat mistaken” (In Part Real) but is, instead, wholly delusional (Anti-Real, Non-Real).

    The Naturalist must deny the undeniable, else God. We’ve seen skeptics here foist the following “logic”:

    “The fact that every mind perceives “I have a head” is not a proof that our heads are real or that we have one. What is needed is a way to differentiate between a real head and the delusion of, the perception of, a head. I am skeptical that we do in fact have heads. After all, for all I know, I may not, we may not, “actually” have an “actual” head. So, until you can prove otherwise, it is reasonable for me to believe that we don’t have heads. Therefore: I conclude, on the grounds of opaque skepticism’s regress into Anti-Realism’s mereological nihilism that our heads are not real and the burden of proof is on the Realist to prove otherwise.”

    Of course, every head we point to, or weigh, or measure, or whatever, will be to the perception thereof and therein “I exist” becomes, on necessity, Non-Entity. Given that it is the Anti-Realist that is asserting that we are delusional to think we actually have real heads [….the head is the delusion, for the truth is that there are no real heads…..but inexplicably the Naturalist’s own “truth” perception itself about “perception itself” being a delusion seems magically immune to the anti-real….how odd….how inexplicable…. how magical…. how convenient for the naturalist…. ], and, given that we all know we have heads, the burden of proof lies, not on the Realist, but, rather, on the Anti-Realist as we are quite comfortable with the brutally repeatable perception of our head as housing justified knowledge that we in fact have heads. What the Naturalist needs is new information that proves to us that we don’t have heads. Short of meeting that burden: God.

    The problem for the naturalist: Mind Dependence just is God’s friend as it necessitates Moral Realism (and Etc.) and thus the Naturalist must make this move into fatal nihilism in order to deny, and thus escape, the undeniable.

    Creator Of The Gaps:

    There are other forms of Anti-Realism as well:

    Hawking makes this same move with Causes/Effects which Come-And-Go, and thus labels all such perceived realities (like this universe and everything in it) as a sort of hologram or a sort of non-real something (not ontologically real), else Cosmic Intentionality becomes unavoidable given the Ever-Present Necessary and Sufficient Cause of All-Effects causing some effects but not all effects. Deterministically, such is absurd, however, Pan-Mind’s brutally repeatable perception of Intention’s geography perfectly explains this otherwise absurd manifestation. So, the presupposition of naturalism being the “infallible god”, the Naturalist makes the only move he can: the really-real, the ontologically real, is just “defined” to be that time is imaginary, the universe and everything in it is a “not-real” sort of hologram (singular), and his (Hawking’s) Imaginary Sphere is the ontologically real. Hawking’s unchanging Imaginary Sphere, that necessary and sufficient cause of all effect, singular, must somehow make any and all motion of, any and all coming and going of, effects (pleural) non-entity, else Intention, else God. So, he just defines reality as unreal and “effect”, singular, is all that can be allowed, else God, and so he embraces a gigantic, static, motionless, unchanging sphere. The “s” on “effects” cannot be defined as ontologically real and just must be a hologram or a theoretical imaginary sort of something, else God.

    Anti-Realism thus comes, obviously, in more forms than one as the Naturalist’s commitment to a presupposition forces the denial of the undeniable in order to salvage hope. Such wish-fulfillment leads to rather disappointing dialogue at the end of the day as there is no reasoning with autohypnosis, with fantasies, with self-fulfilling wish-fulfillment, with “Every bit of every mind’s, pan-mind’s, pan-world’s perception is all a delusion, you are a delusion, I am a delusion.”

    Inexplicably, all the naturalist’s statements are themselves Mind Dependent, and, his own “truth” perception itself about “perception itself” being a delusion seems magically immune to the anti-real….how odd…. how inexplicable…. how magical…. how convenient for the naturalist.

    Clearly, the Naturalist’s wish-fulfillment and autohypnosis must, to salvage hope – not fill in the gaps and be the god-of-the-gaps – but, rather, must tear down real, obvious, (actual) mountains and create “imaginary” holes and, then, claim that the Theist is merely filling in the “real” gaps left by his “imaginary” absurdity.

    Else God.

  72. Ray Ingles says:

    Jenna –

    Exactly what “realm” is it that you think moral values “inhabit” if there is no spiritual realm? And who has claimed that moral values are not “natural”?

    And here we get into the fun part, where we have to hash over definitions and multiple shadings of the various terms.

    For example, if moral values are “natural”, then they fit into “naturalism”, right? Or does the “natural” in “naturalism” not mean the same thing as “natural” the way you mean moral values are “natural”?

    I’m willing to grant something that might fit some conceptions of the term “metaphysical” – something vaguely akin to Platonism (as I pointed out to Melissa). It seems that things like mathematical truths “exist” in some sense. But it’s an eternal, acausal sense, and not one dependent on some other substrate (I think 2+2 would equal 4 even if it weren’t ‘a thought in the Mind of God’, for example).

    Indeed, such ‘abstractions’ aren’t – cannot be – mental, or most especially minds themselves. Consciousness is inescapably temporal, a process. And eternal, atemporal things like the Mandelbrot Set don’t – can’t – change or experience any kind of process. So, to the extent that ‘spiritual’ has anything to do with minds or consciousness or awareness or feeling or anything of that sort, they can’t be ‘spiritual’.

    the naturalist (philosophical) arguments about morality do not defeat theism

    No, but they do cast doubt on some arguments for theism. Just as evolution cast doubt on the ‘argument from design’ (in living things).

    as I learned from Alvin Plantinga’s 2011 book “Where the conflict really lies.” the statement by Laplace was made in response to a query from Napoleon regarding what role God plays in evolution

    I suspect you are misremembering. It seems unlikely that Plantinga would make such an error. Laplace died in 1827. Darwin was just barely 18 then, and wouldn’t publish “On The Origin Of species” for another 32 years.

    It’s actually doubtful that Laplace made the statement at all, at least in those words at that time. But anyway, the story has Napoleon asking Laplace about God intervening in celestial mechanics.

    That’s why I said “a la Laplace”, ‘in the manner or style of’. I was not citing Laplace about “the origins of human moral values”. To be pedantic, I was saying that like Laplace didn’t need God to account for the stability of planetary orbits, I haven’t needed spiritual influences to account for “the origins of human moral values”.

  73. Jenna Black says:

    Ray, RE: #72

    Actually you are correct. I got the information about Laplace and Napoleon from Wikipedia, which is not always a reliable source. Nonetheless, Plantinga’s discussion of Laplace is IMO, very worthwhile.

    I see that you repeat the atheists’ mantra here: “I haven’t needed spiritual influences to account for “the origins of human moral values.” Just because you don’t “need” the concept or an understanding of “God” to explain something does not mean that there is no “God” (meaning the totality of what is deified in and through monotheism). As I see it, anyone who rejects spirit and spirituality sees human beings as one-dimensional and lacks much of an articulate and coherent understanding of human nature. Your espousal of naturalism as an explanation of everything merely indicates to me that you have not engaged in deep, nuanced critical thinking about humanity, probably because you feel compelled to fit all of your understanding of the world and humankind into the dark and narrow box of atheism.

    I really do recommend that you read Plantinga’s book to address how very little in reality naturalism and evolution “cast doubt on some arguments for theism.”

  74. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm – The comment system just ate my reply to you. Here’s the gist:

    As C.S. Lewis put it, “The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys.”

    Do the words “an inbuilt talent for reasoning in a particular way” sound familiar? They should. If you want an example – go on, it’ll only take 60 seconds tops – see here.

    No one’s ignoring the “sweetness of evil”. Morality is about choosing which of our many impulses to follow at any given time – it’s about the overall strategy to follow. The fact that some people choose bad strategies in no way implies that good strategies don’t exist, nor that there’s no way to evaluate strategies.

  75. scbrownlhrm says:

    Ray,

    Whatever we feel is sweet, is sweet. Overall sweetness isn’t immune. Acute sweetness isn’t either.

    We’ve developed sweet tastes and sweet is sweet.

    Any more than that = Fallacy.

    It’s name is Is to Ought.

    China’s sweetness prevented mass starvation; for the common good.

    Sweetness.

    336 million, apparently.

    If you are going to say the sweetness of sweet is “mistaken”….well…. good luck, as such implies a real IT “out there” external to the Self.

    If you go there, welcome to Theism and Moral Realism.

  76. scbrownlhrm says:

    Ray,

    I say you are ignoring evil because what our tastebuds tells us is sweet, is sweet. Your sweet tooth may prefer some “aim / goal” X, whereas, another’s sweet tooth prefers Y.

    Evolutionary morality, naturalism period, gives us no tools to call any sweetness “mistaken”, because sweetness does not transcend, or preceed, the psychology of the taster. Sweet is sweet. Hard Stop.

  77. Melissa says:

    Ray,

    I missed your earlier reply to me. Let’s ignore the problems already raised with your view in the other thread so we can concentrate on what is relevant to the current discussion.

    Your original comment in this thread affirmed natures al la G. Rodrigues but your proposal does not. A things nature is inextricably linked to a things final cause. Form follows purpose. An ideal assumes purpose too. You deny those purposes exist but positing a nature unrelated to final causes does not help you. It is the goals you need if you hope to get a universal should from your game-theory morality.

  78. scbrownlhrm says:

    Odd Fact:

    Within the confines of evolutionary morality, Sweetness (morality) cannot be “mistaken”.

    The reason is simple: sweetness does not precede or transcend the psychology of the taster. Hard Stop.

    “……the human ‘sweet tooth’ is an evolved preference for foods with high sugar-content over foods with low sugar-content. If one accepted this premise, it would make no sense to complain that evolution may have explained why humans find certain things sweet, but it cannot tell us whether these things are really sweet or not. It follows from the premises of the argument that there is no criterion of sweetness independent of human psychology, and hence this question cannot arise.”

    There is no question as to sweetness being “mistaken”. Goal A and Goal B and Goal C are found in the psychology of various tasters to be sweet because they “work”.

    There is nothing about sweetness which precedes the psychology of, the taste buds of, the taster.

    There is nothing about sweetness which transcends the psychology of, the taste buds of, the taster.

    And hence the “big question” cannot arise.

  79. djc says:

    bigbird,

    Surely that implicitly concedes that the 20th century has been one of the most violent ever if abortion is included, irrespective of whether rates have declined in the last decade or two?

    Since 1971, China reports 336 million abortions have taken place! That, to me, is a staggering number, especially for just one country.

    It’s a bit more complicated than that because infanticide has been quite common throughout human history and estimated to be at somewhere between 10 and 15% of all live births and in some societies as a high as 50%. Pinker’s section on “Children’s Rights and the Decline of Infanticide, Spanking, Child Abuse and Bullying” is quite detailed.

    But he confronts abortion squarely: “it is true that in much of the world today, a similar portion of pregnancies end in abortion as the fraction that in centuries past ended in infanticide … if abortion counts as a form of violence, the West has made no progress in its treatment of children”.

    Still:

    “The countries that allow abortion have not let an indifference to life put them on a slippery slope to infanticide or other forms of violence. … These same countries increasingly act as if abortion is undesirable, and they may be reducing its incidence as part of the move to protect all living things”.

  80. djc says:

    Melissa,

    In the section that you quote a plainly wrote that I was not referring to what might sway outliers of society. The problem is that what is good for a person is defined by their passions and we know these vary. The only thing that makes what the sociopath does wrong is the majority decree. Might makes right. There is nothing objectively wrong with the sociopath, they’re just outliers, part of the natural variation, and as such our efforts to prevent them satisfying their passions is just the favouring of our passions over theirs.

    You mean can I make a moral argument for why the person with a large degree of passion for the common good should “tyrannize” the person with a tiny degree of passion for the common good? No, because moral arguments can only be made coherently within the context of people having similar moral passions, under these naturalistic assumptions.

    A moral argument is essentially “This is right because you know it is in your heart!”

    But I can make a non-moral argument why cultivating empathy in our children is a good strategy for the human race, though, or that children displaying a lack of empathy should be singled out for special care. Such an argument would be likely to succeed primarily because positive moral emotions actually do make life objectively better for all of us.

  81. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc,

    1) “….increasingly act as if it is undesirable….”

    But until the sweetness is actually a changed opinion, it’s the right thing to do. Our psychology is where it begins and ends.

    2) “….make life objectively better….”

    Yeah, that’s why the 335 million were killed, to avoid mass starvation, for the common good, on secularism.

    3) “…..this is right because you feel it…”

    Your 3 just confirmed your 1 and 2.

    As the essay on evolutionary morality stated, there can be no such thing as “mistaken” sweetness.

    You’ve not really argued anything different. In fact, you’ve argued for it.

    Which surprises me, because I’m confident you don’t really believe in the only “morality” (huh?) which naturalism has to offer you.

  82. Melissa says:

    djc,

    You mean can I make a moral argument for why the person with a large degree of passion for the common good should “tyrannize” the person with a tiny degree of passion for the common good? No, because moral arguments can only be made coherently within the context of people having similar moral passions, under these naturalistic assumptions.

    Exactly. Your they should do this is nothing more than projecting your own values onto them.

    A moral argument is essentially “This is right because you know it is in your heart!”

    Only given your metaphysical commitments.

    But I can make a non-moral argument why cultivating empathy in our children is a good strategy for the human race, though, or that children displaying a lack of empathy should be singled out for special care. Such an argument would be likely to succeed primarily because positive moral emotions actually do make life objectively better for all of us.

    Once you’ve decided on a goal your can talk about what is a good strategy, but you have no goal. There is no objectively better, there is only what satisfies desires.

  83. Ray Ingles says:

    Jenna –

    I got the information about Laplace and Napoleon from Wikipedia, which is not always a reliable source.

    Really? The history of the Laplace article doesn’t seem to record such a misconception. Oh, well.

    Nonetheless, Plantinga’s discussion of Laplace is IMO, very worthwhile.

    How ’bout we trade? I’ll read Plantinga if you read Wilson?

    Just because you don’t “need” the concept or an understanding of “God” to explain something does not mean that there is no “God”

    Since I said that in the comment you’re replying to, I confess that I don’t see why you’re bringing it up again.

    As I see it, anyone who rejects spirit and spirituality sees human beings as one-dimensional and lacks much of an articulate and coherent understanding of human nature.

    Maybe I don’t have less respect for and appreciation of human nature, just because I view them as natural. (And in passing I note you haven’t answered my question about what exactly you mean by “natural”.) Just possibly, I have more respect for what ‘natural’ processes are capable of. Is that even conceivable to you?

    It was once thought that all living things had some kind of vital force that nonliving things lacked, some special nonphysical something. Indeed, ‘organic chemistry’ meant ‘the study of chemical compounds in living things’. Nowadays, we define it as ‘the study of compounds containing carbon’. The two definitions are pretty close for many practical purposes… but e.g. carbon dioxide is still technically classified as ‘inorganic’ mostly thanks to that historical distinction.

    Once we discovered things like molecular biology, we didn’t need a special ‘life force’ to account for how living things differ from nonliving things. But that doesn’t mean we don’t make any distinctions, or appreciate life for the special phenomenon it is. I can believe that human consciousness in all its complexity is not ultimately ‘spiritual’ and still think humans are amazing, wonderful things.

  84. scbrownlhrm says:

    That Pearl Of Great Price:

    Morality, or “the evolved sweet tooth”, does not precede, or transcend, the psychology of the individual or collective taster, and such finds naturalism on ontological necessity with a fatal forfeit.

    The problem which evolutionary morality is desperately trying to overcome is the immutable lack of the means which escape it but which would allow it to separate the “Good” from the “Evil”. It wants to be able to claim that the perception of sweetness can be mistaken. What is, unforgivingly, needed for such a separation is something which precedes and transcends the psychology of the individual taster, and, something which precedes and transcends the collective psychology of the tasters.

    Neither is accessible to naturalism.

    And this is where we find that Theism – particularly wherein Ultimate Actuality (God) is E Pluribus Unum’s milieu of the fully singular, fully triune Self-Other-Us – finds the intellectual and metaphysical wherewithal to claim the immutable means to all that is Moral Love’s Pan-Archetypes embedded Pan-Mind, Pan-World within brutally repeatable experiences and perceptions, while simultaneously finding the intellectual and metaphysical wherewithal to discard the foreign fragmentations that are at bottom privations of that afore mentioned Whole which both precedes and transcends all such privations.

    This ontological, intellectual, and metaphysical capacity to separate and isolate coherently is the desperately sought after pearl of great price which naturalism seeks but will never find. The reach of Man in his privation ever falls short as Moral Love’s Pan-Archetypes embedded Pan-Mind, Pan-World within brutally repeatable experiences and perceptions finds this precious pearl only within the topography of Love’s Immutable E Pluribus Unum.

    We must recall that we find that Man in privation, in fragmentation, is not Man in possession of some positive entity called “evil” but is rather Man in his “deficiency of being”, for Love just is Self-Other-Us, just is E Pluribus Unum, just is Singular/Triune, and the Created Self that is Man is found void of Immutable Love’s Uncreated Other, and thus void of I-You, Self-Other. He is thus ipso facto void of Community’s Us/We and is therein deficient of, void of, lacking, Love’s Whole. Evil is here not the presence of something, but is at bottom a deficiency of something, as evil is that which is – at bottom – love-less-ness. Ontology here affirms our undeniable moral experiences perceived pan-mind, pan-world.

    On evolutionary morality, on naturalism, whatever our taste buds tell us is sweet is sweet. One’s sweet tooth may perceive some goal/aim “X” to be sweet, while another’s sweet tooth may perceive “Y” as sweet. Evolutionary morality, Naturalism in general, gives us no tools by which to call any sweetness “mistaken” because sweetness does not, cannot, precede or transcend the psychology of the tasters. Hard Stop.

    Fatality: There is just “the digestive tract”, or, there is just “the tree” and as the ebb and flow of irrationally conditioned taste buds react to the ebb and flow of irrational environmental fluxes various “parts” of that digestive tract, or, various “branches” of that tree, rise and fall, ebb and flow, into and out of Morally Good / Morally Bad, each taste bud, each branch always part of the Whole that is indifference waiting for those environmental winds, those up and down ebbs in taste/whim ever in flux with the environment’s fluxes. Thus the Tree, the Branches, and the aimless Winds that blow upon all of it is, all of it together, The-Whole, The-Neutral, within which Child Sacrifice is now the just punishment for the crime of X and is now the morally wrong in all possible worlds and is now the reasoned response to the sweetness called X, and so on. The interplay of whim’s irrationally conditioned fluxes with environment’s irrationally cascading fluxes with the irrational winds that blow this way and that way all together in summation is The-Real, The-Neutral, The-Tree, The-Taste-Buds. Sweetness is, in all its forms, sweetness as there just is nothing at all which precedes The-Tree, nothing at all which transcends The-Tree. There is nothing other than The-Tree.

    Coherence: We discover that, in fact, God is love in that His interior just is that milieu of the fully singular, the fully triune Self-Other-Us wherein the immutable E Pluribus Unum sources all definition. Thus, it is here where Theism retains, and the naturalist forfeits, the right to lay claim to those desperately sought after encompassing Moral Archetypes perceived Pan-Mind, Pan-World as being, literally, separable from the wide array of branches fallen in fragmentation beneath the Tree. Or, this is where Theism retains, and naturalism forfeits the right to lay claim to Love’s Immutable E Pluribus Unum as separable from the wide array of taste buds layered throughout all lesser definitions. Further, we find, in Theism, that this separation holds in all ontological vectors as all definitions fail but for sourcing to ontology’s only Immutable E Pluribus Unum.

    This is the fatal necessity of evolutionary morality for it here finds itself unable to isolate, separate the Whole of Love’s fully singular, fully triune Self-Other-Us that just is E Pluribus Unum from the wide array of foreign fragments scattered within The-Tree’s branches, for, it concludes (as it must) that it’s all the same tree. This fatality is the raw inability of evolutionary morality to lay claim to the Pan-World Archetypes embedded Pan-Mind with Love’s E Pluribus Unum as being separable from all those other – seemingly foreign – branches. Or, this fatality is that inability to separate the undeniable Pan-World Archetypes of Moral Love embedded Pan-Mind from those irrational winds of environmental fluxes which blow this way and that way for it is all, every bit of it, on naturalism, one whole tree.

    The pearl of great price, Immutable Love, ever evades, fatally, the reach of Man in his privation.

    Moral Love, E Pluribus Unum, just is Self-Other-Us, just is Singular, just is Triune, and, as C.S. Lewis alludes to, all the painful, twisted fragmentations of that Whole (Man’s Image, God’s Image, Love’s Image), that is to say, of the I/Self, and, of the Other/Non-Self, and, of the Us/We, are found in fragmentation, ripped out of that Whole and are, by privation, swollen into madness. Man is, here, in this Now, inside of his privation, always with Immutable Love in sight, yet ever just out of reach, and he finds that there are no ontological definitions of moral love but for Love’s (God’s) Immutable E Pluribus Unum as each I/Self in privation swollen to madness, as each Other/You in privation swollen to madness, as each Us/We in privation swollen to madness all, every fragment, owes what definition it has to Immutable Love’s (God’s) singular/triune Self-Other-Us as, but for Him the very word “definition” would be without definition here inside of his (Man’s) painful privation, our Now, which Scripture defines as the Outside.

    Hope: As God is Love, that which is Loveless just is Godless, that which is Godless just is Loveless and here we find the hopelessness of finding Moral Excellence, that pearl of great price, in Moses’ Law as Scripture defines such to be capacitated to bring, not Life, but, on ontological necessity, Condemnation as God and Man are there ever in mere juxtaposition. Whereas, our hope lies inside of Genesis’ Protoevangelium as the affair of Seed’s Seed, of Amalgamation brings Man and God not into the raw restraint of the OT’s Juxtaposition but into the marriage that is the NT’s Amalgamation as Genesis 3 actualizes in John 3.

    Actualization: Self void of Other, that is to say, In-Sufficiency, cannot by force of will pull ontology’s only Immutable E Pluribus Unum, that is to say, All-Sufficiency, down into himself and thus find, within himself, All-Sufficiency. No. That Man cannot do. Rather, All-Sufficiency must Himself descend, must Himself be debased, must spread His Arms wide and Himself pour-out, and into, In-Sufficiency, and In-Sufficiency, thereby, and only thereby, finds itself filled-up, finds itself glorified, such that whether he (In-Sufficiency) should look above his head, or beneath his feet, or within his chest, he shall find that All-Sufficient One Who is Himself Love, E Pluribus Unum, in all vectors whatsoever as insufficiency there tastes of All-Sufficiency. Thereby, though he (In-Sufficiency) was void of love’s whole, and thus ipso facto in lovelessness, and thus – on Scripture’s definition – dead, he will yet find himself alive. Our painful fragmentation – privation – that is the hopelessness of juxtaposition will be forever undone, eradicated by the marriage of Underived-Derived, of Timelessness-Time, by God-In-Man, Man-In-God, Word/Flesh – for all the imagery of Bride and Groom just is the truth of love’s final felicity within Amalgamation, within E Pluribus Unum.

  85. Ray Ingles says:

    scbrownlhrm –

    We’ve developed sweet tastes and sweet is sweet. Any more than that = Fallacy.

    Not quite. There are also the reasons why we developed the taste for sweetness. Sugar is high-energy food, so a taste for it is helpful… in calorie-restricted environments.

    But evolution makes a distinction between proximate and ultimate causes. Plants grow toward sunlight due to tropisms, more light on one side encouraging more growth hormones and such. The ultimate cause is so that the plant can gather more energy. An ultimate cause is not quite the same as a telos, of course, but it can easily be confused for one.

    We have moral sentiments and instincts, yes. But there’s also the reasons why we have those instincts, the conditions they evolved in response to…

    (Say, the topic of sweetness reminds me of a question for the A-T types here. Condoms and such are supposed to be bad because they interfere with the telos of sex, reproduction. Wouldn’t artificial sweeteners be just as bad, since they interfere with the telos of eating, nutrition? How come I’ve never once heard about a Christian moral crusade against aspartame?)

  86. Ray Ingles says:

    Melissa –

    Your original comment in this thread affirmed natures al la G. Rodrigues but your proposal does not. A things nature is inextricably linked to a things final cause.

    Or, y’know, not. Aristotelianism-Thomism doesn’t have a monopoly on the term ‘nature’.

    Form follows purpose.

    Things in the real world don’t have purposes. Agents have purposes for things.

    It is the goals you need if you hope to get a universal should from your game-theory morality.

    And agents have goals, so, no problem there.

  87. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    #85 and #86

    Relativism.

    So?

    Still stuck calling every sweet as: sweet. Fluxing sweet tooths.

    All branches of the same tree.

  88. scbrownlhrm says:

    This thread thus far is a good example of how even if we grant the Naturalist his foisted absurdity of the existence of physical systems inside our skulls which are – at bottom – free of physics / nature’s indifferent cascades he still ends up (even when we grant him volitionality) with nothing more than an array of sweet tooths in relativism’s candy store, all the jars and flavors sitting atop the same shelf.

  89. Jenna Black says:

    Ray, RE: #82

    The problem I see with your argument is that you are creating false dichotomies, separate categories that are not applicable. Now you talk in terms of morality as either being “natural” or “spiritual” as if our spiritual nature is not natural. I stated before that this is not the way I see it or that theists see it. Humans have spirit (aka the soul) because it is our nature and the way we are (our nature) is because we are created “in the image of God.” Our spiritual selves exist as our natural connection to/with God and to/with all of God’s creation, with which we are one. To deny spirit is to deny human nature and to put “spirit” in a realm outside of and apart from nature is a philosophical and scientific error. We know from research that the human quest for “spirituality” through prayer and meditation, for example, is a completely natural and rather unremarkable function of the brain and mind. See these books that detail the research:

    William P. Alston (1991). Perceiving God: The epistemology of religious experience.

    Eugene d’Aquili & Andrew Newberg (1999). The mystical mind: Probing the biology of religious experience.

    Andrew Newberg, Eugene d’Aquili & Vince Rause. (2001). Why God won’t go away: Brain science and the biology of belief.

    Please explain to me, if there is no spirit and humans have no spirit, what then is spirituality and why do we seek and practice it?

  90. scbrownlhrm says:

    Ray & DJC,

    As various flavors and degrees of relativism seems to be the end of all your regressions with no Immutable Love in sight, all those various branches just ever will be, on ontological necessity, part of the same tree, as there is only “The-Tree”. Ontological means and ends just are what they are. It becomes trivial at some point to ever more thinly slice up relativism’s means/ends as, given such a paradigm, we don’t actually progress to any new ontological means/ends, as there just are none available short of Immutable Love’s fully singular, fully triune Self-Other-Us in Whom all regressions find their ends within E Pluribus Unum, Man’s full and final Felicity.

    I’ll step out of this thread / discussion here and thank you both for your time, your patience, and your interactions.

  91. Melissa says:

    Ray,

    Or, y’know, not. Aristotelianism-Thomism doesn’t have a monopoly on the term ‘nature’.

    Except that you specified nature a la G Rodrugues.

    Things in the real world don’t have purposes. Agents have purposes for things.

    Yes, I realise that is true given your metaphysical commitments, which is why nothing in your world can be objectively defective, including psychopaths. They are only defective according to the interests of humans and those interests may vary.

    And agents have goals, so, no problem there

    Individual goals not universal goals, so no universal ought.

  92. scbrownlhrm says:

    A few final thoughts which perhaps sum with #84:

    In all possible worlds we find that Love is, necessarily, the Highest Ethic. We find therein that proper and good response within us of praise towards such motions as that which is the Good, as that which is the True, for such is praise worthy irrespective of which man or which woman should so move for it is Mankind which is that peculiar World fashioned in the Image of Immutable Love. To the extent that Man is found in Love’s exquisite Image he is therein found closer to his final felicity and we there perceive a necessary worthiness of praise, of beauty, of rightness in all such motions within mankind irrespective of which man or which woman it is who so motions and this is so in all vectors as, necessarily, man is in his most natural state as he approaches such ends. Just the same, and for the same reasons, the farther man should fall, irrespective of which man or which woman, away from the image of Immutable Love, the more unnatural he appears, the more unworthy of praise he becomes, the more fragmentation he subsumes.

    Immutable Love is that Beauty that is Man’s full and final Felicity for he was made in just such an Image and for just such Ends. Coherence from A through Z here rings true as the very fabric of a World created in Love’s Image finds woven in its means and in its ends Love’s ends of regress within the incomparable interpersonal topography housed within the ontological necessity of Love’s interior milieu of that fully singular, that fully triune Self-Other-Us that is in all possible worlds E Pluribus Unum. Moral Love just is effusively triune at bottom even as Moral Love just is altogether singular at bottom. Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self is in all vectors both our Means and our Ends and therein “from the highest to the lowest, Self exists to be abdicated and, by that abdication, becomes the more truly Self, to be thereupon yet the more abdicated, and so forever.”

    Here is just one more vector amid countless such sightlines whereby we perceive the brutally incoherent, confused, and disjointed cries of the appalling and sickening disfigurement that is to us the aberrance of, the grotesqueness of any and all ontological rays of Indifference as on such refuse we retch for with painful clarity such is the antithesis of all which is the Beautiful, the Good, the True, the Real, all which is forever found there inside of Love where we perceive our soul’s bliss within the singular and triune E Pluribus Unum, where we perceive Love being Love, where we perceive Love being with Love, and where we perceive Love begetting Love. Every bit of our fractured and frayed reality both within and without testifies to us of the Immutable Truth Who is Himself the End of Ad Infinitum.

  93. Melissa says:

    Ray,

    The ultimate cause is so that the plant can gather more energy. An ultimate cause is not quite the same as a telos, of course, but it can easily be confused for one.

    Not quite the same? What is it? Is this new whatever it is able to do the work required to allow your explanations to explain anything? You assert it’s our confusion but more likely it’s just you not wanting to recognise the obvious because telos doesn’t fit into your worldview.

  94. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ray Ingles:

    Say, the topic of sweetness reminds me of a question for the A-T types here. Condoms and such are supposed to be bad because they interfere with the telos of sex, reproduction. Wouldn’t artificial sweeteners be just as bad, since they interfere with the telos of eating, nutrition? How come I’ve never once heard about a Christian moral crusade against aspartame?

    Thanks for bringing to my attention this cancer that is eating at the very fabric of our society (as can be seen from, among a multitude of sources, here). It pains me to confess that we A-T types have been relapse in our duties. I will start sending some emails to The Powers That Be to start changing this unfortunate situation — be prepared, in the near future, for street-marchings, organized protests and (you never heard this from me), “accidents” in aspartame producing factories.

  95. Jenna Black says:

    Ray and djc,

    It seems to me that naturalism’s explanatory powers are very quickly exhausted, most especially in the realm of morality as we confront The Problem of Evil (which I am sure even naturalists consider to be a problem). Certainly naturalism must recognize that it is just as natural for humans to commit acts of evil as it is for us to commit acts of good. This is due to evolution, as you point out. You have also conceded in this discussion that biological evolution has more or less reached an ending point, at least for the time being. Therefore, some other type of “evolution” has kicked in other than mutation and natural selection, since many humans have survived to reproduce themselves equally well by committing evil acts versus good acts. And we have not identified an “evil” gene vs. a “good” gene for purposes of selective breeding.

    So my question to naturalists is this: Given that evolution does not seem to have solved the Problem of Evil, and given that if it is not solved we as humanity are doomed to destroy ourselves, where does naturalism take us?

  96. djc says:

    Melissa,

    You mean can I make a moral argument for why the person with a large degree of passion for the common good should “tyrannize” the person with a tiny degree of passion for the common good? No,

    Exactly. Your they should do this is nothing more than projecting your own values onto them.

    As a core moral emotion, I do not believe the low-level sense of “passion for the common good” that anchors much of morality varies much at all. It might be something like empathy but as social creatures, it must intrinsic to all but the loners. So I can make most moral arguments within society rather than outside or above it. Morality under naturalism only makes sense within human psychology, as Curry stresses. So more accurately it is not “me projecting my values onto others” as it is “humans projecting human values onto humans” which doesn’t really seem that all foreign.

    Further, it does not seem to be varying degrees of intrinsic moral emotions that cause moral conflicts, rather it seems to be emphasis on different moral emotions for similar situations. To use scbrownlhrm’s favorite example, there is no moral foundation for child sacrifice (that would be a quick recipe for extinction if so), but there is a moral dimension for reverence to authority and loyalty (see Jonathan Haidt’s work). In such civilizations, a command to sacrifice children as a means of pleasing the gods could occasionally override the moral dimension of care/harm.

    For naturalism, a conflict of moral emotions/dimensions has to be resolved with something other than morality. That is, neither side can project their values onto the other and expect resolution. Both sides believe they are morally right because they feel a moral emotion albeit a different one reached in a different way. So naturalism most also rely on rationality to appeal to other shared values such as peaceful cooperation as a means of resolving moral conflicts.

    Once you’ve decided on a goal your can talk about what is a good strategy, but you have no goal. There is no objectively better, there is only what satisfies desires.

    Stated that way, it’s not much different from theism. At bottom, we both have values that are hardwired into the human organism (with or without soul). Some of those are moral values, some of are strictly selfish. We appeal to values and then demonstrate logically how those can be achieved by following particular strategies. At ground level it’s all “humans projecting human values onto humans”.

    The theist goes on to say these hardwired values are fully represented in some other dimension of reality. They can’t show you them exactly but they insist they’re there and most be valued. The naturalist says these hardwired values are representative of a good-enough design solution for social organisms which occurred at an unknown time, place and circumstance in the past, which may or may not be perfect now, but it’s all we have to work with so let’s make the best of it. From a practical perspective, this does not sound all that different.

  97. djc says:

    Jenna Black,

    So my question to naturalists is this: Given that evolution does not seem to have solved the Problem of Evil, and given that if it is not solved we as humanity are doomed to destroy ourselves, where does naturalism take us?

    There is less and less reason to think we are doomed to destroy ourselves, as Steven Pinker argues in The Better Angels of Our Nature, Why Violence has Declined. He cites as reasons for the decline in violence the modern nation-state and judiciary, commerce, feminization, cosmopolitanism, and the Escalator of Reason, an “intensifying application of knowledge and rationality to human affairs,” which “can force people to recognize the futility of cycles of violence, to ramp down the privileging of their own interests over others’, and to reframe violence as a problem to be solved rather than a contest to be won.”

  98. Jenna Black says:

    djc, RE: #96

    I find your depiction of theism in this comment to be rather off track. Theists do not claim that we have “hardwired values” since values are beliefs, judgments, moral premises and moral reasoning that are the product of our entire set of cognitive (knowledge) and reasoning abilities, often referred to as the mind. Yes, our minds have the capacity for moral reasoning, which serves us in many ways, but primarily for striving for a relationship with the Ultimate Source of Morality, which we call God. The human “animal” can and does survive without moral values, just as any other biological creature can, but our ability to perform moral reasoning and act upon our moral reasoning is what enables us to not only survive, but thrive in our environment, which is both physical and spiritual.

    You paint a picture of two warring groups, those with bad (evil) moral values against those with good moral values. This black and white scenario rarely applies, of course. But what about that internal war within each of us, where our natural tendency toward evil (selfishness, pleasure seeking, power seeking, etc.) is at war with our passion for love, joy, communion with others and with the Divine, etc. Like St. Paul’s dilemma in Romans 7:19 “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

    This is what we theists call sin. What is naturalism’s take on sin?

  99. Jenna Black says:

    djc, RE: #97

    I am not talking about the destruction of humanity by destroying each other through violence. I’m thinking of global warming and an ecological disaster. The evil of global warming is human selfishness and disregard for God’s creation (the earth) and God’s living creatures (whales, forests, etc.). Am I willing to give up the convenience of my car to reduce air pollution? Am I willing to give up my garden because my region is experiencing extreme drought? Our concept of our moral responsibility to God’s creation and to each other needs to extend far beyond our cooperation with our own group or community.

    Besides, the lesson of the bloody 20th century is that groups of people can use their reasoning abilities to justify viewing “the other” as a threat to their survival (as a race, as a people) such that they feel morally justified in using violence against them. Murder justified through an ideology is a huge problem that has taken on greater significance in modern times, not less.

    I take note of Pinker’s use of the term “angels of our nature” in his title. Sounds like spirituality to me. Isn’t he a naturalist?

  100. Jenna Black says:

    djc,

    I found this review of Steven Pinker’s book by David Bentley Hart, one of my favorite theologians.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/12/the-precious-steven-pinker

  101. Melissa says:

    djc,

    Stated that way, it’s not much different from theism. At bottom, we both have values that are hardwired into the human organism (with or without soul). Some of those are moral values, some of are strictly selfish. We appeal to values and then demonstrate logically how those can be achieved by following particular strategies. At ground level it’s all “humans projecting human values onto humans”.

    Actually, no. On theism there is a hierarchy of ends culminating in our ultimate end. A good human being will value those things that contribute to us reaching our natural ends. All the naturalist has are competing values. A rational argument that a particular passion should supersede any other is not possible on naturalism. What happens when naturalists seek to resolve moral conflicts is that they implicitly assume a hierarchy of goals and ultimate ends, all the while denying the existence of anything objective to justify it.

  102. Ray Ingles says:

    G. Rodrigues –

    be prepared, in the near future, for street-marchings, organized protests and (you never heard this from me), “accidents” in aspartame producing factories.

    I’d settle for even a single A-T philosopher or Christian preacher counseling against artificial sweeteners on a teleological basis. (My Google-fu has been unable to turn one up.) I mean, I suppose one could argue – as you seem to do in your inimitably sarcastic way – that it’s a venial sin,. But isn’t it nevertheless, unavoidably, sin – similar in kind (if arguendo not degree) to using barriers to conception in sex?

    On the other hand, if it’s not a sin at all, can you explain in A-T terms how it’s not?

  103. Ray Ingles says:

    Melissa –

    Except that you specified nature a la G Rodrugues.

    As with Laplace, that doesn’t mean I was citing him on every particular. If there’s something that has the relevant features of a nature – and it does mean something to say that someone’s “human” as opposed to “a rock” or even “a primate” – then conclusions can follow from there.

    Individual goals not universal goals, so no universal ought.

    But I’m okay with oughts that apply just to ‘humans in general’. I don’t need those oughts to apply to leopards and meteorites, too.

  104. Ray Ingles says:

    Jenna –

    Certainly naturalism must recognize that it is just as natural for humans to commit acts of evil as it is for us to commit acts of good.

    In about the same way that humans can do engineering badly or well, too.

    You have also conceded in this discussion that biological evolution has more or less reached an ending point, at least for the time being.

    Nope, no more than a glacier has reached an ‘ending point’. It may progress too slowly in humans for ongoing evolution to be relevant to human concerns, but that doesn’t mean it’s stopped. See, e.g. lactase persistence. And insofar as a large number of human traits – a large chunk of what we call ‘human nature’ – arose through evolution, it’s therefore relevant.

    In the same way that evolution made engineering possible (our intelligence and facility with language, enabling us to share complex information), it made our moral development over the last couple hundred thousand years possible too.

    many humans have survived to reproduce themselves equally well by committing evil acts versus good acts

    Millions of Romans survived by the use of lead plumbing, too. We’ve learned more since then – morally, as well as engineering-wise.

  105. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ray Ingles:

    I mean, I suppose one could argue – as you seem to do in your inimitably sarcastic way – that it’s a venial sin.

    You are a funny guy. In your own inimitable way, that is.

  106. Jenna Black says:

    Ray, RE: #104

    You don’t seem to have addressed my argument in this comment. I understand your objection to the term “stopped” referring to evolution, but if you examine my comment closely, you will see that I qualified the term considerably, explaining that I mean evolution in the biological sense of mutation and natural selection. Again, naturalists run into the problem/fallacy of equivocation when they/you use the term evolution to mean different things in the same argument. As I pointed out before, learning is not evolution: Certainly, humans have learned a great deal that shapes and impacts our moral reasoning, such as the consequences of murderous, racist and genocidal ideologies in light of our capacity for construction mass media campaigns and propaganda on a much grander scale than ever before in history. But you still have not convinced me that naturalism takes us anywhere in terms of a deeper understanding of human moral reasoning.

    Naturalism cannot overcome the bewilderment of believers in attempting to understand how atheists conduct their moral reasoning and ethical decision-making without reference to the moral principles that stem from a belief in God. For example, some atheists deny the concept and existence of “sin” based on their non-belief in God and their definition of the term “sin” to be a transgression against God (God’s laws). Some even declare themselves to be “free of sin” or “free from sin” based on their non-belief in God. This is both puzzling and distressing to Christians because we don’t know any atheists who we would consider free of sin, regardless of their lack of belief in God.

    This raises the question: On what set of moral principles, truths, concepts, constructs do atheists base their moral reasoning or determination of right vs. wrong, justice vs. injustice, etc. if not on a belief in some moral absolutes or moral principles such as those we believers derive from the moral/ethical teachings of our religion? What paradigm for moral reasoning is it that the atheist employs in his/her decision-making since atheism suggests or espouses no moral code or paradigm for moral reasoning? This says nothing about the personal moral code of any atheist individually. However, whatever moral paradigm any atheist uses as a reference point for moral decision-making is not a moral code of atheism. There is no such thing as a moral code or “moral values” that are logically derived from naturalism or atheism.

  107. Melissa says:

    Ray,

    But I’m okay with oughts that apply just to ‘humans in general’. I don’t need those oughts to apply to leopards and meteorites, too.

    Well you don’t have those either … unless you are suggesting that humans have goals that they are unaware should be their ultimate goal, but that just would be telos, so clearly not.

  108. Ray Ingles says:

    G. Rodrigues – Your refusal to actually address points, but just act as if you had, is rather easy to imitate. I choose not to, however. To reiterate: On the other hand, if it’s not a sin at all, can you explain in A-T terms how it’s not?

  109. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ray Ingles:

    To reiterate: On the other hand, if it’s not a sin at all, can you explain in A-T terms how it’s not?

    Oh please, give me a break; you are making a stupid question. I would be more inclined to answer if you yourself had explained how in God’s name adding aspartame to your coffee is a frustration of the nourishing purpose of eating, but the matter of fact is I have no wish to follow your rabbit holes. Since you advertised yourself as having read TLS, you cannot not know — or it is very hard to fathom how you can possibly not know — that it is a stupid question, hurled in the service of OT cheap polemics (hint: chapter 4, section on natural law. Prof. Feser was even so kind as to lavish enthusiastic Q-Tip users with some well-timed prudential advice).

  110. Ray Ingles says:

    Melissa –

    Well you don’t have those either … unless you are suggesting that humans have goals that they are unaware should be their ultimate goal, but that just would be telos, so clearly not.

    Sure I do. We can study what actually makes people happy, and reach some conclusions.

    That doesn’t mean humans have a telos assigned to them by God. It means that humans have inbuilt preferences and goals, and we keep learning more about how best to go about satisfying them.

  111. Jenna Black says:

    Ray, RE: #110

    If you want to read a highly respected psychologist who has studied “what actually makes people happy” and the role spirituality and religion play in their happiness, I highly recommend this book: Abraham Maslow (1971). Religions, values and Peak-experiences.

  112. Ray Ingles says:

    G. Rodrigues – Why are condoms and other contraception bad in A-T terms? Because the telos of sex is reproduction, and contraception frustrates that. Couples get the pleasure of the activity without carrying out the actual purpose of the marital act. It doesn’t matter if they do, in fact, engage in reproduction at times; any act of coitus that involves deliberately circumventing the telos of coitus is wrong.

    Now, in A-T terms, the purpose of eating is to nourish and thereby sustain the body. Artificial sweeteners frustrate that – they give the pleasure of consuming energy-rich food without actually nourishing the body. It doesn’t matter if someone consumes enough real food to actually keep their body operating, eating artificially-sweetened food involves deliberately circumventing the telos of eating, and is therefore wrong.

    Feser contends that even lying to protect a victim from a murderer is wrong (though “at most a venial sin”). Perhaps the gluttony involved is small, but more cups of artificially sweetened coffee are consumed in an hour than lies are told to protect victims from murderers in a decade. Doesn’t it add up?

  113. djc says:

    Jenna Black,

    Theists do not claim that we have “hardwired values” since values are beliefs,judgments, moral premises and moral reasoning that are the product of ourentire set of cognitive (knowledge) and reasoning abilities, often referred toas the mind.

    You’re going up the ladder while I was talking about ground level. Beliefs,and judgments pertaining to moral reasoning all are based on core values, primitive low-level desires/feelings no matter who we are. Think about what a baby is born with. Not full-fledged beliefs, judgments and moral premises but something much simpler and more basic, much closer to raw feelings such as color perception or the emotion of excitement. Those are our common “hardwired” values. Those are what we build on over life to come up with the full suite of moral reasoning.

    This is what we theists call sin. What is naturalism’s take on sin?

    Sin under naturalism can probably be thought of as pure selfishness at group expense, so morality has evolved precisely to remedy it. Shaming, shunning, resentment, disapproval, punishing, feeling shame and guilt are all moral mechanisms evolved to cope with this view of sin under naturalism.

    I’m thinking of global warming and an ecological disaster. The evil of global warming is human selfishness and disregard for God’s creation (the earth) andGod’s living creatures (whales, forests, etc.). Am I willing to give up the convenience of my car to reduce air pollution?

    Pinker sees a trend in the world of valuing not only humanity but all life. And certainly valuing our own habitat makes sense. The push for carbon limits,solar energy, etc., bode well for the future I think.

    Murder justified through an ideology is a huge problem that has taken on greater significance in modern times, not less.

    Pinker shows that murder justified through ideology is actually extremely common over humanity’s history– basically all wars are driven by some form of ideology for example–and less common today by comparison. Possibly the bloodiest war of all time was the 8th century An Lushan Rebellion against the Tang Dynasty of China that may have resulted in 36 million deaths (which if adjusted for smaller population of the world would be 430 million today).

    I take note of Pinker’s use of the term “angels of our nature” in his title. Sounds like spirituality to me. Isn’t he a naturalist?

    He’s a naturalist all right. The quote comes from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address hoping to avoid the Civil War.

    I found this review of Steven Pinker’s book by David Bentley Hart, one of my favorite theologians.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/12/the-precious-steven-pinker

    I can’t find anything in the review that casts serious doubts on Pinker’s general conclusions, Hart does not do any analysis of his own except to suggest areas that might be wrong (one gets the impression Hart wants people to believe Pinker’s work is so far beneath him that it is simply not necessary to do any real work to refute him; that’s always a serious mistake in the sciences).

    But there are some specific claims he makes that I find problematic.

    Obviously, though, a remote Inuit village of one hundred souls where someone gets killed in a fistfight is not twice as violent as a nation of 200 million that exterminates one million of its citizens.

    I would say it exactly the other way. It is obvious that a chance of dying of 1/100 is twice as violent as a 1/200 chance of dying. This is just basic statistics. It does not matter if the death is by fist-fight or by random “government attack”, all things being equal. Death by human hands is death by human hands.

    Another claim:

    especially since over the past century modern medicine has reduced infant mortality and radically extended life spans nearly everywhere (meaning, for one thing, there are now far more persons too young or too old to fight).

    The claim that there are more persons too young to fight makes no sense to me, as the number of young must somehow correlate to the number of those old enough to fight, less young is necessarily less combatants, more young means more combatants, how else do you get people able to fight if they were not young at some point?

    Too old to fight makes more sense as an objection since violence metrics could be skewed by an older population that is usually less violence-prone. But how much? Does it actually hurt Pinker’s argument? Probably not since Pinker focuses on all kinds of violence, not just the kinds committed by young males. Further, adding older, wiser folks to a society might also have a direct or indirect calming affect overall on youth. Hart needs to do some actual work to see if his objections have merit.

  114. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m sorry, djc, but having just read Hart’s criticism of Pinker, I find a lot of evidence there for Hart’s position. I can’t help wondering if you missed it because you thought it was so far beneath you that it’s simply not necessary to do any work to refute him.

    Your statistical analysis of the young and old misses the point. I suggest you re-read the source.

    And “just basic statistics” cannot tell the story of 1/100 versus 1 million out of 200 million. Or maybe in your studies you missed the part about sample size and the absolute number of positive cases in the analysis of proportions. Just basic 101-level statistics.

    Not to mention the difference between what it takes to kill one person and what it takes to kill 1 million. To kill 1 million takes planning, systems, organization, policies, even machinery: a kind of premeditation that far, far, far exceeds what it takes to kill one.

    Think, man, think!

  115. djc says:

    Melissa,

    Actually, no. On theism there is a hierarchy of ends culminating in our ultimate end. A good human being will value those things that contribute to us reaching our natural ends.

    But theist and naturalist still start with the same basic low-level values and work up from there building more complex values. The “ends” of complex meaning and value are far from obvious and must be deduced by understanding human nature and reality. Theists put God and his revealed knowledge in there ahead of science. That’s the only difference I can see.

    All the naturalist has are competing values. A rational argument that a particular passion should supersede any other is not possible on naturalism. What happens when naturalists seek to resolve moral conflicts is that they implicitly assume a hierarchy of goals and ultimate ends, all the while denying the existence of anything objective to justify it.

    In the context of the Curry post, that’s not even close to the way it works.

    As a metaphor imagine that you like eating candy. But you also like healthy teeth. These values compete. Here’s your argument: All the naturalist has are competing values. A rational argument that a particular passion– liking candy, or liking healthy teeth– should supersede any other is not possible on naturalism.

    But wait, it is! Brush your teeth after eating candy. Suddenly both values can be achieved.

    It works the same way with moral values. Naturalists try to find the solution to moral conflicts that satisfies the most moral values on all sides. And since one of our lowest-level values is the desire to enjoy the companionship of other people, advancing everyone’s values as much as possible is even more pleasurable than eating candy.

    The objectivity of moral values is the fact that they are largely shared by all human beings. If they weren’t, society would have broken down ages ago and we’d be living like asocial organisms, i..e leopards, badgers, reptiles, etc.

  116. Melissa says:

    Ray,

    That doesn’t mean humans have a telos assigned to them by God. It means that humans have inbuilt preferences and goals, and we keep learning more about how best to go about satisfying them.

    People have inbuilt goals, some of which they are not actually aware of? That just is a telos or final cause. Of course if humans have a nature and a final cause then you get real morality.

    I think we’re done here. You’re many stated beliefs are inconsistent and that explanation that you pointed me towards where you had thought it all through was nothing of the sort. It has it’s own problems with explaining universals and it also does not explain how things can have a final cause without God.

  117. Jenna Black says:

    djc, RE: #115

    I find this comment to be rather odd: djc “Theists put God and his revealed knowledge in there ahead of science. That’s the only difference I can see.”

    What does science have to say about morality? As far as I know, nothing. Morality isn’t something that scientific methods of inquiry are equipped to study. In fact, scientists eschew this kind of inquiry, leaving these issues to the academic disciplines and practical arenas of philosophy and theology. I’m coming to the conclusion that naturalism is an attempt to “do” philosophy and call it science.

  118. Melissa says:

    djc,

    Theists put God and his revealed knowledge in there ahead of science. That’s the only difference I can see.

    Then you haven’t looked hard enough. In fact you haven’t understood even what you quoted. Theists believe we have real objective ends and that is what gives the foundation for moral reasoning.

    The objectivity of moral values is the fact that they are largely shared by all human beings.

    They would need to be universally shared right down to the hierarchy for those goals that are mutually incompatible. There is no evidence that is true, in fact the evidence points the opposite way. Which results in a tyranny of the majority.

  119. djc says:

    Tom,

    I find a lot of evidence there for Hart’s position.

    I was looking for graphs, numbers, data, references. That’s in huge supply in Pinker’s work, but I didn’t see anything in Hart’s review. That’s why I said Hart does not do any analysis of his own except to suggest areas that might be wrong.

    Your statistical analysis of the young and old misses the point. I suggest you re-read the source.

    From the review:

    And even where the orders of magnitude are not quite so divergent, comparison on a global scale is useless, especially since over the past century modern medicine has reduced infant mortality and radically extended life spans nearly everywhere (meaning, for one thing, there are now far more persons too young or too old to fight).

    I’m taking the last sentence: “meaning, for one thing, there are now far more persons too young or too old to fight” at face value when I wrote my response. I don’t see that it misses the point.

    Not to mention the difference between what it takes to kill one person and what it takes to kill 1 million. To kill 1 million takes planning, systems, organization, policies, even machinery: a kind of premeditation that far, far, far exceeds what it takes to kill one.

    You are reading it differently than I did. The original quote:

    Obviously, though, a remote Inuit village of one hundred souls where someone gets killed in a fistfight is not twice as violent as a nation of 200 million that exterminates one million of its citizens.

    I took this to mean something like a system of government with capital punishment that imprisons and kills “criminals” at various times and places all over a country of millions of square miles over a period of time. This doesn’t require pre-mediation or planning, just draconian laws and enforcement.

    But I see you are taking it to mean something like a government that on a particular day rounds up 1 million of its citizens and has them executed. Certainly if we see a rise of “government psychopathy” that would be cause for alarm regardless of statistics and rate of violence would take a backseat to studying the rate of “killer governments”.

    Or as another thought experiment, compare the Inuit village to a hypothetical village in which a killer tortures the victim for days or weeks before killing. Then of course we don’t care about statistics; if there is a specific change in the fundamental nature of violence over time such that the modern era represents a dramatic increase in sadism while a drop in relative numbers, that is the real story.

    However, this was my point about Hart. Are all violence metrics irrelevant because they don’t take into account premeditation, planning, government, torture, suffering, etc. and, therefore does this undermine Pinker’s point at all? That is far from obvious. Someone has to do the work.

    Think, man, think!

    Is that really necessary? Especially at this early stage of discussion when there is still the most room for misunderstanding?

  120. scbrownlhrm says:

    Tom,

    I want to draw your attention to a particular vector which you may not be aware of which you are actually interacting with. In part, also, I’m wondering if you actually think it is fruitful work to dialogue with folks who find it too uncomfortable to embrace their entire worldview?

    As per #84 and #92, I’ve yet to see the evolutionists embrace their whole Tree. Naturally, given God, given their Moral Knowledge, which all their equivocations testify towards, they want to be free of that singular Tree and thus you’re dealing with folks who simply choose to pretend there are branches of some other Tree motioning about in our psychology, or that learning/sight is evolutionary, as such offers them hope, even if incoherent.

    But look at what is driving them to so self-deceive. That may be helpful.

    While I admire your effort, self-deception isn’t a construct which reason will succeed with as their own painful cognitive dissonance which comes with reasoning’s affront is the very thing which drives them further into autohypnosis.

    The Moral Knowledge which you’ve argued testifies of God, of Immutable Love, is, ironically, the very thing you are dealing with in their unwillingness to embrace their own Tree’s branches, again as per #84 and #92. Given God, given what they thus know, what they thus intuit, they just always will try to separate Immutable Love’s fully singular, fully triune Self-Other-Us, in Whom the end of ad infinitum just is E Pluribus Unum, from all those other Branches of their own Tree which they at bottom loathe, as His Image just is our own (fragmented) image, our final felicity, which they cannot escape perception of even in its painfully fragmented privations.

    In a way it is a good thing to see their passion for, defense of, The-Real, even though they lack the ontological means to so reach. I write this to draw your attention to the problem you are actually interacting with: Timelessly and unendingly within the Triune God Love’s Self is found ever pouring out, the Beloved Other is found ever filling up, the singular Us therein found ever begotten, and in such means/ends He fashions us, Immutable Love’s Image thus being our image, spied high on that Hill, and the desire to see, to embrace, to motion towards Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self will manifest in various ways, their incoherent reaching here, their autohypnotic hoping here, being but one of many such manifestations.

  121. djc says:

    Melissa,

    Theists put God and his revealed knowledge in there ahead of science. That’s the only difference I can see.

    Then you haven’t looked hard enough. In fact you haven’t understood even what you quoted. Theists believe we have real objective ends and that is what gives the foundation for moral reasoning.

    That’s not any different from what I said. Those beliefs come from God and revealed knowledge and that’s exactly what would be expected if theists and nontheists part company at explaining the source of shared core values. But they share those core values non-the-less.

    The objectivity of moral values is the fact that they are largely shared by all human beings.

    They would need to be universally shared right down to the hierarchy for those goals that are mutually incompatible. There is no evidence that is true, in fact the evidence points the opposite way. Which results in a tyranny of the majority.

    I agree that the entire hierarchy is not shared and a key part of the reason is disagreements of the theist -vs- nontheist variety: different assumptions about how to take the facts of reality and mesh them with our shared core values to come up with a strategy that satisfies the most values. My claim is that the strategy of trying to foster agreement on the facts of reality and the facts of human psychology in order to derive shared moral propositions is difficult but not impossible. Your claim is that it is impossible, but I think you’ve got a tougher job than I do to prove that.

    Tyranny of the majority is a problem under any system of morality and I can’t imagine theism solves it except to declare some minority immoral and unfit to complain. If theism can not produce God’s code of values in a form all can agree exist, this just seems unfair to me.

    Naturalism should still view a situation with an oppressed minority as inferior, not the best and would continue to look for solutions that don’t have oppressed minorities, recognizing that differences are not due to immorality but due to variability of experiences.

  122. Melissa says:

    djc,

    That’s not any different from what I said. Those beliefs come from God and revealed knowledge and that’s exactly what would be expected if theists and nontheists part company at explaining the source of shared core values. But they share those core values non-the-less.

    Actually it is very different, and in my view (and Paul’s) people do not necessarily need revealed knowledge to know what is good for humans. It’s not shared values that give objective morality but rather real objective natural ends that all humans have. The shared values that the naturalist attempts to build their morality from (if they get it right) just are those values that accurately track with a human beings natural ends.

    Tyranny of the majority is a problem under any system of morality and I can’t imagine theism solves it except to declare some minority immoral and unfit to complain. If theism can not produce God’s code of values in a form all can agree exist, this just seems unfair to me.

    Well, it’s not tyranny if it’s justice and encouraging good moral character is objectively good no matter what any individual might think. It is objectively good to teach someone to deny disordered values if objective morality is true.

    Naturalism should still view a situation with an oppressed minority as inferior, not the best and would continue to look for solutions that don’t have oppressed minorities, recognizing that differences are not due to immorality but due to variability of experiences

    Exactly – nothing is really immoral, there’s just variation which makes the should in your first sentence rather puzzling.

    The thing is that naturalists can use reason and facts about humans to work out what us good because the proximate cause of morality is human nature, and that is really what the naturalist is doing when they engage in moral reasoning. If you took a good honest look at it you would see this yourself. The problem is that you also deny there is human nature.

  123. scblhrm says:

    Melissa,

    “differences are not due to immorality but due to variability of experiences”

    I confess I missed that point about no immorality….. but there it is.

    “Should” = nonsense…… but there it is.

    You can’t reason with wishfulfilment.

  124. scbrownlhrm says:

    We have tasted the affront of all that is our own Self harshly against all that is the Other in this or that misuse of or disuse of another human being and have in those moments known, perceived our own acute moral failure, and that not merely in the mere omission/commission of the moment but in a far wider frame wherein our own awareness of a far greater archetype loomed unrelenting.

    The assertion that the Immoral is non-entity, is delusion, is housed in mere preference, and that should our neighbor so misuse or disuse us or another human being such shall not be for him that which affronts Actuality should his own preference be so inclined is the assertion of a mind afraid of reality, afraid of mind’s brutally repeatable perceptions.

    On naturalism we find that all apologies ever uttered, all the shouldn’t have’s ever cried, all the ought not have’s ever declared must here and now be wholly, completely, totally annulled.

    Of course, man knows, perceives, otherwise.

    Love is, in all possible worlds, the highest ethic, as the ontological statement, “Ultimate Actuality is E Pluribus Unum” is sighted there at the end of ad infinitum. We find in the Triune God, and in His manifestation within Time and Physicality, the whole affair of just that geography, that of “e pluribus unum”, of amalgamation, and in all vectors. In Him we find an end of regression which is necessarily interpersonal, which is necessarily Self-Other-Us, unequivocally triune, effusively singular, wherein all lines converge within the very sum and substance of Love. Such is in Him, in God, for He is Love, and by Christ we come to perceive that such is unrelentingly true also of Love and His Beloved, that is, of God and Man, of Timelessness and Time, of Underived and Derived, of Word and Corporeal.

  125. Larry Tanner says:

    “You can’t reason with wishfulfilment [sic].”

    I could not agree more.

  126. scbrownlhrm says:

    While annulling all that is apology, and, while annulling all that is forgiveness, are moves which grant – at bottom – coherence to naturalism, such motions are – at bottom – incoherent with reality. Grace and Truth are – at bottom – One.

  127. Ray Ingles says:

    Melissa –

    People have inbuilt goals, some of which they are not actually aware of? That just is a telos or final cause.

    I note you switched from “goals” – plural, to “a telos” – singular.

    But you misunderstand. I don’t think you read any of the links I provided. “Money spent on experiences – vacations or theater tickets or meals out – makes you happier than money spent on material goods.” That doesn’t mean our telos is going out to a play.

    And it’s the fact that we have multiple goals that’s part of the problem. Humans – and, really, anything we know of that has desires – have multiple competing wants and needs that we have to balance and arbitrate between. Ever wake up after a late night and be torn betwixt just a few more minutes of sleep, please and yikes I really need to visit the bathroom? Not all desires are quite so pressing, of course, but we often decide not to do something we very much want, for the sake of something else we deem more important. Of course, people don’t actually manage their lives as rational actors terribly often in the real world – economists have been finding out what advertisers and diet coaches have known for millenia. But that speaks more to how powerful immediate passions can be than invalidating the idea that desires drive choice.

    (Y’know, one operational definition of “integrity” might be “sticking to fulfilling a mutually-consistent subset of one’s desires”.)

    Part of being a grownup is understanding what’s most important to us – what we “really want” – and figuring out what choices actually promote that. If we do know what we want – if we do accurately know ourselves – then we should, allowing for human failings, choose accordingly. Why would we do otherwise?

  128. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ray Ingles:

    Now, in A-T terms, the purpose of eating is to nourish and thereby sustain the body. Artificial sweeteners frustrate that – they give the pleasure of consuming energy-rich food without actually nourishing the body.

    I do not intend to break my decision, but I can say this much: while I am not a native English speaker, I suggest you do look up the definition of “frustrate” in the dictionary. Failing that, just read a damn book (and given that the word is used in a precise technical meaning, that is the best course). Or not.

  129. djc says:

    Melissa,

    Actually it is very different, and in my view (and Paul’s) people do not necessarily need revealed knowledge to know what is good for humans. It’s not shared values that give objective morality but rather real objective natural ends that all humans have. The shared values that the naturalist attempts to build their morality from (if they get it right) just are those values that accurately track with a human beings natural ends.

    Got it. I think babies are clearly born with quite a bit of moral values (in the form of moral emotions and sociality), so we agree there, but at the same time we also see that they have a very difficult time learning how to make those values work socially. Babies and young children just don’t know how, when and why to trade-off selfish desires with selfless group desires. Paul’s view seems to be that this is a symptom of original sin, while the naturalist’s view is that morality is a complex system that takes years to learn.

    Well, it’s not tyranny if it’s justice and encouraging good moral character is objectively good no matter what any individual might think. It is objectively good to teach someone to deny disordered values if objective morality is true.

    True. But in naturalism’s view I mean that a subgroup that is in serious conflict with a larger group are invariably driven by their own moral emotions. Their conflict is righteous in their own minds. This is in contrast to conflicts that result from exploiting a group for individual benefit, i.e. free rider problem. Gang warfare in inner cities is usually driven by moral emotions, while theft and rape are usually not.

    I think the distinction is important since under naturalism morality evolved to handle the free-rider problem. But after moral emotions are in place, we see that groups bound together by moral emotions are stronger and more driven in their conflict with other groups (using various moral language to justify such as “they oppress us”, “they corrupt us”, “they cheat us”), not just free-riders. This leads to a conclusion I find remarkable, that morality as an evolutionary invention has possibly resulted in as much violence across groups as peace within groups.

    Exactly – nothing is really immoral, there’s just variation which makes the should in your first sentence rather puzzling.

    If we stick to the Curry paper, moral values at core are entirely about human psychology. They are emotions. The key issue for the naturalist is the relationship between emotions and reality. Both facts and fiction can trigger our emotions so the existence of an emotion alone does not guarantee a one-to-one relationship with empirical fact.

    However, I think it would be very difficult to show that emotions have absolutely no consistent connection to reality, i.e. that there are no consistent facts whatsoever that correspond to emotions, moral and otherwise. That would be the only way to show that morality under this kind of naturalistic assumption is truly arbitrary (not your claim here).

    The thing is that naturalists can use reason and facts about humans to work out what us good because the proximate cause of morality is human nature, and that is really what the naturalist is doing when they engage in moral reasoning. If you took a good honest look at it you would see this yourself. The problem is that you also deny there is human nature.

    If you are claiming an empirical study of human psychology (nature) in its entirety could lead to a system of morality similar to Christianity, I don’t necessarily disagree, that’s a testable prediction. I think human emotions are highly complex but ultimately deterministic and predictable neural programs that can be studied and understood to deliver a growing set of objective moral facts relating to human psychology and human social interaction.

    This strategy is indeed anchored by human nature under naturalism (i.e. we do it because we want to do it and value the end result), but the naturalist understands human nature to be a complex system fully explainable in the physical realm.

  130. scbrownlhrm says:

    Materialism inevitably ends in Autohypnosis and Wish-fulfillment:

    Naturalism’s Brute Fact:

    A = Indifference/Deterministic, or, ID

    Z = Indifference/Deterministic, or, ID

    [Actuality] = [A - (Irrationally Effervescing Fragments of ID just are Psychic Phosphorescence) - Z]

    A through Z are, of course, deterministic to the bitter ends of regression, quarks never being – at bottom – free of themselves.

    We find in the ends of regression within Naturalism that the whole affair of volitional thought is non-entity, just as, reasoning itself, love itself, thinking itself all end in some sort of odd blend of mereological nihilism with opaque skepticism. We find then that the Naturalist must, his whole life long, go one living as if we reason, go on living as if we love, and go on living as if all which is Perception (which is at best antirealism’s delusion as conceded in the opening linked essays) is telling us the fact of the matter.

    The Naturalist must live as if there actually is such an entity as ought-not as he shakes his fist at “evil”. “As if” just is the state of affairs in the lived life, if Naturalism, as all which is Moral Perception is at best antirealism’s delusion, as conceded in the opening linked essays. Now, when one’s ontology clearly contradicts, and, even worse, actually and fully makes of one’s epistemology non-entity then one is clearly living according to and as if something one knows to be Not-True is in fact True. The technical term for this disorder is wish-fulfillment, or, autohypnosis.

    The cognitive dissonance driving the naturalist to deceive himself and fight against the undeniable in order to hold onto his naturalism is of course produced by real Moral Knowledge which he is – at bottom – unable to deny. As fragmented as it is, it still does the work of sight by letting in the light of day through the various cracks.

    On naturalism:

    Likes are facts.

    There is nothing else.

    John likes X while Mary hates X.

    Facts are just facts.

    We find here the inevitable:

    All that is apology is – at bottom – annulled.
    All that is forgiveness is – at bottom – annulled.

    Naturalism finds, by these moves, coherence. The Immoral is – at bottom – irrationally conditioned psychic phosphorescence, as is the Moral, each forever indistinguishable branches of naturalism’s solitary Tree.

    Morality and Immorality are each, on naturalism, a “fact” based within the taster, and thus not fact at all. And here that indistinguishable-ness surfaces again to that fatal end: each are forever indistinguishable branches of naturalism’s solitary Tree.

    We find here naturalism’s disturbing rationalization on ego’s stance as it ever moves to deny the undeniable, sacrificing that reality of which it is afraid that it may continue to assert that the Immoral is non-entity, and then assert that it is a fact.

    Equivocation:

    All is at bottom a set of tastes (facts) which John likes (fact) and which Mary dislikes (fact), and thus it is a fact that there is nothing immoral, because their experiences are different, John’s and Mary’s, and it is a fact that each fact coincides with a real part of the real world, John’s fact with Mary and Mary’s fact with John. The Naturalist thus concludes, “It’s a really real fact!”. John need not ever apologize, as his fact is a fact. Mary may ask for an apology, for her fact is a fact.

    Facts are facts.

    All facts are indistinguishable branches of naturalism’s solitary Tree.

    At this juncture we come again to the fact of naturalism’s incoherence: all that is apology, and, all that is forgiveness, are, though known to the full, though held in the hand, laid atop a frightened altar of rationalization and set ablaze. While annulling all that is apology and while annulling all that is forgiveness are moves which grant – at bottom – coherence to naturalism, such motions are – at bottom – incoherent with reality.

    Coherence with reality:

    Grace and Truth are – at bottom – One.

  131. Melissa says:

    djc,

    while the naturalist’s view is that morality is a complex system that takes years to learn.

    It’s no wonder you don’t see any need for Jesus, you have an overly optimistic view of the human condition.

    Gang warfare in inner cities is usually driven by moral emotions, while theft and rape are usually not.

    I think you are still not quite understanding my objection, which is that the labelling of certain emotions as moral is what is arbitrary. Everyone has particular emotions or passions but some you pick out as “moral” and claim that they should take precedence over the others. Where’s the justification for that?

    This strategy is indeed anchored by human nature under naturalism (i.e. we do it because we want to do it and value the end result), but the naturalist understands human nature to be a complex system fully explainable in the physical realm.

    Except that, if I remember rightly, you do not think that universals exist, and if universals do not exist then neither does human nature (in a universal sense) exist. What does exist is many particular human natures which is why you do not get a universal objective morality given your prior commitments.

  132. Ray Ingles says:

    G. Rodrigues –

    I suggest you do look up the definition of “frustrate” in the dictionary.

    prevent (a plan or attempted action) from progressing, succeeding, or being fulfilled.

    That’s exactly what artificial sweeteners do with digestion. They taste like energy-rich food, but the digestive system can extract at best negligible usable energy out of them.

    (Sure, other components of the food they are in can often be digested. Of course, contraception is seldom perfect, and even then most couples practicing contraception also deliberately reproduce, too. Artificial sweeteners don’t prevent all digestion, but neither do contraceptives prevent all reproduction.)

  133. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ray Ingles:

    prevent (a plan or attempted action) from progressing, succeeding, or being fulfilled.

    That’s exactly what artificial sweeteners do with digestion.

    I am wondering if you are terminally obtuse or just intellectually dishonest. Or both.

  134. Ray Ingles says:

    G. Rodrigues –

    I am wondering if you are terminally obtuse or just intellectually dishonest. Or both.

    I guess it’s obtuse. I keep expecting you’ll lay out a case rather than an accusation.

  135. djc says:

    Melissa,

    I think you are still not quite understanding my objection, which is that the labelling of certain emotions as moral is what is arbitrary. Everyone has particular emotions or passions but some you pick out as “moral” and claim that they should take precedence over the others. Where’s the justification for that?

    It isn’t the labeling that makes them moral, it is their unique nature. We know what gratitude feels like, we know what guilt feels like. That essence of experience is, at the most basic level, what really tells us what morality is, whether theist or naturalist. We experience sweet, red, happy, good and bad all at the same basic, visceral levels.

    I know theists argue that this is just the tip of the iceberg; experiencing a moral emotion is also a connection to something spiritual with real existence. The naturalist isn’t ruling that out necessarily, just not considering it as a hypothesis until empirical evidence is provided (which may or may not be fair, but isn’t the point under discussion).

    The naturalist is trying to understand why we experience good and bad moral emotions, what social situations trigger those experiences. Because I share the desire to experience good experiences as well as minimize bad experiences, I would naturally pursue a strategy that quantifies and qualifies rules for human psychology to result in more of the experience of good and less of the experience of bad for the most people. And that’s simply because I’m a social organism, I like people, I want their lives to be better if possible. That’s a value right out of my DNA.

    What does the naturalist do when two groups conflict with equally valid moral emotions on both sides? One strategy stems from the observation that emotions can be triggered by fact or fiction. Many moral conflicts seem to be the result of false information, inconsistent facts. It seems to be a fact of human nature that encouraging understanding and empathy dissolves some forms of moral outrage for example.

    But ultimately, a naturalist approach to morality will be driven by values that we have as human beings–moral values and selfish values– and it must take all values into account in much the same way a good hypothesis must account for all observations.

    Except that, if I remember rightly, you do not think that universals exist, and if universals do not exist then neither does human nature (in a universal sense) exist. What does exist is many particular human natures which is why you do not get a universal objective morality given your prior commitments.

    Yes, under naturalism reality appears to be mostly bell curves and probabilities. Abstractions and hierarchies become fuzzy and messy at edges and boundaries. Human nature is a bell curve on every meaningful measure. But all that generally means is that a range of solutions is sought rather than a single one.

  136. djc says:

    scbrownlhrm,

    All is at bottom a set of tastes (facts) which John likes (fact) and which Mary dislikes (fact), and thus it is a fact that there is nothing immoral, because their experiences are different, John’s and Mary’s, and it is a fact that each fact coincides with a real part of the real world, John’s fact with Mary and Mary’s fact with John. The Naturalist thus concludes, “It’s a really real fact!”. John need not ever apologize, as his fact is a fact. Mary may ask for an apology, for her fact is a fact.

    Morality is the “flavor” of how we perceive certain kinds of interaction with people, under naturalism, and flavors are not arbitrary or up to choice, you can not choose today to experience “sweet” as “sour”.

    But, yes, John can only act according to who he is and Mary can only act according to who she is and blaming either of them as if they are causa sui makes no sense under naturalism.

    Morality must be a means to an end under naturalism, and part of its end is the flourishing of human values, not just one or two but all of them as a massive multi-dimensional optimization problem. John must apologize or suffer the consequences, that’s what he must do to be true to his own values, and if he doesn’t see it that way, punishment may change his mind, no one likes punishment.

  137. Melissa says:

    djc,

    But all that generally means is that a range of solutions is sought rather than a single one.

    What it means is that the outliers get judged as sociopaths for no good reason. But you agree with me in this anyway and as far as I can tell your position boils down to more useful fictions. The argument from morality is an ontological argument so offering an alternative morality that sidesteps the question of ontology misses the point.

  138. Melissa says:

    djc,

    But all that generally means is that a range of solutions is sought rather than a single one.

    What it means is that the outliers get judged as sociopaths for no good reason. You have no reason why the particular values of the majority should be labelled good and the sociopaths bad and yet you continue to do so. That is your inconsistency.

    The argument from morality is about the ontology of morality, clearly we can all discuss morality while bracketing out the question of it’s ontology as you do but that offers no answer to the real question being asked.

  139. djc says:

    Melissa,

    What it means is that the outliers get judged as sociopaths for no good reason. You have no reason why the particular values of the majority should be labelled good and the sociopaths bad and yet you continue to do so. That is your inconsistency.

    The practice of morality in the form of altruism, following the rules, and punishing helps individuals get great benefit from being in groups. Therefore, the practicing of morality that provides great benefit is directly valuable to individuals. This is just an appeal to human values and that’s how I’ve been justifying morality under naturalism from the beginning.

    What does outliers mean in this context? If it means those who don’t practice morality, then it is also clear they break the system and reduce benefit to everyone. Reducing benefits to individuals is working directly against human values. On the other hand, if outliers have no affect on the benefits of morality, then there’s no reason for them to be considered outliers in this context.

    Or is your question why prioritize the practices, needs, and benefits of the larger group instead of the smaller group? That’s an intrinsic human value, too, I believe. We want the greatest good for the most (that we empathize with).

    Now empathizing certainly has been limited in the past, but studies of empathy seem to find that group boundaries are artificially constructed and can be dissolved by more information and understanding. Empathy unconstrained by artificial reasons to hate or dislike people seems to have no limits.

    The argument from morality is about the ontology of morality, clearly we can all discuss morality while bracketing out the question of it’s ontology as you do but that offers no answer to the real question being asked.

    I’m not following you here. Are you saying the Curry paper is not talking about the ontology of morality?

  140. Melissa says:

    djc,

    I’m not following you here. Are you saying the Curry paper is not talking about the ontology of morality?

    I was referring to this:

    I know theists argue that this is just the tip of the iceberg; experiencing a moral emotion is also a connection to something spiritual with real existence. The naturalist isn’t ruling that out necessarily, just not considering it as a hypothesis until empirical evidence is provided (which may or may not be fair, but isn’t the point under discussion).

    Although you probably phrased it poorly, I took this to be a reference to the very real teleology that exists on theism as part of the natural world, and which grounds morality. Therefore what you are doing is bracketing out the question of whether there are real, universal goals and goods for human beings that are independent of an individuals opinion or feelings on the matter. If we all had the same moral feelings then you would get universal objective morality from moral feelings, but we don’t, and that is where the problem is with what you are proposing. You cannot argue that it is good for someone to act for the groups benefit if acting for the groups benefit does not make them feel good (or to be more precise, does not make them feel better than acting in their own interest even if that is against the groups interest.)

    Or is your question why prioritize the practices, needs, and benefits of the larger group instead of the smaller group? That’s an intrinsic human value, too, I believe. We want the greatest good for the most (that we empathize with).

    What evidence do you have that this is true and trumps all other values for everyone. That is my question. All I see here is a lot of overly optimistic, wishful thinking, that everyone values what you value.

    What does outliers mean in this context? If it means those who don’t practice morality, then it is also clear they break the system and reduce benefit to everyone. Reducing benefits to individuals is working directly against human values.

    It means that what they value most is different to what you value most, and therefore what is good for them is different to what is good for you. Whereas what is good for you is does not break the system, what is good for them may result in the system breaking. If you stop them from achieving what they value you are working against human values too. Without the shared goals or values you cannot get a universal ought from your proposal.

  141. scbrownlhrm says:

    On naturalism, John need not ever apologize to Mary, as his mutable fact is a mutable fact, and his mutable fact coincides with a real part of the real world, namely, Mary. And, Mary may ask for an apology from John, for her mutable fact is a mutable fact, and her mutable fact coincides with a real part of the real world, namely, John.

    Mutable facts are mutable facts.

    All mutable facts are indistinguishable, mutable branches of naturalism’s solitary, mutable Tree.

    There is no such thing as a branch that is not ever part of, ever one with, all other branches.

    There is only one solitary, mutable Tree.

    There is nothing else.

    The Pear of Great Price (comment #84) – housed necessarily in the ontology of Immutable Love – is non-entity in naturalism’s one, solitary, mutable Tree.

    All moral landscapes – but One – find incoherence for should all branches but one die, should there be but one, solitary, mutable psychology we would find but one, solitary man left standing. And worse, should there be but one, solitary, mutable branch atop the one solitary, mutable Tree, whether such should be mutable empathy or mutable rage finds no censor – and in fact finds the Immutable Absence of such an Immutable Censor – and thus, whether empathy or rage, but a little more wind, but a little more gusting, and the ever mutable environment atop the ever mutable branch will, as always will be the case, bend all that is mutable, and, as always will be the case, a new bud sprouts, a new leaf breaks out, and yet again what was is no more, and what then is will be but a bit more of what soon will be no more yet again, for that Pearl of Great Price demands what cannot be found, which is that Second, and Immutable, Tree.

    The Immutable Light spreads His arms wide and timelessly pours out even as that same Living Water timelessly fills up, and Immutable Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self in delight begets in all of us – His beloved – His Own Image as He makes of Himself both our Means and our Ends and therein freely gives to us said Tree, which always was, and is, and always will be, Love Himself.

  142. djc says:

    Melissa,

    Therefore what you are doing is bracketing out the question of whether there are real, universal goals and goods for human beings that are independent of an individuals opinion or feelings on the matter. If we all had the same moral feelings then you would get universal objective morality from moral feelings, but we don’t, and that is where the problem is with what you are proposing.

    Okay, so if we all have the same moral feelings, you agree we get some form of universal objective morality. Conversely, if we all have different moral feelings, we don’t get anything like an objective morality but rather an entirely subjective form of morality. Entirely subjective morality breaks down to individual preference and is no longer anything like “morality”. Agreed so far.

    But what if we have moral feelings that are largely similar but differ in subtle details? This is the space I’m arguing in. This should lead to largely universal goals and goods.

    You cannot argue that it is good for someone to act for the groups benefit if acting for the groups benefit does not make them feel good (or to be more precise, does not make them feel better than acting in their own interest even if that is against the groups interest.)

    I can’t make a moral argument to someone like that based on shared moral feelings, true. But I wouldn’t bother. If someone does not share moral feelings, I still intend to pursue the common good, to the possible detriment of that person.

    Now let me qualify that by defining exactly what I mean by someone not sharing moral feelings. The only personality I know that lacks moral feelings is a sociopath. The vast majority of human beings appear to have very similar moral feelings, and here I am referring to the experience and capacity for moral emotions such as contempt, anger, disgust, shame, embarrassment, guilt, compassion, gratitude, elevation (going from Haidt’s list).

    What evidence do you have that [empathy] trumps all other values for everyone. That is my question. All I see here is a lot of overly optimistic, wishful thinking, that everyone values what you value.

    You sound mildly outraged. If you’ve been withholding this criticism out of politeness in the past, there’s really no need. I have no desire to make an argument based on my opinion or sunny optimism, far from it. Please feel absolutely free to question me on anything that lacks sound factual basis in your view.

    Now, initially, I am a little surprised that you would question empathy this way because Christianity clearly holds a “new nature” that is capable of true righteousness and unlimited good. If Christianity is true, empirically there could well be some measurable aspect of human nature that is capable of unlimited good.

    What I said was that studies of empathy seem to find that group boundaries are artificially constructed and can be dissolved by more information and understanding. Empathy unconstrained by artificial reasons to hate or dislike people seems to have no limits. My primary reason for believing this is based on research on mirror neurons indicating a fundamental biological connection between ourselves and the people or things we empathize with. Empathy seems to merge the other with the self and it may happen at the level of neurons. If we think of others as parts of ourselves, the golden rule becomes effortless.

    The other part you may question is whether artificial boundaries that block empathy are truly artificial, truly invalid. Here I would point to the abolishment of slavery, suffrage, and continuing push for rights for more and more groups as a clear trend of dissolving groups into larger groups. This seems to be driven by empathy once artificial boundaries are broken down by information and communication. Thus, I conclude that human values (largely) look for the great good for the most.

    It means that what they value most is different to what you value most, and therefore what is good for them is different to what is good for you. Whereas what is good for you is does not break the system, what is good for them may result in the system breaking. If you stop them from achieving what they value you are working against human values too. Without the shared goals or values you cannot get a universal ought from your proposal.

    It’s a largely universal ought. If there are outliers that truly reject empathy, that feel no moral emotions whatsoever, that attempt to weaken the common good, they will still end up forcibly outcast and separated under naturalistic morality. From the context of the larger group, they are evil and that would be the moral emotions we all would experience.

    (This works as long as desiring great good for the most is largely the most common human value. In contrast, if most people actually desired great good for their family and cared not one whit for anyone else, the approach is fallacious.)

    (But of course under naturalism, good and evil do not have the same metaphysical weight as they do under theism. Good and evil are not the result of contra-causal free will but from the intrinsic nature of people so moral behavior has to be of a more consequentialist variety.)

  143. scbrownlhrm says:

    Objective moral singularity is that which all men rightly perceive the ontic of, and, such is that which we find naturalism making its inane claim of entitlement to for the ontic that is naturalism necessitates that all but one mutable branch must suffer extinction, that all but one mutable psychology must be sacrificed, that all but one Last-Man must die so that its oxymoronic “we” achieves one, solitary, mutable psychology, achieves one, solitary Last-Man left standing and thus grants naturalistic morality its contorted claim to its bizarre objective moral singularity. Even there at the end of all such carnage we find no hope for that lone singular-psychology left standing is yet mutable as all four walls of that Last-Man’s psychology stand only to be yet swayed, yet bent this way and that way as environment’s winds ebb and flow, as – finally – the Last-Man left standing fades – childless – into nonentity, the width and breadth and height of Mutable Psychology’s Singularity having – finally – achieved the zenith that is its vacuous actualization.

    Immutable Love is that objective moral singularity which all men rightly perceive the ontic of beyond their painful fragmentations – indeed the very word “fragmentation” finds no definition but for that Immutable Whole – and Love’s Whole necessarily houses naturalism’s antithesis as the Beautiful replaces the Grotesque for we find in His ontological regress the precise contradiction of naturalism’s mandate that The-All be sacrificed for The-One. Naturalism’s necessarily brutal path – and naturalism’s only path – to objective moral singularity comes solely through such pitiless means and achieves only the self-contradiction of extinction. The objective moral singularity that is the Ontic each man spies just beyond his own personal painful fragmentations is the very Ontic which every man spies just beyond humanity’s incessant fragmentation. His Ontic looms large, for such Is, and such is found nowhere along naturalism’s incoherent vectors but instead we find that such Means to such Ends come through the Way wherein The-One is sacrificed for and poured into The-All as His Eternally Sacrificed Self brings us to that unrelenting topography of amalgamation as all that is incarnation streams from All-Sufficiency into Insufficiency, from Timelessness into Time, from the Immutable into the Mutable as Time and Physicality are to their bitter ends subsumed by that effusively singular and seamlessly triune landscape of Self-Other-Us in Whom all regressions end within His ceaseless ontic of E Pluribus Unum.

  144. scbrownlhrm says:

    The Necessary Rejection of Objective Moral Singularity:

    For context let us first recall that we find no blame in naturalism, for there is no evil, no good, but only mutable facts, which we call mutable “tastes”, as conceded by naturalists here. John need never offer an apology to Mary for his Good is his Taste and his Taste is a Fact, and all Facts are equally real branches of the same, solitary Tree. As there is – at bottom – no blame-worthiness, there is thus – at bottom – no praise-worthiness. Therein we have found that – at bottom – all that is apology has been annulled, just as we have found that – at bottom – all that is forgiveness has been annulled.

    Such is wholly incoherent with that looming Ontic all men (rightly) perceive, and yet such is necessary when limited to evolutionary means, for the only path to an objective, single morality is to have but one, objective, single psychology, and the only road to that is to have one, single, objectively real, taster.

    John and Mary have different Tastes, different Facts, each Fact wholly mutable, each Fact a fully endowed member of nature’s one, solitary Tree.

    So long as there are one hundred of us, or fifty, we can have no objective moral singularity, for objective-facts (tastes) literally cannot precede or transcend the taster’s psychology, as conceded by naturalists, and environment’s irrational and inescapable winds both within the womb and beyond the womb bring even twins to fitful tug-of-wars, ever mutable, ever in flux. Should they have parents, then there would be four, and we have slipped – ever so slightly – further away from Objective Moral Singularity. And so too should there be twenty of us. And so too should there be fifteen of us.

    And so too should there be ten.

    And so too should there be five.

    And so too should there be two.

    But should there be but one Last-Man standing, we have found naturalism’s only means to its autohypnotic objective moral singularity.

    We find here that evolutionary means just never can – literally cannot – produce the ends of objective moral singularity, for teleological extinction is her only ontological contradiction. That looming Ontic which all men (rightly) perceive thus finds no room beneath evolutionary morality’s tiny, leaking roof, no room in Time and Physicality, for we find in selection’s hatred of those fateful ends of that Last-Man standing the necessary embrace of discord, the necessary housing of love-less-ness, for, should naturalism’s (irrationally conditioned) wish-fulfillment of “objective moral singularity” ever be – finally – objectively achieved, Mankind unquestionably fades into nonexistence and that is something which nature’s blind, pitiless taskmaster – despite the naturalist’s endless equivocations – unforgivingly refuses.

    Such necessary housing of the violent in selection’s shun of extinction, such necessary accommodation of the loveless to elude annihilation, such Necessary Rejection Of Objective Moral Singularity is – without equivocation – wholly incoherent with reality, alien to that looming Ontic all men rightly perceive, that Ontic which – without equivocation – intellectually, philosophically, mechanistically, and logically transcends the very means and ends of evolutionary morality’s absurdly anemic scope, the very means and ends of all that is Time and Physicality. It is hopeless: “The ends of objective moral singularity via evolutionary means” is, we find, worse than a contradiction, though it is a contradiction, but we find that the foisting of such a landscape rises instead to what can only be called – at best – shortsighted ignorance or – at worst – intellectual dishonesty.

    Deterministic to the end, evolutionary morality literally cannot lay down her arms, cannot fully surrender, cannot fully achieve Objective Moral Singularity.

    “In large part singular”, or, “for the most part singular” is a phrase uttered in mendacious equivocation by a Mind running toward an ontological and mechanistic cliff with no coherent escape short of Immutable Love. A Mind which – and this is telling – inexplicably rejects the very Ontic it seeks but – gazing ever into man’s Self – cannot find.

    It is here that we find it worthwhile to comment again on that looming Ontic which is, through all our painful fragmentations, from A to Z coherent with reality: The objective moral singularity that is the Ontic each man spies just beyond his own personal painful fragmentations is the very Ontic which every man spies just beyond humanity’s incessant fragmentation. Immutable Love’s Ontic looms large, for such Is, and such is found nowhere along naturalism’s incoherent vectors but instead we find that such Means to such Ends come through the Way wherein The-One is sacrificed for and poured into The-All as Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self brings us to that unrelenting topography of amalgamation as all that is incarnation streams from All-Sufficiency into Insufficiency, from Timelessness into Time, from the Immutable into the Mutable as Time and Physicality are to their bitter ends subsumed by that effusively singular and seamlessly triune landscape of Self-Other-Us in Whom all regressions end within His ceaseless ontic of E Pluribus Unum.

  145. scbrownlhrm says:

    Morality, of course, as has been conceded already by naturalists, to find no genomic mechanisms in play on the world stage thus far as the rate of change just doesn’t allow that assertion.

    As conceded, all has been but the interaction of Mind and Light, Mind and Dark and as such we find no means to credit evolutionary mechanisms with.

    All we have to credit thus far is learning and knowing, the knowing of, the knowledge of, good and evil, love and hate, the Image that just is the fully singular/triune E Pluribus Unum – and – that in fragmentation. That knowledge. That learning.

    As the naturalist has, in the past, had to change his definitions of matter and time to agree with Scripture’s Timeless and Immaterial, so too, here, the atheist has had to change his definitions of morality from genomic mechanism in play on the world stage to the observable and measurable dynamics of those Two fateful Trees in Scripture’s opening pages.

    Eventually, the Truth rises to the top, as we’ve seen on those two fronts (physics and of morality).

    But then, Truth is not, as the naturalist would have us believe as per the opening essays linked to this thread’s opening, antirealism’s nihilistic delusion.

    Truth is, so far, inching ever closer to, ever approaching, bit by bit, Scriptures A-to-Z.

  146. Melissa says:

    djc,

    But what if we have moral feelings that are largely similar but differ in subtle details? This is the space I’m arguing in. This should lead to largely universal goals and goods.

    So you don’t get universal morality, which is what I’m arguing.

    Now let me qualify that by defining exactly what I mean by someone not sharing moral feelings. The only personality I know that lacks moral feelings is a sociopath. The vast majority of human beings appear to have very similar moral feelings, and here I am referring to the experience and capacity for moral emotions such as contempt, anger, disgust, shame, embarrassment, guilt, compassion, gratitude, elevation (going from Haidt’s list).

    We may all experience feelings such as you list but they are not necessarily generated by the same experiences and therein lies the problem.

    Now, initially, I am a little surprised that you would question empathy this way because Christianity clearly holds a “new nature” that is capable of true righteousness and unlimited good. If Christianity is true, empirically there could well be some measurable aspect of human nature that is capable of unlimited good.

    You are equivocating over nature here and it confuses the issue. If we are talking about nature in the sense of form or essence then there is no new nature, through Christ in our resurrection we are perfected (attain the end we were created for). If Christianity is true there is a good that we can do but we often fail. It is quite clear that empathy does not trump all other values.

    The other part you may question is whether artificial boundaries that block empathy are truly artificial, truly invalid. Here I would point to the abolishment of slavery, suffrage, and continuing push for rights for more and more groups as a clear trend of dissolving groups into larger groups. This seems to be driven by empathy once artificial boundaries are broken down by information and communication. Thus, I conclude that human values (largely) look for the great good for the most.

    The evidence you cite does not support your conclusion. The abolishment of slavery etc could point in at least two directions. The first that reflection on the biblical texts resulted in some concluding that the boundaries were wrong (not an accurate reflection of reality) and consequently worked successfully to convince others that this was true. In this sense an inaccurate view of reality is considered to have been overturned. This is a fight for real justice, real good and seeking to align our beliefs and values with reality. Or people were successfully reprogrammed to replace one humanly constructed boundary with another but there is no truth to the matter of where the boundary should lie. The first is what happens if Christianity is true, the second if naturalism is true.

    (This works as long as desiring great good for the most is largely the most common human value. In contrast, if most people actually desired great good for their family and cared not one whit for anyone else, the approach is fallacious.)

    Actually, I think that for your theory to work, it needs to be universally the highest human value. You know this is not true, therefore your approach is fallacious.

  147. scbrownlhrm says:

    Naturalism concludes that volitionality is pure delusion, that intentional thinking is pure delusion. For the same reasons, it concludes: “you can not choose today to experience “sweet” as “sour”.

    Once again utter discordance with reality.

    It is unclear where to begin describing the obvious failure of this statement to capture the whole arena of changed notions, changed wants, changed desires, changed minds, changed passions, and from the highest to the lowest, and with intention.

    But then, given that the whole of naturalism offers a Y as an explanation for an X, on every front, it is not odd that it misses it here.

    It is just one more reason to reject naturalism as it simply lacks explanatory power in its incongruence with reality, and thus it houses too little plausibility.

    Given that there are other, far more robust descriptive/prescriptive geographies of our humanity which house a very high degree of plausibility we need not settle for something so disjointed as naturalism.

    To all the wife-beaters out there who feel good about it: According to djc, you can’t change your taste, your feeling good about it.

    He’ll come right back and repeat what he said earlier about mankind “changing” over that last 1000 years and thus contradict himself here on equivocation.

    Then he’ll attribute it to genomic mechanisms, and then say the genome is too stable over such a short time and equivocate there too.

    Then he’ll attribute it to learning and knowing and will equivocate on the Christianized conscience spreading ever wider in such sightlines, from Paul’s horrific declaration of slaves as being on ontological par with Christ to his catastrophic command to husbands to submit to their wives, and wives to their husbands.

    The timeline of such sightlines, of learning and knowing of Good and Evil is a story which has been played over and over and over for the last 10,000 years – or as far back as we can see, and the ebbs and flows are all the same, though Christ’s infusions into mankind’s conscience will be an area of equivocation for djc.

    And of course djc will equivocate when he must face the face that naturalism necessarily rejects objective moral singularity, as the only road to a single psychology is the annihilation of all but one taster, and this is a move which selection will never permit and we find here the utter contradiction in the premise that evolutionary morality can fashion an objective, actual, universal moral singularity and in fact necessarily must house discord, lovelessness, and different-taste-facts.

  148. scbrownlhrm says:

    Naturalism’s only path to objective, actual, universal moral singularity is the annihilation of all but one psychology, all but one taster, for objective facts (tastes) cannot precede or transcend the taster. Further, we find here that for moral perfection to arise All-Men must be sacrificed for One-Man. Given that deterministic selection will never move to so limit life, it becomes an unavoidable fact that differences in taste-facts, differences in morals are – objectively – a necessary outcome of naturalism. We find there the explanation as to why all taste-facts, all branches, are – objectively – full fledged members of naturalism’s one, solitary Tree. It cannot</i be otherwise.

    Naturalism necessarily houses moral discord and cannot achieve objective moral singularity.

    In Christ we find that All-Sufficiency must be debased, must spread His arms wide and pour out, pour into In-Sufficiency and here we find that The-One must volitionally sacrifice Himself, and that through those Means, and no other, the Ends of All-Men filled up, All-Men ransomed are actualized. Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self unties all knots, dissolves all tensions, as Man discovers a second, and Immutable, Tree, Whose branches we are, Whose name is Love.

  149. djc says:

    Melissa,

    So you don’t get universal morality, which is what I’m arguing.

    Under naturalism, human values are largely universal, so morality can only be at best “largely” universal, agreed.

    The vast majority of human beings appear to have very similar moral feelings, and here I am referring to the experience and capacity for moral emotions such as contempt, anger, disgust, shame, embarrassment, guilt, compassion, gratitude, elevation (going from Haidt’s list).

    We may all experience feelings such as you list but they are not necessarily generated by the same experiences and therein lies the problem.

    That’s not the problem I’ve been granting. I’ve granted that variations within a species’ genetic makeup cuts into universal claims about the species’ behavior. However, experiences of the variety that form learned responses or filtering of moral emotions in the individual are different. These are more cultural and these are the kinds of experiences that also seem more amenable to change due to information, such as a change in moral opinion regarding slavery or gay marriage.

    The evidence you cite does not support your conclusion. The abolishment of slavery etc could point in at least two directions. The first that reflection on the biblical texts resulted in some concluding that the boundaries were wrong (not an accurate reflection of reality) and consequently worked successfully to convince others that this was true.

    Is that also true for the push for equal rights for homosexuals?

    Or people were successfully reprogrammed to replace one humanly constructed boundary with another but there is no truth to the matter of where the boundary should lie.

    If your Christianity explanation is true, I find it difficult to understand why people seem to be accepting real Biblical justice and good, yet are rejecting traditional Biblical teaching on many things (such as homosexuality) and, further, self-identifying as less and less religious over time. A simpler explanation, in my view, is that it is not Christianity that is the result of the continuing push for rights for minority groups (such as gay marriage) but empathy unfettered in some sense.

    (This works as long as desiring great good for the most is largely the most common human value. In contrast, if most people actually desired great good for their family and cared not one whit for anyone else, the approach is fallacious.)

    Actually, I think that for your theory to work, it needs to be universally the highest human value. You know this is not true, therefore your approach is fallacious.

    I think you mean to say that for my theory to work “universally” it needs to be the universally highest human value. But I’ve granted that there is enough genetic variation in human beings to guarantee that it won’t work for some. However, a system of morality must always deal with psychopaths and sociopaths and indeed their fate must be considered neither fair nor just under naturalism (i.e. they didn’t choose to be born or choose to be born without certain crucial social emotions), so we still have to treat them humanely.

  150. Melissa says:

    djc,

    But I’ve granted that there is enough genetic variation in human beings to guarantee that it won’t work for some.

    No, my point is that there is plenty of evidence that the common good is also not the highest human value of many normal humans as well. Are you really arguing that when most people would value the well-being of others that they don’t know and will never meet over their own (or even less selfishly, their immediate friends and families).

    If your Christianity explanation is true, I find it difficult to understand why people seem to be accepting real Biblical justice and good, yet are rejecting traditional Biblical teaching on many things (such as homosexuality) and, further, self-identifying as less and less religious over time. A simpler explanation, in my view, is that it is not Christianity that is the result of the continuing push for rights for minority groups (such as gay marriage) but empathy unfettered in some sense.

    The simpler explanation is that the good is accessible to human reason, not just through revelation, therefore people don’t have to believe in Christianity to know that there is real good and real justice and that human rights are not just a human construct, but in fact capture a real aspect of reality. I only mentioned reflection on the biblical texts because that was a factor in the cases you referred to. It is not simpler to just say we’re reprogramming people to move the boundaries because that is not consistent with the arguments that are raised, except if the people raising them are deliberately manipulative or deluded themselves.

    That’s not the problem I’ve been granting. I’ve granted that variations within a species’ genetic makeup cuts into universal claims about the species’ behavior. However, experiences of the variety that form learned responses or filtering of moral emotions in the individual are different. These are more cultural and these are the kinds of experiences that also seem more amenable to change due to information, such as a change in moral opinion regarding slavery or gay marriage.

    Yes, yes, you think people can be influenced to change their values. I do too, but the change could be just a moving of the goal posts to another place that has just as little connection to reality or a movement towards or away from truth. The latter is more consistent with our experiences. Naturalistic morality is successful because it draws on theistic intellectual and cultural capital, once that’s removed you’d have nothing.

  151. scblhrm says:

    As always, djc refers to “sociopath” and ignores the real question of the other 98% of us who work daily both against and with our nature. We’re innocent too of course – on all counts, whatever we may “choose”. Thus – as he conceded – no apologies, no forgiveness, and no universal ought.

    Given those three concessions on his end, his premise sounds very, very unlike the real world.

  152. djc says:

    Melissa,

    No, my point is that there is plenty of evidence that the common good is also not the highest human value of many normal humans as well. Are you really arguing that when most people would value the well-being of others that they don’t know and will never meet over their own (or even less selfishly, their immediate friends and families).

    Well, let me back up to make sure I’m describing this point accurately. All other things being equal, it seems that we believe the values of two people are twice as important as the values of one person. I understand you to be saying that there is no rational basis under naturalism for this view. I’m offering a rational basis by saying that this is something intrinsic to human nature and it is a value in its own right. Does that clear anything up? I’m tentatively assigning this intrinsic value to empathy although it could involve a wider variety of low-level (hence genetically hardwired) emotions.

    The simpler explanation is that the good is accessible to human reason,

    It is not simpler to just say we’re reprogramming people to move the boundaries because that is not consistent with the arguments that are raised

    Naturalistic morality is successful because it draws on theistic intellectual and cultural capital, once that’s removed you’d have nothing.

    Under naturalism, I would not say we’re reprogramming people, exactly, but educating and informing. That is to say, it is rational, not just good, to reject slavery since the fundamental reason to block empathy for the slave was that the slave was not a being worthy of empathy for their plight. It is education and information that allows us to discover the falseness of this proposition.

    Now, how to distinguish the “real existence of good” from what I argue is empathy unblocked by false beliefs? Perhaps it’s a question for another time. In context, I’m only defending the consistency of naturalist morality, not putting out an argument that it is superior.

  153. Melissa says:

    djc,

    All other things being equal, it seems that we believe the values of two people are twice as important as the values of one person. I understand you to be saying that there is no rational basis under naturalism for this view. I’m offering a rational basis by saying that this is something intrinsic to human nature and it is a value in its own right.

    The problem is that all things are not equal, so, no, I don’t think the idea that the values of two people being twice as important as the values of one person is intrinsic to human nature.

    Under naturalism, I would not say we’re reprogramming people, exactly, but educating and informing. That is to say, it is rational, not just good, to reject slavery since the fundamental reason to block empathy for the slave was that the slave was not a being worthy of empathy for their plight. It is education and information that allows us to discover the falseness of this proposition.

    Educating and informing them about where non-existent boundaries should lie? How does that work exactly?

  154. djc says:

    Melissa,

    The problem is that all things are not equal, so, no, I don’t think the idea that the values of two people being twice as important as the values of one person is intrinsic to human nature.

    It’s not a matter of whether things are equal, it’s only whether or not human psychology values two people twice as much as one, all other things considered equal. I’m not asking whether human psychology is mistaken, I’m only asking if this value measurement based on “being” exists. It seems fairly likely that it does.

    Educating and informing them about where non-existent boundaries should lie? How does that work exactly?

    There is a very definite boundary between “being worthy of empathy” and “being not worthy of empathy” in human psychology. Our (possibly cultural) assumption is that empathy should be withheld for lower life forms or criminals. Whether or not a being is a lower life form or a criminal is a testable claim, one which did not hold up to evidence in the case of slavery.

  155. Melissa says:

    djc,

    It’s not a matter of whether things are equal, it’s only whether or not human psychology values two people twice as much as one, all other things considered equal. I’m not asking whether human psychology is mistaken, I’m only asking if this value measurement based on “being” exists. It seems fairly likely that it does.

    You misunderstand my point. Human psychology in general does not value two people twice as much as one because all other things are not equal and nor can they be considered so. As a general rule do people value two strangers on the opposite side of the world more than their child, I think not. Do people value two strangers more than themselves, again, as a general rule probably not.

    Whether or not a being is a lower life form or a criminal is a testable claim, one which did not hold up to evidence in the case of slavery.

    Actually, it’s not a testable claim which is what I’m trying to get across to you. Lower life form and criminal are human constructs, criminals are just those that break the human construct we call the law, clearly we can change the law and redefine who is a criminal and who is not. If you reject that universals exist, then humans, lower lifeforms etc are just human constructs, we decide what goes in which category and we can’t be wrong about it (well not wrong in relation to failing to reflect reality rather than just failing to reflect cultural norms).

  156. djc says:

    Melissa,

    Human psychology in general does not value two people twice as much as one because all other things are not equal and nor can they be considered so. As a general rule do people value two strangers on the opposite side of the world more than their child, I think not. Do people value two strangers more than themselves, again, as a general rule probably not.

    Let me put it a different way: is it better to save two souls or one? I think it’s obvious that redemption of two souls is better (twice the value?) than the redemption of one soul. The soul is a good metaphor for the general essence of what we consider the intrinsic worth of “beings” that I’m appealing to as an anchoring value for naturalistic morality. When we consider certain moral decisions or dilemmas, the values of “souls” or “generic persons” absent any other attributes at all factor into our decisions. And that factoring is quantitative, we add it up. A solution that saves 10 lives is better than one which saves only 2 lives. A solution that makes 100 people happy and 10 people miserable is better than 100 people miserable and 10 people happy.

    Now it is absolutely true that people also use skin color, geography, race, sex, and a host of other factors to change the value of a pure “soul” into a much smaller qualitative number. If Christianity is true, knowledge of the “good” has somehow led to a gradual but steady decrease in these factors. On the other hand, if naturalism is true, then some other factor has done the same and it is reasonable to appeal to that.

    Actually, it’s not a testable claim which is what I’m trying to get across to you. Lower life form and criminal are human constructs, criminals are just those that break the human construct we call the law, clearly we can change the law and redefine who is a criminal and who is not. If you reject that universals exist, then humans, lower lifeforms etc are just human constructs, we decide what goes in which category and we can’t be wrong about it (well not wrong in relation to failing to reflect reality rather than just failing to reflect cultural norms).

    As before, I will pose a third possibility where you see only two. One possibility is a reality with universals, that would be theism. The other is a reality with no universals, human beings with arbitrary and random desires leading to immediate chaos, violence and extinction. The third possibility is a reality with human values a direct result of an evolutionary search for stable society. In the latter case, our values deeply constrain our behavior and our law. The collective human race advances the bell curve of human values inexorably in tandem with advances in technology and civilization. We can not change our values, so changes to law and behavior must support our values first.

  157. Melissa says:

    djc,

    When we consider certain moral decisions or dilemmas, the values of “souls” or “generic persons” absent any other attributes at all factor into our decisions. And that factoring is quantitative, we add it up. A solution that saves 10 lives is better than one which saves only 2 lives. A solution that makes 100 people happy and 10 people miserable is better than 100 people miserable and 10 people happy.

    Except that we are never talking about generic persons, and you need to consider what real people value, because as you have already conceded, “(This works as long as desiring great good for the most is largely the most common human value. In contrast, if most people actually desired great good for their family and cared not one whit for anyone else, the approach is fallacious.)” It’s obvious that even most normal people (not sociopaths) care more for their family and value their family more highly than they do others, so how do you think your approach is not fallacious.

    Additionally I know you think it’s obvious and therefore doesn’t need an argument but I don’t agree with your quantitative more people happy is necessarily better.

    On the other hand, if naturalism is true, then some other factor has done the same and it is reasonable to appeal to that.

    Appeal to what? There is nothing to appeal to in naturalism and that is what you need to provide. You need to appeal to something that you think actually exists if naturalism is true.

    The third possibility is a reality with human values a direct result of an evolutionary search for stable society.In the latter case, our values deeply constrain our behavior and our law. The collective human race advances the bell curve of human values inexorably in tandem with advances in technology and civilization. We can not change our values, so changes to law and behavior must support our values first.

    This still doesn’t accurately represent what goes on in moral discussion. What you have here is movement in values and variation in moral values over the population but nothing which justifies the anti-slavery campaigners claim that slavery is wrong.

  158. djc says:

    Melissa,

    Except that we are never talking about generic persons, and you need to consider what real people value, because as you have already conceded, “(This works as long as desiring great good for the most is largely the most common human value. In contrast, if most people actually desired great good for their family and cared not one whit for anyone else, the approach is fallacious.)” It’s obvious that even most normal people (not sociopaths) care more for their family and value their family more highly than they do others, so how do you think your approach is not fallacious.

    Because there’s a crucial difference between “caring more” and “caring not one whit”. My argument depends on the latter being false, not the former.

    Additionally I know you think it’s obvious and therefore doesn’t need an argument but I don’t agree with your quantitative more people happy is necessarily better.

    As long as you agree more souls saved is quantitatively better, than we are in agreement. It is not the exact definition of “happy” that is important but the existence of some desire we all have for the best situational outcome for others, “souls saved” is a reasonable substitute for “happy”.

    On the other hand, if naturalism is true, then some other factor has done the same and it is reasonable to appeal to that.

    Appeal to what? There is nothing to appeal to in naturalism and that is what you need to provide. You need to appeal to something that you think actually exists if naturalism is true.

    I’m saying something much simpler. My argument in a nutshell looks at moral development in this century (abandonment of slavery, increasing concern for rights for minorities) and says that this is evidence that people want to increase the number of beings in the category “empathized with”. Whatever the true source of this value (God or nature), if that moral development really happened, naturalistic morality can be based on that value. Therefore, on this issue, naturalistic morality is fully consistent.

    Human values certainly exist under naturalism and everything we do stems from that.

    This still doesn’t accurately represent what goes on in moral discussion. What you have here is movement in values and variation in moral values over the population but nothing which justifies the anti-slavery campaigners claim that slavery is wrong.

    The intrinsic moral values in the form of moral emotions are unlikely to move, that takes hundreds of thousands of years under evolutionary assumptions. It would be primarily the effect of environments that have resulted in changing moral views over time. A naturalistic moral realism approach looks for self-consistent moral propositions from those intrinsic, largely unchanging values and would condemn slavery that way.

  159. Melissa says:

    djc,

    Because there’s a crucial difference between “caring more” and “caring not one whit”. My argument depends on the latter being false, not the former.

    This is wrong, your argument depends on people caring more otherwise you don’t get where you need to go.

    As long as you agree more souls saved is quantitatively better, than we are in agreement. It is not the exact definition of “happy” that is important but the existence of some desire we all have for the best situational outcome for others, “souls saved” is a reasonable substitute for “happy”.

    No, I reject consequentialism.

    I’m saying something much simpler. My argument in a nutshell looks at moral development in this century (abandonment of slavery, increasing concern for rights for minorities) and says that this is evidence that people want to increase the number of beings in the category “empathized with”. Whatever the true source of this value (God or nature), if that moral development really happened, naturalistic morality can be based on that value. Therefore, on this issue, naturalistic morality is fully consistent.

    Human values certainly exist under naturalism and everything we do stems from that.

    What you have is more people (or more correctly more people with political power) want this so it is good. Humans have many values but you want to single out some as good and some as bad, or that is implied in what you write. If I read you correctly You claim that removing the boundaries that prevented slaves being considered worthy of empathy was good because people want to increase the number of beings in the “empathised” with category. That is a core value that is part of being human but you just don’t have the evidence to support that claim, in fact history would argue otherwise.

    You misunderstand theistic morality too. Values humans hold are not something that is a part of human nature but rather they can be orientated either towards or away from what is good for us. I don’t appeal to human values because all the evidence tells us that they cannot ground moral realism.

  160. djc says:

    Melissa,

    Humans have many values but you want to single out some as good and some as bad, or that is implied in what you write.

    Definitely not, that would be a glaring inconsistency. The idea is rather to treat human values as a multi-objective optimization problem. Anytime you have two or more goals, you don’t arbitrarily label some goal good and some goal bad, instead you explore whether goals are compatible, incompatible or partially attainable. You prioritize goals and try to find the solution that allows as many goals to be achieved in so far as it is possible.

    Naturalistic morality would use the same strategy to find solutions to maximize all human values.

    Now it is trivially obvious that a consistent naturalistic approach to morality would be to maximize just my own human values, I assume that is not controversial (a simple-minded caricature would assume that I would then become purely hedonistic, but that ignores the fact that I’m a social organism with social values; altruism and people are an intrinsic part of my value system). The only question, then, would be how go from my own human values to “all” human values. On what basis should naturalistic morality seek solutions to maximize all human values? One possible answer: humans largely value maximizing all human values in so far as it is possible.

    So we can at least agree, that IF humans largely value maximizing all human values in so far as possible using a multi-objective optimization strategy, then naturalistic morality can go about attempting to do so without fear of inconsistency.

    You misunderstand theistic morality too. Values humans hold are not something that is a part of human nature but rather they can be orientated either towards or away from what is good for us. I don’t appeal to human values because all the evidence tells us that they cannot ground moral realism.

    I’m not sure why you say I misunderstand theistic morality. If values are held at all they have to come from some intrinsic part of a human being, soul, spirit or brain, what else is there? And surely you would agree that values that have led to a decrease in slavery are part of human essence that is connected to the spiritual good in some sense.

    But values must be essential in theism, too, for a very simple reason. Why be a Christian if there is no recognized value in it? Some intrinsic part of human essence (call it nature, soul, spirit, I don’t care) must recognize and revel in heaven and reunion with God under theism. Something has to resonate. And further, the value that resonates with a belief in God must necessarily be better, more powerful than any value that exists apart from God. If that value exists and could be measured with science, you’d have better than moral realism, you could prove God’s existence.

    Values under theism appear to be a multi-objective optimization problem too. The selfish desires/values are fine in themselves except when they clash with values for others, and for God.

    What you have is more people (or more correctly more people with political power) want this so it is good.

    No, what is good is defined indirectly by the bell curve of human values, not power or numbers (except as necessary to have a bell curve).

    This is wrong, your argument depends on people caring more otherwise you don’t get where you need to go.

    I don’t see where it’s wrong. If people care more or as much for others as they do themselves, there is no need for moral propositions. I’m not sure of the goal post here: should naturalistic morality result in infinite altruism to be consistent?

    If I read you correctly You claim that removing the boundaries that prevented slaves being considered worthy of empathy was good because people want to increase the number of beings in the “empathised” with category.

    Let’s ask that question without the moral judgment. Why was slavery abolished? Because humans valued non-slavery more than slavery. This value for dissolving boundaries is also the same value that would be used to justify maximizing all human values, not just an individual or arbitrary groups. Does this human value for dissolving boundaries exist or is it a fluke?

    I maintain it was there all along. We have always recognized that those in our group are worthy of having their values met as well as ours. All that as changed is the identity of “our group”.

    As long as you agree more souls saved is quantitatively better, than we are in agreement. It is not the exact definition of “happy” that is important but the existence of some desire we all have for the best situational outcome for others, “souls saved” is a reasonable substitute for “happy”.

    No, I reject consequentialism.

    I am interpreting by this that you do not agree that more souls saved is better. Is that a fair statement? Are you saying in your view that two souls are not worth twice as much as one soul? Surely you want people to be saved? I’m not certain how wanting the best for someone is being equated with consequentialism.

  161. Melissa says:

    djc,

    So we can at least agree, that IF humans largely value maximizing all human values in so far as possible using a multi-objective optimization strategy, then naturalistic morality can go about attempting to do so without fear of inconsistency.

    Yes, but we’re talking about the real world here. And it’s in the ones that don’t share your desire to maximise human values and in the area of “as far as possible”. I just don’t think that when push comes to shove, that people largely value maximising other people’s values to the detriment of their own interests.

    If values are held at all they have to come from some intrinsic part of a human being, soul, spirit or brain, what else is there?

    To value something is just to hold that something is good but I think you’ve got the connection between the two things wrong. You argue that the valuing is hardwired, whereas I hold that the valuing is as response of the intellect or reason to objective features of reality. This is why I claim that we can get it wrong. We can value what is not good. For you everything that is valued must be good, because there is no other measure of goodness. So I still think you misunderstand the place of values in theism.

    The selfish desires/values are fine in themselves except when they clash with values for others, and for God.

    No. What is good for a person is to fulfil the purposes they were created with. A desire for what frustrates that purpose is not good, whatever else is happening.

    No, what is good is defined indirectly by the bell curve of human values, not power or numbers (except as necessary to have a bell curve).

    Which equates to numbers. What is good will be what the majority values.

    This value for dissolving boundaries is also the same value that would be used to justify maximizing all human values, not just an individual or arbitrary groups. Does this human value for dissolving boundaries exist or is it a fluke?

    I maintain it was there all along. We have always recognized that those in our group are worthy of having their values met as well as ours. All that as changed is the identity of “our group”.

    Those two paragraphs seem to be contradicting themselves. The human value for dissolving boundaries existed all along but what changed is the position of the boundary, but there are also backward steps of boundaries being put up. I don’t see any evidence of some hardwired desire or valuing for dissolving boundaries, what I see is boundaries being removed due to reasoning about the facts, and in many cases it is reasoning that is underpinned by the judeo-Christian ethic. I’m sorry but you proposal here consists of ad-hoc, stretching of the data to fit your theory. It is definitely not “simpler”.

    I am interpreting by this that you do not agree that more souls saved is better. Is that a fair statement? Are you saying in your view that two souls are not worth twice as much as one soul? Surely you want people to be saved? I’m not certain how wanting the best for someone is being equated with consequentialism.

    Of course I think it is better for more people to know God because it is good for them to find that fulfilment, but the morality of an action is not measured in terms of how many people come to faith as a result of that action. That is the implication of what you are arguing and that is consequentialism.

  162. djc says:

    Melissa,

    I don’t see any evidence of some hardwired desire or valuing for dissolving boundaries, what I see is boundaries being removed due to reasoning about the facts, and in many cases it is reasoning that is underpinned by the judeo-Christian ethic.

    This is the key issue, I feel. The implied context of the OP I take to be that naturalistic morality under naturalistic assumptions is inconsistent. If you grant that boundaries are being removed, and you grant naturalistic assumptions that all effects are natural, then there should be no problem with my appealing to dissolving boundaries as underpinning a naturalistic approach to morality.

    Certainly we can discuss which best explains dissolving boundaries, naturalism or theism, but I have not thought this was important to the main point. Naturalistic morality under theistic assumptions is inconsistent, I’m in agreement on that.

    To value something is just to hold that something is good but I think you’ve got the connection between the two things wrong. You argue that the valuing is hardwired, whereas I hold that the valuing is as response of the intellect or reason to objective features of reality.

    That’s true, but I’m referring to more fundamental values. The response of the intellect or reason still first requires a more fundamental value for reason, for the need to understand reality. Hume says reason is useless without passion, primal needs. There is no way I can imagine we can choose these primal values, we have to have them created in us as beings. The alternative is to believe we create our own primal values out of thin air, but then, how do we choose values based on nothing?

    So these primal needs I’m arguing say something fundamental about human beings that can be used to construct moral realism (if we can accurately measure those needs and learn how they guide human behavior under all situations and circumstances, including influencing learned values and higher constructs such as reason)

    This is why I claim that we can get it wrong. We can value what is not good. For you everything that is valued must be good, because there is no other measure of goodness. So I still think you misunderstand the place of values in theism.

    I would say all values are neutral, but in the context of human psychology and how we treat or are treated by others, values become good or bad. Looking for ways to maximize values most be done without good or bad assumptions or it would be circular. But the nature of human being and human values makes it such that this approach seems valued in itself (I argue) and also seems to result in largely win-win; that is, the losers in slavery were outliers and their loss was not even that large compared to the win for freed slaves and society.

    Which equates to numbers. What is good will be what the majority values.

    I’m trying to distinguish my claim from a false claim that it is identical to “the larger group wins” or “the stronger group wins”. The larger and stronger group loses, under naturalistic morality, if its values are an inconsistent expression of human values as discovered by the bell curve.

    Of course I think it is better for more people to know God because it is good for them to find that fulfilment, but the morality of an action is not measured in terms of how many people come to faith as a result of that action. That is the implication of what you are arguing and that is consequentialism.

    Determining a bell curve of human values and defining moral propositions that represent the most consistent expression of human values I don’t see as consequentialist necessarily.

  163. Melissa says:

    djc,

    That’s true, but I’m referring to more fundamental values. The response of the intellect or reason still first requires a more fundamental value for reason, for the need to understand reality. Hume says reason is useless without passion, primal needs. There is no way I can imagine we can choose these primal values, we have to have them created in us as beings. The alternative is to believe we create our own primal values out of thin air, but then, how do we choose values based on nothing?

    You are responding here to my correction of your mistaken views about values within a teleological framework, therefore what Hume thinks doesn’t matter.

    If you grant that boundaries are being removed, and you grant naturalistic assumptions that all effects are natural, then there should be no problem with my appealing to dissolving boundaries as underpinning a naturalistic approach to morality.

    But I don’t grant that boundaries being removed is consistently shown throughout human history and as such I don’t think there is evidence that the valuing of removing boundaries can be appealed to as one of the values that takes precedence over other human values.

    As far as I can understand your position is that moral realism can be grounded in human values which are hardwired into humans as feelings to particular aspects of objective reality.

    You also claim that good is defined as that which maximises human values for the most people. In order for this claim to avoid being question-begging it must be grounded in some objective feature of reality. You claim that maximising human values is itself a human value. I’ll agree, lots of people want to see others flourishing, but some don’t and many do not place that value more highly than their other values. If you argument is going to work, then everyone must value first and foremost the well-being of the maximum number of people, regardless of how that harms their own interests. It’s clear that they don’t so the argument is fallacious. The bell curve doesn’t get you there, all that tells you is that there is a spread of values in the human population.

  164. djc says:

    Melissa,

    But I don’t grant that boundaries being removed is consistently shown throughout human history and as such I don’t think there is evidence that the valuing of removing boundaries can be appealed to as one of the values that takes precedence over other human values.

    That’s a matter of evidence so we can make progress one way or the other on this in the future. I’m a big fan of Pinker so my argument probably lives or dies largely on the quality of his work.

    As far as I can understand your position is that moral realism can be grounded in human values which are hardwired into humans as feelings to particular aspects of objective reality.

    You also claim that good is defined as that which maximises human values for the most people. In order for this claim to avoid being question-begging it must be grounded in some objective feature of reality. You claim that maximising human values is itself a human value. I’ll agree, lots of people want to see others flourishing, but some don’t and many do not place that value more highly than their other values.

    That’s a reasonable summary.

    If you argument is going to work, then everyone must value first and foremost the well-being of the maximum number of people, regardless of how that harms their own interests. It’s clear that they don’t so the argument is fallacious. The bell curve doesn’t get you there, all that tells you is that there is a spread of values in the human population.

    The objection is that if everyone desires maximizing human values “within limits, favoring me just a little more at your expense”, the goal of maximizing human values becomes incoherent because it is impossible to maximize human values unequally. This is a valid concern if human interaction is fundamentally a zero-sum game– I win, you lose. But let’s suppose instead that maximizing others’ values also tends to maximize the individual’s values in the long run. This means maximizing human values can be a win-win, not a win-lose and the idea of “favoring me at the expense of others” makes less sense. In this case, maximizing human values is both maximizing my values and the values of every one else; there are no real losers. This is also a question of evidence, whether what we’re seeing in the last half of this century– i.e. the long peace — is a result of change in social and moral strategies away from zero-sum and towards win-win.

    (And likewise a question of evidence whether this is due to external forces, or if it is the result of human nature combined with advancements in technology and civilization, and will it continue, etc.)

  165. Melissa says:

    djc,

    This is a valid concern if human interaction is fundamentally a zero-sum game– I win, you lose. But let’s suppose instead that maximizing others’ values also tends to maximize the individual’s values in the long run. This means maximizing human values can be a win-win, not a win-lose and the idea of “favoring me at the expense of others” makes less sense. In this case, maximizing human values is both maximizing my values and the values of every one else; there are no real losers.

    I commend you for recognising that human interaction is not a zero-sum game but that is only true if human flourishing is an objective reality but you define flourishing as the maximising of human values which then will very often result in a zero-sum game.

    Take for example the western men that partake in sex tourism, or the westerners that lure (mainly) women into their country and then keep them as slaves. It’s clear from their actions what they care about or value most and how little they value the women’s good. What we can do is too change the conditions to make the purchase of women more costly (socially) for those who do such things so that the pursuit of these types of activities threaten something that the westerners value more, but I would ask you on what grounds? To justify that course of action as right you need to first have a common human value right now of maximising human values, which you obviously don’t by the fact that you need to put in punitive measures to protect the women.

  166. djc says:

    Melissa,

    I commend you for recognising that human interaction is not a zero-sum game but that is only true if human flourishing is an objective reality but you define flourishing as the maximising of human values which then will very often result in a zero-sum game.

    Under the assumptions of evolution, forms of “win-win” occasionally pop up, where separate organisms merge into a new, larger organism, giving up autonomy and independence for increased viability. The formation of eukaryote mitochondria, and the formation of multicellular organisms comes to mind.

    Take for example the western men that partake in sex tourism, or the westerners that lure (mainly) women into their country and then keep them as slaves. It’s clear from their actions what they care about or value most and how little they value the women’s good. What we can do is too change the conditions to make the purchase of women more costly (socially) for those who do such things so that the pursuit of these types of activities threaten something that the westerners value more, but I would ask you on what grounds? To justify that course of action as right you need to first have a common human value right now of maximising human values, which you obviously don’t by the fact that you need to put in punitive measures to protect the women.

    My assumption would be that a rational argument can be made to the majority for why sex trade is inconsistent with fundamental human values. If this can be done, then we should observe laws being enacted to prevent it, and we should see the practice declining. That’s what I would expect if naturalism is true.

    If naturalism is true and the practice does not decline, it could be because the argument is not rational or that fundamental human values do not really object to sex slaves. If the latter, I would suspect that fundamental human values are such that the human race is probably not sustainable in the long run.

    Another possibility is that naturalism is false, the practice is declining, and it is due ultimately to God in some fashion. However, anything that has an observable affect in the world can at least be traced back to something, even if it is the neurons of the human brain as a black box. So the approach I’m suggesting might well converge on theistic morality, couldn’t it?

  167. Melissa says:

    djc,

    My assumption would be that a rational argument can be made to the majority for why sex trade is inconsistent with fundamental human values. If this can be done, then we should observe laws being enacted to prevent it, and we should see the practice declining. That’s what I would expect if naturalism is true.

    Here is where I see the question-begging occurring. There are special fundamental human values (good) and the values of the people who buy and sell women for sex (bad). Of course you’re not going to explicitly label them that way but that’s what you are doing. What you need to keep in mind is that you are only working with the values that people actually have. It makes no sense for you to single out “fundamental human values” that people either don’t have or consider are less important than their other values.

    You’ll notice that in my comment I already addressed social or legal sanctions, I know you can pass laws to skew the punishment/reward such that partaking in the sex trade results in a person losing something else they value more, and so we would expect a decline in the practice. The question is, what is your justification for doing that? How can you define that as good in a way that is not question-begging?

    So the approach I’m suggesting might well converge on theistic morality, couldn’t it?

    I think we both agree that morality is about human flourishing. Our disagreement is how the concept of flourishing is grounded. If you try to ground it in human desires or values then you basically end up with a statement that’s something like, the good for humans is to have their desires met or obtain to the things that they value.

    You then want to separate off moral good as that which maximises human values over the whole population. So you have a disconnect between what is good for the person and what is morally good. Now unless you can show that the strongest value or desire is for the common good then the two types of goodness do not converge and will often conflict.

  168. djc says:

    Melissa,

    There are special fundamental human values (good) and the values of the people who buy and sell women for sex (bad). Of course you’re not going to explicitly label them that way but that’s what you are doing. What you need to keep in mind is that you are only working with the values that people actually have. It makes no sense for you to single out “fundamental human values” that people either don’t have or consider are less important than their other values.

    All agreed, and so I don’t see the problem. If a rational argument can be made to the majority for why sex trade is inconsistent with fundamental human values, and laws are then enacted to outlaw it, and actual progress is observed, then shouldn’t that mean that whatever values exist that result in the desire to sell women for sex are being in some way outweighed by values that reject it?

    It’s like human values for saturated fat and heart health. These are in conflict (saturated fat just tastes better while contributing to vascular problems) but since saturated fat is on the decline as a percentage of western diets, heart health is likely to be the more important value.

    You’ll notice that in my comment I already addressed social or legal sanctions, I know you can pass laws to skew the punishment/reward such that partaking in the sex trade results in a person losing something else they value more, and so we would expect a decline in the practice. The question is, what is your justification for doing that? How can you define that as good in a way that is not question-begging?

    In democratic societies, laws follow largely from public will so I’ve taken laws essentially to be a rough proxy for human values. Under naturalism, if a law is believed to best meet human values it would then be considered a good law.

    If the public soundly rejects a law that a naturalistic approach to morality thinks is more consistent with human values than not, that’s a problem for the naturalistic approach, not the public. The idea is that a true democracy results in the public expression of the most important human values over time.

    I think we both agree that morality is about human flourishing. Our disagreement is how the concept of flourishing is grounded. If you try to ground it in human desires or values then you basically end up with a statement that’s something like, the good for humans is to have their desires met or obtain to the things that they value.

    You then want to separate off moral good as that which maximises human values over the whole population. So you have a disconnect between what is good for the person and what is morally good. Now unless you can show that the strongest value or desire is for the common good then the two types of goodness do not converge and will often conflict.

    I think there’s a difference between having a burning desire for humanity and having desires that largely do not conflict with others but lead to healthy social interaction, lead one to look for ways to reduce hurt to others, and lead one to contribute in small ways to peace and prosperity. I think both maximize human values but the latter is what I’m referring to. The balance of an individual’s desires should only need to fall very slightly in favor of peace and prosperity for all of humanity to make steady progress. And even very slightly in favor of peace and prosperity should steadily maximize human values.

    The World Bank says China has lifted 500 million people out of poverty but they did it not with a conscious desire to maximize human values but rather greed. Not greed in the bad sense of taking money away from others, but greed in the sense of finding a need (cheap exports) and being paid to fill it. This is where the individual’s seemingly selfish desires surprisingly maximize human value in a way even a non-profit would be hard pressed to match.

    So I don’t see that maximizing human values needs to consciously or unconsciously be the individual’s most important priority in order for this form of naturalistic morality to have grounding. There’s something about the interconnectedness of economies and information in modern times that makes it easier to contribute to the common good effortlessly.

  169. Melissa says:

    djc,

    All agreed, and so I don’t see the problem.

    The problem is that you don’t have any basis on which to single out what you would term fundamental human values.

    In democratic societies, laws follow largely from public will so I’ve taken laws essentially to be a rough proxy for human values.

    More correctly they would hopefully reflect what the majority value. I’m sure you can see why this does not answer my objections.

    I think there’s a difference between having a burning desire for humanity and having desires that largely do not conflict with others but lead to healthy social interaction, lead one to look for ways to reduce hurt to others, and lead one to contribute in small ways to peace and prosperity. I think both maximize human values but the latter is what I’m referring to.

    Nothing you’ve written from here on even addresses how you overcome the disconnect between the individual good and the moral good. Now whether as a collective group our actions tend towards the common good regardless of whether we value the common good is irrelevant to the argument because you are trying to ground morality in our values.

  170. djc says:

    Melissa,

    The problem is that you don’t have any basis on which to single out what you would term fundamental human values.

    And I agree with that; that’s why I’m agreeing that values are prioritized according to strength under naturalism, not according to “type” of value. This is basically intuitive: if the strongest desire people had was to kill others, it would be impossible for naturalism to offer anything to challenge that, the human race would rapidly become extinct. It is only because people have a stronger desire to get along and not kill that there is the possibility of a set of moral rules that can resonate with this.

    More correctly they would hopefully reflect what the majority value. I’m sure you can see why this does not answer my objections.

    As long as the majority represents the bell curve of humanity, that would be what naturalism strives for. If a solution that maximizes even the values of the outliers can be found, even better.

    But in context, your question was why pass a law to outlaw sex trade, under naturalistic morality, and my answer was basically because humans value it being outlawed. That’s where I brought in laws as a public expression of human value.

    I think there’s a difference between having a burning desire for humanity and having desires that largely do not conflict with others but lead to healthy social interaction, lead one to look for ways to reduce hurt to others, and lead one to contribute in small ways to peace and prosperity. I think both maximize human values but the latter is what I’m referring to.

    Nothing you’ve written from here on even addresses how you overcome the disconnect between the individual good and the moral good. Now whether as a collective group our actions tend towards the common good regardless of whether we value the common good is irrelevant to the argument because you are trying to ground morality in our values.

    The point is that there doesn’t need be a disconnect between the individual good and the moral good. What is good for the individual is fundamentally about moral good, and this because humans are social creatures and we derive the vast majority of our happiness, well-being and flourishing from the efforts of others.

    Put another way, naturalism sees that vast, successful, peaceful, thriving societies have sprung up entirely due to the being and behavior of Homo Sapiens. Clearly, there is no need to impose external values on these creatures, they are must be “designed” to do this. The only thing a naturalistic approach to morality strives to do is make it easier to understand how moral propositions connect to intrinsic human values so people don’t need to waste time arguing over which moral beliefs are correct. If a moral proposition meets human values on the whole, it is one that should be adopted. If not, it should not be adopted.

    I should mention an important caveat though: This approach to ethics is not by any means a science until a full understanding of human psychology is achieved. Naturalistic approaches to morality most proceed with a healthy dose of humility and caution in the meantime.

  171. Melissa says:

    djc,

    And I agree with that; that’s why I’m agreeing that values are prioritized according to strength under naturalism, not according to “type” of value. This is basically intuitive: if the strongest desire people had was to kill others, it would be impossible for naturalism to offer anything to challenge that, the human race would rapidly become extinct. It is only because people have a stronger desire to get along and not kill that there is the possibility of a set of moral rules that can resonate with this.

    Except that clearly the desire to get along isn’t always the strongest, otherwise we would not need to have the conversation about what people ought to do because they just would do what they need to to get along with others. I think your response to that would be that they are just wrong about the actions that will satisfy their desires but we know that we often choose what we know to be morally wrong because we desire something else more. Therefore there is a disconnect between what the individual good and the moral good.

    The point is that there doesn’t need be a disconnect between the individual good and the moral good. What is good for the individual is fundamentally about moral good, and this because humans are social creatures and we derive the vast majority of our happiness, well-being and flourishing from the efforts of others.

    I agree. Unfortunately there is a disconnect in your system.

    Put another way, naturalism sees that vast, successful, peaceful, thriving societies have sprung up entirely due to the being and behavior of Homo Sapiens. Clearly, there is no need to impose external values on these creatures, they are must be “designed” to do this.

    I agree that there is no need to impose external values on these creatures, because they are created with immanent teleology, the goals are intrinsic to human beings. I disagree that the naturalist metaphysics has anything to appeal to justify an objective morality. The appeal to values just doesn’t work.

    I think our conversation has probably come as far as it can go. I think you are unaware of how you are using intrinsic human values or fundamental human values in a way that requires that you are really referring to human ends if you wish theses terms to do the work that is required of them.

  172. djc says:

    Melissa,

    Except that clearly the desire to get along isn’t always the strongest, otherwise we would not need to have the conversation about what people ought to do because they just would do what they need to to get along with others. I think your response to that would be that they are just wrong about the actions that will satisfy their desires but we know that we often choose what we know to be morally wrong because we desire something else more.

    That’s all true, and it would be what we expect if we have multiple objectives that we’re trying to optimize at the same time without being able to easily compute the long-term effects of every solution. Children have short-term selfish goals firmly in mind but the long-term goals that turn out to be far more important are fuzzy and feel less relevant. Maturity, experience, wisdom, all result from being taught and learning better solutions. But no one is ever perfect, whether at math or ethics.

    Therefore there is a disconnect between what the individual good and the moral good.

    With perfect reasoning, there should be no disconnect. Moral wisdom as a body of perfected (or perfecting) knowledge explains why one path is better than the other. Naturalism treats moral wisdom as a body of knowledge about reality with human values anchoring the “why bother?” question.

    I agree that there is no need to impose external values on these creatures, because they are created with immanent teleology, the goals are intrinsic to human beings. I disagree that the naturalist metaphysics has anything to appeal to justify an objective morality. The appeal to values just doesn’t work.

    I think our conversation has probably come as far as it can go. I think you are unaware of how you are using intrinsic human values or fundamental human values in a way that requires that you are really referring to human ends if you wish theses terms to do the work that is required of them.

    There may be similarities, certainly. I think “natural law theory” informed exclusively by emerging neuropsychology fields and the like might be indistinguishable from what I’ve offered here.

    Thanks for the discussion. While I think I’ve answered your objections, I certainly see that there is room for a more thorough and detailed treatment of the whole subject.

  173. scblhrm says:

    Perfect reasoning” is an oxymoron in any evolutionary paradigm as it rules out neurobiological mutability and, even worse, dies the death of blind axiom’s circularity grounded within vacuity as – on the prior commitments seen in this thread – a human nature is non-entity as is any teleological attribute. Given that there can be no such condition as moral perfection so long as there exists more than one solitary human being, and, given that there can be no standard by which to measure a vacant criteria, and, given that the why-bother problem is solved by a mere foist of blind axiom – a solution which dies the death of circularity – and given that the evolutionary moralist has conceded – as he must – the notions both of a universal human nature and of teleological winds, evolutionary morality is found exactly where it has always been: ever mutable, ever pushed this way and that way by pressure and chaos, determined to the bitter end, forever housing a disquieting disconnect amid and among the passions.

    The evolutionary moralist is left question begging as he defines one blind axiom after another atop an ontology which is ever shifting, ever mutating, ever drifting – never stable, never finding the capacity to house immutable love – never Perfect – and thus eternally fused with that troubling disconnect as one solution after another dies the death of circularity. Of course the evolutionary moralist, though he is unable to find an ontological footing sturdy enough to scaffold Immutable Love, he yet ever spies it, ever perceives its evocation as such is that which he cannot disavow. All of which is yet more evidence of his own ontology’s insolvency – ever indebted – always borrowing.

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