Concrete Revolutio & Moral Relativism

Well, I haven’t posted for over a week now.  Most of my writing time and energy has gone to a novel I’m writing and the rest to answering Jubilare’s excellent arguments prompted by my article concerning the inequality of the sexes.  How often on the internet does one see people arguing intelligently about something and both profiting from the discussion?  It helps that Jubilare and I come from a similar theological background, but one should not absolutely need a common background in order to profit from an argument.  The only thing absolutely needed is a belief in absolutes.  Most modern argumentation, especially in the political arena, falls to the level of a shouting match where each person vies for more time to air their viewpoints, because confidence counts more than truth to the masses.  That modern man relies more on rhetorical tricks and sophistry shows the lack of logical and philosophical training in people’s education and the atmosphere of moral relativism in which we live.  Political correctness and ideological purity have taken the place of philosophy.

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Yesterday, I almost watched two episodes of Concrete Revolutio in my quest to finalize my watch list for this season.  I’ll admit that I was in a black mood, which caused me to see the bad points of the show more than the good.  Though, the episode at first excited me with it’s allusion to Black Cat.

Tell me that no one else is reminded of Sven Vollfied in the cafe during episode one of Black Cat.

Tell me that no one else is reminded of Sven Vollfied in the cafe during episode one of Black Cat.

The fights were indeed enjoyable, but little else.  The constant flashbacks also annoyed me.  But, paying attention to the opening lyrics made my enjoyment decline sharply:

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this song not an ode to moral relativism, solipsism,  and nihilism?  There exist no absolutes besides oneself, our worldview consists of “unanswerable cries”, and the world is hopeless.  One thinks that the revolution referred to in the song is a revolution of the moral order–following the course of Nietzsche in eschewing traditional values and sound philosophy in order to find one’s own truth–as if truth varied!  Treating ourselves as absolutes leads to confusion and despair.  Perhaps, philosophy and ethics are hard–as hard as it was for me to write good responses to Jubilare’s cogent arguments.  But, we ought to force ourselves to examine morality and ask hard questions about the nature of existence until we discover the truth, which does not vary.  We should be surprised if someone handed us seven donuts when we asked for a dozen.  We should be very upset if the clerk insisted that one dozen meant seven and refused to give us twelve because the notion of a dozen meaning twelve was outmoded.  Morality is like this because morality, like philosophy, is the search for absolutes and universals.

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Not long ago, I received an individual’s comment which, for the first time ever, I deleted.  Why?  My initial response was that this person could not really believe what they wrote and played the part of a troll.  There were two meetings with this troll.  Another blog contained a post on the subject of the need for humane laws for prostitutes.  I commented that the blogger’s article was very interesting in not discussing whether prostitution was moral or not.  For, if something is immoral, why would we create laws to enable a person to act immorally?  Would it not be more prudent to ban the practice and let the very dangers of the illicit profession dissuade people from engaging in it?  To use another example, should Americans–as has been proposed in the past–provide watering stations for illegal immigrants because many die of thirst crossing into the United States?  The trollish commentator said that I should not let my religious hang-ups keep me from joining the 21st century.

Pretty much my response to reading that comment.

I likely had a similar look of bemusement when I read that comment.

In the above case, I declined to feed the troll and was surprised when this individual found my apparently famous Shogo Makishima post.  In his deleted comment, the troll denied the idea of sin, writing the absurdity “the only sin is man,” and claimed that Makishima only committed deeds we all wish we should do.  Shogo is not a villain who should have been a hero but a real hero.  Do you see why I deemed this commentator a troll?

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But, the more I watch Bishop Sheen’s Life is Worth Living TV series, the more I think this commentator meant what he said, which would make him a far more ghoulish troll than one usually meets online.  To borrow from Fulton Sheen, he makes the id or subconscious the master and reason and will the slaves of the subconscious.  Where free will and reason do not rule, philosophy is useless.  The only purpose of a philosophy which places the subconscious above reason is to excuse us from those evil deeds we commit when we decline to follow reason.  (Guilt is the product of a rational mind.)  Worse, if irrationality usurps the place of rationality, then reason and meaning depart from our lives, giving us the twin evils of moral relativism and nihilism.

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Books and shows which project moral relativism and nihilism, like Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure and, I suspect, Concrete Revolutio, exude a diabolical imagination.  (For a great article on the imagination, see Russell Kirk’s “The Moral Imagination.”)  Concrete Revolutio even hints at this orientation by giving several characters horns or hairstyles which include cornute projections.  But, horns alone would be a silly  reason to suspect this if not for the song and the fact that the first episode and most of the second appeared rather vacuous–flashing lights, pretty colors, but nothing of moral substance, as we find in shows like Rurouni KenshinCode Geass, Inuyasha, and even All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku.  (The moral imagination is not a rare thing, thanks be to God!)  Or, am I wrong?  Does the show not display the axioms found in the song?

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34 comments on “Concrete Revolutio & Moral Relativism

  1. You know, something that keeps me from being morally relativistic is the fact that trying to break the law figuratively bites our asses very hard later. As I once learned…

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  2. Sorry, phone’s messing up, but anyway, I once learned that we all have an inherent truth-seeking instinct. We all look for true happiness, and we rage when we find ourselves having fake happiness. Considering how morally relativistic people think, they’ll definitely be learning that through the very hard and painful way. I wish that they’d learn more easily, but learning doesn’t work that way. Breaking tougher armor requires tougher weapons. Not too tough, of course. We just need enough.

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    • What you say is certainly true. What you write about moral relativists reminds me of a C. S. Lewis quote I found recently: “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. […] The opening song to Concrete Revolutio speaks to moral relativism and nihilism, approaches that are very much at odds with a Christian worldview. [Medieval Otaku] […]

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  4. […] dropped Concrete Revolutio and a trite magic high school anime, the following is my watch list  for the Fall 2015 season with […]

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  5. jubilare says:

    Ach, I didn’t know I was eating into your blogging time. I appreciate your willingness to discuss things with me, though.
    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been in a black mood. May it pass soon, if it hasn’t already.

    You hit on some of the great ironies I see in some modern worldviews.

    Irony 1: “Most modern argumentation… falls to the level of a shouting match where each person vies for more time to air their viewpoints.” How is it that relativistic views are so often paired with that wild naivete that says things like “if only they would listen, they would see that I am right!” and “anyone who doesn’t agree with me is stupid/bad/wrong”? It frightens me that so many people pair the two without even thinking about the inherent contradiction! I think I would be happier if there were more relativists who understood what they were saying and stuck to their guns because then, at least, I could be sure that their beliefs had been examined. It’s the sheer lack of logical thought that terrifies me.

    Irony 2: “The only purpose of a philosophy which places the subconscious above reason is to excuse us from those evil deeds we commit when we decline to follow reason.” And yet this supposedly relativistic culture perpetuates itself more on guilt than, perhaps, any culture that came before. People talk trash about the Abrahamic religions’ use of guilt, but that is nothing to the opinion-shaming that is a hallmark of our culture. And worse, it is a shaming that recognizes no mercy. In my experience, at least, people who rejoice about being “free of guilt/shame,” are usually talking about their supposed sexual liberation, or the fact that they can do “anything they want” without feeling guilty about it. But the moment one hits upon something they do consider wrong (true relativists are so rare) they are prepared to condemn others and they believe that anyone who does not agree with them is guilty and should be ashamed. Again, unexamined opinions (and, due to flaws in our educational systems, many people even lack the tools to examine) lead to hypocrisy.

    “The only sin is man.” I do not know what context this had, or what the one who wrote it meant, but this is really my alternative to Christianity. In searching for truth, I’ve come up against a choice between the Christian worldview and an all-but-nihilistic one. If I held the latter, (hello to any unfortunate spooks who have to read this if I get flagged) I would be a sort of eco-terrorist. I would conclude that humanity, itself, is the worst thing to have ever happened to the universe, and my only moral option would be to attempt to eliminate it. How scary is that? When I tell people that they REALLY wouldn’t like me if I wasn’t a Christian, they usually don’t believe me.

    The idea is that, without the context of a Good God and a redemptive and providential nature in the universe, the level of pain and destruction caused by humanity would, to me, outweigh our creative endeavors and the other good aspects of our species. In short, if the only sin is man then the only logical conclusion (as far as I can see) is to eliminate that sin. Anyone who can say “the only sin is man” and truly believe it, wouldn’t waste time trolling when there’s wholesale destruction to attend to.

    And thus ends my “happy thought of the day.” I am going to go watch a cute kitten video now. 😉

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    • Don’t worry! I very much enjoyed our discussion, and answering arguments–especially good arguments–tend to make me very meticulous. And, I do feel better than on the day I was watching Concrete Revolutio. Thank you!

      The curious thing about many moral relativists is that, as the song says, they are the only absolutes. One can’t help but think that they have a God complex, i.e. that they think their judgments are infallible. So, anyone arguing against them is obviously an idiot, if not worthy of the gallows. The moral relativists that take their philosophy to the ultimate conclusion–that any sort of moral judgment is valid–are rare indeed.

      You know, it is odd how they deny personal sin and guilt, and yet are willing to shame whole cultures and religions. But, that goes along with the revolutionary ethos of non-traditionalists. (Something which the song also mentions.) The world has many problems, and somehow age old philosophies, religions, and cultures get blamed for it. How different from Chesterton’s observation: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been tried, found difficult, and left untried.” And, the revolutionary attitude among certain fringe groups actually has led to the belief that humanity is a mistake. (A reason I like the anime Blassreiter so much is because the villains actually espouse this philosophy.) My father recalls a group in the 60’s who supported population management, which would cause humanity to be dwindled down until all existing humans held this same worldview and then ate a last supper where they all committed suicide. O.o

      You remind of Denzel Washington’s response to a reporter who asked him how he was able to play such an evil villain in Training Day. Denzel replied that he simply imagined how he would be like if he were an atheist. Atheists were not very happy about that, but I have to agree with that sentiment. Thank God for religion!

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      • jubilare says:

        I think sheer unawareness is a factor for a lot of people. I’ve gotten blank and confused looks from people, sometimes, when asking why they have so much faith in their own opinions. Somehow we’ve trained people out of the ability to think critically and self-examine.

        *chuckles* “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been tried, found difficult, and left untried.” A great quote. Whenever I have to battle my judgmental demons (quite often, unfortunately) I try and remind myself that what I am doing is HARD, and scary, and a lot of times it hurts. I can’t wish that on anyone until they’ve come to a point of desiring truth because only that desire will make the struggles profitable to them. I can’t blame someone for avoiding that kind of pain when they don’t see that any good (that they value) can come of it.

        “My father recalls a group in the 60’s who supported population management, which would cause humanity to be dwindled down until all existing humans held this same worldview and then ate a last supper where they all committed suicide.” I always wonder how movements like that expect to survive more than a couple of generations, at most. I’m also highly skeptical of any assumption that the last two people on earth would even share the same worldview/opinions.

        “Thank God for religion!” Thank God, indeed!
        I think functional atheists, that is people who are able to live fairly contented lives as atheists, have a hard time understanding what a Godless universe looks like to theists. I’ve run across a lot of assumptions as to what it “must” look like, but I’ve met with very little success in trying to actually explain. Even people who turned from theism to atheism do not seem to understand, probably because what they were fleeing from, and therefore fleeing too, were very different from what I faced. …when I was going though a major spiritual crisis I said to a friend, who is an atheist, that “the center cannot hold.” I was trying to convey that the universe itself was unraveling around me. She handed me a rock (meaning well,) and said “make this your center,” or something along those lines. I could only laugh rather bitterly. As if a rock can be anything when all reality has come into question.

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    • Tungsten says:

      So the fear of God is the only thing that stops you from being amoral? As an atheist, it kind of scares me to hear this. Would you, without God, be unable to empathize with the feelings of others? For me this is reason enough to act moral.
      Yes, I do not think that the universe has an inherent meaning. Yes, humanity is pretty shitty.
      But: Even if there is no intrinsic meaning, that does not mean there is NO meaning.
      Just as a teddy bear is just fabric and fluffy fillings, it can still be a child’s most dearest friend.
      Just because my life will probably be forgotten in 200 years, it does not mean I my actions are of no (short-term) consequences.
      Who am I, to dare to inflict suffering upon others?

      Also, isn’t eliminating sin not bound to be immoral, too?
      Murdering a murderer might be the lesser evil compared to letting him live – but it’s still an evil, isn’t it?

      I am really looking forward to your views on my ramblings by the way and I hope trying to talk about philosophy is okay here in this comment section! 🙂

      By the way: The song lyrics are extremely cringe-worthy to me and I agree with medievalotaku in most points of his analysis.
      The point about humane laws for prostitutes and watering stations for illegal immigrants are especially interesting: In my eyes, I would advocate the solution that leads to the least suffering.

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      • jubilare says:

        I’ll gladly respond, but fair warning. It is going to be long. 😉 Can o’ worms has been opened.

        “So the fear of God is the only thing that stops you from being amoral?” Quite the opposite, actually. First of all, fear of God doesn’t hold me back. My faith in God gives me hope. That’s a vital distinction.

        Secondly, if I flipped that particular switch, I would not, in my eyes, be acting amorally, or immorally. I would simply be following the only light I would have left. It’s also possible that I would simply kill myself, which would be better for everyone else, but still pretty crappy for me and the people who love me.

        For that not to sound like absolute crazy-talk, you need to understand some things about me.

        1. I have a very high level of empathy. That makes living in this world a constant struggle against crushing emotional pain. I actually shut off my emotions entirely, once (the hard part was figuring out how to get them back…) simply because I was tired of hurting. I don’t just hurt because of people, either. What’s happening to the planet is like a constant screaming in the back of my head.

        2. I’m capable of stepping back to see patterns. Humanity is going nowhere. We’ve been back and forth over the same ground again and again. Some things get worse, others get better, and in the end we’re in much the same position as when we started. Add to that the fact that our capacity for ecological destruction has increased exponentially and shows no signs of slacking off, and you have the recipe for a bitter cynic. Salt to taste.
        I’ve been a cynic since I was about ten. I now refer to myself as a “recovering cynic,” because, while my opinion of humanity in general hasn’t changed, a shift in my faith has caused me to see the world a bit differently.

        3. I am incapable of believing something for the sake of utility. I did, at one point, lose my faith. I won’t talk about it right now because it is rather beside the point, but the reason I lost it is important. I want, more than anything in the world, to find truth, even if it is simply material reality (though that gets us into questions of perception, and if we go there, I will never, ever, shut up). I will seek truth if it kills me (it almost did) and I can’t stop. It’s the way my mind works. So whether I am a theist or an atheist or anything else, it will never be because it is “what is best” or “what I want.” It will only be, and can only be, what I believe to be true.

        Now, let’s assume I cease being able to believe in God (again). The only ground for morality then becomes subjective. You speak of empathy as a good thing, but why is it good? Why is anything, even life itself, good? You say that murder is an evil, but why is it evil? Because it causes suffering? What makes suffering evil? I think we will have to throw out the ideas of “good” and “evil” entirely. They no longer have any meaning.

        You say that you do not believe that the universe has any intrinsic meaning, but you also say that that is not the same as having no meaning. I can only assume you choose to give subjective meaning to what is around you. If I’m wrong, please correct me and clarify?

        Ok. So I am left with choosing for myself what is to be valued on no basis but my own neural impulses, or if you want to be a little less accurate but a little more hopeful, let’s say I am choosing based on my experiences and the input of others around me.

        Well, given my empathy, I look at humanity and I see oceans of pain with short-lived islands of happiness and contentment. I see children worked to death in diamond mines, or sold into prostitution until they die of deprivation, abuse, and disease. I see most of the people around me in milder, but still sometimes desperate, pain. I see the spreading damage to the planet, species after species facing extinction, tops of mountains blown off for coal, water, air and soil all being poisoned at an astonishing rate. I see illness rising. I was diagnosed with breast cancer on my 31st birthday. I know two women, my age, who recently died of ovarian cancer. A college friend who has a small child (whose father is also dead) was just diagnosed with terminal cancer.

        I look at the course of human history, our current state, and our hopeless confusion, and I see 0.0000 chance that we are going to turn this around in time to save ourselves.

        Ok. So we are going to die, sickly, choking, starving, and killing each other brutally until the planet that we have torn to shreds says “enough” and we’re gone.

        I look at this situation, and without hope of anything better, I choose damage control. If we go extinct right now, our suffering will be cut short and the rest of the world, at least, might survive to recover. All life on this planet is ultimately doomed, but at least it will be able to continue on without us for a while and produce unique things.

        Evil as it may seem from a different perspective, it is a deeply moral choice. Assuming, of course, that the only basis for morality is everyone doing what they believe to be right.

        Your only power to question the morality of my choice would be to claim that your human-centric morality is superior to my planet-centric morality. And if there is no objective morality for us to compare to, then there is no way for one of them to be better or worse than the other. Remember, in this hypothetical situation I’ve been stripped of my objective morality and my hope. I no longer care about good or evil and I do not believe in sin. I am reduced to fighting for the only thing I think can be saved.

        I grant, it’s a very scary portrait. And yet I would make those choices, scary as they are, because I would see no other moral option. Anything less would be cowardice and intellectual dishonesty. And since I am incapable of willful self-delusion, the equation is implacable. Believe me, I’ve tried to crack it, to get it to render up another answer. I don’t want to be a psychopath, even in theory.

        Now, as to how this relates to my faith… the moment there is something other than the material world, the equation changes. Suddenly there is another reality overlaying ours, and they intersect, there is objective Truth. Example: Christianity attests that God loves mankind. My feelings of love for humanity cease to be arbitrary instincts, now they have an objective moral underpinning. Where my logical evaluation of humanity’s worth against its potential for destruction told me that I had to reject any empathy or love I felt for humankind in favor of a not-quite-so-doomed world, my faith tells me that I am right to feel empathy and love despite the overwhelming odds.

        My hopeless evaluation of where all things are headed makes me almost a nihilist, but my belief in God gives me hope that the outcome is not a foregone conclusion. There are more factors at work, there is more happening than is readily apparent. I still see what I see. Nothing, there, has changed. But how I respond to it changes immensely. I now have reason to give into loving people, to treat them well, to fight for their survival and well being. I have room for hope and doubt, where otherwise I would have cold, implacable certainty.

        It isn’t fear of Divine retribution that holds me back. The best image I can give is someone calming a wild, wounded animal and binding its injuries. That is what God has done for me. I’ve bitten and snapped at Him, and He has show incredible patience. That is why, instead of committing suicide or trying to kill people, I’m able to take care of people, and smile, and laugh, and talk philosophy. 😉

        I know that was very long. I am impressed if you are still reading. As a side-note, I don’t agree with all of medievalotaku’s political views, either. I very much agree with his thoughts on the dangers of relativism, though.

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      • jubilare says:

        By the way, I really appreciate these statements (and also your civility and compassionate outlook on life):
        “Just because my life will probably be forgotten in 200 years, it does not mean I my actions are of no (short-term) consequences.
        Who am I, to dare to inflict suffering upon others?”

        From my perspective, following my compass of objective morality, these are statements are good and wise.

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      • Tungsten says:

        [I hope you read this jubilare, since there is no reply button for your post, so I have to reply to my own.]

        First of all, thank you for your kind words!
        Discussion is the solution to so many societal problems, but identity politics make life so easy, so many people choose the easy way, sadly.
        For example, I am from Germany and we currently have a problem with right wing extremists.
        Due to stifling any discussion with the right wing (“If you talk about X, you’re a Nazi!”) we played into their hands and legitimated their views (“The government hates our simple answers to complicate questions? That must mean we’re right!”) – and now we have to deal with it.
        If we had debated their view points and compared facts between all political factions, this would not have happened.
        But I digress.

        It’s good to know that it’s not the fear of God that keeps you back.
        “It’s also possible that I would simply kill myself, which would be better for everyone else, but still pretty crappy for me and the people who love me.”
        If it’s crappy for your loved ones – how can it be better for everyone else, considering your large daily impact on the lives of those close to you, and the incredibly small impact on a world one might call deeply flawed?
        Would your death not mean suffering to some and inconsequential to many, equating to something negative?

        About point 1:
        Empathy is the driving force of my world view, so we’re on the same page.
        But I am also a pragmatist – I don’t tend to linger on things I cannot change (anymore).
        I could understand if someone calls this lazy or cynic, but I think the balance is important.
        I alone cannot feed the hungry of this world, but I can make a difference – be it for me alone, for my family, for my neighborhood.
        Everyone has to choose his battles.

        2:
        I agree basically. Although my result is the “make the best of what you’re given” approach – kind of as a result of the biological imperative.

        3:
        I see things the same way. The whole universe, every thing or concept has an objective truth about it.
        From what all my ancestors did exactly 1000 years ago, how life began existing, the name of every person that is forgotten in history, to the question of the existence of God.
        All those things have a state, a property: yes, no, 2133, etc. – but in most cases the truth is un-knowable to us (For example the names of ALL my ancestors – it is simply lost in time).
        We can only try to come closer to the truths that are out there and logic is the only way do discern which of two diverging positions is closer to the truth.

        Ah, the justification of morality, this is a hard one for my world view.
        You are right, there is no inherent good or evil in anything.
        I always think about this when I hear Genesis 1:31. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
        Ebola, parasites that feed on living caterpillars, cordyceps fungi that mind controls and kills insects to replicate itself, hyenas eating small gazelles alive – there is no inherent good or evil in that, and there is no intrinsic good or evil in our actions, too.
        The Hyena eating the gazelle is evil for the gazelle, but it is good for the hyena and it’s young it as to feed.

        That’s why you are right in that regard, I choose, no I am forced to give subjective meaning to what is around me.
        Because I am still a product of evolution.
        My body is optimized to exploit my surroundings to survive and replicate.
        This would be pretty archaic and violent, but we stared to form groups, civilizations, started to work together.
        We see the long term consequences of our actions and we noticed we cannot grow without bounds.
        We have to strive for some kind of equilibrium to make it work, even if all life forms before us would overwhelm earth and then die off, given the chance.
        We are the first that have the opportunity to do otherwise.
        That’s why I choose damage control, too.
        Us going extinct is no solution. There is no end to suffering, because all life ends in death.
        Without us, animals would still eat each other alive.
        What use would it have to let lesser species make the same mistakes as we do, if we have the tools to make a change?

        It’s quite personal, but I have trouble to understand people with depression or who are suicidal. And I don’t mean that condemning or anything.
        In the contrary, it’s a bad thing, since I cannot try to help, because I do not really understand it.
        In my eyes, having a chance, even if it is slim, it is better than having no chance at all.
        I also do not think earth is worth saving more than we are (or less).
        Again, nothing is worth anything inherently.
        We can only attribute worth. (See below)

        “And if there is no objective morality for us to compare to, then there is no way for one of them to be better or worse than the other. ”
        That is true, but you can still evaluate the two positions.
        If ending a life is negative, and be it only for that life (“dying is to be avoided” is a cardinal rule for most lifeforms), and you rank life forms with more complex thoughts higher than say, bacteria or insects, you can start measuring the impact of our two views – and we can try to find out which one would be the best for all life forms involved.
        Even the poorest, hungriest people would prefer living miserably to simply being dead – so making mankind extinct would start collecting negative points, for example.
        It is true that there is no clear cut option – it’s like those “kill 5 children to save 10 people – what is morally right?” questions.

        But I firmly believe that with empathy, we can imprint worth to our surroundings.
        An less than ideal solution is better than no solution.
        An example: I am a vegetarian. I would prefer if no animal had to die or suffer to serve as food for us – but I see how it is still necessary for our current society.
        Starting to change for the better, eating a little less meat, preferring chicken from farms instead of cages – it is better then nothing.
        So yes, killing 10 to save 100 would be better than letting 100 die, in my eyes.

        Feel free to shoot holes in my arguments! 🙂

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      • jubilare says:

        “True, but it is the reason life keeps existing”
        Ah, but here’s a catch. We have become (assuming thinking is actually possible) rational. We are no longer necessarily bound by our instincts. We have a choice. And if we look at the facts and discover that our species is only going to continue existing at the cost of most other species on the planet, and the only support for that mass slaughter is our own partisan instinct for survival, then we are left with a choice: overcome our partisanship and eliminate our own species for the sake of the others, or choose ourselves over them and keep existing until we go extinct from our planet’s inability to keep supporting us (and most of the other species as well). If one likes existence for its own sake, one will choose the former, and if one likes existing, one will choose the latter. Assuming, of course, an atheistic position. From a theistic standpoint, again, the equation changes.

        “The “truth” is the lowest layer, the jiggling atoms making up my desk, for example.
        We perceive that – a process that is inherently flawed – and our brain makes a model from our surroundings (hard, flat white surface, belongs to me, stands on the floor, …), from which we make predictions and assumptions.”
        But that lowest layer is still an assumption. We are basing everything we know, even the fact that we think we think, think we exist, on an inherently limited and possibly unreliable engine. Once it is recognized that everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING is an assumption, something taken on trust, then one has reached the fundamental non-ground of subjective thought. It isn’t a very useful place to stay, as it doesn’t allow one to actually do anything, or think anything, but it is useful in breaking down people’s preconceptions of what is true or real. In the end, every single one of us is left with nothing but a choice. Very few of us seem to realize it.

        “Although I wouldn’t have a problem with that (There is so much to discuss!), It would get pretty time-consuming, I fear. ;)”
        I wouldn’t have a problem with it, either, but this is already very time-consuming, and time is something I have precious little of, at the moment. Maybe if we finish hashing this out you can come to my blog and bring up another topic. I value anyone of a different worldview who can and will debate things respectfully, and you are just that. 🙂

        “I agree, but we improved when it comes to the survivability of our species (at least in 1st world countries) – our life expectancy rose considerably, infant death rates lower, crime rates lower a LOT, even if it might not seem that way… Being a human today is easier, even if you only look at the average human.”
        That depends on what you consider the survivability of the species to be. Certain individuals, due to good nutrition, sanitation, and healthcare, live longer, healthier lives. The trade-off is the slow (and now not so slow) diminishing of our planet’s ability to support our species. In short, if we had remained less advanced (and less wasteful), individuals would not be as well off, but the species as a whole might exist much longer. Again, we gain one thing and lose another. We’ve chosen the individual over the species, the “us” of now, over the “them” of our children’s children.

        “I mean that in the sense that dying itself is suffering – for the one dying and for ones left behind – and so there is no end to suffering as long as there is (finite) life.”
        Then, far from there being no solution to suffering, the solution is very simple: annihilate all life. That would be the logical course of action for anyone who considered suffering the greatest evil. I’m not saying that either of us thinks that, just that, technically, it is a solution to the problem of suffering.

        “Yes, there are different levels of complexity. Most mammals and similar animals are self-aware though, as they try to avoid pain and are afraid of it, since they can imagine it.”
        We do not know what level of self-awareness they have. Conditioned responses are not necessarily self-awareness. Even insects and some microbes have conditioned responses, and it is unlikely that the concept of self-hood (I am) exists for them. (For the record, I loathe animal cruelty… and plant cruelty, for that matter). And it seems unlikely, from their behavior, that most animals have imagination, or what we would consider imagination. They seem to live very much in the moment.
        “Cruelty exists in the animal kingdom, too, by the way.”
        I never said it didn’t. 😉 What I did say is that the capacity for cruelty that our species possesses is greater than that of any other.

        “Yes, while I hate seeing a big, old tree being felled, plants feel no pain.”
        Actually, we do not know this. We know that plants do not have what we would recognize as a mind, or nerves, but the only reason we know what brains and nerves do is because we have them, and we can extrapolate, from that, what is going on with other animals. If plants are capable of thought or feeling, their mechanism must be very different from ours. We know that they respond to stimuli, sometimes in ways we understand, sometimes in ways that we do not. There is some evidence that they communicate with each other: http://www.wired.com/2013/12/secret-language-of-plants/ And if there is something like thought that goes on within them, we can only assume that it is so different from what we know of as thought that it will be very challenging to discover.

        I disagree heartily with this: “You could only argue by the complexity of consciousness.” Again, as with species partisanship, I see no intrinsic reason to prefer “higher” life forms to “lower” ones. I do not think that complexity of consciousness is the only, or even the best way to evaluate the relative worth of life-forms. This is why “atheist!Jubilare” would choose the survival of “lower” species while sacrificing “higher” ones.

        “I should have worded that better, I didn’t not mean to conflate them, they are two separate issues.”
        I wasn’t angry, I just want that information to be more widespread than it is. There is still a lot of misunderstanding about depression, and I always try and take the time to clarify.

        “I just mentioned it to explain my kind of optimistic standpoint – I have difficulty giving up totally, even if it may seem hopeless, because there is always a chance.”
        I’m pretty much incapable of optimism (I think that, sometimes, there simply is no chance), but I am naturally a fighter. That is why, without hope, I would still probably fight for something, even if it were the survival of other species against my own. With hope through my faith, I’m able to fight for much more, and able to value much more, as well.

        “True, I did not have to face real hardships, being a person in a 1st world country, but it explains my experiences that led to my views.”
        Some of the sunniest or most peaceful people I have ever known live in 3rd world countries. Some of them have had to survive absolutely horrible situations. There is far more at work in your views (and mine) than simple experience. There are other factors. 😉 On the whole, lack of strife seems to make humans decadent, myopic, and selfish, whereas hardship creates compassion, selflessness, and strength. Not always, of course. Different people respond to different circumstances, but it is an interesting thing to observe.

        “I have read how depressed people feel and I can understand the consequences and decisions they make – but I cannot imagine myself in that position.”
        No one can who hasn’t experienced it. There are a lot of things in life that are like that, I think. I actually wouldn’t give up the experience of my depression, if I could, because it has taught me things, and it allows me to connect with and help others who are facing the illness. Yes, it is terrible, and it can kill (it has killed people in my family), but there is a great paradox regarding “bad” things in the world. A tree may be shattered in a high storm wind, but a tree that grows up without any wind at all collapses under its own weight (this was accidentally proven with trees growing in a bio-dome experiment). Humans are, by and large, like that too. We need some “wind” in our lives.

        “You can sum up the subjective “this is good” and “this is evil” evaluations, needs and wills and try to optimize it.”
        Yes, that is all well and good, but still with no ground other than a subjective preference.

        That is my only point.

        You happen to prefer a person and that person’s family, over a virus. You could as easily choose the virus over the family if you happened to value something other than complexity (adaptability, for instance). At that point, the entire equation changes and there is no way to bridge the gap between the opposing subjective values.

        It’s like this:

        A values rabbits. Rabbits are the most important thing in the world to A.
        B values carrots. Carrots are the most important thing in the world to B. You see where this is going. 😉

        To A, a rabbit eating carrots is an overall positive thing because rabbits are hugely important and carrots are negligible.
        To B, it is a carrot slaughter and in order to save the carrots, the carrot-murdering rabbit must be eliminated.

        With nothing but subjective preference, these two can never agree. The only question is which one of them will win. It’s a silly example because it needs to be simple, but the problem itself is very serious.

        In your view, you choose a value (complexity) that is probably shared by a majority of humans. This becomes Rule of the Majority. Whatever the most humans value (how very partisan) becomes the so-called “truth” to which all moral questions are put. I confess, this thought absolutely horrifies me.
        History is full of minorities, sometimes individuals, who spoke out against what the majority assumed. We celebrate many of them as heroes. But with only a subjective “truth” predicated on majority sentiment (and it can really only be sentiment when everything is subjective), no dissenting voice has any meaning, especially if the value they espouse is not shared by the majority.
        Worse, it is more likely that the “agreed on values” on which morality will be based will be chosen, not even by the majority, but by whomever is able to subject all others to their will. At that point, morality becomes the tool of the people in power. It has happened before, and it’s happening now.

        Subjective morality is entirely unaccountable to anything or anyone.

        It is rationally unassailable because it is completely irrational. In its purest form, it doesn’t even pretend to be rational.

        It isn’t even “cold statistics,” as you say, because the numeric values are arbitrarily applied ONLY based on what this or that person happens to like. The equations have meaning only to the people who agree on the values. To everyone else, they are sheer gibberish.

        “I like when that happens. :)” It is handy.

        “Call me a hopeless optimistic, but it’s better than stopping to change, isn’t it? ;)”
        I think it is, but only because I believe that there is objective Good in the effort itself, even if it results in failure. Without a belief in objective Truth, I would have to assume that it is neither better nor worse to try, but simply how our species operates, like bison jumping off cliffs to escape predators only to die from the fall.

        “Oh, hehe – it’s just a figure of speech.” I know, I’m just being silly. 😉
        “I invited you to evaluate my arguments and give me your counter-arguments, so we can both improve our views, find holes in our logic.” It is a very necessary thing to do, for sure. I appreciate the back and forth.

        “Thanks for taking the time to discuss with me by the way! :)”
        Likewise!

        Like

      • Tungsten says:

        “We are basing everything we know, even the fact that we think we think, think we exist, on an inherently limited and possibly unreliable engine. ”
        This is true. For example everything could be totally different and we could all live in a simulation (popular example).
        Or solipsism is true (Which would be incredibly underwhelming in my eyes)

        But as I said, even if the way everything is is unclear – there STILL is a lowest layer.
        Yes, EVERYTHING is an assumption. But an assumption of how something ACTUALLY is.
        I hope you understand what I mean. Even if our concept of atoms and particles is utterly wrong, the universe has to work on SOMETHING (or maybe even nothing).
        Be it “everything is like string theory is” or “everything consists of tiny universes, infinite layers deep” or “we are the dream of a God” or something not even conceivable for us.
        You could say this “how” is the truth I talk about, even if we can’t really know the “how” and can just base models and assumptions around it.
        This “truth” has nothing to do with us or our perception and would exist as an abstract thing even without humanity.
        That’s why I compared it to Kant’s thing-in-itself.

        “I wouldn’t have a problem with it, either, but this is already very time-consuming, and time is something I have precious little of, at the moment. Maybe if we finish hashing this out you can come to my blog and bring up another topic. I value anyone of a different worldview who can and will debate things respectfully, and you are just that. :)”
        Sure thing! I am a bit short on time, too, currently.
        But I will try to come back to you when we have wrapped this discussion here up. 🙂

        “We’ve chosen the individual over the species, the “us” of now, over the “them” of our children’s children.”
        Ah, yes, the long term consequences.
        Yes, that still is a problem.
        A solvable one? I don’t know.

        “I’m not saying that either of us thinks that, just that, technically, it is a solution to the problem of suffering.”
        At the cost of a huge spike in suffering.
        Also, the happiness in life is the counterpart to the suffering – if you have lived a long, fulfilled life, dying can be a lot easier.
        This would no longer be possible.
        It’s like earning money and losing money and the proposed solution to never losing money again would be to burn all of it.
        Not a great trade-off in my eyes, but I see your point.

        “Even insects and some microbes have conditioned responses”
        Yes, but especially when it comes to pain, you can make distinctions.
        If you feel pain like a we do, you try to avoid it.
        Most insects don’t do this. They use a hurt leg like normal or sometimes continue eating while they get eaten themselves.
        (Btw, the Wikipedia articles Pain in animals, Pain in invertebrates and Animal consciousness are very interesting, I love reading about that topic!)

        “For the record, I loathe animal cruelty… and plant cruelty, for that matter”
        Me, too!

        Although I am not sold on the matter whether plants can think.
        Input, computation, output. Without nerves it is hard to do that.
        And communication does not imply consciousness.
        It can be a “mechanical” reaction that evolved because it was preferable.
        But we can only speculate about this topic.

        “I see no intrinsic reason to prefer “higher” life forms to “lower” ones. I do not think that complexity of consciousness is the only, or even the best way to evaluate the relative worth of life-forms.”
        Why not?
        Why save, say, 200 trees and let 5 people die, when those people have a larger potential due to their complexity – like saving the earth from a devastating asteroid later.
        Very contrived example, but that’s basically my rationale. A patch of mold is less harmful than humans – but it can’t do much good for it either.

        “I’m pretty much incapable of optimism (I think that, sometimes, there simply is no chance), but I am naturally a fighter. That is why, without hope, I would still probably fight for something)”
        That is very interesting! Again, we do the same even if we start at totally different points.

        “In your view, you choose a value (complexity) that is probably shared by a majority of humans. This becomes Rule of the Majority. Whatever the most humans value (how very partisan) becomes the so-called “truth” to which all moral questions are put. I confess, this thought absolutely horrifies me.”
        Oh yes, morality by majority would be a terrible thing!
        I mean, for some civilizations, human sacrifice, slavery, cannibalism or other things were morally acceptable.
        If those people made up the majority it would be a terrible world to live in!
        My assumption was slightly different.
        Yes, I chose the quite partisan value of complexity.
        But, I also chose the value of minimizing suffering, which would be agreed on by all species, since they pretty much all have the biological urge not to die. (Although I see the problem here: “I chose”)
        Although I have to say, in my eyes morality is a human invention.
        It is our own “this is bad for me”, “this is good for me” protection mechanism, combined with empathy and the rise of civilizations. which made us cooperate on a large scale.
        As such, it is inherently subjective.
        BUT: If we try to minimize suffering, we can at least avoid the worst parts (genocide, torture, slavery,… see above), since they create suffering.

        I think my whole argument hinges upon my choice of complexity as a value.
        I explained my rationale above (at the silly asteroid example), but I can totally see why you can argument against it.

        Like

      • jubilare says:

        It is a bit harder to follow this time around (that, or my brain is fuzzier, which is highly likely) but I think I can manage. I’m going to be a stickler about language, here, because we’re getting into very complicated territory.

        “It would not be noticeable, would not make a difference and neither of us would be close to the objective truth, since we can only sample a property (narrow wavelength band of light) with a sensor (eyes) from objects.”
        Wait a sec. I’m trying to keep up, but why is there an assumption that either would be closer to Objective Truth? If the wavelength of light and the organs with which we intercept and translate it are part of Objective Truth, or Reality, then both are equally True (or untrue, if color is not a “thing”). The perception of the wavelength is the perception of the wavelength.

        “Still, the “true nature” of an object is not knowable.”
        I would say “uncertain” rather than “not knowable.” We cannot be absolutely certain how accurate our perception or understanding of reality is, but that is not exactly the same thing as “not knowable.” One is a healthy amount of doubt, the other is despair of ever knowing anything.

        “I hope I could make clear what I mean with “models”.” I think so. You mean what I would call “working theories,” the patterns on which we rely in order to live, yes?

        “The problem now is: What parameters do I put in?”
        Lol! Yep. Always.

        “Or would inputting ALL parameters (which would require omniscience) result in objective morality?”
        Now that would be something. But knowing all outcomes still would not give one objective morality. The necessary component is the existence of some absolute Value to which all answers can be compared. I can play with factors for all eternity, but without an objective goal, no outcome will be any better than another.

        “Or do you believe there is an inherit value to each decision, like a hidden “good” or “evil” value to every decision, pre-assigned like by design?”
        Sort of, though “assigned” is a very bad word for this. I’m going to have to delve into theology a bit. I’m feeling bad for Medievalotaku for our rampant takeover of his comments.
        A word of caution before I continue. A picture of atoms is a tool to aid in understanding, but it is also inaccurate. A description, in words, of the universe, no matter how good, is also going to be inaccurate. The same thing goes (even moreso) for any attempt to describe God. I’m trying to talk about what I believe to be the Ultimate Ground of Reality.
        I am going to fail.
        But if I can break apart a few misconceptions commonly held about Christianity, then I will consider it worth the effort.
        “Assigned” sounds arbitrary, which means you are thinking of God as too small. You agree that the human mind cannot comprehend the whole of reality, yes? The universe defies our comprehension. …if, for sake of argument, the Universe was willfully created, then it was created by something greater than itself and therefore even more beyond our comprehension than the Universe.
        On top of that, an uncreated God EXISTS in a way that creation cannot. The most emphatic and important name of God in my religion is “I Am” for a reason. God is the Ultimate Reality. Most Christians would agree with that much.
        This, however, is more speculative (and more Christians would disagree with me on it), as we are too limited to wrap our minds around the concept of God: For a truly Supreme being, can there be such a thing as better or worse alternatives in the same way we have alternatives? I doubt it.
        Omnipotence and omniscience would eliminate most options, leaving a being wholly Itself. For a very imperfect example, imagine if you knew the full consequences of your every action and you had the power to take any action, are there not many things that you, being you, simply would not do? Therefore if the Objective Reality is God, and by extension, God’s creation, then Objective Morality is not an arbitrary assignment of rules, but a quite unalterable statement of fact about God and creation’s relationship to God.
        I realize that we may not find common ground, here, but hopefully you will have a better idea of where I am coming from.

        “what is His rationale?”
        Maybe one day we can ask Him, though I’m not sure we’ll ever really be able to understand. Again, if we can’t comprehend the Universe…

        “If you have a subjective morality that is identical to God’s (which should be possible…) wouldn’t you then know the correct way to value all factors?”
        I’m not entirely sure what you mean. If God’s morality is considered subjective, see the argument against that above. If a human had, miraculously, a perfect alignment to the will of God then yes, that human would know the true value of all factors. That human would, however, still be limited by finite knowledge.

        “So that would mean there IS a solution to the tree/human example and in my eyes this solution has to be logical.”
        Yes, but logical on what grounds? Logic has to start on some kind of common ground. I can’t explain, logically, why the color pink is harmful unless we share some common color-morality. 😉
        Please do not fall into the misconception that the laws and rules of religions are arbitrary. Even from an atheistic standpoint it cannot be so (things that stick around because they prove functional can no longer be considered arbitrary). From a pragmatic standpoint the commands of most religions (at least the ones that have lasted a long time and have a substantial following) tend to be very logical when examined. They also hold up to rigorous testing. If they were not and did not, the religions would not continue to exist.
        Also remember that in order to simply live we have to take most of what we “know” on trust whether we are atheists or theists or agnostics, and that the question is always ‘who do we choose to trust and why?’ Only when that decision is made can we begin testing what we trust to see if it does, in fact, work within the context of reality.

        “Or do you believe it is possible that God has a morality that has aspects that are not logically graspable/explainable to humans?”
        Possible? Certainly. Probable, even. However, I also believe that God gave us the capacity for moral understanding, an internal compass, if you will.

        “That is the problem of moral relativism.”
        Yes, it is. Moral relativism, if anyone but a tiny minority actually followed it with any conviction, would probably destroy humanity in very short order. Even the watered-down form has done a fair amount of damage. Questioning our moral judgments is a very necessary thing, but breaking down the grounds on which we call, say, freedom good and slavery bad, eliminates any possibility for progress and leaves us chasing our tails until someone stronger comes along and dominates us.

        “Personally, I can live with this consequence of my world view, since I see morals as a man-made thing.”
        I hope you will forgive me for saying this, but I am not sure you can accept those consequences. You seem like too kind of a person to be able to stomach the blind rule of the majority, or of the most powerful, which are the only functional (if horrible) results absolute relative morality. Historically, the people most likely (perhaps the only people) to challenge the actions of the strong on behalf of the weak, or the many on behalf of the few, are those who believe in an Objective Morality. They are the only ones who have grounds to do so. Subjective Morality has no power of resistance.

        “History showed they’re flexible, comparable to the views on sexuality. (Homosexuality, for example. Mankind can’t seem to make up it’s mind if it’s okay or not.)”
        I think this is another form of the trolley-question problem. Flexible is not the same as relative. Changeable is not the same as relative. The question of what we consider moral or immoral is meaningless in this argument. People are sometimes wrong about things.
        If I think 2+2=5, then I am wrong. But my wrongness does not have any effect on the existence of mathematics.
        The relevant questions are, I think, “do you think moral progress is possible” and “are some moral ideas preferable to others?”
        If you can answer “yes” to either question, then there has to be an objective morality to which the ideas of morality can be compared. Otherwise, all moral ideas are completely equal, there is no way to choose between them, and all preferences for one over another are unsupportable.
        That said, humans have largely agreed on moral questions over the course of history. We just happen to also be very good at fighting over the little things. Most people agree and have always agreed that killing someone for no reason is bad, that you should love your family and be good to your friends, that stealing and lying are not desirable, that there should be such a thing as a code of honor, etc. One can attribute this to our evolution as a social species, or to Divine influence, or both (I hold with both), but there is no denying that our differences, in comparison, are very trivial.

        “Also, what good is an objective morality, if we cannot know/perceive it, similar to the objective truth about our material surroundings, or even worse, what if it doesn’t exist?”
        Mm, but with Objective Reality we still have our perception, and from that we make the assumptions we need to survive. The same goes for Objective Morality. We may not fully comprehend it, but we sense it, we have what we call a conscience (there are exceptions, of course, but then there are also people who are born blind, so we have a physical precedent for people missing part of their perception). Therefore we are on much the same ground with Objective Morality as we are with Objective Reality. We’ve lost sight of this in recent decades because popular Western thought has chosen to believe in the material world and discount all elements that cannot be examined through the scientific method.

        “Who says the universe has to be nice or satisfactory?”
        No one here, that I know of. 😉 The universe is manifestly not satisfactory from a human standpoint. But that, in itself, begs a larger question. Why do we perceive it as unsatisfactory? If this is all we know, then why and how did we ever come by the feeling that it is brutal, or harsh, or needs changing in any way?

        “Objective morality would mean there is an ideal timeline we can try to get closer to.”
        Mm, maybe (if one accepts the idea of multiple timelines), but we must remember that Objective Morality is not the same thing as the best possible solution to a problem. It isn’t pragmatic or fluid, but as implacable as mathematics. This is one reason many people do not like the idea of Objective Morality. It isn’t pleasant to face the idea that your answer may simply be Wrong. I, personally, would enjoy math if it were more flexible, but I also know that if it were flexible, it would cease to be useful. 😉

        “Or is objective moral truth more mysterious? (I hope not – that would mean it could be “ideal” to have to kill a person without having any logical explanation for it – That would be a scary world to live in for me, worse than the consequences of subjective morality!)”
        But the consequences of subjective morality include the possibility for random murder being an ideal! If someone has the power to kill with impunity just because he or she feels like it, then that is exactly what the consequences will be.
        But I do not believe that Objective Truth or Objective Morality are completely unknowable. For the one, we have our senses for context (the senses may be inaccurate, but they’ve proved sufficient for our survival. For the other, as Christian, I believe we’ve been given a key, a conscience and a mind (and spiritual guidance). We’re fallible, so we still make mistakes (many of them willful mistakes) but we aren’t walking completely blind. However, this obviously is of no help in an argument that discounts the existence of God. So I can’t help you, there. I don’t know what an atheist can use to combat the problems of subjective morality. I suppose one can only put blind faith in either one’s own judgment, or the judgment of someone else.

        Like

  6. jubilare says:

    Medievalotaku, my friend, if you want the discussion on subjective morality and conditional psychopathy to happen elsewhere, I can shift it to my blog, instead. Just let me know. 😉

    Like

  7. jubilare says:

    Tungsten, perhaps the lack of a reply button is linked to comment length? Because your latest comment doesn’t have one, either.

    “Would your death not mean suffering to some and inconsequential to many, equating to something negative?”
    I think we may be at slight cross-purposes, here. It isn’t a question of whether or not suicide is destructive (it is), but rather whether it is as destructive as an attempt to eliminate humanity.

    “I agree basically. Although my result is the “make the best of what you’re given” approach – kind of as a result of the biological imperative.”
    The biological imperative strikes me as nothing but blind partisanship. I see no intrinsic reason to prefer my species to any other. Evolutionary speaking, I am a failed mutation.

    “I see things the same way. The whole universe, every thing or concept has an objective truth about it.”
    Actually, I think we may differ more than you think. I was hoping to avoid this, but I will try to keep it concise.
    You are starting with the base assumption that our perception of reality is to be trusted. In other words, you have blind faith in your own perception.
    I do not.
    Reality cannot be proven because the basis for proving it has to be “reality.” We “know” (again, assuming reality is real) that perception varies from species to species, and even between individuals of our own species. We “know” that our own perceptions lie – we touch a hard surface and think it is solid when in reality it is a mass of tightly-packed, vibrating atoms – we see the color red, but what is really happening is our eyes are receiving non-absorbed light bouncing off of an object. We “know” that the human mind is capable of all kinds of contortions and “delusions” and we assume (blind faith) that some majority of shared experience is proof enough of reality.
    But for all we know, if there is a reality, we may be completely wrong about its nature from the ground up.
    We make assumptions. We have to in order to survive, in order to do anything. But they are still assumptions, and we need to be aware of that, especially if we are basing objective truth on them. The assumption that the material world is real, and is as we perceive it, is as open to debate as any belief in a spiritual world.

    “You are right, there is no inherent good or evil in anything.”
    Please don’t misunderstand me. I actually DO believe in inherent good and evil. Throwing out that belief is merely something I would have to do IF I lost my faith.

    “Ebola… hyenas eating small gazelles alive – there is no inherent good or evil in that, and there is no intrinsic good or evil in our actions, too.”
    I disagree, but then I have a theistic worldview. From my view, you have an overly simplistic understanding of the Christian religion.
    I believe that the ground of reality, basically everything, is intrinsically Good. But in order to have freewill, creatures must have the ability to make choices with real consequences. Thus the potential for evil must exist. (there is a lot of debate on this, but I am sticking to my own understanding as far as it goes)
    But freewill, and choice, are still good things, even if they allow for the possibility of evil.
    Evil has no independent existence. It is simply a corruption of something that is otherwise good. In the view of many Christians, including myself, that corruption affects the physical realm, as well. In short, Existence is Good, and the corruption of that reality is Evil. That means that, while Ebola and predation are not evil actions, the existence of disease and predation may still be a corruption of base reality that is (in a very different way from sin) an evil. This may sound like nonsense to you, but then I assume you do not believe in an active spiritual realm interwoven with this world. I do. Context matters, and a change in belief and assumption changes every equation.

    “I choose, no I am forced to give subjective meaning to what is around me.”
    We agree on this. That is good. 🙂

    “This would be pretty archaic and violent, but we stared to form groups, civilizations, started to work together. We see the long term consequences of our actions and we noticed we cannot grow without bounds. We have to strive for some kind of equilibrium to make it work, even if all life forms before us would overwhelm earth and then die off, given the chance. We are the first that have the opportunity to do otherwise.”
    You believe, I assume, that we have actually improved over time. A lot of people do, but I think that is a mistake. What little we know of prehistory (we know almost nothing, we guess a hell of a lot based on flimsy evidence) is beginning to suggest that early “barbaric” people were actually far more civilized and sophisticated than we have, for the last 200 years or so, assumed. Recorded history (brief though it is) paints a darker picture. For every gain we make, we lose something else important. We make the same mistakes over and over again. Every time we create a patch of peace and prosperity, greed and violence eventually tear it down. We don’t learn. And now, with the state of our planet, we’ve run out of time.

    I admire your faith in human possibility. I really do. I simply cannot share it without some hope beyond trusting in our ability to do better on our own.

    “Us going extinct is no solution. There is no end to suffering, because all life ends in death.”
    Wait… This sounds as if you believe that dead things continue to suffer after death.

    “Without us, animals would still eat each other alive.”
    Yes, but animals (at least most animals) lack our full capacity for suffering. Pain is horrible, but the the self-aware mind capable of contemplating and imagining pain is in a far worse position than the one who merely feels the pain. Our very self-awareness is what gives true horror to our situation, and it also allows us to be actively, consciously cruel in a way that is only mirrored in the most intelligent of other species, and that, only slightly. If we were eliminated, the suffering left in the world would be much more straight forward, and greatly reduced. Plus, more species would survive. (remember, I do not actually want to kill off humanity. My faith has freed me from this stark evaluation of the world.)

    “What use would it have to let lesser species make the same mistakes as we do, if we have the tools to make a change?”
    Why do you assume that they would make the same mistakes? Trees are extremely unlikely to make our mistakes. Trees are awesome. 😉 And yes, my empathy extends to plant life.
    Also, we have the tools, but we will never use them in time. It is, most likely, already too late and yet we show no signs of changing. That’s our tragedy, and the world has suffered for it.

    “It’s quite personal, but I have trouble to understand people with depression or who are suicidal.”
    Ach, hold on a sec. I feel a need to clarify this. Depression, as you may or may not know, is a disease. A chemical switch flips in the brain altering one’s perception of reality. I once faced a depression so severe that I stopped being able to see color, smell smells, or taste food. A depressed person cannot pull his or herself out of the depression any more than someone can will themselves not to have a virus. Suicide occurring under such circumstances is hardly even a choice because the person dealing with it is so impaired. Please read this: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html
    It is one of the best explanations of what it is like to be inside depression that I have found.

    When I spoke, above, of the possibility of committing suicide, that had NOTHING to do with depression. Suicide as a rational choice in response to a set of beliefs (in this case, nihilism) is a conscious, destructive act. That is what you are talking to when you say “having a chance, even if it is slim, it is better than having no chance at all.” A rational person can make that kind of choice. Someone suffering from actual depression may not be able to.

    “I also do not think earth is worth saving more than we are (or less).”
    Yes, naturally. My choice of the ecological world over humanity would be an entirely subjective one, without any more objective justification than any other preference. It just happens to be the choice I think I would make.

    “That is true, but you can still evaluate the two positions.
    If ending a life is negative,”
    Hold up. On what basis do you consider it a negative? Your grounds for calling something positive or negative are still completely subjective. If A wants to live, and B wants A do die, then the death of A is a negative from A’s perspective and a positive from B’s perspective. An instinct for survival is nothing more than an instinct for survival. It, alone, tells us nothing. What people want can be just as easily dismissed (remember, I am not talking about my own views at the moment, I am merely pointing out that there is still no way to compare moralities). If there is no objective morality, and if our values do not line up, then there can be no evaluation of the relative worth of our moralities. You cannot compare two utterly different things without a basis for comparison, and subjective morality eliminates any sound basis for comparison.

    “But I firmly believe that with empathy, we can imprint worth to our surroundings.” I believe that our surroundings have inherent worth, and that our empathy is a correct response to it. Different starting place, similar solution.

    “Starting to change for the better, eating a little less meat, preferring chicken from farms instead of cages – it is better then nothing.” I agree, but I agree only because I have hope, and I only have hope because of my faith. Without that, starting to change seems utterly pointless. Humanity has been “starting to change” and failing miserably, for thousands of years or more.

    “Feel free to shoot holes in my arguments! :)”
    Despite being an American, I don’t do guns. 😉 I worry that we may have a slight language barrier, though. Sadly, I speak no German (in that sense, I am a stereotypical American).

    Like

    • Tungsten says:

      [Figured it out, the reply buttons only appear up to a certain depth, so you have to reply to the last comment that had a reply button up in the chain.]
      “The biological imperative strikes me as nothing but blind partisanship. I see no intrinsic reason to prefer my species to any other.”
      True, but it is the reason life keeps existing – for whatever it may be worth.

      “You are starting with the base assumption that our perception of reality is to be trusted. In other words, you have blind faith in your own perception.
      I do not.”
      Oh no, that’s not what I meant!
      I agree with you. There are “layers”.
      The “truth” is the lowest layer, the jiggling atoms making up my desk, for example.
      We perceive that – a process that is inherently flawed – and our brain makes a model from our surroundings (hard, flat white surface, belongs to me, stands on the floor, …), from which we make predictions and assumptions.
      When I talk about objective truth, I mean something similar to (but not the same as) Immanuel Kant’s “Ding an sich” – (Noumenon, thing-in-itself):
      The true quality of the universe and everything in it is unknowable, we can only take measurements and make models, which allow us to predict.
      And we can only try to get our models as close to reality as possible.

      “Please don’t misunderstand me. I actually DO believe in inherent good and evil.”
      Yes, I was just talking about my perspecive and how your hypothetical scenario aligned with it, I could have worded it better.

      “But freewill, and choice, are still good things, even if they allow for the possibility of evil.”
      I agree with that!
      I can follow your logic, although I don’t agree with it, on the basis that I reject the premise of intrinsic good&evil due to me not believing in God.
      If we keep discussing this train of thought though, I guess we will get into a atheism vs theism discussion.
      Although I wouldn’t have a problem with that (There is so much to discuss!), It would get pretty time-consuming, I fear. 😉

      “For every gain we make, we lose something else important. We make the same mistakes over and over again. Every time we create a patch of peace and prosperity, greed and violence eventually tear it down. ”
      I agree, but we improved when it comes to the survivability of our species (at least in 1st world countries) – our life expectancy rose considerably, infant death rates lower, crime rates lower a LOT, even if it might not seem that way… Being a human today is easier, even if you only look at the average human.

      “I admire your faith in human possibility. I really do. I simply cannot share it without some hope beyond trusting in our ability to do better on our own.”
      I am not 100% sure if we can make it as a species, but hey, we can try. 🙂

      “Wait… This sounds as if you believe that dead things continue to suffer after death.”
      Oh no, that would be terrible!
      I mean that in the sense that dying itself is suffering – for the one dying and for ones left behind – and so there is no end to suffering as long as there is (finite) life.

      “Pain is horrible, but the the self-aware mind capable of contemplating and imagining pain is in a far worse position than the one who merely feels the pain.”
      Yes, there are different levels of complexity. Most mammals and similar animals are self-aware though, as they try to avoid pain and are afraid of it, since they can imagine it.
      For insects, it would be debatable.
      Cruelty exists in the animal kingdom, too, by the way.
      (Slightly tabloid source, but it contains some examples of what I head from other sources, too: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/animals-can-be-giant-jerks)

      “Trees are awesome. 😉 And yes, my empathy extends to plant life.”
      Hehe.
      Yes, while I hate seeing a big, old tree being felled, plants feel no pain.
      So it is easier for me to justify plant based food production as a necessary “evil”.
      Also I would kind of have a problem if I didn’t even eat plants 😉 But yes, whose will to live is more important? You could only argue by the complexity of consciousness.

      Regarding depression or suicide:
      I should have worded that better, I didn’t not mean to conflate them, they are two separate issues.
      I just mentioned it to explain my kind of optimistic standpoint – I have difficulty giving up totally, even if it may seem hopeless, because there is always a chance.
      True, I did not have to face real hardships, being a person in a 1st world country, but it explains my experiences that led to my views.
      “Someone suffering from actual depression may not be able to.”
      This is true, sadly.
      I have read how depressed people feel and I can understand the consequences and decisions they make – but I cannot imagine myself in that position.
      Depression is a terrible illness.

      “Hold up. On what basis do you consider it a negative? Your grounds for calling something positive or negative are still completely subjective. If A wants to live, and B wants A do die, then the death of A is a negative from A’s perspective and a positive from B’s perspective. An instinct for survival is nothing more than an instinct for survival. It, alone, tells us nothing. What people want can be just as easily dismissed (remember, I am not talking about my own views at the moment, I am merely pointing out that there is still no way to compare moralities). If there is no objective morality, and if our values do not line up, then there can be no evaluation of the relative worth of our moralities.”

      I consider it negative, only since it is negative for that individual (=subjective).
      Bu additionally, it might be good for someone else at the same time!
      And you can weigh those two options.
      I see it as an optimization function:
      A needs to kill B to live.
      B needs to kill A to live.
      If A and B would be basically identical, we have this:
      Variant 1:
      A is killed (-10)
      B does not have to die, since it can eat A (+10)
      Variant 2 is vice versa.
      Both variants have a sum of 0 – so it doesn’t matter who lives or dies, the outcome would be the same (in this simplified scenario)

      Now you could make a solution clearer:
      A needs to kill B to live.
      B needs to kill A to live.
      A is a virus, the simplest of life forms (if it even is one), who wants to use the human to replicate.
      B is a human with a family to feed.
      If A kills B, the virus can live (+1 (or more like 1 million viruses*0.000001)) and the human dies (-20) and his family starves (-60) -> sum is -79
      If B kills A, the human can live (+20), the family doesn’t starve (+60) and a virus dies (-1) -> sum is +69

      You can sum up the subjective “this is good” and “this is evil” evaluations, needs and wills and try to optimize it.
      You even have to make it more complicated to account possible future events.
      What is the solution with the least suffering? The least amount of perceived evil?
      Yes, the scoring is really subjective, consists of cold statistics and has the same problems as a democracy (As in: It depends on subjective evaluation if something is good or bad).
      I also admit, that sometimes there are just 2 solutions and both are bad – I do not say that this system is flawless or can set the suffering to zero.
      But I think it’s the best way to determine the best possible long-term solution for a situation.
      (Akin to adding up and comparing the number of lives in the “Kill 10 to save 100” dilemma)

      “I believe that our surroundings have inherent worth, and that our empathy is a correct response to it. Different starting place, similar solution.”
      I like when that happens. 🙂

      “Humanity has been “starting to change” and failing miserably, for thousands of years or more.”
      Call me a hopeless optimistic, but it’s better than stopping to change, isn’t it? 😉

      “Despite being an American, I don’t do guns. 😉 I worry that we may have a slight language barrier, though. Sadly, I speak no German (in that sense, I am a stereotypical American).”
      Oh, hehe – it’s just a figure of speech.
      I invited you to evaluate my arguments and give me your counter-arguments, so we can both improve our views, find holes in our logic.

      Thanks for taking the time to discuss with me by the way! 🙂

      Like

      • jubilare says:

        “This “truth” has nothing to do with us or our perception and would exist as an abstract thing even without humanity.”
        Which is exactly the definition of Objective Truth, which is what I believe exists, and apparently so do you!

        If we are right, and there is such a thing as Objective Truth (truth that exists completely independent of us), then the question becomes “can we know it?” That is a much harder question to answer. But if there is such a truth, and if we can, on any level, know it, then suddenly we have a basis for comparison between it and all other thoughts that come after. Either thoughts align with the Truth, or they do not. And with that, actual meaningful discussions can take place.

        “A solvable one? I don’t know.” We can definitely agree that we hope it is.

        “At the cost of a huge spike in suffering.”
        But a relatively short spike, weighed against suffering over a lifetime and the suffering of all potential generations to come after. Ugly as it is, it’s utilitarian.
        “Not a great trade-off in my eyes, but I see your point.” No, it’s not a great trade off, but I’m playing devil’s advocate, here. If suffering is considered the greatest/only evil in the universe, one might be willing to sacrifice happiness and contentment in order to eliminate it. It all depends on one’s perspective.

        “Yes, but especially when it comes to pain, you can make distinctions.” Yes, indeed. We know a lot more about how creatures closer to us, biologically, process pain because of our frame of reference. The farther away from humans we get, the more speculative it all becomes.

        “Input, computation, output. Without nerves it is hard to do that.” We do not know this. We know that nerves and neurons communicate. We’ve created nonliving “thinking” engines. If plants are capable input, computation, output, we have not yet discovered the mechanism. But having not discovered it does not mean that it is not present. 😉

        “And communication does not imply consciousness.” No, it does not. I am begging the question. I am saying that our lack of knowledge is lack of knowledge, and that assuming that plants cannot think or feel simply because we have not yet discovered whether or not they do, is rather unsound.

        “Why not?” Because I’m wired that way.
        “Why save, say, 200 trees and let 5 people die, when those people have a larger potential due to their complexity – like saving the earth from a devastating asteroid later.”
        Why save 5 people who may never do anything of note and will live, on average, between 50 and 80 years, instead of saving 200 trees that live, on average, over 300 years and support millions upon millions of other species? (not including their capacity for cleaning our air and water supplies) …I’m not saying that I would choose the trees over the people. But I am saying that it’s not as easy a choice for me as it might be for others.
        “Very contrived example, but that’s basically my rationale. A patch of mold is less harmful than humans – but it can’t do much good for it either.”
        Much good for what? Without mold, we would be in a serious pickle. It helps break down material, returns nutrients to the soil in a form that can be used by other species, it’s a pioneer species that creates new territory for other species for follow… and it’s the source of some of our best anti-biotics! My point is not that complexity is a bad rationale for deciding the worth of something, but that worth is a far more complicated concept than can be addressed by only one rationale.

        “That is very interesting! Again, we do the same even if we start at totally different points.” Yep. 🙂

        “If those people made up the majority it would be a terrible world to live in!” May we never get there. Though I am disturbed by the fact that there are apparently more slaves in the world today than ever before… we are not doing well on that front.

        “Yes, I chose the quite partisan value of complexity.
        But, I also chose the value of minimizing suffering, which would be agreed on by all species, since they pretty much all have the biological urge not to die. (Although I see the problem here: “I chose”)”
        Indeed. The question is, who chooses what the basis of comparison will be? But as you actually do seem to believe in Objective Truth, as stated above, you may have better grounds than you give yourself credit for.
        As a side-note, I would not acknowledge that all suffering is bad. A lot of people wouldn’t. My severe depression, fighting breast-cancer, these things were horrible. But I am a better, stronger person because of them. The question is very complicated.

        “Although I have to say, in my eyes morality is a human invention.” From your viewpoint, it would have to be. I think that the capacity for morality is a divine gift, that humanity is seeking the best light it knows, and that sometimes we get it wrong. Self-interest and empathy are definitely part of that process.
        But I also believe that there is a true morality, an objective Right, and our created moral codes align or diverge from it to varying degrees.

        “BUT: If we try to minimize suffering, we can at least avoid the worst parts (genocide, torture, slavery,… see above), since they create suffering.” Perhaps. I agree that such a thing is MUCH to be desired. I simply do not think humanity is willing to actually DO it.

        “I think my whole argument hinges upon my choice of complexity as a value.”
        I think you sell yourself short because you think you believe in subjective morality when, actually, you don’t. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on that.

        Like

      • Tungsten says:

        “If we are right, and there is such a thing as Objective Truth (truth that exists completely independent of us), then the question becomes “can we know it?”That is a much harder question to answer. But if there is such a truth, and if we can, on any level, know it, then suddenly we have a basis for comparison between it and all other thoughts that come after. Either thoughts align with the Truth, or they do not. And with that, actual meaningful discussions can take place.”

        This is what I mean.
        Although the “raw” truth cannot be known in many cases (for example when it comes to simple factual truths, like historical events. They can be lost to us, or events that happen too far from earth), we can make models and try to get views that are closer to an objective truth.
        This especially applies to facts and science.

        “But I also believe that there is a true morality, an objective Right, and our created moral codes align or diverge from it to varying degrees.”
        I would call it an optimal solution, and it is not always a nice one.
        For example: The power in a hospital fails and you have just enough energy to save 1 patient.
        Two are left in the hostipal.
        A young man with a family and an 80 year old man with a terminal illness.
        Having to chose who should die in such a situation is terrible, but the “optimal” choice would be to save the young man, since his chances are better.

        “I think you sell yourself short because you think you believe in subjective morality when, actually, you don’t. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on that.”

        As with the example above, the objective truth is more like an equation.
        You can input parameters and an optimal solutions drops out.
        The objective truth in the example could be that if you go for least suffering you should let the young man die, because he is secretly a serial killer.
        Is killing him moral, though?
        One could argue that he should be tried and imprisoned instead. Or executed.
        What if you only have the knowledge that he is a serial killer (due to whatever circumstances) but no evidence?
        With different requirements to an “ideal” solution, you get different objective truths.
        There is even the objective truth that tells you how to maximize suffering.

        I think morality is subjective, but there is at least an objective truth that defines the optimal solution for a special set of circumstances.
        And since I have empathy, I try to align my world view and actions so that I get close to what I think is best.

        If you believe in a true morality, what is your solution to the trolley problem?
        “A trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You can divert it onto a separate track. However, there is a single person on that track.
        Should you flip the switch to save five people and sacrifice one?”

        Like

      • jubilare says:

        Sorry for the delay. Busy, busy weekend.

        “This especially applies to facts and science.” Why especially? I have a high regard for science (I love it, in fact), but it has its own limitations. To uphold it as the ultimate way of knowing is rather narrow-minded, I think.

        “I would call it an optimal solution, and it is not always a nice one.”
        What you describe is utilitarianism, which is one basis for morality, but not mine. How humans determine what is moral is fascinating to me. I do not think anyone every gets it wholly right, but I do believe that there is such a thing as Right… something we can be closer to, or farther from, depending on our actions (and even our thoughts).

        “As with the example above, the objective truth is more like an equation.” Of course. I think we agree on that. The question is always what factors are involved in the equation.
        “You can input parameters and an optimal solutions drops out.” Yes. Actually, you are drawing a faster link between Objective Truth and Objective Morality than I would have. 🙂

        “With different requirements to an “ideal” solution, you get different objective truths.” Mm, they would be subjective choices. The only Objective Truth is the reality underpinning existence. It simply IS, and cannot be changed to suit our will. How we choose to interact with depends on our subjective perspectives of it. That is where different “truths” come from. However, if there is such a thing as objective morality, a correct and an incorrect response to Objective Reality/Truth, then our subjective choices can be, in comparison, right or wrong (or more right or more wrong).

        Say that I have a ruler. I look at it from one end, and I draw a line at 5 centimeters. I look from the other end, and draw another mark at 5 cm. Then I look directly down and draw a line at 5 cm. I will have 3 separate lines, and only one of them is actually on the 5 centimeter mark.
        The ruler is the Truth, and our perspectives are subjective, but because there is a Truth, it is possible for some perspectives to be more accurate than others. That accuracy/inaccuracy is the definition of Objective Morality. Objective Morality is the relationship between our own perspectives and Objective Truth.
        At least, that is how I understand it.

        “I think morality is subjective, but there is at least an objective truth that defines the optimal solution for a special set of circumstances.” Agreed, as far as the theory goes. This view, though, still strips away any ability to compare the worth of different choices. There would still be no way to resolve a difference between human-centric morality and tree-centric morality. You value empathy, and that is all well and good, but you cannot, under this theory, claim any moral superiority over someone who values something different. All you can do is fight for your side because it’s yours.
        You seem to have more conviction than that equation can account for.

        “If you believe in a true morality, what is your solution to the trolley problem?
        A trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You can divert it onto a separate track. However, there is a single person on that track.
        Should you flip the switch to save five people and sacrifice one?”

        That is a bit of a non sequitur. What does my moral judgement have to do with whether or not there is a True Morality? I could be wrong in my assessment and it would not affect the existence of a true Objective Morality any more than my disbelief in Objective Reality could affect the existence of reality.

        I am not claiming that I have everything right. All I claim is that there IS such a thing, and I am trying to understand and follow it as best I can. 😉

        If that is understood, then I will answer. If those are the only options in that split second, I would chose the least loss of life, try by any means possible to save the one person, and pray.
        We can only make the best choices we can with the information we have (we often DON’T make the best choices anyway, but that is a slightly different matter). But in my worldview, remember, there is also something greater than Objective Morality.

        Like

      • Tungsten says:

        No problem!
        PS: I noticed my answers are more general/jumping around between thoughts than in my last posts, I hope I didn’t go too far astray with my ramblings 🙂

        “Why especially? I have a high regard for science (I love it, in fact), but it has its own limitations. To uphold it as the ultimate way of knowing is rather narrow-minded, I think.”
        Oh no, I meant that just in the sense that there is an objective truth about the details of every situation, simple facts like “what is the number of atoms in this object” and science as in “what formula describes an accurate model of process x” – nothing more.
        I mean, there IS a knowable number of the unknowable “things” we perceive as atoms. Our perception might not be accurate to what actually is there, but we can align our models of reality to this absolute truth.
        Scientific data can be true “for all intents and purposes” of the models we make form our surroundings.

        Real World/Absolute truth (unknowable) -> models our brain creates so we are able to perceive -> models science creates, so we can make predictions about our world

        So if science says “This light has wavelength X”, this is because we made a model to make predictions about things: Light of a certain wavelength always is green, for example – where “green” is the model our brain has to make to understand the world.
        This “is green”, the observable prediction, is true for all intents of purposes – but this just means it’s true for a “model” we all share (color).
        This is still only a model, color doesn’t really “exist”, it’s not “a thing” in itself.

        To go even further: If what you see as “red” was blue for me and vice versa: It would not make a difference.
        If I could see with the internal model your brain made in this example, I would say “Hey, that sky is red!”, but you would say “No, I learned this color is called “blue””.
        It would not be noticeable, would not make a difference and neither of us would be close to the objective truth, since we can only sample a property (narrow wavelength band of light) with a sensor (eyes) from objects.
        What our brain makes from it is a model, to categorize experiences. Science can align those models to a short formula, so there is less error when communicating about our surroundings.
        Still, the “true nature” of an object is not knowable.

        I hope I could make clear what I mean with “models”.

        ““You can input parameters and an optimal solutions drops out.” Yes. Actually, you are drawing a faster link between Objective Truth and Objective Morality than I would have. :)”
        The problem now is: What parameters do I put in?
        And then we come back to a subjective morality.
        Or would inputting ALL parameters (which would require omniscience) result in objective morality?
        If you knew every consequence, every detail – you would STILL have to weigh them, compare the concerns of every affected subject. But what factor would weigh heavier that the other?
        Or do you believe there is an inherit value to each decision, like a hidden “good” or “evil” value to every decision, pre-assigned like by design?
        I think so, yes?
        If yes, and they are (as I assume in your case) given by God – what is His rationale?
        If you have a subjective morality that is identical to God’s (which should be possible (just the possession – acquiring it is a different thing)), wouldn’t you then know the correct way to value all factors?
        Like would you then know that, just for example, trees are to be preferred to humans?
        So that would mean there IS a solution to the tree/human example and in my eyes this solution has to be logical.
        Or do you believe it is possible that God has a morality that has aspects that are not logically graspable/explainable to humans?

        Your ruler example is good, and it makes clear where we have different opinions:
        “You value empathy, and that is all well and good, but you cannot, under this theory, claim any moral superiority over someone who values something different. All you can do is fight for your side because it’s yours.”
        You are right, that is true. I can’t know for 100% that my decisions are the right ones, that my morals are good/just/right.
        And if I admit that, I can also not deny the possibility that the morals of a sadistic murderers might be the right ones.
        That is the problem of moral relativism.
        Personally, I can live with this consequence of my world view, since I see morals as a man-made thing.
        History showed they’re flexible, comparable to the views on sexuality. (Homosexuality, for example. Mankind can’t seem to make up it’s mind if it’s okay or not.)
        Also, what good is an objective morality, if we cannot know/perceive it, similar to the objective truth about our material surroundings, or even worse, what if it doesn’t exist?
        If an objective morality is not knowable or doesn’t exist, we only have subjective morality and have to work from there, together, to find the best moral-system for everyone, as hard as the way and unsatisfactory the result may be.
        Who says the universe has to be nice or satisfactory? In my eyes, that’s a quite arrogant presumption (I’m not saying you presume that btw! I’m talking more in general.).

        Or maybe to put differently:
        You can make decisions and you might say that every single one splits of into a new timeline.
        We have to decide which timeline is the best (=subjective).
        Objective morality would mean there is an ideal timeline we can try to get closer to.
        But WHY is this timeline ideal (=objective moral truth)?
        Would it be enough to be omniscient to see the logic behind the “idealness” of this timeline?
        Or is objective moral truth more mysterious? (I hope not – that would mean it could be “ideal” to have to kill a person without having any logical explanation for it – That would be a scary world to live in for me, worse than the consequences of subjective morality!)

        You got me with the trolley problem.
        I forgot that “I would do X, but I could be wrong.” is a factor here, since you don’t know the objective morality, of course.

        Like

  8. Luminas says:

    Luminas here! 🙂 This post is interesting!

    “Irony 1: “Most modern argumentation… falls to the level of a shouting match where each person vies for more time to air their viewpoints.” How is it that relativistic views are so often paired with that wild naivete that says things like “if only they would listen, they would see that I am right!” and “anyone who doesn’t agree with me is stupid/bad/wrong”? It frightens me that so many people pair the two without even thinking about the inherent contradiction!”

    I have more problems with these guys then I ever did with actual moral absolutists (Christians). As for whether I am a “moral absolutist” or a “moral relativist,” I’d say my answer to that question is “I don’t know the answer to that question.” I’m too uncomfortably aware that really, really evil people are also human themselves, and have normal emotions when not being evil, and genuinely love certain people while brutally murdering others. Knowing that about someone makes it incredibly hard to justify condemning that someone to an eternity in Hell.

    I feel like only God can really judge with any certainty the weight of another’s heart and the correctness of their beliefs. I’m reminded vaguely of that incident in Narnia where a guy who fervently, beautifully worships the Devil finds himself in Heaven. He then essentially finds out from Aslan that he could not have worshipped something evil in that way, and that much of that worship was actually directed toward Him.

    The problem on both sides is the minute you start assuming that people with a different opinion than your own are, without further logical debate or even acknowledgement of your common humanity, “evil.” You just can’t make that judgment call about somebody else. Moral relativists feel that this is assumption is a common trait of the morally absolute, and the morally absolute feel it is a common trait of the morally relative. In the end, both groups fall into the same trap— It’s actually a common trait of most of humanity. One that I actually hate. Because as the many wonderful people here have demonstrated, you can easily disagree with someone without hating them.

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    • I’m glad that you found this post interesting. The idea to write it hit me practically out of nowhere. 🙂

      It is true that only God can perfectly judge others. I have always loved that interpretation of the poor widow’s two pence, which interpretation I found in the Philokalia, as the two coins of humility and charity which God will demand before we can enter into paradise. Humility concerns a proper love for and adherence to the truth, which does make me wonder whether moral relativists can go to heaven. At the very least, they would have to acknowledge objective truth before they entered.

      I have not read that part of the Chronicles of Narnia. (I’ve only read up to the middle of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.) I suppose that it might be possible if that person had such invincible ignorance that he had no understanding at all of the devil’s true nature–even going so far as not to know that the word devil comes from “d’evil,” i.e. of evil.

      God is the only perfect judge, but it is very often the case that people damn themselves. I am reminded of a widow who went to see St. Jean Vianney about the fate of her husband. This saint often had mystical knowledge of the fate of the deceased and offered consolation to many. However, in this case, he simply responded, “He refused the sacrament of confession on his deathbed” and would say no more. People damn themselves by their impenitence, and God often finds an excuse to save someone who has even a shred of sorrow for his sins.

      The dividing line between good and evil runs through the center of every human heart, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn tells us. It is a temptation of pride to call someone else evil and not to recognize oneself as also wicked and in need of God’s mercy. But, it’s also true that some people are so evil that they cannot be tolerated, and those people are commonly call evil. Otherwise, philosophical differences ought not usually cause someone to deserve the name evil, unless their philosophy supports actions or systems of government which cause others grave harm–I am thinking of Fascists and Communists in particular.

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      • jubilare says:

        “I suppose that it might be possible if that person had such invincible ignorance that he had no understanding at all of the devil’s true nature–even going so far as not to know that the word devil comes from “d’evil,” i.e. of evil.”

        Just FYI, it’s been a long time since I read the book, but I wanted to say this about the section referred to. Lewis believed that someone who never heard the truth of Christianity might still be drawn, by the Truth of God within them, to the parts of their own religion that echo the most of the Truth, and would be led to turn away from those aspects that are evil, and that in doing so they could, to a point, follow Christ without knowing who it was that they were following. And in this way, perhaps, someone who never heard of Christ could be saved through Him. That section in the Last Battle is an illustration of this point, with the character following Aslan without knowing it until the end.

        I’m probably mangling the theory, but knowing you, you’re probably already familiar with it in some form. It ties in with another idea, that only when we come wholly into the presence of God will we fully know who we have been serving.

        Liked by 1 person

    • jubilare says:

      I honestly have no time or energy to field two essay-length conversations at once, not while working 2 jobs. It makes me sad to say that, but it is the simple truth.
      I am going to keep this simple, and you can always prod me on my own blog (jubilare.wordpress.com) if you want to take up a debate. 🙂

      “I’m too uncomfortably aware that really, really evil people are also human themselves, and have normal emotions when not being evil, and genuinely love certain people while brutally murdering others. Knowing that about someone makes it incredibly hard to justify condemning that someone to an eternity in Hell.”
      I’m highly aware of exactly the same thing, but it sounds like you are processing only one (and I think an overly simplistic one) concept of hell. There are other ways to look at the question.
      I would suggest seriously reading some of C.S. Lewis’s apologetics. I’ll come back with some specific titles later, if you are interested. I think hell is less of a prison-sentence and more cause-and-effect, like a chemical reaction. Even so, I’d be happy to learn that damnation is not eternal (though I have a hard time seeing how freewill could exist without the possibility of completely and eternally choosing selfishness).

      “I feel like only God can really judge with any certainty the weight of another’s heart and the correctness of their beliefs”
      Oh, absolutely. I believe that is why Christians are forbidden to judge others (not that we do a great job of obeying that ban, unfortunately). I would not dare pass judgement on another soul, and I do not presume that all of my beliefs are correct (by simple statistics, they couldn’t be). I have strong opinions on some things (obviously ;)), but I try to stop short of setting myself as judge or jury. At bottom, I’m just another sinner, and believe me, I know it.

      “It’s actually a common trait of most of humanity. One that I actually hate. Because as the many wonderful people here have demonstrated, you can easily disagree with someone without hating them.”
      100% On the same page with you, here! ^_^

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      • Sorry, I seem to have butt into a comment written for you. I can’t but admire how long you and Tungsten have kept up the conversation about moral relativism. Don’t let it eat up into your blogging or fiction writing time. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • jubilare says:

        Lol! I’m not sure if it was meant for me or for you, but either way, I’m glad we both responded.

        Thank you for being so generous! My eye is twitching a little at the sheer amount of verbage we have added to this page, but I am very much enjoying the exchange.
        It may cut into my blogging a bit, but I think it’s worth it, and I will make sure I carve out time for creative writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Tungsten says:

    Oh, your answer is up here, didn’t see it at first 😀
    Let my post this wall of text here, and then we can continue this in your blog (see further below).

    “Wait a sec. I’m trying to keep up, but why is there an assumption that either would be closer to Objective Truth?”
    One is just perceiving, the other contains explanations.
    Just perceiving wavelengths is further away than understanding wavelengths and reflection, refraction and dispersion of light, which, in this example could explain why rainbows exist.
    Yes, it is not inherently closer to objective truth, but I would argue that having a more complete model of reality is closer to objective truth than having none.
    Though I’d have to admit that if one considers objective truth as unknowable, then it’s a bit like saying owning nothing but a pair of pants makes you closer to being a billionaire than having nothing. 😀

    “I would say “uncertain” rather than “not knowable.” We cannot be absolutely certain how accurate our perception or understanding of reality is, but that is not exactly the same thing as “not knowable.” One is a healthy amount of doubt, the other is despair of ever knowing anything.”
    Hm, I would insist on unknowable.
    It’s like only being able to see a picture of a person.
    If you have like 100 photos, shot from all angles, with different facial expressions, you could say “I know what this person looks like, for all intents and purposes” – but still, you would not have met this person in person! It practically makes no difference, but the fact that you have not met this person remains.
    So if we had perfect models/working theories of everything, we would still only have models, even if we could predict everything with those models.

    “I think so. You mean what I would call “working theories,” the patterns on which we rely in order to live, yes?”
    Exactly!

    “Now that would be something. But knowing all outcomes still would not give one objective morality. The necessary component is the existence of some absolute Value to which all answers can be compared. I can play with factors for all eternity, but without an objective goal, no outcome will be any better than another.”
    I think so, too.

    “A word of caution before I continue. A picture of atoms is a tool to aid in understanding, but it is also inaccurate. A description, in words, of the universe, no matter how good, is also going to be inaccurate. The same thing goes (even moreso) for any attempt to describe God. I’m trying to talk about what I believe to be the Ultimate Ground of Reality.
    I am going to fail.”
    Which loops back to my talking about models – basically you can only have a “model” of God, not true understanding of Him. (Obviously)

    ““Assigned” sounds arbitrary, which means you are thinking of God as too small. You agree that the human mind cannot comprehend the whole of reality, yes? The universe defies our comprehension. …if, for sake of argument, the Universe was willfully created, then it was created by something greater than itself and therefore even more beyond our comprehension than the Universe.”
    I meant assigned in the way of “happened during the process of creation”.
    And yes, I agree to all points. We can only have models of the universe, but cannot grasp the universe “itself”.
    Also yes, if our universe was created, it had to be created by someone “outside” the laws of our universe. And if something is outside those laws, we can not, by definition, make statements about it.

    “On top of that, an uncreated God EXISTS in a way that creation cannot. The most emphatic and important name of God in my religion is “I Am” for a reason. God is the Ultimate Reality. Most Christians would agree with that much.
    This, however, is more speculative (and more Christians would disagree with me on it), as we are too limited to wrap our minds around the concept of God: For a truly Supreme being, can there be such a thing as better or worse alternatives in the same way we have alternatives? I doubt it.”
    I do not understand the phrase “uncreated God” – do you mean the fact that He exists outside out material universe?
    But I would agree with your points here.

    “Omnipotence and omniscience would eliminate most options, leaving a being wholly Itself. For a very imperfect example, imagine if you knew the full consequences of your every action and you had the power to take any action, are there not many things that you, being you, simply would not do? Therefore if the Objective Reality is God, and by extension, God’s creation, then Objective Morality is not an arbitrary assignment of rules, but a quite unalterable statement of fact about God and creation’s relationship to God.
    I realize that we may not find common ground, here, but hopefully you will have a better idea of where I am coming from.”
    Ah, I think I understand it.

    “I’m not entirely sure what you mean. If God’s morality is considered subjective, see the argument against that above. If a human had, miraculously, a perfect alignment to the will of God then yes, that human would know the true value of all factors. That human would, however, still be limited by finite knowledge.”
    I meant the latter!
    My theory was: If a person’s morality was, purely by miracle or even luck, in perfect alignment with God’s will, so to say and that person knew that.
    On top of that, this person was omniscient – would this person then have access to the “correct” parameters to tune morality to?
    So if those conditions are met, you would have the “ultimate” logic?
    (Example: “I am in tune with God’s morality. I am omniscient. Doing X would be amoral, because of Y and Z, but also good, because of W. Still, it is amoral, because X and Z seem to weigh heavier for God”.)
    In this thought experiment we would have gained a perfect model of a morality that is in tune with God’s.
    Would you agree?

    “Please do not fall into the misconception that the laws and rules of religions are arbitrary. Even from an atheistic standpoint it cannot be so (things that stick around because they prove functional can no longer be considered arbitrary). From a pragmatic standpoint the commands of most religions (at least the ones that have lasted a long time and have a substantial following) tend to be very logical when examined. They also hold up to rigorous testing. If they were not and did not, the religions would not continue to exist.
    Also remember that in order to simply live we have to take most of what we “know” on trust whether we are atheists or theists or agnostics, and that the question is always ‘who do we choose to trust and why?’ Only when that decision is made can we begin testing what we trust to see if it does, in fact, work within the context of reality.”
    I would agree with the last part.
    What do you mean with arbitrary?
    Man-made? Or logical? I think the latter?
    Since if you say religious rules that are around now are logical because of some evolutionary process (The only rules that stick around are the tried-and-tested logical ones) – one could argue that the rules at the point of creation were arbitrary (motivated by something though, since all rules need a “why”).
    We threw the rules out there and now we see what stuck – which rules stuck was dependent on the development of our society.
    But if that is so, you could throw doubt over the creation of the rules, and by extension on the validity of the rules themselves.
    They might have just stuck because they were the most advantageous for us as a civilization, not because they were in alignment with the will of God.
    Just like many people cherry pick the Bible and treat the good parts for absolute truth, while allowing much more freedom in interpretation when it comes to parts that seem to advocate for slavery (Titus 2) or murder rape and pillage (Deuteronomy 20:10-14).
    But this goes into a discussion about religions and scripture (and for how literally one takes religious scripture) and I’d move that into your blog. 😀
    If you want, you can put you next answer there and link me to it?

    “Yes, it is. Moral relativism, if anyone but a tiny minority actually followed it with any conviction, would probably destroy humanity in very short order. Even the watered-down form has done a fair amount of damage. Questioning our moral judgments is a very necessary thing, but breaking down the grounds on which we call, say, freedom good and slavery bad, eliminates any possibility for progress and leaves us chasing our tails until someone stronger comes along and dominates us.”
    This is true.

    “I hope you will forgive me for saying this, but I am not sure you can accept those consequences. You seem like too kind of a person to be able to stomach the blind rule of the majority, or of the most powerful, which are the only functional (if horrible) results absolute relative morality. Historically, the people most likely (perhaps the only people) to challenge the actions of the strong on behalf of the weak, or the many on behalf of the few, are those who believe in an Objective Morality. They are the only ones who have grounds to do so. Subjective Morality has no power of resistance.”
    Let me refine this a bit.
    I see subjective morality not as a way we should live, but as an explanation how our morality works.
    For me, morality has subjective sources (our experiences, the experiences of our parents/teachers/…), but this doesn’t mean that subjective morality is a desirable goal for society!
    It just pays tribute to the fact that if I was born the son of a wealthy roman that viewed his slaves as valuable property (which they were), I would inherit similar values.
    If I was born in a village in Afghanistan, I would probably be a muslim, with different values.

    “The relevant questions are, I think, “do you think moral progress is possible” and “are some moral ideas preferable to others?”
    If you can answer “yes” to either question, then there has to be an objective morality to which the ideas of morality can be compared. Otherwise, all moral ideas are completely equal, there is no way to choose between them, and all preferences for one over another are unsupportable.”
    I think there is a distinction to be made.
    Let me make a drastic example:
    Is killing someone for fun evil in the usual sense of the word, despicable, worthy of punishment/rehabilitation, bad for society, a symptom of a disturbing lack of empathy and not desirable? DEFINITELY yes!
    Is it INHERENTLY evil as per the rules of the universe? I would say no.
    All those reasons I mentioned are why I would say some ideas of morality are preferable to others, even though there is no inherent moral value to the act itself – but a consequence to societal balance, and thus a way to choose between them.
    It’s a bit like mental illnesses. To know what is ill, we have to define “normal” first – but what is normal? Same relativism here, but we accept it and shift the boundaries a bit over the decades.

    “Therefore we are on much the same ground with Objective Morality as we are with Objective Reality. We’ve lost sight of this in recent decades because popular Western thought has chosen to believe in the material world and discount all elements that cannot be examined through the scientific method.”
    That’s where we differ, I am a materialist (as in “form of monism”, not the economical materialism).
    We can’t grasp the objective morality, we just tend to act relatively kind to others, due to empathy by mirror neurons etc. since that was advantageous for survival.

    “No one here, that I know of. 😉 The universe is manifestly not satisfactory from a human standpoint. But that, in itself, begs a larger question. Why do we perceive it as unsatisfactory? If this is all we know, then why and how did we ever come by the feeling that it is brutal, or harsh, or needs changing in any way?”

    My guess would be that we see only the small things (poor antelope gets eaten), not the bigger picture, where this might me necessary for the survival of the whole biotope.
    I think this leads to the equally interesting question of “Could the universe have been different/better?”.

    “Objective Morality is not the same thing as the best possible solution to a problem. ”
    Interesting. But would this still be moral, if it differs from the best (as in objectively best) solution?

    “But the consequences of subjective morality include the possibility for random murder being an ideal! If someone has the power to kill with impunity just because he or she feels like it, then that is exactly what the consequences will be.”
    It would be ideal only for him!
    For him, it would give him the most satisfaction/fun/whatever sick motivation he has, so it is okay to do it, since the good parts weigh heavier than the bad parts for him (subjectively).
    For me, in his position, it would be absolutely terrible to kill someone!
    This is what I mean with subjective.
    That’s why the murderer kills, because he or she feels like it. This consequence happens every day.
    HIS morality allowed it. Mine doesn’t. Subjective morality exists and society has to deal with it.
    Why mine is better than is? Because most of us would agree on that.
    So we come back to majority rule.
    I know, the thought of majority rule is utterly terrifying in the worst case.
    It’s like Churchill’s famous dictum: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
    It’s not the best, but it’s the best we have.

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  10. […] imagination, which is very easy to recognize.  I talk about how to spot the diabolic imagination in this post I wrote on Concrete Revolutio.  Basically, nihilism and moral relativism sure signs of the demonic at work. However, do we […]

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  11. […] The opening song to Concrete Revolutio speaks to moral relativism and nihilism, approaches that are very much at odds with a Christian worldview. [Medieval Otaku] […]

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  12. […] The above shows the importance of having a personal philosophy and of being true to oneself.  Indeed, one cannot ever be true to oneself without some personal philosophy.  The most warped mindset is that of relativism, and the relativist stands as the most miserable of all men, because his stance changes with the zeitgeist.  In terms of mindset, a racist imperialist is superior to a relativist.  Sure, it’s an awful thing to judge other men purely on external characteristics and to support a program of conquest for the benefit of the fatherland.  But, the relativist can morph from a classical liberal to a socialist to a monarchist to a democrat depending on what the majority prefers.  In England, the relativist abhors female circumcision; in Indonesia, he deems it a cultural practice worthy of toleration.  Contention and ostracism are feared above all.  At least, the racist imperialist has objective standards which he is willing to fight for.  Also, because he has objective standards, the racist imperialist can be convinced that his objective standards are not true and be brought closer to the truth.  The relativist blows with the winds of expediency. […]

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