Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Moral Methods

So I've just been having this extended debate (as typical on GH's site) with several other people on the nature of morality and how we ought to go about ascertaining correct action. So the typical theist's assertion is that only God has the authority to determine what is moral and what is not - human-based reason is subjective and without authority.

Now the fact is that I believe in an objective morality because otherwise there's no point in discussing morality. If it's all subjective then everyone does what they wants and nobody has any authority to tell others what to do. So if you're going to meaningfully discuss morality then you need to presume that there is an objective morality to which we ought to conform our behavior. Whether this objective morality involves God in some way is really not the issue here. I'm inclined to say 'yes' - assuming God is involved in all things, but I'm not prepared to say that God wrote a list and told it to any particular group of humans. I believe we can make a kind of science of ethics and determine correct action as best we can through applying the tools of reason and logic, as well as relying to a certain degree on intuition, historical study, and whatever else may be relevant. This science is objective and ought to be compelling in argument - so it has some authority.

Now the difference between the orthodox religious person and I is that they believe in a whole theology through which they claim to know God's moral will. Revelation. They don't claim to use reason or logic - they have divine revelation telling them what's right and what's wrong. Wow. I mean that semi-seriously too because it would be really convenient to have a perfect being telling me what's what. A lot of that pesky moral uncertainty would vanish and it has a boatload of authority. But an issue arises - the same one as always - how do they know this revelation is true?

If they say that they rely on faith - then seriously WTF? The Halachic system proposes things like killing people for lighting matches on the Sabbath - how can you dare to condemn a man to death (even theoretically) for something which you have zero rational reason to suggest is true? Those who rely on faith are ontologically unsophisticated and and ethically negligent. How can they be any different from any other religious nut who claims - based on faith - to have God's backing for any kind of evil you could imagine?!

But suppose the religious person believes they have reasonable arguments for their belief system. Ok, so maybe they aren't as negligent. They may be entirely wrong and thereby supporting bad ethics, but at least they're trying to dutifully ascertain righteousness. But you see the issue already don't you? If they are relying on _reason_ to help them out ontologically how is that intrisically different from my system of ethics which relies on _reason_ to determine morality? They both rely on human reason, which is subjective and without authority as far as the theist is concerned.

Cripes!

So I asked one of the theists on GH's blog, would you be willing (assuming he lived in a time and place where it were possible) to execute a man for lighting a match on the Sabbath? And he, after extensive digressions and diversions, finally admitted that he would! He claimed to have reasonable circumstantial evidence for believing in Orthodoxy and was then prepared to accept the Halachic system as-is. But, wait a second - he's relying on circumstantial evidence to promote a system where he executes a man for ritual offenses? He'd kill based solely on circumstantial evidence! Wow! As per Halacha, a Jewish court certainly needs more than that in order to convict and execute.

My point here is that in order to support a revelation-based moral system that can execute for ritual offenses you need to be as certain as a capital-offense jury verdict that the whole system is valid before you can possibly be willing to execute a man based on it. We're talking 99++% certainty here. Could you convince a jury of your peers of your religious beliefs? If you aren't that certain then you are deep in moral turpitude to be willing (even theoretically) to execute people based on it.

Who among the Jbloggers are so certain? RJM? Bueller?


Now I willingly admit that my methodology of asertaining correct action is limited. Human reason is not perfect and so I believe we ought to take a conservative approach to ethics and not get too bowled over by the rhetoric of guys like Peter Singer who suggest that infanticide is justifiable. Yet at the same time, it must be noted that it is the best tool we've got. This is in wild contradistinction to the likes of religious ethics which are as reasonably based as the Hamas manifesto. An Orthodox Jew cannot convince the Hamas guy that his actions are irrational or wrong because it's just a matter of dogma vs dogma. They both believe in their moral system based on a claimed revelation. They are on precisely equal playing fields and the debate becomes a tawdry argument over theology. But if we could inject a little reason into the discussion and make people justify their actions on reasonable grounds then maybe some progress could be made.

67 comments:

Fievel Chuchem said...

As usual, excellent observations. Here are my two cents.

Matters of capital offense or sanctioned genocide in Tanach are all defending principles or values that were deemed (doesn't matter by whom for the purpose of this argument) to be of critical importance to the survival of the Nation as a receptical for ideas and values. The killings seem not to be perceived as matters of moral decision as much as they are a defense of a specific outlook on what is moral, similar to the morality of killing a rodef.

There was then, unlike now for the most part, a very, very strong symbiotic identification between individuals and their "group". The trivialities that could get you killed for stepping out of line 3500 years ago were many. But imagine a group of people who experienced slavery 24/7 - if they had to define themselves as a group, one of the principles they'd likely defend at threat of death would be a day of rest. Do I "get it"? No. I'm trying to imagine their world as it might have been to them, and it starts to make a little more sense, though.

And, regarding Amalek, say, they'd be defending a principle that a nation's survival (ours) can be at the expense of another nation's survival if the offending nation would result in the annihalation of the values my nation is receptical for. That was the argument with Amalek - it's a statement of moral principle we may disagree with, but within the context of its time and outlook it made sense.

It's not my place to argue a justification for these. My point is that I'm not arguing from morality, I'm arguing from the perspective that a community is a receptical for a set of values that they defend even to the death. Remember Voltaire? An anti-Semite and an athiest, but I don't think anyone would argue he was not a moralist. But in his Europe, he was willing to defend to the death (presumingly not just his own) the principle of freedom of thought. "I may disagree with your statement, but I will defend to the death your right to make it".

Nobody talks that way today (and means it) because we are more focused on the moral choices that only individuals can make(that's the nature of moral choices, and because we live in an era where individuals have gained precedence over communities) - we feel uncomfortable today with the idea that societies can defend a specific set of morals. But if we went back into history, we wouldn't have to go back further than 70 years to see the tail end of a 5000 year old history of choices that were made precisely this way, and not many questioned it. The means justified the ends.

Have we advanced? Is a multi-cultural tolerance a higher level of civilization? Is no system of morality the best way to defend all systems of morality? The question is fascinating.

FedUp said...

Great Post!

Rabban Gamliel said...

“I believe we can make a kind of science of ethics and determine correct action as best we can through applying the tools of reason and logic, as well as relying to a certain degree on intuition, historical study, and whatever else may be relevant.”

You take faith as being circumstantial. Any idea we have and then convict people on will be your circumstantial ideas that you feel are correct. Your intuition can’t be. You simply can’t say that we can use a kind of science of ethics to determine what is right and at the same time call it objective for all to see because the basic axioms will just be your beliefs. Face it, the concept of morality is innate but the details are not. I gave on that discussion thread the following moshol:”You are on an island in which the concept of property rights does not exist. Someone takes a pen he was holding and puts it down but would make a fight to recover it if necessary. Someone else comes and takes the pen. The predicted fight comes. You want to join the fight. Who do you side with? If you side with the guy who peacefully took the pen it makes sense as what’s the basis of property claims? on the other hand would you a guy with Western/Judaic values really side with a thief and defend him against the guy trying to get back the pen?”

Rational thought would say why should the guy who took the pen away when the other guy wasn’t holding it be called the guy doing wrong. We however who have been raised on the concept of property would feel compelled to take the other side. The result is that reasoning with morality involves picking a concept at base that you feel is true but cannot prove to others who do not accept your axioms. We are comfortable with our basic moral system because we were born into it. Further there has to be at base intuition and not reasoning because morality and ethics outside of our human, is nonexistent. Can we say that everything in the universe could exist or not but ethics somehow has a necessary existence dwelling in some platonic realm for all eternity. Of course not. That means that when ethics and morality came to be its basis would be intuition.

dbs said...

Orthoprax,
Very intersting post. I think that the basic misconsception of those who argue the 'subjective morality' theme (as does r gamliel here) is that while there are numoreous formulations for how non-theistic morality systems should be optimized, they are certainly not subjective. We can figure out that the sky is blue even without the Torah telling us so. It is not subjective, though it is based on human knowlege. In the same way, moral formulations, though they are based on human knowlege, are not subjective.

e-kvetcher said...

My theory is that morality is somewhere between subjective and objective, with the concept of a group of people being key. Meaning, within a group of people who identify with that group, morality is not subjective. Living in the US, I cannot say that my personal morality means I can kill people who piss me off with impunity.
Yet between groups, either geographically or temporally, the morality is subjective, even disregarding religion. Culture A may say it is immoral for a girl to sleep with a man outside of marriage. Culture B says it is perfectly moral. Who is right?
The size of the group is a fuzzy concept though...

e-kvetcher said...

Who's Bueller? A new JBlogger?

B. Spinoza said...

>Who's Bueller? A new JBlogger?

you've never seen the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off?

e-kvetcher said...

>>Who among the Jbloggers are so certain? RJM? Bueller?

>you've never seen the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off?

?

resh lakish said...

Who's Bueller? A new JBlogger?

MOHR"R R' Yankel Bueller.

e-kvetcher said...

OK. Sorry - took me a while...

Seems like it's been done before by the master.

Miri said...

Orthoprax-

Minor nit-picky point:

"He claimed to have reasonable circumstantial evidence for believing in Orthodoxy and was then prepared to accept the Halachic system as-is. But, wait a second - he's relying on circumstantial evidence to promote a system where he executes a man for ritual offenses? He'd kill based solely on circumstantial evidence! Wow! As per Halacha, a Jewish court certainly needs more than that in order to convict and execute."

I am confused. You yourself say that the halachik system requires much more than circumstantial evidence to convict someone with the result of a death sentence. How does the fact that this man

believes in a system "based on circumstantial evidence" which requires a whole lot of hard-core, detailed, non-circumstantial evidence to actually kill someone, put the man in any kind of contradictory hole?

Essentially, I don't see the problem here.

Tigerboy said...

Like it, or not, morality IS subjective.

Right, wrong, and the appropriate course of action, is determined by society. We come to something approaching a consensus about what constitutes good behavior, and bad behavior, and what we choose to do to punish law-breakers.

It's a good thing that, for the most part, we agree on the basics. Killing is wrong, theft is wrong, hurting people is wrong.

We can be guided by certain basic concepts that have come down to us through the ages:

"Treat others as you would wish to be treated"
"Make every attempt to live and let live."

These concepts have provided, and will continue to provide, excellent insight into right and wrong. But, yes, societies do vary in the way they view things.

The only way that something can be declared to be ABSOLUTELY right or wrong would require a perfect judge. I'm not God, you're not God, nobody I know is God. In fact, there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God, so we, as a society, do the best that we can.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Miri said:
"I am confused. You yourself say that the halachik system requires much more than circumstantial evidence to convict someone with the result of a death sentence. How does the fact that this man

believes in a system "based on circumstantial evidence" which requires a whole lot of hard-core, detailed, non-circumstantial evidence to actually kill someone, put the man in any kind of contradictory hole?

Essentially, I don't see the problem here."

Any moral system is circumstancial as there is no way to prove ultimately that your moral intuition is correct.

Orthoprax said...

Fievel,

While I don't know if your particular explanations are correct, I do recognize that the Israelites probably believed they had good reasons for their laws. They weren't out to do wrong.


RG,

"You take faith as being circumstantial. Any idea we have and then convict people on will be your circumstantial ideas that you feel are correct."

I don't take faith to be anything. Those were the words of the person with whom I was discussing.

And I wouldn't execute people based on circumstantial ideas. In my book, only the malicious, premeditated taking of life surely voids a person's right to life. He denies the right by his actions! Oh, and treason to an enemy because it is a danger of such magnitude to the people of the nation that it cannot be dealt with lightly.

I don't just feel these are correct. They are time-tested truths about the nature of justice and the behavior of man.

Every society takes these acts extremely seriously, but not all of them take lighting a fire on Saturday seriously.


DBS,

"In the same way, moral formulations, though they are based on human knowlege, are not subjective."

I believe so.


E,

"Yet between groups, either geographically or temporally, the morality is subjective, even disregarding religion. Culture A may say it is immoral for a girl to sleep with a man outside of marriage. Culture B says it is perfectly moral. Who is right?"

Operatively true, but philosophically false, I believe. If it were possible, we could experiment and see the consequences of a certain rule being lax or firm for a given society. Change nothing else and analyze the society over time. The good of a society can largely be examined objectively and the better consequences would have informed the better moral guidance.

However, this is impossible to do in reality so we must employ less precise tools and in the meantime give our own ideas and other groups the benefit of the doubt.


Miri,

"believes in a system "based on circumstantial evidence" which requires a whole lot of hard-core, detailed, non-circumstantial evidence to actually kill someone, put the man in any kind of contradictory hole?"

Because his whole system is uncertain. Morally he's willing to kill someone on uncertain grounds even though the system requires an extreme level of certainty.


Tiger,

"The only way that something can be declared to be ABSOLUTELY right or wrong would require a perfect judge. I'm not God, you're not God, nobody I know is God. In fact, there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God, so we, as a society, do the best that we can."

So is there an absolute right or wrong or not? I believe there is even if we lack certainty about almost all of it. We do the best we can to approximate it.

This is different from giving up on the idea of objective morality completely.

FedUp said...

Tiger,
"The only way that something can be declared to be ABSOLUTELY right or wrong would require a perfect judge. I'm not God, you're not God, nobody I know is God. In fact, there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God, so we, as a society, do the best that we can."

The fictional character God has certainly shown him/her/it self to be a poor judge throughout history. I don't see why a perfect judge is needed for absolute wrong and right to be defined. Look at democracy. We can define morality in a similar fashion. Why should God, who is apparently uninvolved with his creation, who allows injustice, and cruelty and even encourages it at times, be the definer or judge of morality? We humans can figure it out on our own, thank you very much.

e-kvetcher said...

OP,
>The good of a society can largely be examined objectively

I don't believe this, but I will let you answer first. What metrics would you use to determine the "good of a society"?

Rabban Gamliel said...

"RG,

"You take faith as being circumstantial. Any idea we have and then convict people on will be your circumstantial ideas that you feel are correct."

I don't take faith to be anything. Those were the words of the person with whom I was discussing. And I wouldn't execute people based on circumstantial ideas. In my book, only the malicious, premeditated taking of life surely voids a person's right to life. He denies the right by his actions! Oh, and treason to an enemy because it is a danger of such magnitude to the people of the nation that it cannot be dealt with lightly."

You were the one taking faith to be circumstantial. He was taking it as evidence enough just like with your cases you feel there is enough evidence to execute. Ultimately though you are being subjective too and like my example of beating up the person to get back property on an island in which there is no such concept of property, shows what you consider significant and pr oven enough is really ethnocentric.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"FedUp said...
Tiger,
"The only way that something can be declared to be ABSOLUTELY right or wrong would require a perfect judge. I'm not God, you're not God, nobody I know is God. In fact, there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God, so we, as a society, do the best that we can."

The fictional character God has certainly shown him/her/it self to be a poor judge throughout history. I don't see why a perfect judge is needed for absolute wrong and right to be defined. Look at democracy. We can define morality in a similar fashion. Why should God, who is apparently uninvolved with his creation, who allows injustice, and cruelty and even encourages it at times, be the definer or judge of morality? We humans can figure it out on our own, thank you very much."

You FedUp have no basis for morality at all as to you only science exists. You are being Holier than Thou without a basis.

Orthoprax said...

E,

"What metrics would you use to determine the "good of a society"?"

Health, wealth, happiness, evenness of opportunity, depth of individual and collective character and so on.


RG,

"You were the one taking faith to be circumstantial."

In the other discussion, I was saying faith is something completely baseless. He said that he actually had circumstantial evidence for his beliefs.

"He was taking it as evidence enough just like with your cases you feel there is enough evidence to execute."

But not circumstantial evidence. My reasoning is explicit and direct. His was ambiguous and (he says) circumstantial.

"Ultimately though you are being subjective too and like my example of beating up the person to get back property on an island in which there is no such concept of property, shows what you consider significant and pr oven enough is really ethnocentric."

Your scenario demonstrates nothing except that societies can have different ideas about how things work. That being true doesn't mean I'm going to engage in a brawl to protect the interests of either misunderstood party.

Even with that being the case though, your whole scenario has an implicit error in it. Why would the islander who took the pen think he has any claim to it himself if he is bereft of property right ideas? Obviously there is room for discussion and education rather than fighting over a pen.

Orthoprax said...

Fed,

"The fictional character God has certainly shown him/her/it self to be a poor judge throughout history. I don't see why a perfect judge is needed for absolute wrong and right to be defined. Look at democracy. We can define morality in a similar fashion."

Democracy permits ethical consensus building but does not well inform us of objective morality. It wasn't too long ago that democracies the world over engaged in imperialism, slavery, and other cruelties.

The "fictional character of God" is indeed what the people of the time project onto the transcendent to approximate objective morality. More often than not they miss the mark.

But, nevertheless, a perfect judge would be an ideal source to inform us of morality.

e-kvetcher said...

>Health, wealth, happiness, evenness of opportunity, depth of individual and collective character and so on.

You can have a society that vanquishes another society and hence has all those things at the expense of the vanquished.

Orthoprax said...

E,

"You can have a society that vanquishes another society and hence has all those things at the expense of the vanquished."

True, but if we're now expanding the issue and involving other moral actors into the equation then their moral standing must be taken into consideration too.

FedUp said...

OP,
"Democracy permits ethical consensus building but does not well inform us of objective morality. It wasn't too long ago that democracies the world over engaged in imperialism, slavery, and other cruelties."

I was not saying that democracy has throughout history, known what objective morality is. I was suggesting that it has shown itself to help come to a better understanding of it.

"The "fictional character of God" is indeed what the people of the time project onto the transcendent to approximate objective morality. More often than not they miss the mark."

That, I believe, is an understatement. The transcendent, as you call it, cannot, by definition, give us a verifiable understanding of objective morality.

"But, nevertheless, a perfect judge would be an ideal source to inform us of morality."

Certainly. It would need to give a verifiable communication that is understandable to mankind though. I find this to be wishful thinking and as stated, God hasn't fit the bill.

FedUp said...

RG,
I beg of you. Stop falsely accusing me! It's against halacha and objectively immoral.

Rabban Gamliel said...

FedUp do you believe in something other than science and since when?

Rabban Gamliel said...

“G,

"You were the one taking faith to be circumstantial."

In the other discussion, I was saying faith is something completely baseless. He said that he actually had circumstantial evidence for his beliefs.”

Ok but we all base our judgements on what is circumstantial evidence. Can we say that it is not possible that a lookalike created out of thin air committed the crime? No. We however use evidence we feel is strong enough to give us conviction to convict even though to a die hard skeptic it would just be societal consensus, circumstantial evidence at best. It is no more circumstantial than you coming up with what you feel someone should be convicted on and then once you rely on your subjective ideas as to what to convict for from that point on you can argue as does Jewish law against using circumstantial evidence. You rely on circumstantial evidence for G-d and the laws of the universe by pointing out the circumstantial evidence,
constant repetition of law in the universe and this circumstantial evidence establishes what is scientific law or not. We use science to convict all the time. To establish what is the law we come up with ideas that are not scientifically provable though they may underlie what we have established for science sometimes but we still proceed to establish the law. It is no argument to seize on the principles one basis his morality on as circumstantial on the same level as one would argue for the collection of evidence for the crime.

“"Ultimately though you are being subjective too and like my example of beating up the person to get back property on an island in which there is no such concept of property, shows what you consider significant and pr oven enough is really ethnocentric."

Your scenario demonstrates nothing except that societies can have different ideas about how things work. That being true doesn't mean I'm going to engage in a brawl to protect the interests of either misunderstood party.”

There is no objective difference about how things work in this case. The islanders simply have no concept of property established. This isn’t a misunderstanding. This is a clear difference of morality with us having the arbitrary looking concept.

“Even with that being the case though, your whole scenario has an implicit error in it. Why would the islander who took the pen think he has any claim to it himself if he is bereft of property right ideas?”

He disagrees and feels he does but still to the islanders there is no such thing.

“Obviously there is room for discussion and education rather than fighting over a pen.”

Until such a time of changing their ideas to conform to something new each side would expect justice.


" FedUp said...
OP,
"Democracy permits ethical consensus building but does not well inform us of objective morality. It wasn't too long ago that democracies the world over engaged in imperialism, slavery, and other cruelties."

I was not saying that democracy has throughout history, known what objective morality is. I was suggesting that it has shown itself to help come to a better understanding of it. “

Hitler was democratically elected. Hitler could have won. There was no guarantee by any means he wouldn’t have. You speak of democracy FedUp. It is not that democracy comes to a better understanding of morality. It is rather that democracies allow morality to flourish by allowing more than one voice including religious ones that help keep a country focused on values it could lose in the absence of the faithful such as in some secular circles the ban on euthanasia which has become more rampant in some democracies.

“"The "fictional character of God" is indeed what the people of the time project onto the transcendent to approximate objective morality. More often than not they miss the mark."

That, I believe, is an understatement. The transcendent, as you call it, cannot, by definition, give us a verifiable understanding of objective morality.”

Morality if it is objective is of transcendent authority.

“"But, nevertheless, a perfect judge would be an ideal source to inform us of morality."

Certainly. It would need to give a verifiable communication that is understandable to mankind though. I find this to be wishful thinking and as stated, God hasn't fit the bill.”

You expect G-d to be bound to morality so that it should be a perfect world. That would mean miracles to save the day. FedUp you fail to realize you are arguing for the existence of what can only be if there is a transcendent reality. So you believe in something other than science?

Rabban Gamliel said...

"The transcendent, as you call it, cannot, by definition, give us a verifiable understanding of objective morality."

When was the last time you used a microscope or telescope to detect your morality FedUp? You keep on confusing science and philosophy.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"Ok but we all base our judgements on what is circumstantial evidence. Can we say that it is not possible that a lookalike created out of thin air committed the crime? No."

I can't stand to discuss things with you when you get absurd like this.

"There is no objective difference about how things work in this case. The islanders simply have no concept of property established. This isn’t a misunderstanding. This is a clear difference of morality with us having the arbitrary looking concept."

One, I don't believe a society can exist without the idea of property at some level. Even communal property is still an idea of property. And two, you didn't respond to my citicism of your scenario. The fact that the islander refuses to give the object back implies that he thinks he has rights to it. And third, the fact that an idea isn't held unanimously has no bearing on the idea of an objective morality.

FedUp said...

RG,

I can't understand about 90% of what you write in your comments. Please forgive me. But please see http://freedomspeace.blogspot.com/2005/04/what-hitler-was-not-elected.html
for some information on Hitler being elected democratically.
I can't answer anything else you said because I can't make head or tail of it.

As to your insistence about me believing in nothing other then science, I kindly ask you to desist. You certainly know nothing of my personal beliefs and I can't tell if you understand what I write so let's call it a day. Don't take it personally but, for the most part, I will be not be responding to your comments except to decry your constant false accusations of me.

OP,
Do you have anything to comment on my response to what I wrote to you above?

Orthoprax said...

Fed,

"Do you have anything to comment on my response to what I wrote to you above?"

I agree with you. Free societies generally promote the exchange of ideas and public debate which tends to encourage people into more rational, public serving and consistent lines of thought.

I don't think we differ much on the application of the transcendent to morality as the key is verification. But at the same time, I reserve respectful language for God since the transcendent cannot be soiled by stains projected onto Him.

FedUp said...

But at the same time, I reserve respectful language for God since the transcendent cannot be soiled by stains projected onto Him.

I know that this is not the post to discuss God. Perhaps another time and place. But if I may... Perhaps that's all God is, a projection. If I understand you correctly, God is transcendent, therefore we can make no true statements about Him. We can't know if the projections of the literal view of Tanakh is true or not. We have no way of verifying such a "being", for lack of a better word, or anything about him/her/it so the subject becomes completely pointless. All we are doing is making projections onto an unverifiable idea. I would then be free to make any kind of statement and it wouldn't be soiling anything but perhaps your projection of God.

Again this may not be the time and place but sometime...

Orthoprax said...

Fed,

"We have no way of verifying such a "being", for lack of a better word, or anything about him/her/it so the subject becomes completely pointless."

Discussions about God are really discussions about how to understand existence and our relation to it. The fundamental difference between what I promote and the atheist's ideas are not a particular metaphysical arrangement, but that there's something very much worth discussing. It isn't knowledge but a given perspective that is worth pursuing.

I'm always a little surprised how atheists can hand-wave away the whole idea of the significance of existence.

The perspective of significance is actually analogous to the debate about objective morality. One can also argue that since absolute morality is transcendent it is unverifiable and pointless to discuss. I would very much disagree. Even if we cannot confirm a moral concept one way or the other exploring the issue is worthwhile on its own.

Rabban Gamliel said...

“Orthoprax said...
RG,

"Ok but we all base our judgements on what is circumstantial evidence. Can we say that it is not possible that a lookalike created out of thin air committed the crime? No."

I can't stand to discuss things with you when you get absurd like this.”

Orthoprax stay focused. I was giving an example. I was saying that all of our judgements can be said to be based on things that can be challenged but we still make these judgements based on our strong intuitions.

“"There is no objective difference about how things work in this case. The islanders simply have no concept of property established. This isn’t a misunderstanding. This is a clear difference of morality with us having the arbitrary looking concept."

“One, I don't believe a society can exist without the idea of property at some level. Even communal property is still an idea of property. And two, you didn't respond to my citicism of your scenario. The fact that the islander refuses to give the object back implies that he thinks he has rights to it.”

I did respond to it. I was saying that the islander was having his own opinion on the matter differing from the customary. He is simply feeling that no one should have the pen but him. Maybe he is just being selfish. Altogether this is only an example of how a concept we take for granted can be absent from and conflict with a more natural looking morality and so undermine just how objective and independent of society our moral concepts really are.

”And third, the fact that an idea isn't held unanimously has no bearing on the idea of an objective morality.”

My point was of how a concept we take for granted can be absent from and conflict with a more natural looking morality and so undermine just how objective and independent of society our moral concepts really are.

FedUp said:
“As to your insistence about me believing in nothing other then science, I kindly ask you to desist.”

Ok so kindly answer the question I asked do you believe in the existence of anything other than science?

“FedUp said...
But at the same time, I reserve respectful language for God since the transcendent cannot be soiled by stains projected onto Him.

I know that this is not the post to discuss God. Perhaps another time and place. But if I may... Perhaps that's all God is, a projection. If I understand you correctly, God is transcendent, therefore we can make no true statements about Him. We can't know if the projections of the literal view of Tanakh is true or not. We have no way of verifying such a "being", for lack of a better word, or anything about him/her/it so the subject becomes completely pointless. All we are doing is making projections onto an unverifiable idea. I would then be free to make any kind of statement and it wouldn't be soiling anything but perhaps your projection of God.”

The above would seem to indicate you deny the existence of anything but science but am I right do you? In any event you confuse the idea of the transcendent with lack of definition. Using your way of thinking science could never have anything to say beyond what it can describe. If you know anything of modern science this would close 21st century science to a high degree.

FedUp said...

"It isn't knowledge but a given perspective that is worth pursuing."

From a practical standpoint I think that a particular perspective about God is certainly worth discussing. I believe that a neo-pagan or new age perspective of God/gods is probably safer and more universal then say the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or even Maimonides's understanding of God. From that perspective I would encourage a believer such as yourself to consider this much safer, loving, and universal understanding of God/gods. But making truth claims about God is what I was driving at. In this respect I think that the best we can do is make projections. I prefer to make none.

Morality is different in that I don't think that a lack of morality is a reasonable logically defendable position, not to mention a dangerous one. So even from a mere utilitarian perspective, morality has a better chance then God. Obviously usefulness says nothing for truth but it certainly makes it worth discussing. Also, I'm not sure I would agree on the "transcendence" of objective morality. That word bothers me because of it's supernatural connotations and it's unverifiable truth claims.

Perhaps you could elaborate on significance of existence. IMHO, at this point in my newly found disbelief, significance of existence is purely subjective. Each person needs to find (imagine?) their own SOE. It may not be "true" but if you don't make that claim and you simply consider it a choice then we have no problems. We can discuss utilitarian pros and cons.

I don't want this to get entangled. Let's try to keep morality, significance of existence and God as separate subjects, at least for our purposes.

FedUp said...

RG,
"Do you believe in the existence of anything other than science?"

One does not "believe" in science because science is about real fact. This is a quote from a website "Scientists don't have to take scientific facts on faith. If they are skeptical, they can check the facts themselves. In fact, they are encouraged to check the facts for themselves, to see for themselves, to repeat the observation. That's how science works. It seems to me that this indicates that scientists DO NOT simply take their facts on faith, and therefore scientific facts are NOT a matter of "belief". ..It is difficult to imagine how s/he could think that!

So I don't believe in science. Your question is unanswerable.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Regarding Hitler he was democratically elected. There were deals made and intrigue to get Hitler the position that his party winnings entitled him to get in the coalition. The German Democratic government tried to clamp down on him but by allowing for more democracy it allowed him to rise to power.

http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/elect.htm
http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/runs.htm
http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/collapse.htm
http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/named.htm

" I believe that a neo-pagan or new age perspective of God/gods is probably safer and more universal then say the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or even Maimonides's understanding of God. From that perspective I would encourage a believer such as yourself to consider this much safer, loving, and universal understanding of God/gods.”

Only a bias involving a travesty of history could make you claim that the Pagan gods involved a much safer, loving and universal conception.

"FedUp said...
RG,
"Do you believe in the existence of anything other than science?"

One does not "believe" in science because science is about real fact. This is a quote from a website "Scientists don't have to take scientific facts on faith. If they are skeptical, they can check the facts themselves. In fact, they are encouraged to check the facts for themselves, to see for themselves, to repeat the observation. That's how science works. It seems to me that this indicates that scientists DO NOT simply take their facts on faith, and therefore scientific facts are NOT a matter of "belief". ..It is difficult to imagine how s/he could think that!

So I don't believe in science. Your question is unanswerable."

FedUp my question was about things other than science here so you just avoided the question with a meaningless semantic distraction either on purpose or out of an incomplete grasp of the subject matter or both and further your idea of science is a travesty. Science is not the product of a collection of facts we are forced to absorb as mindlessly as what we see with our eyes but requires real effort and involves controversy amongst scientists to arrive at ideas. It is people like you who turn science into an idol that causes science to be misunderstood and scientists to be underappreciated as why should they be appreciated if it is just involving facts that are as true for anyone as what we see with our eyes. According to you then there should be no point to retesting in science. In science we always retest. Nothing is ever declared fact in it in the naïve sense you maintain. If this prevents science from being as easily accessible to the masses that is the problem of the masses.

FedUp said...

RG,
I revert to decrying your false accusations and will endeavor to ignore the rest of what you say. Please think about what I have to say and stop making personal false accusations.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"I was saying that all of our judgements can be said to be based on things that can be challenged but we still make these judgements based on our strong intuitions."

Yes, we could all be brains in jars. I don't understand why the criticism of others' bad arguments always ends with people like you trying to destroy the entire enterprise of human knowledge. It's the intellectual equivalent of the old cold war 'mutually assured destruction'.

"I did respond to it. I was saying that the islander was having his own opinion on the matter differing from the customary."

And therefore what? The existence of ignorant people or people with different opinions doesn't undermine objective ethics. Why would it?


Fed,

"I believe that a neo-pagan or new age perspective of God/gods is probably safer and more universal then say the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or even Maimonides's understanding of God. From that perspective I would encourage a believer such as yourself to consider this much safer, loving, and universal understanding of God/gods."

Ok, interesting, but not a perspective that I'd find particularly compelling. I tend more to the ideas of Spinoza and Einstein and such than to swishy 'New-Agey' concepts.

"But making truth claims about God is what I was driving at. In this respect I think that the best we can do is make projections. I prefer to make none."

That is your prerogative.

"Morality is different in that I don't think that a lack of morality is a reasonable logically defendable position.."

Oh? Why not?

"Perhaps you could elaborate on significance of existence. IMHO, at this point in my newly found disbelief, significance of existence is purely subjective. Each person needs to find (imagine?) their own SOE. It may not be "true" but if you don't make that claim and you simply consider it a choice then we have no problems. We can discuss utilitarian pros and cons."

Well I don't *know* what the significance of existence is or it's particular relationship to us, but I do believe it's worthwhile to at least consider it a real possibility that it's not all a matter of personal subjectivity.

The idea that we as a conscious, creative species - perhaps even us as individuals - hold some important role in the course of existence or the grand scheme of things is not something that ought to be just dismissed. For one, I think the unique fact that we can with awareness shape our environment is something worth considering. These ideas encourage a whole different attitude as compared to the secular conclusion that humanity is merely the epiphenomenal consequence of blind accidents with no lasting or meaningful role to play.

Rabban Gamliel said...

“At April 23, 2008 12:42 AM, FedUp said...
RG,
I revert to decrying your false accusations and will endeavor to ignore the rest of what you say. Please think about what I have to say and stop making personal false accusations.”

Tell me what is false then.

““Orthoprax said...
RG,

"I was saying that all of our judgements can be said to be based on things that can be challenged but we still make these judgements based on our strong intuitions."

Yes, we could all be brains in jars. I don't understand why the criticism of others' bad arguments always ends with people like you trying to destroy the entire enterprise of human knowledge. It's the intellectual equivalent of the old cold war 'mutually assured destruction'.”

I am not trying to destroy the entire enterprise of human knowledge. The point I was making was rather that everything we have to say is a judgement call, one we believe we have enough information to be certain of but not enough to appear to our opponents as more than arguments rather than raw data for all to see.

“"I did respond to it. I was saying that the islander was having his own opinion on the matter differing from the customary."

And therefore what? The existence of ignorant people or people with different opinions doesn't undermine objective ethics. Why would it?”

This isn’t a matter of ignorance or simple differences of opinion. This is a value judgement. On this island there is no concept of property and it allows them to do what we would call stealing if anyone on the island should take what someone else claims as their own. On what basis do we ever claim some object as our own? Our society says that our claims are valid. How natural is our concept of property? and yet we would try to recover something an islander took from us and would help an islander who wished to recover something another islander took from him. The point is that our ethical and moral systems are based on society. But that needn’t mean a lack of ethical inspiration. On the contrary since no human will ever be able to arrive at full moral truth on their own or even in common with others and yet what we want to instill is a value system society helps to direct us along the paths we wish to pass on. I speak here of more than just the official moral rules we wish to perpetuate but rather the very values that underlie them and cause us to hopefully do more than the letter of the ethical and moral system.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"The point I was making was rather that everything we have to say is a judgement call, one we believe we have enough information to be certain of but not enough to appear to our opponents as more than arguments rather than raw data for all to see."

Correction:"one we believe we have enough information to be certain of but not enough to appear to our opponents as more than arguments INSTEAD of raw data for all to see."

FedUp said...

Oh? Why not?
A lack of belief in morality of any sort? I can't prove it's existence but we all speak of it. It's an idea that we simply refer to and we know what it is. How could one simply deny this? I mean you could but every time you think of something as good or bad you would be realizing it's existence.

These ideas encourage a whole different attitude as compared to the secular conclusion that humanity is merely the epiphenomenal consequence of blind accidents with no lasting or meaningful role to play.

I would have to disagree. Without a way of that significance being communicated in a way that you and I can understand and know, we will all be in some sort of existential angst, depending on how much importance we put on this significance. Once a secular person has accepted the seaming "meaninglessness" from a cosmic standpoint then s/he can go on and make up his own based on his strengths, and what gives personal meaning and pleasure, and what the world needs at his/her time and place. You don't have to second guess and it's not dictated to you. You freely chose it and you freely pursue it.

I just read Tal Ben Shahar's book called happier. I'd recommend it.

Rabban Gamliel said...

FedUp said...
Oh? Why not?
"A lack of belief in morality of any sort? I can't prove it's existence but we all speak of it. It's an idea that we simply refer to and we know what it is. How could one simply deny this? I mean you could but every time you think of something as good or bad you would be realizing it's existence."

You would be realizing the concept but what is it reffering to FedUp? What is it?

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"This isn’t a matter of ignorance or simple differences of opinion. This is a value judgement. On this island there is no concept of property and it allows them to do what we would call stealing if anyone on the island should take what someone else claims as their own. On what basis do we ever claim some object as our own?"

On the basis of what those ideas offer in terms of personal security, the promotion of beneficial innovations, a consumer economy and so on. These are not arbitrary values. A little education and the islanders would eagerly accept this other way of doing things. This same story has happened a thousand times.


Fed,

"A lack of belief in morality of any sort? I can't prove it's existence but we all speak of it. It's an idea that we simply refer to and we know what it is. How could one simply deny this?"

One doesn't need to deny that people generally have impulses to what has been arbitrarily defined as 'good' or 'bad' behavior, but that those impulses have any authority to guide our behavior. Maybe the smart way of living life is to learn how to suppress guilt rather than appeasing unhealthy impulses.

"I would have to disagree. Without a way of that significance being communicated in a way that you and I can understand and know, we will all be in some sort of existential angst, depending on how much importance we put on this significance. Once a secular person has accepted the seaming "meaninglessness" from a cosmic standpoint then s/he can go on and make up his own based on his strengths, and what gives personal meaning and pleasure, and what the world needs at his/her time and place."

These are not fully exclusive propositions. A person can find their own mission in life while still in deep consideration of a deeper meaning to it all.

Rabban Gamliel said...

“RG,

"This isn’t a matter of ignorance or simple differences of opinion. This is a value judgement. On this island there is no concept of property and it allows them to do what we would call stealing if anyone on the island should take what someone else claims as their own. On what basis do we ever claim some object as our own?"

On the basis of what those ideas offer in terms of personal security, the promotion of beneficial innovations, a consumer economy and so on. These are not arbitrary values. A little education and the islanders would eagerly accept this other way of doing things. This same story has happened a thousand times.”

The point is how we judge the dispute based on the facts on the island as it is at the time. The point is not what to do with the island in the future.

FedUp said...

One doesn't need to deny that people generally have impulses to what has been arbitrarily defined as 'good' or 'bad' behavior, but that those impulses have any authority to guide our behavior. Maybe the smart way of living life is to learn how to suppress guilt rather than appeasing unhealthy impulses.

I don't get the connection of that last statement but in regard to moral authority, I think that will have to come from a government. That was my reference to democracy above. If you mean a truth value I don't think in any sense that what we now understand as good or bad is arbitrary. It's gone through many years of human experience and reason to come to the sophisticated set of moral truths that we now know. I think that much work is yet to be done but I think it's safe to say things like donating blood is good and spilling blood is bad. We all know things like that just as we know that 1+1=2.

These are not fully exclusive propositions. A person can find their own mission in life while still in deep consideration of a deeper meaning to it all.

Sounds good on paper but to press the issue how do we come to knowledge of that deeper meaning and why call it's source God?

I'm completely unfamiliar with your concept of God. I'll have to read some of Spinoza's writings. Could you send me in the right direction? It seems to me that we are speaking of two different ideas when we say God and I don't call what you are referring to God. My idea and every idea of God that I knew of was shattered sometime ago and I believe that the home base position is one of atheism. One doesn't simply believe something, especially something as extraordinary as God, without evidence.

In regards to Einstien's God, I thought that it was quite proven that he was a Deist and I was under the impression that you were a theist.

As you well know, I'm quite ignorant on a great number of things. I seek education and truth.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"In regards to Einstien's God, I thought that it was quite proven that he was a Deist and I was under the impression that you were a theist."

He was not favorable to atheism and considered himself closer to theistic fundamentalists than atheists.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"I can't prove it's existence but we all speak of it. It's an idea that we simply refer to and we know what it is. How could one simply deny this? I mean you could but every time you think of something as good or bad you would be realizing it's existence."

Then how about consciousness which it is quite customary amongst some in the atheist community to reduce to illusion?

Rabban Gamliel said...

"In regards to Einstien's God, I thought that it was quite proven that he was a Deist and I was under the impression that you were a theist."

First of all a deist is a type of theist but Einstein was most emphatically not a deist. A deist believes that G-d created the world and then from that point on has nothing to do with the world. To Einstein G-d was the very basis of how everything runs not at some abstract level in the past but fully in all points in time He functions at the basis of reality. Further the fact that he did not believe in the true passing away of the past but rather in the eternity of all time and indeed in time as a persistent illusion makes it that if he would have adopted deism it would have had to be rendered for him as an illusion, how we view G-d through time rather than how G-d really is. Einstein’s G-d though as he explained not quite even Spinoza’s G-d certainly shared with Spinoza’s a nondeistic character and was as central to Einstein’s view of reality as Spinoza’s related conception was to him.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Further the fact that he did not believe in the true passing away of the past but rather in the eternity of all time"

That is he believed in the eternity of all moments in time not in time's linear existence throughout all eternity as did Aristotle. To Einstein there was a first moment but as time is relative the first moment still exists and when time is viewed as the static reality it really is that first moment always existed.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"The point is how we judge the dispute based on the facts on the island as it is at the time. The point is not what to do with the island in the future."

The decision of the dispute is simple. The islander should return the item to the other guy.

That doesn't mean I think engaging in a brawl is the right way to come to that endpoint.


Fed,

"I don't get the connection of that last statement but in regard to moral authority, I think that will have to come from a government."

Heh, then it's just a matter of not getting caught.

"If you mean a truth value I don't think in any sense that what we now understand as good or bad is arbitrary. It's gone through many years of human experience and reason to come to the sophisticated set of moral truths that we now know. I think that much work is yet to be done but I think it's safe to say things like donating blood is good and spilling blood is bad."

Only if we are assuming a non-selfish role to morality. The fundamental assumption of morality is that I should care about the welfare of others, but this can simply be denied. If I only care for myself then there's little to gain by giving blood. And much to gain by breaking the various moral codes.

"Sounds good on paper but to press the issue how do we come to knowledge of that deeper meaning and why call it's source God?"

Well, I don't know if *knowledge* of such is possible. Like I said, it's a matter of perspective - the value is in contemplation.

I understand God to be the ultimate Source of reality whatever its characteristics. And I don't necessarily mean causatively, but a matter of fundamental substance or order of existence. It is that which shapes reality and continues to maintain it. One word is the Hypokeimenon or perhaps Brahman or perhaps even Ein Sof. Do you have a better word for this idea than God?

"I'm completely unfamiliar with your concept of God. I'll have to read some of Spinoza's writings. Could you send me in the right direction?"

Well, I only said I tend to ideas like his, not that I necessarily share his conclusions. Search my blog, I go into some detail in a number of posts. Though I should warn that they aren't all necessarily consistent. My ideas change over time.

"In regards to Einstien's God, I thought that it was quite proven that he was a Deist and I was under the impression that you were a theist."

Not exactly. Einstein's ideas are difficult to nail down and I think, a bit like mine, hard to put in simple slots and regular language. His ideas were probably closer to something like Pantheism, but the metaphysical description is imprecise and hardly maters as compared to the issues of Substance - i.e. there's definitely something awesome afoot, even if I can't quite understand or describe it.

FedUp said...

Heh, then it's just a matter of not getting caught.

Are there any other options? You can hope that there is some sort of ultimate justice in the next life or threaten hellfire. There is just no evidence to believe such a thing and it's immoral to hold that over people's heads.

Or perhaps we could determine a moral obligation to be moral??? But I think that's circular.

Even if we find all the moral laws and we can give a good description of them, I believe that in the end they will be much like political laws. Immoral people follow them so they don't get caught. Moral people follow them because it is the right thing to do. If people get away with being immoral we will try to bring them to justice. That's all we have and all we should count on.

Do you have a better word for this idea than God?

T.I.M. The Incomprehensible Mystery. I.D.K. I don't know. M.N. Maybe nothing I.H.W.F.O. I hope we find out. I suppose it's much easier to say God but calling it such, it sounds like you have an answer when really you are making a projection about something you know nothing about. It limits all thought into the matter to a preconceived notion of God when perhaps it's goodness or perhaps it's nothing or perhaps we will never know.

Now you can contemplate all those things and still be an atheist. You simply don't turn that contemplation into God. You may gain some insights and there may be knowledge of unknowable things... I like Eastern thought for this reason. I just don't like giving a concrete name to these insights or source of these insights, especially a name that has so much historical baggage.

Wouldn't you say that it's more reasonable to start with no belief and hold onto it until the evidence comes in?

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Wouldn't you say that it's more reasonable to start with no belief and hold onto it until the evidence comes in?"

If you hold the bar of what you consider evidence to be strictly scientific you will be giving a negative answer forever but it doesn't make it true. Some things like your belief in morals are beyond strict scientific confirmation. You said for instance that it is immoral to say there is a future punishment. Prove that scientificaly.

Orthoprax said...

Fed,

"Are there any other options? You can hope that there is some sort of ultimate justice in the next life or threaten hellfire. There is just no evidence to believe such a thing and it's immoral to hold that over people's heads."

That's not what I'm talking about. I don't mean in terms of enforcement, but in terms of moral authority to say what ought or ought not be done. Intrinsically the state has none.

"Or perhaps we could determine a moral obligation to be moral??? But I think that's circular."

No, that's exactly what is required for objective morality to have any meaning besides social consensus. A categorical imperative, if you will.

"Immoral people follow them so they don't get caught. Moral people follow them because it is the right thing to do."

The point is - what makes them the right thing to do? You need the basic assumption that the rules are right because they serve the general good and not your particular interests. But a person can reject concern of the general good in favor of his own interests.

"I suppose it's much easier to say God but calling it such, it sounds like you have an answer when really you are making a projection about something you know nothing about."

I think 'God' has held so many different conceptions that it would be a deep fallacy to assume a particular one just based on a person using the term. I believe the term well fits my conceptions and I don't need to throw it away because others use it to describe more provincial ideas.

"Wouldn't you say that it's more reasonable to start with no belief and hold onto it until the evidence comes in?"

No, not if they are beliefs which inform the course of your life, your daily activities, and/or the way you conceive of existence. You don't have the luxury of such epistemological purity. It's better to form tentative beliefs and rely on them until further data compels change.

FedUp said...

OP,

This has been enlightening. I think I've said all I can (which isn't much) and I've learned much from your comments.

Miri said...

Damn the lack of an internet connection!

orthoprax-
"Because his whole system is uncertain. Morally he's willing to kill someone on uncertain grounds even though the system requires an extreme level of certainty."

To paraphrase the general mission statement of the philosophical movement of Pragmatism "SO WHAT?"
Practically speaking, what difference does it make to any one? Please forgive me if I can't buy into your argument against this man because of its extreme meaninglessness.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

I don't get your issue. Moral bankruptcy is a big problem in a person's philosophy. It's wrong to convict on poor information and it's infinitely more wrong to execute based on poor information. This is a fundamental concept in any evidence-based justice system.

Why do you think it meaningless?

Tobie said...

Orthoprax-
"Moral bankruptcy is a big problem in a person's philosophy. It's wrong to convict on poor information and it's infinitely more wrong to execute based on poor information."

I don't see where the moral bankruptcy is. He never said anything about CONVICTING or EXECUTING based on poor information; I thought we'd already established that according to this man's beliefs you'd need some pretty air-tight evidence to convict or execute anybody.

According to what you're saying, this man believes in a system based on a lack of evidence. Which is a reasonable statement, although most people believe in most things based on equally lame amounts of evidence. But the claim you are trying to make, which is that bc he believes in a system for poor reasons, he would kill someone for nothing, is simply unfounded and in fact contradictory. He may believe without justification, but that doesn't change the fact that the system in which he believes ALMOST NEVER KILLED ANYONE. So you claiming that he would kill based on little to no evidence essentially does not hold up.

Orthoprax said...

Tobie,

"But the claim you are trying to make, which is that bc he believes in a system for poor reasons, he would kill someone for nothing, is simply unfounded and in fact contradictory."

I'm not saying that. He said he'd be willing to execute based on the rules of a system for which he doesn't have sufficient confidence.

The point is not whether there's sufficient evidence that a party broke the rules but whether the rules are themselves legitimate. You need extreme confidence in both aspects before you can morally execute a person. He lacks sufficient confidence in the second aspect and therefore his conclusions are bankrupt.

Miri said...

Hey so that was me, not Tobie; ok here's the thing. I see your point. But once more PRACTICALLY SPEAKING if we're talking about how many people actually end up dead, the number is so negligible as to make the point almost moot. Yes in theory, he would kill someone for striking a match on Shabbat, but in real life, it just wouldn't ever happen. That said, I agree it doesn't seem like the most reasonable excuse for killing someone.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"I see your point. But once more PRACTICALLY SPEAKING if we're talking about how many people actually end up dead, the number is so negligible as to make the point almost moot."

It may or may not be moot in terms of actual deaths, but this demonstrates a general problem in revelation-based judicial systems. They require an evidence level that none deliver as far as a fair court could determine guilt. There's *always* reasonable doubt.

And as far as that is concerned, it is definitely not moot since there are people all over the world who do (or would like to) enforce their religious rules on the general population.

Miri said...

Orthoprax-
I really don't know where in the world, besides possibly Israel and even there not really, where Jews are enforcing Jewish law on the general population. Certainly not to the extent where people are losing their lives over flipping a switch on Shabbat.

What exactly do you mean by 'reasonable doubt" in this case?

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"I really don't know where in the world, besides possibly Israel and even there not really, where Jews are enforcing Jewish law on the general population."

The point was not specifically about "Jewish" law - but about any revealed law, or any system based on non-rational foundations. The Saudis enforcing Shariah law or the goals of whatever evangelical groups in America are both examples of groups who do - or want to - enforce a faith-based system on others.

"What exactly do you mean by 'reasonable doubt" in this case?"

There is reasonable doubt in the correctness of these religious laws and therefore it would be wrong to punish a person based on them. Like I said, you need confidence in two aspects before one can morally punish another.

Kosher Holiday said...

Examine how different conceptions of the moral method known as pairwise comparison are at work in these different arguments and what the ideas of balancing and tie-breaking signify for decision-making in various types of cases.

Anonymous said...

Sweetest Ortho, along with Fedup and the Gantze Chevra.

Way back when all the way in the beginning I wrote to you dear Ortho about morality/ethics etc. I'll admit that I tweaked it a bit but I'm curious what you guy feel about it.

All Morality and Ethics could be encapsulated in "love your neighbor as yourself" or De'aloch Sanai Le'chavroch Lo Tavod. Which is simply saying that objectively speaking there is no preference for you over someone else.

(sure, it's not easy to figure out how to apply it in many cases, hence the different approaches and cultures vis a vis morality.)

It would seem that the small voice of our conscience is the overriding thought "why do i put myself in front of the other" how am I more important. We would say that the whole distinction and prefferential treatment for myself vis a vis the other, is arbitray and artificial. Which would be like sayin that essentially (our essence, that is) we cry out from the deep (deeper than the artificial structures we built) for ethical equality.

YET,

the counter argument would be,
that our essence is this limited being called "self". Within these limits (self) that is alll there is. "other" cannot exist within this limit (that is precisely its limit, 'nothing outside self'). Hence our deepest essence should NOT cry out for 'other'.

I would agree to this counter argument if not for;

GOD

Which means to say, an unlimited (being), Ein Sof if you will.

One way to understand God is;
to say that the whole/everything/entire cosmos, is limited is an oxymoron. Why?
'It is limited' means that there's something that it doesnt encompass, i.e there's something that is outside of its realm, it's not all. But then you are not talking about the "whole".

So, the Whole is unlimited. All the limits (defined reality, which is basically all of reality we talk about) are just another aspect of this unlimited whole.

Aah, so in the most deep sense we are not limited, because we are actually part of the whole that is unlimited. OK so that is where that little voice comes from.

This part/aspect of our 'selves' is beyond definition (limitation) it is what is commonly called the mystical part of our essence. Maybe our Neshamah, the Divine (unllimited) in us.

We love the unknown, the breaking of barriers, the sense of mystical. because anything else is not our true essence it is but a limited version of oursleves, it is our selves gated and locked in to a limit. It is against what we are. We push for our freedom and we love every taste of it.


Heilige Brothers, please tell me if this makes sense to you.

Thanks,

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

I think it may be a fruitful approach, but the metaphysics of the whole thing seems out there. Aren't rocks and trees also part of the Whole? Shouldn't I, then according to your reasoning, question why I should put myself before rocks?

"'It is limited' means that there's something that it doesnt encompass"

This doesn't follow. Limited just means that it doesn't go on eternally. There may simply be nothing beyond the limit and yet it can still be limited.

Anonymous said...

Your argument about rock is really about understanding how one thing has more value over another. Is there any logical way to see that a computer has more value to save than a tiny pebble?

Or, better yet, why is there a value about saving/helping anything at all?

Well, it seems to me that we would agree that 10 has a bigger value than 5. For whatever 5 has, 10 has as well, and then some.

More reality has more value. Now, more reality is not strictly related to physical size. Hence we can say that a computer has more reality than even a very large stone.

In truth I need to explain my point a bit more. The above is based on my understanding that our drive, even our moral drive is all about doing what is essentialy true, nothing more than just following the true nature of existence. To ask why nature wants to be true to itself is an oxymoronic question. It should be self evident that existence/nature/reality "want's" to be what it is (not what it is not)

A bigger part of reality wants its existence to continue in a bigger way than the smaller part. It's not a fight for they are all one, It's simply a bigger urge versus a smaller urge.

I suspect that the above is a pretty deep concept and maybe I didn't explain myself well. It may seem very cold and mechanistic, yet I stil think it true.

The above trys to explain the heirarchy of values in existence.

But my point about ethics was adressing the question of how could my "self" concern or "want" something that is not for its own furtherness, its own existence? By doing that it is essentialy going outside its "self", which is contradictory, because then it's not "self" anymore.

that is why we need to understand the concept of infinite reality being the bedrock of existence, only then can we say that going outside of self is only going out of certain limitations of my essence because the whole concept of self is just a way of limiting my essential reality. As I tried to explain in my pervious comment.


Your claim, that reality can be limited by nothing or nothing is limiting reality yet it still is limited.

I respectfully disagree. In order for there to be an actual limit on something, you have to find an actual reality where it is not there. The same goes to a conceptual limit, i.e. you have to have the concept of where it is "Not". Otherwise how is it limited.

Or try this:
You are saying it is limited but you have no aspect where it is limited, then how is it different than if it is unlimited. you name it "limited" yet is has no meaning. You give it limits yet you do not, for you say that nothing (really) limits it.

Please give these thoughts the benefit of the doubt and think about them seriously.

I could be very wrong but rest assured that it's worthy of giving it some quality time.

I have no ax to grind,I hardly know why I'm writing here, is it a urge to help you in your quest? (I would say that there's definitly some truth in that). Or maybe I want to have someone really go over these points with a fine comb, who knows.

Actually, your point about rocks, made me clarify this aspect to myself, so it was definitely worthwhile to me.

Thanks,

Please respond.

Orthoprax said...

"A bigger part of reality wants its existence to continue in a bigger way than the smaller part. It's not a fight for they are all one, It's simply a bigger urge versus a smaller urge."

So rocks and trees have urges?

"that is why we need to understand the concept of infinite reality being the bedrock of existence, only then can we say that going outside of self is only going out of certain limitations of my essence because the whole concept of self is just a way of limiting my essential reality."

Alright, but I fail to see why you need to appeal to an infinity as opposed to just an encompassing reality. That we are all emanations of the Whole is a concept that doesn't require the Whole to be infinite.

"I respectfully disagree. In order for there to be an actual limit on something, you have to find an actual reality where it is not there."

Why would you? Suppose, ala Hawking, that reality is ultimately shaped like a sphere. There isn't anything outside the sphere, that's just its shape. There is no "outside" of the sphere. So it's limited by its intrinsic nature without being bound by extraneous realities.

"You are saying it is limited but you have no aspect where it is limited, then how is it different than if it is unlimited."

Because, supposing you could travel along the whole of reality, you could never indefinitely go in one direction without retracing your steps.

Practically, as far is it matters to your theory, I don't see it being of much significance.