• Wayfarer
    10.4k
    You can say Socrates is the recognizable the farther of philosophy but wasn't what the pre-Socratic doing definitionally philosophy? correct me if I'm wrong. It seems arbitrary and pointless to me, like calling somebody the recognizable farther of kicking a ball.Restitutor

    OK let's try and unpack some of the back and forth. First, regarding 'models' - I was responding in particular to this statement:

    Our idea of morality and truth should fit with particle physics,Restitutor

    What I'm saying is that particle physics begins with putting aside any ideas about such questions as 'morality and truth'. They are not directly relevant to the discipline. I made that point, polemically, with respect to Newton and Galileo, who are very much the forefathers of modern physics. But at the outset, at the very beginning of modern science, all such issues were put to one side, or left out of the reckoning. Why, then, should 'our idea of morality and truth' fit in with a model which really has nothing to do with them?

    Scientific models are fallibalist, subject to constant revision. Why, then, should they be regarded as authoritative with respect to "morality and truth"?

    Most people would however agree that the universe is expanding and it used to be incredibly hot and dense. These are very very hard problems physicists are trying to solve.Restitutor

    Hence the point about Socrates. Many of the fundamental questions that the character of Socrates wrestled with - about the nature of truth, beauty, justice, self-knowledge, death - remain central questions of philosophy, regardless of the "astonishing advances of science".

    Also the concept of morality fits sooo perfectly with evolution, if you want i could explain why if you want?.Restitutor

    It doesn't, though. Even the ultra-darwinists, such as Richard Dawkins, recognise that evolutionary theory is a crap basis for morality, although they don't come to terms with what such a basis might be. The only 'morality' that comes out of evolutionary theory is survival of the fittest - which is already redundant, as all it says is, those who are best adapted are those who survive and procreate. The fact that evolution is commonly assumed to provide a complete account of human nature or a basis for morality is a popular myth.
  • Hippyhead
    899
    I have started this topic because I haven’t heard any good arguments for what underpins the concept of morality in the absence of religion.Restitutor

    Ok then, here's an attempt. What underpins the concept of morality, what makes it objectively valid, is self interest.

    Persistent interest in moral issues for thousands of years is not fundamentally about society, which is too large of a phenomena for most of us to grasp. And even if we can wrap our minds around something as large as society, we don't really care about society. One significant piece of evidence for this is a widespread lack of interest in nuclear weapons, a well oiled machine standing ready to erase society in just a few minutes. So while morality is certainly helpful to a society, and this is the context in which morality is often discussed, we might keep looking for what "underpins the concept of morality".

    What makes morality objectively valid (without reference to any authority or higher power) is that it addresses fundamental problems of the personal human condition which have not changed in many thousands of years. Yep, regular readers, here it comes again... :-)

    We are made of thought. Thought operates by a process of conceptual division. This process of division creates an experience of reality as being divided between "me" and "everything else", with "me" perceived to be very small and "everything else" perceived to be very big. This division driven perception gives rise to fear, which in turn is the source of most human problems.

    Moral acts address this fundamental human problem by easing the perceived division between "me" and "everything else". Or, to put it more plainly, love feels good.

    Religion is not necessary to discover the objective validity of morality because anyone of any belief can test morality for themselves, and in fact all but the psychopaths among us do so regularly. As example, what pulls me back from continuing to yell at my fellow forum members is not guilt, obligation, social pressure, the church, fear of the mods or any other higher power. What pulls me back from over indulging my worse instincts is that being an asshole doesn't feel good, that is, self interest.

    So while the objective value of morality is not dependent upon religion or higher powers etc, in the spirit of self interest and feeling good we should try to be intellectually honest and acknowledge that, in Western culture at least, religion has been the leading spokesperson for morality for thousands of years. Religion continues to persist and prosper even in the age of science because a core part of it's message works in serving the individual's self interest.
  • Restitutor
    23


    Everything you say about Morality seems very correct to me and is very well put.

    From my metaphysical perspective however i don’t think we are quite getting to what i would consider the heart of the matter.

    Let me give you an analogy.

    Somebody may ask what North is and the person may answer by point in the direction of north and name all the features that are due north, the answer is correct. The questioner may ask again what is north and the answer may say why it is useful and how it fits into their lives functionally and again the person answering would be perfectly correct.

    Although the answerer hasn’t said anything incorrect and has answered the question in multiple ways in a sense he still hasn’t said what north actually is. To understand the north really is you need to build a conceptual model of the earth as a sphere that spins along an axis.

    With this model the answer can now answer what North is in a whole new way, it is the direction that points towards the north pole which is simply the name for one side of the rotational axis that the spherical earth is moving around. We could get into models that involve magnetism but you get the idea. I would describe this as knowing what north is from a metaphysical perspective.

    Good people like yourself say a lot of very reasonable things about what morality is and this is impressive. I do however believe that the answers are not getting at the heart of the question which I see as what morality is metaphysically.

    I would argue that scientific theories of mind and the self and consciousness for the first time allow us to approach the question of what morality is from this perspective, just as the model of the earth as a global helps us understand what north is in a different way.

    I understand that people from a different metaphysical perspective may not see this as a valid question although if this is the case they should in my opinion have a good reason why.
  • Restitutor
    23





    “What I'm saying is that particle physics begins with putting aside any ideas about such questions as 'morality and truth'. They are not directly relevant to the discipline. I made that point, polemically, with respect to Newton and Galileo, who are very much the forefathers of modern physics. But at the outset, at the very beginning of modern science, all such issues were put to one side, or left out of the reckoning. “Why, then, should 'our idea of morality and truth' fit in with a model which really has nothing to do with them?”

    Newton would undoubtedly have been on your side in this conversation but i am not having this conversation with Neuton, why do you think truth and morality has nothing to do with science?

    You seem to be subtle suggesting that if we feel the need to make modern theories consistent with Newtonian physics we should honor Newtons belief in where the boundaries of science should liy. I would anwer, Newton theory of mechanics is a well founded predictive hypothesis that actually predicts stuff and his presumed views on where the boundary of science should liy are unjustified expressions of opinions. I will act in accordance with the former but not the later.

    My wider point was, you shouldn't come up with a model of morality that is inconsistent with science. If a duelist could explain how dualism is in any way consistent with particle physics then i might consider becoming a duelist. They can’t and this suggests eather dualism is a bad model or particle physics is a bad model. Being rational, my money is on the predictive hypothesis that doesn't predict anything being wrong.


    “Scientific models are fallibalist, subject to constant revision. Why, then, should they be regarded as authoritative with respect to "morality and truth"?”

    Ok, my argument goes a little deeper than we have gone so far. I would argue that everything we perceive about the world we preserve through representational models. Science says, whether we know it or not we do not directly experience anything and to directly experience anything is impossible. Our mutual friend Socrates was sooo right with his whole allegory of the cave thing, geneouse.

    In a world where we can only gain access to fundamental realities of things through representation, capital T truth and certainly become less useful concepts as they are things that we can’t functionally gain access to. This obviously doesn't mean we are completely lost in the world, we just need to think in terms of representation and probability. It is kind of sukky but you play the hand you're dealt.

    This construction dissolves the distinction between representational scientific models and the representational models of everyday experience. With this construction not just going along with models would turn you into a full blown Sceptic . This probabilistic model actually fits very well with the Sceptics views in fact.

    I will give you an example of everyday representational models. You pick an apple in your hand and look at it, your brain is creating a representational model of the apple you have in your hand. As we eat the apple we combine what it looks like, the weight of it in our hands, the taste on our tong and signals from our olfactory bulb together to build our probability based, representational apple model.

    The model in our heads is made out of neurons, the apple in our head and mouth is made out of molecules of apple. The apple doesn't have the property of green; it simply reflects photons that have an average wavelength in the range of 550nM for example. People who have a full complement of cone receptors will represent the apple as green in their brain model, people who have genetic mutations that lead to color blindness will often represent the apple differently. A butterfly that can see ultraviolet wavelengths and has different machinery in its brain and will represent the apple differently with its tiny butterfly neurons.

    Our model of what we think is an apple is also subject to revision just as scientific models are, we may pick up something that looks like an apple bite it and then revise our model of what we are holding, deciding that it is in fact an imitation apple made out of wax.

    Despite the model of the world in our brain being fallibalist it is however really quite useful in many instances, when it generates a model of a lion you probably best run. Also just because the model isn’t certain it is still worth paying attention to the probabilities. It may not be certain the car will hit you but you should still get out the road.

    You can have multiple different models of the same thing that are each useful in different ways, highlighting subtly different aspects of the same underlying reality. There are multiple different representations of the London Underground and depending on if you are a passenger or a city planner adding a sewer line, you may want different maps. Both maps simply represent a different underlying reality of the same entity. Decimals and fractions are also different ways of representing the same underlying reality.

    You have every right to question the representational models generated by scance, just as Pyrrho questioned the representational model generated by our eyes. I will however say to you what i would have said to him, you are essentially right, but practically speaking we probably should just make use out of what is useful.

    I would also argue that if everything is a representative model then even the idea that Morality and truth exist is fallibalist. If you are saying not everything is a representative model then you are A) saying we do have direct access to the underlying nature of reality and you are B) saying your boy Plato's allegory of the cave is wrong.



    Most people would however agree that the universe is expanding and it used to be incredibly hot and dense. These are very very hard problems physicists are trying to solve. — Restitutor

    “Hence the point about Socrates. Many of the fundamental questions that the character of Socrates wrestled with - about the nature of truth, beauty, justice, self-knowledge, death - remain central questions of philosophy, regardless of the "astonishing advances of science".

    I would agree that questions about nature, truth, beauty and justice, self-knowledge and death remain central questions, I just don’t necessarily agree that they can’t on principle be placed into useful representational models.

    Also the concept of morality fits sooo perfectly with evolution, if you want i could explain why if you want?. — Restitutor

    It doesn't, though. Even the ultra-darwinists, such as Richard Dawkins, recognise that evolutionary theory is a crap basis for morality, although they don't come to terms with what such a basis might be. The only 'morality' that comes out of evolutionary theory is survival of the fittest - which is already redundant, as all it says is, those who are best adapted are those who survive and procreate. The fact that evolution is commonly assumed to provide a complete account of human nature or a basis for morality is a popular myth.


    I wasn’t necessarily being particularly strict with the turn evolution, I meant it both in its more specific and wider sense.

    This is all a little complex so hold on.

    A problem with the idea of evolution is that it generates the misconception that the forces that apply in evolution operate for the good of the host animal and this is not always the case. The forces of evolution are better thought of as operating on the gene level rather than the organism level. Bees are good examples.

    Bees exhibit very simple behaviour which is quite directly controlled by their genes. Bee’s exhibit selfless behaviour, they will fight and die for the hive. Why would a bee sacrifice itself for the hive, does it have morels? No. The reason for this is that the mother bee saddles its offspring with genes that benefit her and her ability to reproduce. The reason this works evolutionary is because sequence of nucleotides in in genes that control workers selfless behavior is also present in the mother, if the worker bee give its life to save the hive it in reducing the chance that it passes on the selfless genes from very low to zero, but it increases the chance that its mother will pass on the sequence that represents the selfless genes. On balance the worker bees' selfless behavior increases the chance that the selfless gene is passed on even if it is passed on by his mother rather than him. The gene really doesn't care who passes it on from an evolutionary perspective as long as it gets passed on.

    A mother of most animals will exhibit behaviour that protects it young even risking its own life. Again the selfless genes that are controlling the behaviour are all about the chance that somebody passes on the gene, it doesn't care who. If the chance the mother dies is increased by 10% but the chance that it's 5 babies survive increases by 20% then that is a win for this behaviour controlling selfless genes evolutionary fitness.

    The same narrative applies to siblings, nieces and nephew, cousens and aunties, as these are all likely to have the same selfless gene and if the selfless gene instructs you to risk your life to save your own family there are more copies of the selfless gene in the world and the gene as a unit proves itself to be evolutionarily fit.

    Evidently it’s nowhere near as simple as this in humans, for a start genes don’t directly control behaviour in humans. I would say genes support and encourage certain type of behaviour to greater and lesser extents depending on the behaviour. Genes have a massive part to play in our fear and nurture responses, the fact we generally like certain types of food and get horny, genes don’t affect what color sock we wear though.

    Many behaviors are simply learnt and then reinforced through social conditioning. Importantly this is underpinned by gene driven behaviours such as desiring the approval of others and companionship and physical intimacy. Concepts and ideas that drive useful behaviour tend to spread through the marketplace of ideas and tend to get passed on through teaching our young and telling stories and maybe just threatening people to toe the line or else. This process is in many ways analogous to evolution. Just like genes, ideas that don’t benefit the host directly or indirectly disappear. There are however lots of ideas that don’t benefit the hosts' survival directly but benefit them indirectly by benefiting society as a whole. The fact that an idea is good for the community quite obviously is likely to increase the chance of the idea surviving and being passed on.

    It is in my interest for me to do what I can to perpetuate the use of concepts that encourage behaviours that are beneficial for society as therefor benefit me. We have a lot of concepts that do this, we can call somebody a coward, or lazy or unfair or immoral, we can conversely call them heroes, hard working, fair and moral. Based on which of these useful concepts we label them with their ability to fulfill their evolutionary drive for companionship, for physical intimacy, for a mate and even for food can all be enhanced or diminished. They could be promoted to chief or thrown out the tribe, listened to or ignored, may have lots of opportunity to reproduce or very little. People judged in such a fashion will serve as a warning for others. This reality isn’t a bad system of social control and it is easy to think why tribes that had it kicked the shit out of tribes that didn’t (perpetuating the ideas and the genes that underpin them).

    This system of self control isn’t perfect and there is inherent tension between doing what is good for you and what is good for the tribe. The ideas of each man for himself and I don’t give a shit about you have their own “evolutionary” fitness.

    Even though morality itself is probably only minimally controlled by our genes directly, morality is very much reliant on underlying predispositions that are controlled by our genes.

    How right and wrong i am about this i will let future research decide but i don’t think you could call this potential explanation incoherent.
  • god must be atheist
    2.4k
    It seems quite clear to me that morality is simply a concept that is encoded into our neurons and influences the way we process information.Restitutor

    This pretty well describes the consensus of atheist ethicists. I am not an academic or a trained philosopher. Therefore please take this call by me with a grain of salt. But I noticed this is the basic attitude of explaining any and all human behaviour-- the basis is always evolutionary, that is, whatever traits the species has in pervasive distribution, must have been a survival tool at one point that gave special advantage to our species.
  • Restitutor
    23


    I can't quite tell if you agree or disagree, i am thinking you agree maybe?

    If you look at all the different mechanism that seeds use to distributor themselves, sometimes they are surrounded by fruit. other times times the have little helicopter wings or fluff. Would anybody deny that these packages that hold the plants DNA are evolved, that there dimensions are controlled by the genes.

    We are a a very similar proposition, we are just the packaging for our DNA, the host that allows for there replication. It makes sence that genes wouldn't just control what our bodies look like bout would control behavior, or at least create a the framework within which we can indoctrinate each other with useful ideas. The wood peckers beak wouldn't be worth much it it didn't like to peck.

    It seems to be a relay coherent explanation backed up by lots of evidence.

    I evidently am sold on the idea but i would admit i find the implications a bit of a mind fuck. I was wondering what other people thought about the implications.



    good times
  • god must be atheist
    2.4k


    Indeed, my post was non-committal, but personally, I agree with you.
  • Wayfarer
    10.4k
    we are just the packaging for our DNARestitutor

    speaks volumes, especially in the context of the question posed in the OP.
  • Tzeentch
    841
    We are a a very similar proposition, we are just the packaging for our DNA, the host that allows for there replication. It makes sence that genes wouldn't just control what our bodies look like bout would control behavior, or at least create a the framework within which we can indoctrinate each other with useful ideas.Restitutor

    Is there any reason that the individual should be content with being a slave to the evolutionary process?

    And what rational analysis pertaining to this process can be expected from individuals which, as you say, are indoctrinated in a framework to enforce it?
  • god must be atheist
    2.4k
    Is there any reason that the individual should be content with being a slave to the evolutionary process?Tzeentch

    It is not a master-save relationship. I would brush up on learning the evolutionary process if I were you and wished to understand natural processes of evolution.
  • god must be atheist
    2.4k
    And what rational analysis pertaining to this process can be expected from individuals which, as you say, are indoctrinated in a framework to enforce it?Tzeentch

    Human-created and human-delivered rational analysis is the process one can expect from individuals that have been indocctrianted in a framework that enforces the process.
  • Tzeentch
    841
    It is not a master-save relationship.god must be atheist

    A slave without a master is a slave nonetheless.

    I would brush up on learning the evolutionary process if I were you and wished to understand natural processes of evolution.god must be atheist

    Cute. Not a polite way to start a conversation.

    Keep your condescending diatribe to yourself.
  • Restitutor
    23


    I think the basic reality is that this whole subject quite generates strong feelings, I know it does with me. We are asking questions about truth and morality, things that we are driven to care about.

    In the case of me I am in a way suggesting that truth and morality should be contextualize in the light of scientific evidence in a way that undermines what people generally thing of them as being. It is not irrational to find that it generates emotions, I find it upsetting if I am being honest.

    I would encourage people to minimize emotive language although I am not necessary the best example of this myself (I can’t help being provocative at times and I apologies for it). I think we generate more us full representations the universes underlying nature when we adopt a more abstract perspective and drain the emotion out of it.

    A hero of mind is Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) who despite living in what is now moderate Italy in the 1500's he was able to break free of the god and human centric view of the universe and suggest all the stars to simply be similar to our sun except further away. Same could be said of Copernicus. Both men were prepared to take them selves out of the center of the picture in order to better represent reality.

    I wouldn't see it as "Is there any reason that the individual should be content with being a slave to the evolutionary process?". We want to satisfy our hunger, we want to have sex, we want to acquire things and do things that help with survival and pass on our genes. To overcome this "slavery" would involve being able to ignore the imperatives evolution sets up. It would involve not desiring food when hungry, not desiring sex when horny, it would involve not reacting to fear when scared, not reacting with angree words when offended. Monks through meditation have been able to do this to different extents so in a seance monks are overcoming there "slave to the evolutionary process"

    I would suggest reading "Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment" which looks at Buddhist beliefs in the context of evolutionary psychology. You can also probably find Robert Wright talking about it on youtube but i would recommend the book.

    If evolution isn't driving our behaviors then what is? Do you not see any role for evolution at all in any human behavior? I would go for something like evolution + idiosyncrasies driving by lots of randomness.

    what are your thoughts?
  • jorndoe
    1.1k
    Are morals particularly related to (a)theism in the first place, though?
    The likes of divine command theory and theological voluntarism aren't, they're just rule-following.
    Gods aren't around to answer things either; useless.
    Even given some such rule, in any given situation, you'd still have to decide if following it is the right thing to do.
    Autonomous moral agency is where it's at; morals are better exemplified, than predefined rules.
    So we better cultivate moral awareness (like embrace our humanity socially); it's down to us, always was.
  • god must be atheist
    2.4k
    A slave without a master is a slave nonetheless.Tzeentch

    No. There is no slave without a master. How in the world did you come up with that? A slave is only a slave because he or she is owned. Once not owned, he or she is a free man or woman.

    I am getting really stupid answers these days on this forum.

    And then they tell me not to be condescending and not to get angry.

    ??? A slave is a slave even when not owned. Who told you that?
  • Restitutor
    23

    I guess I set the terms of the debate around atheism because I wanted to avoid theological debates. I wanted to avoid theological debates because I am not religious and therefore don’t consider the basic premise valid. Its not a mystery the basic construction that religious people use to undergured their belief in morality.

    I also don’t personally don’t think that there is any logical framework in which supporters the idea of morality as an objective reality. In my view of the world believing in morality as an objective reality requires at least a little non-scientific thinking.

    When i wrote the question i was hoping to find out if A) it was general accepted amongst atheists that morality wasn’t an objective reality and B) weather or people believe in morality as an objective reality despite being an atheist.

    Very few people despite posting have nailed there colors to the mast
  • Pfhorrest
    3.6k
    It's a bit like asking God for absolute verification of our observations.Echarmion

    It’s absolutely like that. We don’t need to appeal to God to compare our experiences and come to an unbiased consensus on what is real, nor do we need to appeal to him to compare our experiences and come to an unbiased consensus on what is moral.

    When i wrote the question i was hoping to find out if A) it was general accepted amongst atheists that morality wasn’t an objective reality and B) weather or people believe in morality as an objective reality despite being an atheist.Restitutor

    No and yes, more or less. (Morality isn’t “a reality” in any sense, but it is every bit as objective as reality).
  • Wayfarer
    10.4k
    If evolution isn't driving our behaviors then what is? Do you not see any role for evolution at all in any human behavior?Restitutor

    I think the problem with that approach is this: that there is no biological difference between criminals and saints.

    Consider the fact that human action ranges to the extremes. People can perform extraordinary acts of altruism, including kindness toward other species — or they can utterly fail to be altruistic, even toward their own children. So whatever tendencies we may have inherited leave ample room for variation; our choices will determine which end of the spectrum we approach. This is where ethical discourse comes in — not in explaining how we’re “built,” but in deliberating on our own future acts. Should I cheat on this test? Should I give this stranger a ride? Knowing how my selfish and altruistic feelings evolved doesn’t help me decide at all. Most, though not all, moral codes advise me to cultivate altruism. But since the human race has evolved to be capable of a wide range of both selfish and altruistic behavior, there is no reason to say that altruism is superior to selfishness in any biological sense. — Richard Polt

    https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/anything-but-human/

    I think you're looking to evolutionary theory for things it was never intended to provide. It is an account of the evolution of species - it's not an ethical theory, per se. As I've said, even a lot of ardent Darwinists, like Richard Dawkins, recognise that Darwinism, and social Darwinism, are terrible bases for ethical philosophy.

    I would suggest reading "Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment" which looks at Buddhist beliefs in the context of evolutionary psychology.Restitutor

    Quite a good book, from what I read about it, with the caveat that Buddhism doesn't need endorsement by evolutionary psychology. As you say, individuals can work to overcome the selfish tendencies which appear to be the consequences of evolutionary drives; but by what star do they set their compass when they do that?

    The point about the evolutionary paradigm, generally, is that it has a sole aim, which is successful proliferation. Actually there's a saying in evolutionary biology that all creatures are driven by the Four F's - feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproduction. So the question is, do these circumsribe the horizons for h. sapiens? Or can we see further than that? And, if so, to what?

    Its not a mystery the basic construction that religious people use to undergured their belief in morality.Restitutor

    Even though they say it is. :-)
  • jorndoe
    1.1k
    , might depend on what's meant by subjective/objective.

    If subjective means ad hoc fiat, discretionary opinion, random, then morals don't seem subjective.

    On the other hand, with

    subjective: existentially mind-dependent
    objective: existentially independent

    consider some analogies:

    1. some are loved, some are hated, many have known love, many have known hate
    2. after an extinction, love and hate could be rediscovered
    3. so, love and hate are existentially independent of any one person

    Further:

    4. love and hate are phenomenological experiences, qualia or whatever
    5. phenomenological experiences are existentially mind-dependent
    6. so, love and hate themselves are subjective

    The likes of love and hate can be parts of us, but not of rocks.
    They're ontological constituents of us when occurring, and can also be wholly absent (e.g. pre-life, extinct) and come about again (e.g. rediscovered recurrence), without themselves existing independently.
    Asserting otherwise might be charged with externalizing hypostatization or the like.

    Seems (to me at least) that the objective versus subjective dichotomy is misleading here.

    There are many two-legged individuals, they all have that in common, fairly simple information, two legs.
    Yet, we don't therefore conclude that "two-legged-ness" itself somehow exists independently.

    Commonality does not entail independence.

    Likewise for morals and autonomous moral agency.
  • Tzeentch
    841
    We want to satisfy our hunger, we want to have sex, we want to acquire things and do things that help with survival and pass on our genes. To overcome this "slavery" would involve being able to ignore the imperatives evolution sets up. It would involve not desiring food when hungry, not desiring sex when horny, it would involve not reacting to fear when scared, not reacting with angree words when offended. Monks through meditation have been able to do this to different extents so in a seance monks are overcoming there "slave to the evolutionary process"Restitutor

    If evolution isn't driving our behaviors then what is?Restitutor

    This is the key question, I believe.

    I would take it one step back. The driving force behind our behavior is a desire to be happy. The evolutionary process has provided us with goals that promise happiness, which function as a carrot on a stick.

    Some individuals may come to the conclusion that this situation does not provide them with the happiness they seek.

    What then is the function of all the imperatives that evolution has produced for them?

    It seems to me whether evolution has a purpose for the individual is therefore a subjective matter, and not particularly suited as a basis for truth or morality.

    Do you not see any role for evolution at all in any human behavior?Restitutor

    It depends on the individual. I imagine it can be useful for explaining human behavior in general, but I'm not sure what the purpose of such generalizations are in the context of philosophy.
  • Restitutor
    23
    nor do need to appeal to him to compare our experiences and come to an unbiased consensus on what is moral.Pfhorrest

    I like how you put this, very simply put and very correct. I think the simplicity of the statement belies how radical a statement it is and how it goes against what most people think of as morality. Even atheists i have spoken to seem to like to think of morals as absolute especially once you start naming specific things that are considered immoral, I mean, you could in principle get relay edgy. If you walk up to somebody in the street and tell them that that (insert edgy immoral act here) isn't innately immoral and the only thing that makes it “immoral” is that most people agree that it is immoral, 95% of the people will disagree with you and a fair few of them will start backing slowly away. If you get edgy enough it could go really badly.

    Also, the statement, although in my opinion both elegant and true is a little bit free floating. You are relying on the fact the statement seems intuitively correct. Putting the statement in the context of evolution, evolutionary psychology and neuroscience etc is going to help some people agree and may allow for a further insight and deeper understanding of both Morality and its correlates.

    We don’t need to appeal to God to compare our experiences and come to an unbiased consensus on what is realPfhorrest

    People generally agree that green objects are really green and you will be fine if this is what you believe this. If you want to get down to it though, the reality is that no object has ever been or will ever be green, science tell us the notion of a green object is absurd. Objects we perceive as green simply reflected photons in the eye with an average wavelength of 550nm. We transduce the information from a photon into electrical energy and the presence or absence of neurotransmitters, building this into a model in our brain which has a subjective property we label as green.

    Just as green is a subjective representation of the fundamental nature of the world so is a lot of what we have in our heads. In addition to the representations we have in our heads we have concepts that aren’t
    even reflections of nature, not the same way color is anyway, these concepts are far more artificial. One of my favorites is meaning, meaning comes total from within, we label the representation of the world we have in our heads with this internally generated meaning stuff and go about the day believing meaning to be an objective reality wail it doesn’t represent anything objective about reality at all.

    Most people won’t come to an unbiased opinion because evolution biased us massively to reach evolutionary helpful conclusions about what we consider true. It is evolutionary helpful to believe meaning exists, and to believe morality is objective. What we consider to it, what we conserve of as basic reality is a construct created buy our mind, and “reality constructs" that have the propensity to replicate predominate for fairly obvious reasons.

    What appears to be true is often massively contradicted by science and in such cases I would go with what science.

    Morality isn’t “a reality” in any sense, but it is every bit as objective as realityPfhorrest

    I love this statement, from my metaphysical perspective this is quite a beautifully worded tautology that highlights the intellectual continuity of a purely materialistic point of view, very cleaver.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.6k
    :up:

    Since you liked that short quip so much, I thought you might enjoy some more fleshed out versions too:

    ----

    When it comes to tackling questions about reality, pursuing knowledge, we should not take some census or survey of people's beliefs or perceptions, and either try to figure out how all those could all be held at once without conflict, or else (because that likely will not be possible) just declare that whatever the majority, or some privileged authority, believes or perceives is true.

    Instead, we should appeal to everyone's direct sensations or observations, free from any interpretation into perceptions or beliefs yet, and compare and contrast the empirical experiences of different people in different circumstances to come to a common ground on what experiences there are that need satisfying in order for a belief to be true.

    Then we should devise models, or theories, that purport to satisfy all those experiences, and test them against further experiences, rejecting those that fail to satisfy any of them, and selecting the simplest, most efficient of those that remain as what we tentatively hold to be true.

    This entire process should be carried out in an organized, collaborative, but intrinsically non-authoritarian academic structure.

    ----

    When it comes to tackling questions about morality, pursuing justice, we should not take some census or survey of people's intentions or desires, and either try to figure out how all those could all be held at once without conflict, or else (because that likely will not be possible) just declare that whatever the majority, or some privileged authority, intends or desires is good.

    Instead, we should appeal to everyone's direct appetites, free from any interpretation into desires or intentions yet, and compare and contrast the hedonic experiences of different people in different circumstances to come to a common ground on what experiences there are that need satisfying in order for an intention to be good.

    Then we should devise models, or strategies, that purport to satisfy all those experiences, and test them against further experiences, rejecting those that fail to satisfy any of them, and selecting the simplest, most efficient of those that remain as what we tentatively hold to be good.

    This entire process should be carried out in an organized, collaborative, but intrinsically non-authoritarian political structure.

    ----

    With regards to opinions about reality, my philosophy boils down to forming initial opinions on the basis that something, loosely speaking, looks true (and not false), and then rejecting that and finding some other opinion to replace it with if someone should come across some circumstance wherein it looks false in some way.

    And, if two contrary things both look true or false in different ways or to different people or under different circumstances, my philosophy requires taking into account all the different ways that things look to different people in different circumstances, and coming up with something new that looks true (and not false) to everyone in every way in every circumstance, at least those that we've considered so far.

    In the limit, if we could consider absolutely every way that absolutely everything looked to absolutely everyone in absolutely every circumstance, whatever still looked true across all of that would be the universal truth.

    In short, the universal truth is the limit of what still seems true upon further and further investigation. We can't ever reach that limit, but that is the direction in which to improve our opinions about reality, towards more and more correct ones. Figuring out what can still be said to look true when more and more of that is accounted for may be increasingly difficult, but that is the task at hand if we care at all about the truth.

    (It is trivially simple to satisfy everyone's different sensations with a theory that we’re all in different virtual worlds being fed different experiences, but theories that involve us all being in the same world together get trickier).

    ----

    With regards to opinions about morality, my philosophy boils down to forming initial opinions on the basis that something, loosely speaking, feels good (and not bad), and then rejecting that and finding some other opinion to replace it with if someone should come across some circumstance wherein it feels bad in some way.

    And, if two contrary things both feel good or bad in different ways or to different people or under different circumstances, my philosophy requires taking into account all the different ways that things feel to different people in different circumstances, and coming up with something new that feels good (and not bad) to everyone in every way in every circumstance, at least those that we've considered so far.

    In the limit, if we could consider absolutely every way that absolutely everything felt to absolutely everyone in absolutely every circumstance, whatever still felt good across all of that would be the universal good.

    In short, the universal good is the limit of what still seems good upon further and further investigation. We can't ever reach that limit, but that is the direction in which to improve our opinions about morality, toward more and more correct ones. Figuring out what what can still be said to feel good when more and more of that is accounted for may be increasingly difficult, but that is the task at hand if we care at all about the good.

    (It is trivially simple to satisfy everyone's different appetites with a strategy to put us all in different virtual worlds and feed us different experiences, but strategies that involve us all being in the same world together get trickier).
  • Restitutor
    23


    I can’t help but think we are operating from different metaphysical perspectives. I am a rather extreme materialist who thinks everything is just atoms bouncing around. 80% of what we think is really is just our brains making shit up and for the other 20% it’s a legitimate representation of reality. The flickering uncertain light of predictive hypothesis our only access to knowledge both in the everyday and in when trying to gain access to less obvious realties.
    I would never characterize what you think but I am confident what I wrote above isn’t it. It would be good to know your metaphysical perspective is and what your justification for it is. I am totally interested.

    I think the problem with that approach is this: that there is no biological difference between criminals and saints.Wayfarer

    Very much not meaning to be rude but this statement is not scientific. People have a life time of memories and experiences all encoded in their brain through short term and long-term potentiation. Science says that memories are encoded into the brain on cellular and molecule level, same with opinions, beliefs how they understand the world. There connectome will be so different. There are conservatively 10 trillion synapses joined up in an utterly unique way, the number of possible arrangements for 10 trillion synapse has to be more than the number of atoms in the universe. In a sense, no two similarly objects could be more different, not when you look at the mount of variations on the theme possible.

    The eyes of somebody who is color blind looks the same as the eyes of somebody who is not at every scale except the molecular, but would you deny their lack of color sight results from a difference in their eyes?

    I think you're looking to evolutionary theory for things it was never intended to provide. It is an account of the evolution of species - it's not an ethical theory, per se. As I've said, even a lot of ardent Darwinists, like Richard Dawkins, recognize that Darwinism, and social Darwinism, are terrible bases for ethical philosophy.Wayfarer

    I apologies for being lose with my word chose early on as it has created confusion. To say our belief in morality is purely a result of evolution is not true, I am not at odds with Dawkins
    I think the brain as an organ evolved the capacity to have thoughts and beliefs by the process of evolution and for evolutionary reasons. I believe we have evolved certain drives which are based on carat and stick of pleasurable and unpleasurable feelings and emotional states. I would describe this as evolutionary underpinnings of Morality.

    I don’t think there is a gene for morality or a gene for any particular moral or immoral act. Daniel Denneett in his book “From bacteria to Bach and back again” laid out in painful detail the process by which thoughts/ideas which he called memes get passed from one person to another in a process which in some ways that fits with the wider and none non-literal usage of the word evolution. His thesis is analogous to the conception of a market place of ideas and is difficult to disagree with. I think this on top of our brain’s machinery and in accordance with our basic drive’s accounts for the concept of morality.

    People can perform extraordinary acts of altruism, including kindness toward other species or they can utterly fail to be altruistic, even toward their own children — Richard Polt

    Great question and nicely put. I would say there is likely to be a massive amount of randomness, biology can’t control everting. It also shouldn’t be over looked that nature can at times like to encourage verity, verity can sometimes be a good things. I guess you aren’t an immunologist (I am) but your body has HLA proteins that binds bits of viruses and shows them to your immune system. HLA proteins can hold onto bits of some viruses but not bits of other viruses. If our HLA proteins can’t display the virus bits we are quite likely to die or get very sick. There is more variation within a person and a population in their HLA protein than in any other protein known in humans. This verity helpful because it means people and whole societies are less likely to all die from the same virus. This is an example of heterogeneity or verity being a good way to ensure at least one of your descendants survives which ever virus future circumstance throws at them. It may be the same with people’s behavior, verity may well be a good thing. If there is verity in the way you descendants behave in response to a crisis there is more chance one of them will survive the crisis and pass on your genes.

    I think that under certain circumstances the altruistic will be the ones that survive and in others circumstances the selfish will survive. Both at times can be the better survival stratagem so both ideas exist. Sheep and wolves have different behaviors, but they are both evolutionary successful, why can’t the similar dynamic apply within the same species.

    Quite a good book, from what I read about it, with the caveat that Buddhism doesn't need endorsement by evolutionary psychology. As you say, individuals can work to overcome the selfish tendencies which appear to be the consequences of evolutionary drives; but by what star do they set their compass when they do that?Wayfarer

    When I am engaging in philosophy I try not to worry about moral judgment or what people shouldn’t and shouldn’t do I try and look for patters. It may be use full to conceptualize altruism and selfishness as behavioral niches analogues to evolutionary niches. A single individual will gravitate towards different behavioral niches at different times according to different circumstances, different individuals due to genetic makeup, circumstance, what they are good at and what memes they adopt will have different propensities towards different behavioral niches. What happens in practice is that ideas such a morality try’s to push people into the more cooperative, rule following, behavioral niche, and this is certainly were I spend most my time, I set my star to what most people sets there star to, trying to get ahead but trying to get ahead wail following most of societies rules most the time.

    The point about the evolutionary paradigm, generally, is that it has a sole aim, which is successful proliferation. Actually there's a saying in evolutionary biology that all creatures are driven by the Four F's - feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproduction. So the question is, do these circumsribe the horizons for h. sapiens? Or can we see further than that? And, if so, to what?Wayfarer

    I would quibble with your initial sentence. There is no “aim” and if it there was it would be better put as continued existence rather than replication, replication is simply one of the methods by which the sequence baked into DNA continues existing. I would put it in much starker terms. Sequences that give rise to properties that result in the continued existence of the sequence continue existing. Sequences that give rise to properties that do not result the continued existence of the sequence stop existing. This means the only sequences in existence had and frequency have the ability to give rise to properties that are capable of maintain their existence. I think this construction is closer to what is fundamentally true.
    With respect to the for F’s, the similarity between people in a nightclub who are “on the pull” and some brightly plumbed bird bouncing around trying to impress a mate is blindingly obvious. I guess we are subject to the four F’s. The only things is that humans, in our incredibly complex society can attack these goals obliquely, pursuit of knowledge and understanding can be related back to the 4’F’s. Essentially the answers to your last two questions in the quote is no and nothing and I do struggle with that. On a good day I am an Epicurean and on a bad day I am a nihilist.
  • Wayfarer
    10.4k
    It would be good to know your metaphysical perspective is and what your justification for it is. I am totally interested.Restitutor

    I see materialism as an affliction, a persuasive delusion. I am not ‘conventionally religious’, I grew up in the 1960’s, and was very much influenced by 60’s ideas of higher consciousness, which arose partially from experiences with lysergic acid, and also from the influence of some of the counter-cultural figures who became prominent in that age.

    I am now of the view that the mainstream of Western philosophy is not materialist, but that materialism is a kind of parasite that has overtaken its host. But the consequent belief system is science and engineering, it is not philosophical wisdom per se (an in fact that possibility is almost foreclosed by it). That is why movies are full of sci-fi fantasies and voyages to other worlds - it represents the sublimated longing for union with the divine which is no longer a real possibility for h. Faber. But, regrettably, actual interstellar travel is not a possibility for the foreseeable future - we have our spaceship, it’s overcrowded, overheating and resource depleted. And on it, we will live our earthly lives.

    People have a life time of memories and experiences all encoded in their brain through short term and long-term potentiation. Science says that memories are encoded into the brain on cellular and molecule level, same with opinions, beliefs how they understand the world. There connectome will be so different. There are conservatively 10 trillion synapses joined up in an utterly unique way, the number of possible arrangements for 10 trillion synapse has to be more than the number of atoms in the universe. In a sense, no two similarly objects could be more different, not when you look at the mount of variations on the theme possible.Restitutor

    Of course, this is perfectly true, but that has nothing to do with biological evolution.

    Sequences that give rise to properties that result in the continued existence of the sequence continue existing. Sequences that give rise to properties that do not result the continued existence of the sequence stop existingRestitutor

    I would never mistake that for ‘a philosophy’.

    Hey, one source that I would recommend perusal of, is the New Left’s criticism of the dialectics of the Enlightenment. The reason why is that they’re not in the least religious (‘they’ being Adorno and Horkheimer). There’s quite a generous encyclopaedia entry on them here https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/critical-theory/ Critique of Instrumental Reason in particular.

    But, I don’t know if you see how cynical your philosophy is. Nor am I sure that I want to argue the case. In any case, Nietzsche was spot on about the Western world tumbling into nihilism, you see it every day. As far as I’m concerned, the whole task of philosophy is to escape from that predicament.
  • Restitutor
    23
    I have very much enjoyed our discourse and thank you for it.

    I am by nature, training and profession a Scientist, an immunologist working on treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases. I prize logic because, in science this is what gets results.

    I am of the opinion that the world is quietly screaming at us that nothing really matters, and we use religion and frequently philosophy to convince ourselves not to believe what is relatively obvious. The last sentence you wrote seems to be well aligned with this viewpoint.

    My world view is undoubtedly cynical, it is also fundamentally nihilistic, it is also likely to be very counterproductive from an evolutionary stand point. I know I probably sound smug, but the truth is I would very much like to be persuaded I am wrong.

    I will read through the link you sent me.

    I wish you all the best and thank you again for the back and forth.
  • Wayfarer
    10.4k
    I am of the opinion that the world is quietly screaming at us that nothing really matters,Restitutor

    'The world', eh? If it were me, I'd want to be sure exactly what the source of that voice is.
  • Rafaella Leon
    4
    In reality, nothing. It is necessarily so, since all morality comes from religions, and they do not believe in an objective transcendent power (who is the one who provide the moral laws). For an atheist, there is not even the concept of truth, in the end everything is relative to them. At heart they are an pure anarcho-egoist from Max Stirner.
  • Restitutor
    23


    metaphorical screaming. I have a romantic sole.

    Ozymandias
    BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
    "I met a traveller from an antique land,
    Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal, these words appear:
    My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
    Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
  • Restitutor
    23


    Morality comes from religion is quite a statement. What do you mean by this statement? For this to be true religion must be older than morality which doesn't seem very likely. I can see the argument that religion co-evolved with morality but not there was no morality and then religion happened and then suddenly morality.

    For an atheist, there is not even the concept of truthRafaella Leon

    This seems fanciful. Are you saying that if you walked up to antitheses and asked them what truth was they wouldn't have an understanding of what the concept was. Have you ever met an atheist or are you just having a laugh? Do you not think atheists don't own dictionaries or are we just to stupid to be able to process basic concepts?
  • Rafaella Leon
    4


    To believe that human morality, even the highest and most substantial, is in no way dependent on religion, or necessarily linked to it, is a fallacy.

    All civilizations were born from original religious outbreaks. There has never been a “secular civilization”. A long time since the foundation of civilizations, nothing prevents some values and symbols from being separated abstractly from their origins and, in practice, becoming relatively independent educational forces.

    I say “relatively” because, whatever the case may be, its prestige and ultimately its meaning will remain indebted to the religious tradition and will not survive long when it disappears from the surrounding society. Thus, all “secular morals” are just an excerpt from previous religious moral codes.

    The atheists morality is only good because their conduct schematically — and externally — coincides with what the principles of religion demand, that is, that the very possibility of good lay conduct was created and sedimented by a long religious tradition whose moral rules, once absorbed in the body of society, began to function more or less automatically.
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