question for all non-theists

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jmac2112
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question for all non-theists

Post #1

Post by jmac2112 »

I'm looking for definitions or accounts of "truth" from anyone who holds the view that nothing exists beyond the natural world, or that at any rate we cannot know whether anything exists beyond the natural world. I'd appreciate it if you could distinguish between "theoretical/factual" truth (A is B) and moral truth (i.e. matters of good/bad, right/wrong, what "should" be done).

Thanks!

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Post #11

Post by McCulloch »

Autodidact wrote: Unfortunately, I do not think there is general agreement that the proper goal of morality is to reduce human suffering; quite the contrary. Many religionists believe the goal of morality is to follow God's rules, and moral arguments are arguments about what those rules are.
I think that those religionists believe that the reduction of human suffering is the goal of morality. They just perceive that human suffering extends into the afterlife and that to reduce human suffering in the afterlife, it is necessary to provide propitiation to the deity. And since we don't have direct access to the deity, morality to them is reduced to an exercise in hermeneutics.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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ThatGirlAgain
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Post #12

Post by ThatGirlAgain »

McCulloch wrote:
Autodidact wrote: Unfortunately, I do not think there is general agreement that the proper goal of morality is to reduce human suffering; quite the contrary. Many religionists believe the goal of morality is to follow God's rules, and moral arguments are arguments about what those rules are.
I think that those religionists believe that the reduction of human suffering is the goal of morality. They just perceive that human suffering extends into the afterlife and that to reduce human suffering in the afterlife, it is necessary to provide propitiation to the deity. And since we don't have direct access to the deity, morality to them is reduced to an exercise in hermeneutics.
There are those among the religionists who believe that human suffering in this world is not to be reduced, being God's will. In fact they consider it beneficial. In Catholic religion class, we were told that if we 'offer up our suffering' (whatever that means) it will reduce our time in Purgatory,which is a lot worse than anything in this world. Remember Mother Teresa and the absence of pain meds?
Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.
- Bertrand Russell

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Post #13

Post by Adurumus »

Christopher Hitchens on Mother Teresa wrote:This returns us to the medieval corruption of the church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.
I'm going with Hitchens on this one.
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jmac2112
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Post #14

Post by jmac2112 »

Anyone have any more thoughts on the OP?

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Post #15

Post by postroad »

jmac2112 wrote:Anyone have any more thoughts on the OP?
Well, I like to throw out the concept that self awareness only exists in a reality composed of matter plus energy.

I could imagine that the spiritual realm is devoid of matter so the assumption could be that self awareness does not exist in such a reality?

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ThatGirlAgain
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Post #16

Post by ThatGirlAgain »

jmac2112 wrote:
McCulloch wrote:
jmac2112 wrote:McCulloch,
The sort of reasoning that I'm talking about would ask the question "Why should human suffering be reduced?" That seems like an obtuse question, similar to someone asking for proof that 1+1=2. But what first principle(s) would you posit that is (are) implicit in all such reasoning?
Premise 1: I, a human, do not like to suffer.
Premise 2: Humans are a social species. Our success as a species is dependent on our ability to work together.
Premise 3: In order to successfully improve the probability that I will suffer least, I must live in a human society which minimizes human suffering.
Conclusion: It is in my best interest to promote those attributes of human society which reduce human suffering.
I guess what I'm saying is this: In any chain of questions involving terms like "why" or "what good is", do you arrive at a point where you simply can't give another reason? A point where questioning becomes meaningless, no matter how much you may wish to humor your interlocutor?

For instance, I could still reasonably (though perhaps callously) push you further on your statements above:

1) Why don't you like to suffer?
2) To the question "Why should we work together?" you would reply "Because our success as a species is dependant on it." But I could then ask "What good is the success of our species? Why should we care about that?" (This question is actually posed by some extreme environmentalists).
3) Similarly to #1, I could ask "Why is it in your best interest not to suffer?"
"Best interest" assumes that there is some means of measuring the 'goodness' of an alternative. The most effective measure of whether something might be called good or not is whether it leads to survival. If it does not lead to survival, then it is neither good nor bad. It is non-existent.

Specific moral codes that support the ability of a society to survive are 'true' in the sense that they correspond to the realities of survival. But changes in the environment may render the truth of some of its aspects false. A moral truth is true only with respect to the world it exists in. It is true contingently not absolutely. It is somewhat comparable to the truth of "the sun is shining", which is true only locally. It may rain tomorrow. It may be raining now someplace else.
Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.
- Bertrand Russell

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Post #17

Post by jmac2112 »

ThatGirlAgain wrote:

"The most effective measure of whether something might be called good or not is whether it leads to survival."

Why is survival good?


I promise I'm not just being a twit by asking this question.

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Post #18

Post by Goat »

jmac2112 wrote:ThatGirlAgain wrote:

"The most effective measure of whether something might be called good or not is whether it leads to survival."

Why is survival good?


I promise I'm not just being a twit by asking this question.
Subjectively, because I like it. .. and it is instinctual to us. It is instinctual because those that did not have that characteristic died a lot quicker, and didn't pass that instinct on to further generations.

Now, the claim 'survival is good' is totally subjective..
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

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Post #19

Post by McCulloch »

ThatGirlAgain wrote: The most effective measure of whether something might be called good or not is whether it leads to survival.
jmac2112 wrote: Why is survival good?
Good is a relative term. It needs an object. Good for whom? Generally, speaking, survival is good for the entity that survives. Although not always. When looking at it collectively, then survival is good for the collective (tribe, family, nation, species). Without an object, good loses meaning.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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ThatGirlAgain
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Post #20

Post by ThatGirlAgain »

Goat wrote:
jmac2112 wrote:ThatGirlAgain wrote:

"The most effective measure of whether something might be called good or not is whether it leads to survival."

Why is survival good?


I promise I'm not just being a twit by asking this question.
Subjectively, because I like it. .. and it is instinctual to us. It is instinctual because those that did not have that characteristic died a lot quicker, and didn't pass that instinct on to further generations.

Now, the claim 'survival is good' is totally subjective..
Agreed. Survival is neither good nor bad except subjectively for the survivors. And they consider it good because one obvious survival trait almost certain to be picked up along the way is to consider survival good. Self-referential? Sure, isn't that what survival is all about, self-propagating feedback loops?
Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.
- Bertrand Russell

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