Atheism and morality
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28-05-2015, 08:51 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(28-05-2015 08:13 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(28-05-2015 07:14 AM)Chas Wrote:  No.

They are very different. Mathematics is an axiomatic system; morality has not been shown to be such.

I also think there is some confusion about whether mathematics is subjective or objective. Those words don't really apply to mathematics. Mathematics is true by convention.

But not, objectively or subjectively true? So there are truths which are neither subjective or objective?

I don't think the fact there's some confusion here by different posters, is really helping all that much either.

My opinion is that there are mathematical statements that are objective truths within that system.
There are infinitely many axiomatic systems so there aren't universal mathematical truths.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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28-05-2015, 08:56 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(23-05-2015 04:05 PM)Matt Finney Wrote:  I've noticed that many atheists believe in an absolute morality. That is, that some things are "really right" and others are "really wrong" regardless of any particular human's opinion. I'm curious to hear from members here about this. Obviously, morality is a very simple problem for theists.....God decides what is moral for them, but I want to hear from atheists who feel that there is a rightness and wrongness (good and evil) property of our actions. I believe that we all just make up our own set of morals, and that nothing in the universe except humans, really cares if you save the world, or destroy an entire nation of people. It's not that I don't want to be moral, quite the contrary, I try to use the golden rule and I try to be completely honest all the time. I just don't want to delude myself into believing that some things are "really right" or "really wrong" when the logical part of my mind tells me this is impossible.

Thoughts?

Morals simply aren't "really right" or "really wrong". The thing with morality is, a lot of actions don't simply fit into neat little boxes of "right" or "wrong". There is a LOT of grey areas in morality. On one hand, the bible states you must respect your mother and father. It's pretty vague.

What if this mother and father beat you? Rape you? Torture you? Are you still to respect them? Are you still to love them?

It's immoral to lie, cheat, or steal. Is this true in every situation?

What about killing a human being? In what cases is this absolutely right or absolutely wrong? What about the death penalty? Who is the murderer in that case, the one who issues the sentence or the one who carries out the punishment?

The bible does a vague job at explaining these as well.
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28-05-2015, 08:58 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(27-05-2015 12:54 PM)Stevil Wrote:  This is a common misconception.
First and foremost I think we all need to recognize that we have limited power, limited options. We aren't the strongest, we aren't invincible.

If you watch very young children they learn this lesson early on.
Put a two year old in with another two year old. They snatch things from each other, they push and shove, they hit.
They learn pretty early on that if they snatch something then the other kid either cries getting the attention of an adult who then tells the snatcher off or the other kids punches the snatcher and the snatcher cries.
It's just a reality of life.

You say: “Its not about fear or dread. It is simply about assessing the situation and understanding the path of most likely success.” Yet, pretty much every example you use revolves around fear and dread, such as the one above.

The child here avoids snatching another child’s toy, out of fear of getting in trouble by an adult, or the other kid inflicting violence upon him. And in conjunction with the monkey example, over time this avoidance can become habitual, conditioned by those earlier repercussions, that he continues to avoid stanching another person’s toy, even when those repercussions are no longer present. It’s like a dog who fears his owners wrath so he avoids jumping on the couch, and avoids doing so when he’s not around, or even with a new owner.

Fear and dread potentially leading to habitual behaviors is all true of course. When I first started driving, and needed to shift lanes, I never used to turn to the side to check my blind spots. After the first accident that resulted, the fear and dread of this repeating itself, lead me to always look at my blindspot, sometimes multiple times, as sort of nervous tick, or paranoia that I might have missed something. This is a practice has become sort of instinctual, habitual now, and traces of that initial fear and dread remain, often experienced as an acute anxiety.

But the problem present in all your examples, is that fear, dread, anxiety, are not the only means in which habits form. And I’ll have to appeal to terms you seem consistently uncomfortable with using, and that is love and empathy. We use the term love even in colloquially sense, to describe things we enjoy, like eating chocolate cake, going to beach. Doing things we love, or out of love, often expresses our delight in things we do, rather than as an outgrowth of our anxieties and fears. And in some sense, often when we love someone, or feel empathy towards that someone appears as a sort of extension of ourselves, our mirror neurons fire away in relationship to them, if we see them in pain. It’s perhaps more painful to watch your child being tortured to death, than being tortured to death yourself. And in the same way having my niece eat the last slice of cake, can be far more enjoyable to me than eating the last slice myself.
....
A stranger approaches me in a dept store confused about which type of USB cable she needs for her iPhone. I can think to myself why would I want to waste my time helping a stranger, when I can just continue with my errands for the day, and return home and kick my feet up sooner. I can also think to myself, that if I don’t assist her, she might curse me out, or make a scene, and that could be very embarrassing for me. But these consideration don’t particularly exist at this moment, not even in some sort of background anxiety. I help her with this out of a delight, because I enjoy doing so here, not out of any fear or dread, or anxiety.

I recall a time when I was in military, and in our final week we had to participate in a event called the Crucible. You’re given two packaged meals, that you’re supposed to make last for entire week. I was particularly good at rationing myself accordingly. One of other recruits, that I couldn’t say I really liked, had ended up finishing his food a day or so earlier, and he asked if he can have something small to eat. I remember immediately feeling nothing but contempt, how could this fool who couldn’t discipline himself as I have, dare to even ask even for my crumbs. I refused to give him anything (there seems to be a delight in contempt too, but different that the delight in love). After the week was finished, I noticed that I still had a decent amount of food remaining, that at this point would just be thrown away, because it wasn’t very good, and I was no longer very hungry or desperate. Perhaps at this point I felt a little ashamed for my refusal, but I got over it.

Quote:Sure when we get older we reason to ourselves "yeah, I don't want that toy anyway, its not mine, I don't want to take it" but this is an introspection rather than a philosophical explanation. Most likely an excuse rather than the real reason.
We certainly don't constantly plot in our heads how we can pinch the object and get away with it, but then chicken out through fear of retaliation.
Philosophically (I think) it stems back to the real consequences rather than a desire to be good.

The problem I think for you, is that you imagine that the “real reason” is this one thing only, an anxiety, a fear, over consequences. I don’t think consequences have much to do with why you desire to have sex with your wife. That desire is elicited by the enjoyment, the delight you find in it. To go back to my examples, there’s a delight in helping this stranger, which is not particularly there when refusing to give the recruit some of my food.

Quote:I’m currently reading Star wars books (Lost tribe of the Sith). I think a decent depiction is the Sith vs Jedi. The Sith are more awake, more real. They have emotions but are not lead by them to distinguish right vs wrong. They are always awake, always looking for opportunity to better their own lot. They recognise that others are doing the same, they are weary even in their own alliances.

But it could be true that you dread helping strangers, that you find no enjoyment from it. That there’s nothing particularly attractive about being kind, of loving, or empathetic, unlike your wife’s body. That the dark side of the Sith, is more attractive to you than the light side. That the side you find more appealing is one who refuses the irresponsible fool food, than the side who helps a stranger.
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28-05-2015, 09:17 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(28-05-2015 08:44 AM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote:  It's no accident that you bring up the comparison, whether you realize it or not, because mathematics is also a language used to describe our universe, only using different terms and more arcane symbology.

So is science. Science is also a language used to describe our universe, using terms and arcane symbology. Since language is contextual, we can never speak of an objective world, the world is eternally subjective, all the voices, and descriptions we give it are our own, and once our eyes are forever closed it ceases to exist.

"One school of thought compares scientific knowledge to the mythology of other cultures, arguing that it is merely our society's set of myths based on our society's assumptions. For support, Paul Feyerabend's comments in Against Method that "The similarities between science and myth are indeed astonishing" and "First-world science is one science among many"

"Elsewhere, Bloor and Barry Barnes have said "For the relativist [such as us] there is no sense attached to the idea that some standards or beliefs are really rational as distinct from merely locally accepted as such."[4] In France, Bruno Latour has claimed that "Since the settlement of a controversy is the cause of Nature's representation, not the consequence, we can never use the outcome – Nature – to explain how and why a controversy has been settled."[5]"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factual_relativism
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28-05-2015, 09:18 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(28-05-2015 08:51 AM)Chas Wrote:  My opinion is that there are mathematical statements that are objective truths within that system.
There are infinitely many axiomatic systems so there aren't universal mathematical truths.

... and Gödel kicks ass.
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28-05-2015, 09:31 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(28-05-2015 09:17 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(28-05-2015 08:44 AM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote:  It's no accident that you bring up the comparison, whether you realize it or not, because mathematics is also a language used to describe our universe, only using different terms and more arcane symbology.

So is science. Science is also a language used to describe our universe, using terms and arcane symbology. Since language is contextual, we can never speak of an objective world, the world is eternally subjective, all the voices, and descriptions we give it are our own, and once our eyes are forever closed it ceases to exist.

That is a nonsequitur. Only our experience of it is subjective. It is entirely possible, and indeed likely, that an objective reality exists, which is why multiple subjective perceptions, although they differ minutely, still produce objectively reliable results.

In others words, the subjective nature of perception doesn't mean that solipsism is the rule, which is clearly what you're going for here.

Before you start arguing my point above, go jump off a cliff with the perception that you are flying. Then, and only then, will your argument hold water.

(28-05-2015 09:17 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  "One school of thought compares scientific knowledge to the mythology of other cultures, arguing that it is merely our society's set of myths based on our society's assumptions. For support, Paul Feyerabend's comments in Against Method that "The similarities between science and myth are indeed astonishing" and "First-world science is one science among many"

Unfortunately for that argument, the results of first-world modern science speak for themselves. The explanatory power is such that technology -- applied science -- allows us to have this silent conversation whereby I can implant thoughts in your head ... but that relies on QM being accurate, Faraday's equations working, and so on.

No amount of sacrificing to a mythical being will make your computer work.

(28-05-2015 09:17 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  "Elsewhere, Bloor and Barry Barnes have said "For the relativist [such as us] there is no sense attached to the idea that some standards or beliefs are really rational as distinct from merely locally accepted as such."[4] In France, Bruno Latour has claimed that "Since the settlement of a controversy is the cause of Nature's representation, not the consequence, we can never use the outcome – Nature – to explain how and why a controversy has been settled."[5]"

I disagree. If you just drove from Birmingham to London, that result resolves any controversy over whether the vehicle can operate reliably over that distance by demonstrating it.

In short, simply because perception is subjective, it doesn't follow that all reality is. You're confusing the mental experience of reality with reality itself.
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28-05-2015, 09:34 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(28-05-2015 08:51 AM)Chas Wrote:  My opinion is that there are mathematical statements that are objective truths within that system.
There are infinitely many axiomatic systems so there aren't universal mathematical truths.

I think you mean absolute, not universal. Since universal and objective tend to be used synonymously, where as absolute might be more accurate for the distinction I believe you're trying to make here.

Either way, why can't there be moral statements that are objective truths within a particular system, as well?
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28-05-2015, 09:34 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(28-05-2015 09:17 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(28-05-2015 08:44 AM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote:  It's no accident that you bring up the comparison, whether you realize it or not, because mathematics is also a language used to describe our universe, only using different terms and more arcane symbology.

So is science. Science is also a language used to describe our universe, using terms and arcane symbology. Since language is contextual, we can never speak of an objective world, the world is eternally subjective, all the voices, and descriptions we give it are our own, and once our eyes are forever closed it ceases to exist.

No, it isn't. Science is a methodology.

Quote:"One school of thought compares scientific knowledge to the mythology of other cultures, arguing that it is merely our society's set of myths based on our society's assumptions. For support, Paul Feyerabend's comments in Against Method that "The similarities between science and myth are indeed astonishing" and "First-world science is one science among many"

Utter bullshit. Drinking Beverage

Quote:"Elsewhere, Bloor and Barry Barnes have said "For the relativist [such as us] there is no sense attached to the idea that some standards or beliefs are really rational as distinct from merely locally accepted as such."[4] In France, Bruno Latour has claimed that "Since the settlement of a controversy is the cause of Nature's representation, not the consequence, we can never use the outcome – Nature – to explain how and why a controversy has been settled."[5]"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factual_relativism

Nature settles the disagreements.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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28-05-2015, 09:37 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(28-05-2015 09:34 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(28-05-2015 08:51 AM)Chas Wrote:  My opinion is that there are mathematical statements that are objective truths within that system.
There are infinitely many axiomatic systems so there aren't universal mathematical truths.

I think you mean absolute, not universal. Since universal and objective tend to be used synonymously, where as absolute might be more accurate for the distinction I believe you're trying to make here.

Either way, why can't there be moral statements that are objective truths within a particular system, as well?

I would say that there are - but first the system has to be defined.
Who will define it? People will define it. And the definition will be subjective and relative.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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28-05-2015, 11:19 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(28-05-2015 08:21 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  I think I can start to see some of the problems here, a subtle conflation of subjective and relative, and objective and absolute.

Yay! Epiphany!

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