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From atheism to tentative agnosticism
#21
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
(June 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm)Inigo Wrote: Well, the same is true for morality. A disposition to experience the world as a place that contains external instructions with which we have inescapable reason to comply has no doubt conferred an evolutionary advantage on those who have it. It does not follow that any such things exist. The advantage was conferred by the mere appearance of such things. So, the hallucination of morality conferred the advantage. No need for morality to actually exist. And indeed, my whole point is that it doesn't seem possible for it to actually exist in the absence of a god.

1. How would one determine that moral reality, separate from moral phenomena (the "appearance" of moral truths), actually exists?
2. In what way would a god provide for the existence of, what in common parlance is called objective morality, and you call moral reality? (See various on the Euthyphro dilemma.)
3. You realize that your argument is fallacious, right? ("I can't imagine how morality without a god exists, therefore a god must exist" — argumentum ad ignorantum.)
4. There appears to be an unspoken but implied argument from consequences here; yes or no? ("If there is no moral reality, that would be bad; therefore there is moral reality, therefore a god must exist.") So what if there is no "moral reality" ?
5. You use the term "hallucinatory" as another fallacious implied argument, suggesting that because something only exists in the mind, it is not "real" or genuine or meaningful; memories exist only in the mind, are they then to be considered "hallucinations" in the same sense? (See the argument from consequences.) Calling a mental phenomenon a hallucination carries an implied value judgement, this makes using it this way fallacious.
6. What do you consider "real" that you know about by another means than the mind? In other words, is there phenomena and reality, or just phenomena?
7. What are the consequences if moral reality doesn't exist? (In other words, so what?)

This doesn't really belong in the introduction section, by the way, and creating two threads devoted to the same question is generally discouraged.


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#22
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
If you're worried that moral sensations may constitute hallucinations you have way too much time on your hands for worrying.
As I said before parents, guardians and surroundings are what usually supplies morality, that and a development of the ability to empathize with other people. A lot of morality is brainwashed into us when we are young so it isn't surprising you do it anyway even if there is no benefit.
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I know you said that before. But as I explained - or tried to - all you are referring to is moral phenomena, not morality itself. I am in no doubt that moral sensations and beliefs exist and that there is some causal story one can tell about them. The point is that morality doesn't seem capable of existing without a god. Moral sensations and beliefs, yes. Morality itself, no.

All I can think is that you think moral phenomena and morality itself are one and the same. But this cannot be the case for a sensation cannot instruct and nor can a belief, much less instruct with rational authority.

I just repeat what I said about god sensations and beliefs. Those exist. But that doesn't show a god to exist. That doesn't show how evolution gives rise to god!

Moral sensations and beliefs are not the same as morality itself.
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#23
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
(June 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm)Inigo Wrote: Well, the same is true for morality. A disposition to experience the world as a place that contains external instructions with which we have inescapable reason to comply has no doubt conferred an evolutionary advantage on those who have it. It does not follow that any such things exist. The advantage was conferred by the mere appearance of such things. So, the hallucination of morality conferred the advantage. No need for morality to actually exist. And indeed, my whole point is that it doesn't seem possible for it to actually exist in the absence of a god.

The problem with your statement here is that you appear to be assuming morality is a thing separate from conscious beings. It isn't. Morality is not part of the nature of the universe. It isn't a self-existent thing, independent of minds. It has never been a set of external instructions; the instructions have always come from human beings. If all living things ceased to exist, so would morality.

Morality has never been the province of a god. Humanity simply has a long tradition of insisting that it is. The concept of morality was hijacked by theists and turned into a model of obedience and disobedience.

(June 30, 2013 at 8:43 pm)Inigo Wrote: I know you said that before. But as I explained - or tried to - all you are referring to is moral phenomena, not morality itself. I am in no doubt that moral sensations and beliefs exist and that there is some causal story one can tell about them. The point is that morality doesn't seem capable of existing without a god. Moral sensations and beliefs, yes. Morality itself, no. ... Moral sensations and beliefs are not the same as morality itself.

As I explained, morality is a human construct. It's a label we give to evolved behaviors and cultural norms. It isn't something external to us; it's our invention. Our moral sensations are evolved instincts which helped our species survive. Our sensations are not pointing to some greater truth about the nature of existence, any more than our sensations of being hungry or tired are.

Your arguments seem to imply that you're distinguishing between moral sensations, which are real, and 'morality' as this brute fact of the universe which needs to be explained and can only be explained by a god. I think you're wrong to assume morality is not just something we made up as a species. What reason do you have to think that morality is anything but the invention of conscious beings? What does morality look like in a universe with no life in it?
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#24
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
(June 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm)Inigo Wrote: It doesn't really matter what one labels a view, what matters are the arguments that can be mustered for it. I think it is a shame that so many debates get sidetracked into tedious semantic discussions about what exactly terms like 'atheist' mean.

It's not merely a matter of semantics, tedious or otherwise, if one side is defining a term to mean more than it actually does to reinforce their own points, or to reach conclusions which may possibly be erroneous given that their starting definition is flawed.

(June 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm)Inigo Wrote: I use the term 'atheism' to refer to the view that no god or gods exist. I use the term 'atheist' to refer to someone who believes atheism to be true. This is how everyone I've met uses those terms as well. But, well, it is what I understand by them. If someone means something else then they're welcome to use the term to mean whatever they like.

Fine, but expect to be called out on unconventional and frankly unrealistic uses of basic terminology.

(June 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm)Inigo Wrote: I would understand the term 'theist' to refer to someone who believed in the Judaeo Christian god, but perhaps I'm wrong about that.

Not wrong, but rather parochial. Believers in J/C God = theists, however theists =not necessarily= J/C God believers.

(June 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm)Inigo Wrote: I think it would be unusual for someone who believed in, say, Thor to describe themselves as an 'atheist'.

Such a believer could be quite entitled to call themselves an atheist about gods they consider fictional. Interestingly and on the same point, it seems the early xtians were among the first to be referred to as atheists by the Romans, because they didn't believe in the Roman gods.

(June 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm)Inigo Wrote: So I assume atheism - as currently used - does not refer to the view merely that no theistic god exists, but that no supernatural agencies of any kind exist. I think that's how Dennett and Dawkins etc would use the term.

If those two Horsemen and their companions used the term in anything like the way you did in this paragraph, they would be called out on it as well. Atheism, quite simply, is not the view that no theistic god exists; rather it is the disbelief that they do exist. Neither does the term apply to "supernatural agencies of any kind" - that would be scepticism (or skepticism if you really must), of which atheism is a specialised subset.

(June 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm)Inigo Wrote: But anyway, it does not really matter.

Unless you are basing your interpretation of reality on a faulty first principle, obviously.
At the age of five, Skagra decided emphatically that God did not exist.  This revelation tends to make most people in the universe who have it react in one of two ways - with relief or with despair.  Only Skagra responded to it by thinking, 'Wait a second.  That means there's a situation vacant.'
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#25
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
This doesn't really belong in the introduction section, by the way, and creating two threads devoted to the same question is generally discouraged.
[b]

Then ask me the relevant questions in the relevant section. I started a thread devoted to discussing atheism and morality for precisely this reason. Here I merely introduced myself and my concerns.

If someone asks me questions in this thread, however, it seems sensible for me to answer them here rather than elsewhere. Perhaps you could ask your questions again in the philosophy section in the thread titled atheism and morality and I will answer each one.

You say (not sure how to quote here) "Fine, but expect to be called out on unconventional and frankly unrealistic uses of basic terminology."

You seriously think I'm the one using the term unconventionally? If a god exists then atheism is false, is it not?

you say regarding my use of theist (to mean the Judaeo Christian god) "Not wrong, but rather parochial. Believers in J/C God = theists, however theists =not necessarily= J/C God believers."

So you would use 'theist' to refer to someone who believes in the Greek gods would you? Or Thor? Really? Odd. I don't think I'm going to understand a lot of what you say.

I said that I thought it would be unusual for someone who believed in, say, Thor to describe themselves as an 'atheist'. You say "Such a believer could be quite entitled to call themselves an atheist about gods they consider fictional. Interestingly and on the same point, it seems the early xtians were among the first to be referred to as atheists by the Romans, because they didn't believe in the Roman gods."

Well, anyone is 'entitled' to call themselves whatever they want. The point, though, is that it would be grossly misleading - it would invite misunderstanding - to call oneself an 'atheist' if one believed in Thor or the Roman gods or some such. If you declare yourself an atheist most people are going to think you mean you don't believe in the existence of any gods, aren't they? that's because whatever you say you mean by the word 'atheist' most people understand it to mean 'the belief that no gods exist'.

You say "If those two Horsemen and their companions used the term in anything like the way you did in this paragraph, they would be called out on it as well. Atheism, quite simply, is not the view that no theistic god exists; rather it is the disbelief that they do exist. Neither does the term apply to "supernatural agencies of any kind" - that would be scepticism (or skepticism if you really must), of which atheism is a specialised subset."

I'm afraid you are the one using the term in a quite ludicrous fashion
Tell me, if everyone - everyone in the world - believes that god exists, but in fact god does not exist, is atheism true or false?
It is 'true' isn't it? So atheism's truth does not depend upon anyone having any beliefs at all.

you then say, in response to my point that none of this tedious semantic stuff really matters, "Unless you are basing your interpretation of reality on a faulty first principle, obviously".

But you know what I mean by 'atheism' because I have told you. And I am arguing that morality provides some reason to think atheism is false.
You can use 'atheism' to mean 'tuesday' if you wish, but I am using it to mean the view that no gods exist.
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#26
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
Quote:Human morality is an instinct which we have evolved.

Perhaps the instinct to moralize has evolved. I'm hard pressed to think of any vice which has not been acceptable to some human society, somewhere, at some time.
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#27
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
(June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm)Inigo Wrote: So you would use 'theist' to refer to someone who believes in the Greek gods would you? Or Thor? Really?

Yes, those people would be theists. They wouldn't be xtians, obviously, but since they believe in gods, they would fit the definition of 'theist'.

(June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm)Inigo Wrote: Odd. I don't think I'm going to understand a lot of what you say.

Well that is why it's important to agree on what words actually mean, instead of making them up to fit our purposes. If I define the word 'banana' to mean sex toy, would that make every similarly phallic-shaped toy edible? If nothing else, it would make for some pretty interesting misunderstandings in the fruit and veg aisle.

(June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm)Inigo Wrote: I said that I thought it would be unusual for someone who believed in, say, Thor to describe themselves as an 'atheist'.

Yes, you did set up your strawman that way.

(June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm)Inigo Wrote: You say "Such a believer could be quite entitled to call themselves an atheist about gods they consider fictional. Interestingly and on the same point, it seems the early xtians were among the first to be referred to as atheists by the Romans, because they didn't believe in the Roman gods."

Well, anyone is 'entitled' to call themselves whatever they want. The point, though, is that it would be grossly misleading - it would invite misunderstanding - to call oneself an 'atheist' if one believed in Thor or the Roman gods or some such.

And here you knock it down. Awesome!

(June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm)Inigo Wrote: If you declare yourself an atheist most people are going to think you mean you don't believe in the existence of any gods, aren't they? that's because whatever you say you mean by the word 'atheist' most people understand it to mean 'the belief that no gods exist'.

Ok, let's go over this again. Remember, these are your words and not mine:

"If you declare yourself an atheist most people are going to think you mean you don't believe in the existence of any gods, aren't they?"

Was this the same person who immediately contradicted himself with:

"that's because whatever you say you mean by the word 'atheist' most people understand it to mean 'the belief that no gods exist'."?

Just in case you missed it: in one paragraph you assert that atheism is the disbelief that gods exist and the belief that gods do not exist simultaneously. Headache much?

(June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm)Inigo Wrote: Tell me, if everyone - everyone in the world - believes that god exists, but in fact god does not exist, is atheism true or false?
It is 'true' isn't it? So atheism's truth does not depend upon anyone having any beliefs at all.

On the contrary, atheism depends upon - totally relies upon, actually - theistic beliefs. As you just illustrated so extremely.

(June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm)Inigo Wrote: No, you know what I mean by atheism because I have told you.

And I have told you that your definition of it is fundamentally flawed, thus making any conclusions drawn from it suspect to say the least.

(June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm)Inigo Wrote: And I am arguing that morality provides some reason to think atheism is false.

Are you by any chance related to ShockOfGod of YouTube fame? Atheism is neither 'true' nor 'false'; it is the response to theistic claims and nothing more.

(June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm)Inigo Wrote: You can use 'atheism' to mean 'tuesday' if you wish, but I am using it to mean the view that no gods exist.

Appeal to ridicule. Classy.

But let's go with it for a moment. I could as you say use 'atheism' to mean 'Tuesday' and come up with a whole page of reasoning to justify, say, not allowing myself to eat bacon today because of it being a Tuesday (say I believed I might explode or something). Then someone points out that my original definition is flawed, and it's not actually Tuesday. Am I still justified in holding to the conclusions I drew and, in this case, forbidden to eat bacon today?

Also, please learn to quote properly. It's really not that hard - here's a short BB Code Guide to help.
At the age of five, Skagra decided emphatically that God did not exist.  This revelation tends to make most people in the universe who have it react in one of two ways - with relief or with despair.  Only Skagra responded to it by thinking, 'Wait a second.  That means there's a situation vacant.'
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#28
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
quotePerhaps the instinct to moralize has evolved. I'm hard pressed to think of any vice which has not been acceptable to some human society, somewhere, at some time./quote

if atheism is true then I think there will be some kind of evolutionary story one can tell about the development of our moral sense and beliefs. those disposed to view certain types of act as ones they have reason not to perform whatever their ends are people who can trust each other (to some extent). if I believe you believe lying to be something you have reason not to do even if you want to, I can trust you more than I can someone who thinks they have reason not to lie only so long as they happen to want not to lie.

The problem, however, is that morality itself is not these sensations and beliefs. For morality to really exist there would have to be some acts that we really do have reason not to do whatever our ends. And there are not. That's why I think morality does not really exist if atheism is true, it merely 'appears' to exist.
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#29
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
(June 30, 2013 at 10:35 pm)Inigo Wrote: The problem, however, is that morality itself is not these sensations and beliefs. For morality to really exist there would have to be some acts that we really do have reason not to do whatever our ends. And there are not. That's why I think morality does not really exist if atheism is true, it merely 'appears' to exist.

Where this line of reasoning loses me is that I don't understand how a deity somehow provides a better explanation for morality. Deity=morals can hardly be true since morality has varied so substantially throughout cultures. Some things that we consider basic morals (say pedophilia) has been perfectly acceptable in some societies (to pick a not random example, Muhammad in early Islam) It seems the morals vary too much to come from a deity. Even if morals were universal I don't see how that means they came from the supernatural. To say that you lack an understanding of where your morals come from so they must come from God (or in your case, it's possible they come from God) seems to be just a variation on the God of the gaps arguments.

There are many explanations I'd consider more credible than the supernatural to explain morality.
[Image: dcep7c.jpg]
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#30
RE: From atheism to tentative agnosticism
Quote:Where this line of reasoning loses me is that I don't understand how a deity somehow provides a better explanation for morality. Deity=morals can hardly be true since morality has varied so substantially throughout cultures. Some things that we consider basic morals (say pedophilia) has been perfectly acceptable in some societies (to pick a not random example, Muhammad in early Islam) It seems the morals vary too much to come from a deity. Even if morals were universal I don't see how that means they came from the supernatural. To say that you lack an understanding of where your morals come from so they must come from God (or in your case, it's possible they come from God) seems to be just a variation on the God of the gaps arguments.


I never made that argument though. I never argued that 'I don't understand where morals come from, therefore they come from god'. Someone has attributed that to me out of convenience to their criticism. But it is not at all what I argued. I started by noting that morality has certain features. First, it is instructional. Second, those instructions are ones that we have reason to comply with whatever our interests. It seems to me that there is only one kind of thing that can issue instructions - real instructions, that is - and that's an agent. I do not know of how anything other than an agent can issue an instruction. I cannot think of anything. But an agent undoubtedly can. Given that morality certainly instructs, I infer that morality must be an agent of some kind.
But the agent cannot be one of us, or our community etc, for the instructions of ourselves or our community would not have the kind of rational authority possessed by moral instructions. I think only the instructions of an agent who has control over our fate in an afterlife would have that feature. So I infer that morality must be composed of the instructions of such an agency.
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