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FFT: Seversky and the IS-OUGHT gap

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In the ongoing AJ vs ID discussion thread, major tangential debates have developed. One of these is on the IS-OUGHT gap, and it is worth headlining due to its pivotal worldviews importance (and yes, this is a philosophy issue). Let us start with Seversky, highlighting his key contention — which is commonly asserted:

Sev, 261: >>Origenes @ 258

The matter seems very simple to me: because fermions and bosons are completely indifferent about morality, it is not possible to ground morality for atheists/materialists.

You cannot logically derive “ought” from “is”. No one can, not even God. So, if our morality is God-given, how did He – or, indeed, any other being – derive it? Did He toss a coin?>>

Origines, 262 (to EA but relevant): >>Eric Anderson @259

Thank you for pointing out the typical materialistic response wrt morality.

EA: However, the squirming can eventually follow the direction it does for the rest of the materialist creation story: namely, at some point Characteristic X didn’t exist, and then at some later point Characteristic X “evolved.”

The majority of materialists fails to understand that materialism can only take us to the illusion of effective moral laws. Suppose that by ‘Characteristic X’ is meant organismal behavior which is consistent with the moral law “thou shall not steal”. Now, in a purely material universe, all sorts of physical stuff can contribute to X, but X can never be caused by the moral law “thou shall not steal”. The consistency with a moral law is happenstantial and not an intended result. There cannot be a moral law who is telling atoms how to behave. In a materialistic world the moral law “though shall not steal” has no power to reach down in the brain and rearrange neuronal behavior so as to comply with that moral law.

Illusion.

Given materialism, it can only be the case that it is as if a moral law is being respected. So, no, naturalism cannot get us to morality. It can only get us to the illusion of morality. It can result in behavior which, incidentally, is consistent with a moral law. But noticing this consistency is nothing more than the occasional observation of temporal happenstantial synchronicity between two totally unrelated things.>>

KF, 263: >>Seversky, if you have been keeping track that is not what is at stake. The issue is, we are patently inescapably morally governed, as for instance you implied by trying to correct and by expecting us to have a sense of duty to the truth and the right. Either that speaks truly or mindedness collapses into grand delusion. As, if such is a delusional perception in an actually utterly amoral world then delusion is at the heart of attempts to reason and be responsible — as Rosenberg implies but tries to put a rosy picture on. Absurd. So, we need to ask, what sort of world must we be in for such moral government not to be rooted in grand delusion. This points to world-roots that cannot be infinite regress or a chicken-egg loop. Finitely remote, necessary being root. As, were there ever utter non-being (which can have no causal powers) such would forever obtain. The premise that, on pain of grand delusion and absurdity, we are responsibly and rationally significantly free and morally governed, self-moved creatures then leads to the world root being a necessary being that is at the same time inextricably the root of moral government. Where, if we are not self-moved initiating causal agents, we have no true freedom to draw a LOGICAL, meaningful inference from grounds and/or evidence to the consequent or a warranted conclusion, we would be trapped in a delusion of rationality while actually being the GIGO-limited playthings of our computational substrates and their blind, mechanically driven and/or stochastic cause effect chains. We must be free and self-moved to be rational or responsible. Is and ought are not IS–> OUGHT, but instead that they are inherently inextricably entangled and utterly fused at the world-root. There is one serious candidate (if you doubt, kindly provide a coherent alternative: _____ ) i.e. the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.>>

The immediate context for this is also well worth excerpting as a part of the spark for onward discussion:

HP, 256: >>The [subjective moralists] I have read . . .  don’t say that “moral values and obligations are totally subjective.”, they claim that the individual values are subjective. A small distinction I realize, but an important one. And, I apologize in advance for not phrasing this as well as I would like.

My own personal belief is that our system of morality is a combination of objective and subjective. The most obvious objective aspect of our morality system is that the existance of this system appears to be universal amongst humans. Even psychopaths and sociopaths have a morality system. They just happen to be very different than that of the majority of the population. Of the other values (not killing, lying, stealing…) some may be objective and others subjective. Frankly, I don’t know. And I don’t really care. But the one thing that makes logical sense is that if there are objective morals, they are not independent of subjectivity. They are either strengthened by our experiences or they are weakened. Thus explaining the variations that we see in their application amongst different cultures.>>

Origines, 258:>>

hammaspeikko: The ones I have read, which I admit are limited, are more nuanced than that. They don’t say that “moral values and obligations are totally subjective.”, they claim that the individual values are subjective. A small distinction I realize, but an important one.

I have never heard about such a moral system. Individual values are subjective and non-individual values are not? Can you provide some more info?
The matter seems very simple to me: because fermions and bosons are completely indifferent about morality, it is not possible to ground morality for atheists/materialists.

Here is atheistic philosopher Alex Rosenberg:

Scientism can’t avoid nihilism. We need to make the best of it….

First, nihilism can’t condemn Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or those who fomented the Armenian genocide or the Rwandan one. If there is no such thing as “morally forbidden,” then what Mohamed Atta did on September 11, 2001, was not morally forbidden. Of course, it was not permitted either. But still, don’t we want to have grounds to condemn these monsters? Nihilism seems to cut that ground out from under us. …

To avoid these outcomes, people have been searching for scientifically respectable justification of morality for least a century and a half. The trouble is that over the same 150 years or so, the reasons for nihilism have continued to mount. Both the failure to find an ethics that everyone can agree on and the scientific explanation of the origin and persistence of moral norms have made nihilism more and more plausible while remaining just as unappetizing.

[A. Rosenberg, ‘The Atheist’s Guide To Reality’, ch. 5]>>

EA, 259: >>Origenes:

The matter seems very simple to me: because fermions and bosons are completely indifferent about morality, it is not possible to ground morality for atheists/materialists.

I think your point is well made, and should be sufficient to make any materialist squirm.

However, the squirming can eventually follow the direction it does for the rest of the materialist creation story: namely, at some point Characteristic X didn’t exist, and then at some later point Characteristic X “evolved.”

This may not seem very intellectually satisfactory to the objective observer, but the materialist is perfectly happy to argue that morality evolved as a result of [insert made-up reason here]. It isn’t fundamentally different than any other system or characteristic evolving. No details. No particular reason or direction. It just did.

So while I agree with your general point, and Rosenberg’s frank admission, the entire issue becomes lost on the committed materialist. After all, the entire view of history and creation and all that this entails, is just — as you aptly noted — nothing more than a long accidental sequence of particles bumping into each other.

And those particles, so the thinking does, don’t have to ground anything. Not design, not functional complexity, not information. Nothing. Just wait long enough for the particles to bump into each other enough times, and — Ta Da! — here we are. Whether we are talking about molecular machines or morality, it is all the same in the materialist creation story.

Remember, this is all right in line with the Great Evolutionary Explanation for all things:

Stuff Happens.

It is really no more substantive than that.>>

So, how then do we come to be morally governed, and what does this imply about us and the world? END

297 Replies to “FFT: Seversky and the IS-OUGHT gap

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Arthur Holmes:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments.
    [Arthur F. Holmes, Ethics, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1984), p. 81. Holmes goes on to point out that certain duties arise from our particular relationships, commitments and roles in the family and wider community. We may also face situations in which we are forced to choose the lesser of evils, especially where delay or inaction is in effect to make a worse choice.]

    KF

  2. 2
    daveS says:

    KF,

    The premise that, on pain of grand delusion and absurdity, we are responsibly and rationally significantly free and morally governed, self-moved creatures then leads to the world root being a necessary being that is at the same time inextricably the root of moral government.

    So, how then do we come to be morally governed, and what does this imply about us and the world?

    In the other thread I asked a question which I believe is on-topic here:

    I take it that just as in mathematics, there are no “free parameters” in objective morality. In other words, just as even God could not arrange for e^iπ to be a number other than −1, He cannot choose to make some action moral or immoral—it just is moral or immoral, period. Could humans simply have the ability to discern (however imperfectly) this objective morality, even in the absence of a God?

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, observe, morality — goodness — is an integral component of God’s character, in ethical theism. Likewise, to be rational, a being must be self-moved and free, thus is in the realm of moral government inherently, with duties to truth and right — to say that God as world-root being is Reason Himself is also to imply that he is inherently morally governed, tied to his character. . The Euthyphro dilemma failed to address and still fails to address the difference between a small-g god who comes along and the world-root necessary being whose character inherently is maximally great. KF

  4. 4
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, observe, morality — goodness — is an integral component of God’s character, in ethical theism.

    Yes.

    Likewise, to be rational, a being must be self-moved and free,

    Ok.

    thus is in the realm of moral government inherently, with duties to truth and right — to say that God as world-root being is Reason Himself is also to imply that he is inherently morally governed, tied to his character.

    Ok, true if God exists.

    The Euthyphro dilemma failed to address and still fails to address the difference between a small-g god who comes along and the world-root necessary being whose character inherently is maximally great.

    Ok, but I don’t see how that pertains to my proposal.

    If a God (or perhaps any world-root) would have no role in determining objective morality (it is objective, and hence exists independently of whether there are any minds to ponder it), why do we conclude that the existence of objective morality is evidence for a God/world root?

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, pardon, you stated a form of that failed dilemma argument. KF

    PS: Nothing exists, apart from the necessary being world-root. the issue is, its character. And you rightly point out that thoughts need minds to contemplate them. Objective realities can be inherently mental, e.g. numbers. I tend to use the von Neumann construction and extensions therefrom.

  6. 6
    daveS says:

    KF,

    No, I don’t see how it’s the same. My proposal is this: Just as we do not need a deity/world root to do mathematics, we do not need a deity/world root to identify and exercise objective morality.

    (Of course if you assume already that a world-root exists, then you’re done. But my understanding is that you are using the is/ought argument to support the existence of a world-root).

  7. 7
    daveS says:

    KF,

    PS: In fact, I’m not invoking a dilemma at all here—I am explicitly assuming that what (a hypothetical) God tells us to do is moral because it is objectively moral, not simply because it’s what God tells us to do. Presumably we’re agreed on that?

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, in other threads such as the one excerpted, the need for a world root was discussed, over a fair length of time now. In the OP the reason we look at a world-root at finite remove is given in highly compressed form, and it is not based on IS-OUGHT issues. The causal-temporal order needs explanation, and three possibilities obtain. Of these, the one that does not run into antimomies is a finitely remote world-root of necessary being character. The onward question is the nature of such, where our existence as credibly morally governed creatures constrains options and forces consideration of a root-IS that is inherently root of OUGHT also. If you do not like the candidate on offer from ethical theism, simply propose another that does not run into antinomies: ______ KF

  9. 9
    daveS says:

    KF,

    The causal-temporal order needs explanation, and three possibilities obtain. Of these, the one that does not run into antimomies is a finitely remote world-root of necessary being character. The onward question is the nature of such, where our existence as credibly morally governed creatures constrains options and forces consideration of a root-IS that is inherently root of OUGHT also.

    My question boils down to, if these OUGHTs are objective, why do they need to be “rooted” in anything? Does the fact that 1 + 1 = 2 need to be rooted in the existence of some being (who obviously could have no influence on whether it is true or not)?

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, oughtness in the end is integral to the world-root. The inherent nature of that root will ground subsidiary being including rational, responsibly free self-moved beings who must choose and act aright for their thriving and that of the world. This includes things like truthfulness, diligence to reason soundly, care to be accurate and materially complete in observation, being accurate in reporting and careful in inference, the need to attend to coherence, recognition and respect of distinct identity etc. KF

    PS: For the expression 1 + 1 = 2 to be true it rests on numbers, operations, relationships, and more. It is self evident by direct demonstration of clustering distinct unities to form a duality but this requires experience to understand what is being said or done. Think about how we teach simple addition. The underlying reality behind the expression of course requires that at least one world is, requiring a root reality; recall, utter non being can be contemplated but not actualised. That root reality will be a necessary being of some character, and thus the numerical truth will be an integral part of that root reality. As an ethical theist, I would point out that eternal verities are eternally contemplated by the eternal mind. Where, that mind is effectively synonymous with the world root. Absent that, utter non being and we would not be here to have a discussion, indeed, nothing at all would exist.

  11. 11

    “Darwin’s simplistic explanations have failed, and the millions that have followed him have nothing but his outdated assumptions to stand on.”

    Douglas Axe
    “Undeniable” (2016)

  12. 12
    jdk says:

    Over in the “FFT: Worldviews…” thread HeKS and I have been discussing this topic for quite a while.

    I started my part of the discussion at 83. kf had written:

    the sort of world imagined by AJ [one in which there is a root-level IS that has no OUGHTS] is an incoherent impossible world, not a credibly possible world.

    [Link below]

    I replied, and have been arguing the case for, the following:

    But I can easily imagine a coherent and possible world where a supreme being created our universe, with all the qualities necessary to produce the physics, chemistry, and biology that we see (that is, is the ground of IS), but who is supremely indifferent to the details of how the world goes, including the actions of the life forms within it (that is, is supremely indifferent to OUGHT).

    I see no incoherent impossibility, no self-refutation, in believing, or at least being able to imagine, that this is the type of supreme IS-ness that underlies the world.

    Those interested could read some of what HeKS and I have posted. (There is an entirely different topic intertwined with ours, so you would want to skip some of the posts.)

    https://uncommondescent.com/ethics/science-worldview-issues-and-society/fft-the-worldviews-level-challenge-what-the-objectors-to-design-thought-are-running-away-from/#comment-629921

  13. 13
    mike1962 says:

    DaveS: Just as we do not need a deity/world root to do mathematics

    By “need” you mean, “need to know the identity of in the sense of some personal God”, I would gather.

    Because whatever the “world-root” is, whether it is something impersonal or “personal”, whatever that means ultimately, mathematics and every thing else is necessarily dependent on it by definition.

  14. 14
    daveS says:

    mike1962,

    DaveS: Just as we do not need a deity/world root to do mathematics

    By “need” you mean, “need to know the identity of in the sense of some personal God”, I would gather.

    Because whatever the “world-root” is, whether it is something impersonal or “personal”, whatever that means ultimately, mathematics and every thing else is necessarily dependent on it by definition.

    I actually did mean that the truth of mathematical statements such as 1 + 1 = 2 is not dependent on God/the world-root, or whatever we choose to call it. At least that’s my opinion. In what way could the truth of 1 + 1 = 2 depend on anyone or anything?

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, absent a sufficient root, no world, not this nor any other alternative, just non-being. The issue is the nature of that root, and you can see the alternatives, leading to a finitely remote necessary being. This is still far indeed from any God as such. What puts God on the table is the issue that we are inescapably morally governed, something that is inextricably entangled with our rationality and freedom. I outlined the sorts of moral commitments involved in consistently sound reasoning, for example. Then, we see either our sense of such government is utterly delusional, taking all of mannishness we care about down with it in an apocalypse of grand delusion, or that moral government is real. If it is (and that is the reasonable alternative), there is but one place it can find an adequate source, in a world root IS that is inherently, inextricably also the root of ought. That is Hume’s inadvertent gift, and the answer to Hume’s challenge. I have put up the only serious candidate for that world-root level fusion we have received after centuries of debates. If you can find one not rapidly falling to antinomies, feel free to suggest: _____ KF

    PS: You are back at mathematics, and it is obvious that the key abstracta are aspects of the necessary root frameworking reality of this or any world, starting with numbers and their logical relationships. As abstracta they are inherently mental objects. That points again to the core nature of the world-root. Essentially, mind. Mind that eternally contemplates these things and through a deep rationality builds the logic of structure and quantity into this or any other possible world. A deep rationality that requires both utter freedom to be self-moved and initiatory, and the utter discipline of moral government that keeps reasoning sound. (I find it astonishing that we are so blind to how deeply, broadly pervasive moral government is in rational action.) So, the issue is that the elements of 1 + 1 = 2 depend on a world being, and that alternatives as to the nature of the root of the world are constrained by the reality of our own moral government and the necessity that such be sourced at world-root level. The alternative to such rooting, is that our mindedness collapses in an avalanche of grand delusion.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Do we not perceive the sense that we OUGHT to be reasonable, rational, responsible? OUGHT to seek the truth and the right? OUGHT not to yield to errors and fallacies or enmesh others in such? And so forth? KF

  17. 17
    Origenes says:

    Materialism is essentially an attempt to unmask the world we are familiar with. It informs us that things at the macro-level of our daily life are not at all what they seem to be.

    This is based on materialism’s metaphysical claim that true unitary existence is only to be found at the physical micro-level. Materialism is the claim that all of reality consists of impersonal indivisible fundamental elements —fermions and bosons— which are the source of all true causation.
    ‘All oneness at the macro-level is an illusion’ is the ‘great insight’ of materialism.

    For instance, at macro-level a rock may present itself to us as one indivisible thing, however materialism informs us that its oneness is an illusion; in fact it is nothing over and beyond the minuscule fundamental indivisible elements, which truly exists as single things. These fundamental elements that make the rock don’t have the rock in mind. They don’t care if they are part of a rock or any other conglomerate.
    According to materialism there are no exceptions to this rule of reduction.
    Similarly a robot, made from Lego blocks, which cleans the porch, may present itself to us as one indivisible thing which wants a clean porch, but in fact there is nothing over and beyond Lego blocks which care about neither robots nor porches. The illusion of a sympathetic personal robot is produced by unhelpful impersonal Lego blocks. To be clear, there is no person and there is no sympathy.

    Similarly a human being, made from fermions and bosons, may present itself to us as one indivisible thing with its own intentions, but in fact there is nothing over and beyond fermions and bosons which care about neither human beings nor their intentions. The illusion of an intentional personal human being is produced by unintentional impersonal fermions and bosons. To be clear, there is no person and there are no intentions.

    Which laws are effective?
    If fermions and bosons act, then it is due to the laws of physics and no other. To be clear, fermions and bosons do not do anything due to laws of logic, laws of morality or a person’s will. Surely, nothing prevents fermions and bosons to act in accord with those illusionary laws and intentions, but if they do so, then this is just coincidental, unintentional. There is absolutely no reason for this to be the case. There is nothing that wants to bring the two worlds together.

    The four pillars of materialism:

    1. Oneness (indivisibility) equals true eternal existence — “atom” means “uncuttable” and “indivisible”.
    2. This oneness is only to be found at the micro-level — fermions and bosons.
    3. At this level of true existence there is no personhood, no intentionality, no reason and no consciousness.
    4. All action is due to the laws of physics and nothing else.

    There is no behavior based on intentions. Fermions and bosons ignore our intentions; they only adhere to the laws of physics. Therefore, this sentence, which you are reading right now, is, like everything else, into existence due to chemical/physical reasons only. These words are not arranged in order to convey a meaning, in order to make an argument. No, the intention to make an argument cannot cause anything, if these sentences look like an argument then it must be an illusion and/or coincidental. It can only be the case that some physical stuff happen to act as if it has the intention to make an argument.

  18. 18
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Mind that eternally contemplates these things and through a deep rationality builds the logic of structure and quantity into this or any other possible world.

    Hmm. I’m not clear on how that works. Why can’t humans discover the truth of propositions such as 1 + 1 = 2 simply by contemplating them ourselves? I don’t see why it would be required for some root-mind to be contemplating them eternally.

    I would even have offered that I believe that “1 + 1 = 2” is objectively true, that is, it would be true even if there were no minds to contemplate it.

    I take it you consider that to be impossible?

  19. 19
    hammaspeikko says:

    DaveS: “I would even have offered that I believe that “1 + 1 = 2” is objectively true, that is, it would be true even if there were no minds to contemplate it.”

    DaveS, thank you for this view. It certainly raises some interesting questions. It is obvious that one hydrogen atom plus another hydrogen atom equals two hydrogen atoms. It is self evident that there is no need to impose a designer/God for this to be objectively true. The question is, how far can this logic be extended?

  20. 20
    jdk says:

    Well, at least as far as math goes, if one accepts various definitions that are made along the way, it goes all the way to the end of math, as it all logically hangs together. Given the definitions of the constituent parts, e^(i•pi) = -1 is as true as 1 + 1 =2.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, how do you get TO a world at all? (As opposed to there “being” utter non-being?) Then, TO a world in which we have morally governed, responsibly and rationally free creatures? KF

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, I think you need to be a bit more cautious, post Godel. KF

  23. 23
    asauber says:

    the truth

    daveS,

    I hate to go all Pontius Pilate on you, but what are you talking about?

    Andrew

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    HP (& attn, DS), do you see that we are not dealing with just a math property but a world, in a context where were there ever utter nothing, true non-being, as such has no causal powers such would forever obtain? It can be seen at once that if a world now is, something always was, leading to the three options and resulting antinomies so the conclusion, a finitely remote necessary being is the world-root. Then, ponder distinct identity (equivalent to two-ness, A and ~A), which happens to be intimately involved in 1 + 1 = 2. Can a world exist without such distinct identity? No, it is a necessary framework reality. Necessary being, with no beginning and no end (as can be shown). So, we are back to a world root necessary being that frames any possible world. Then, our world includes morally governed creatures, where as already explained, on pain of collapse of mindedness into grand delusion, such can only be grounded in the world root. We then need to address what sort of world root is adequate for such beings to exist. And, in all of this we must also recognise that reasoning — as opposed to blind computation — requires freedom, self-moved agency, which is necessarily regulated through responsible moral government. Indeed, notice the implicit appeal to duty to truth and to sound reasoning in the exchanges above. So, one may indeed take something in isolation from the world context and rhetorically suggest, what does this have to do with morality, but when we pull back and look at the big picture, a very different overview results. KF

  25. 25
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, how do you get TO a world at all? (As opposed to there “being” utter non-being?) Then, TO a world in which we have morally governed, responsibly and rationally free creatures? KF

    Well, I don’t know how you get to a world, starting from … elsewhere.

    I can at least understand the notion that a world-root is required for the universe to exist.

    I can also understand that this world-root/God could will the universe into existence in a particular arrangement, e.g. Earth, having a water ocean, &c.

    But I do find it hard to understand “[A] Mind that eternally contemplates these things and through a deep rationality builds the logic of structure and quantity into this or any other possible world”. How could a Mind possibly have any influence on the world by contemplating, for example, the statement “1 + 1 = 2”? Isn’t that statement already true in every possible world? It all seems rather unnecessary (and ineffective) to me.

  26. 26
    hammaspeikko says:

    Kairosfocus, I am only a high school graduate so you will have to use words other than “antinomies” if you want to convince me of anything.

    All I know is that DaveS has made a very good point. And even without a higher education I know that arguing that we couldn’t be governed by a moral “sense” without God is a non-argument. The world has seen thousands of cultures, with thousands of religious beliefs, many of which are incompatible with each other. Yet I am not aware of any that did not feel that they were morally governed. Are you suggesting that they were all morally governed by the same God? That doesn’t seem reasonable considering that some believed in human sacrifices, child sacrifices, slavery, witchcraft, and so on.

  27. 27
    john_a_designer says:

    hammaspeikko,

    All I know is that DaveS has made a very good point. And even without a higher education I know that arguing that we couldn’t be governed by a moral “sense” without God is a non-argument. The world has seen thousands of cultures, with thousands of religious beliefs, many of which are incompatible with each other. Yet I am not aware of any that did not feel that they were morally governed. Are you suggesting that they were all morally governed by the same God? That doesn’t seem reasonable considering that some believed in human sacrifices, child sacrifices, slavery, witchcraft, and so on.

    You are making an inductive argument for moral relativity, aren’t you? I mean, if as you say there are “thousands of cultures, with thousands of religious beliefs, [with thousands of different moral beliefs] many of which are incompatible with each other,” how could anyone claim that one system of morality was better than any other?

  28. 28
    hammaspeikko says:

    JaD: “You are making an inductive argument for moral relativity, aren’t you?”

    Couldn’t tell you. I don’t know what inductive means. But I do know what makes sense to me.

  29. 29
    john_a_designer says:

    An example of inductive logic is:

    Metal A (iron) expands when heated; metal B (copper) expands when heated; metal C (tin) expands when heated…

    Therefore, all metals expand when heated.

    Inductive logic is different that deductive logic as the following slide explains:

    https://image.slidesharecdn.com/reasonandlogic-091006044642-phpapp02/95/logic-20-728.jpg?cb=1254804444

    So if we observe that there are “thousands of cultures, with thousands of religious beliefs, many of which are incompatible with each other,” which result in thousands of different moral and ethical beliefs we feel compelled to assume inductively that there is no universally true system of morality. IOW morals are relative to individuals or cultures.

  30. 30
    Origenes says:

    Hammaspeikko @26

    HP: … arguing that we couldn’t be governed by a moral “sense” without God is a non-argument. The world has seen thousands of cultures, with thousands of religious beliefs, many of which are incompatible with each other. Yet I am not aware of any that did not feel that they were morally governed.

    It may very well be the case that Mohamed Atta felt morally governed on September 11, 2001, while in fact he was not. Obviously there is a difference between ‘actually being morally governed’ and ‘feeling that one is being morally governed’. (*)

    HP: Are you suggesting that they were all morally governed by the same God?

    I am suggesting that some people are more in tune with moral government by God than others.

    – – – –
    (*) Assuming that we are all morally governed by God, it is probably more accurate to distinguish between acting in accord with his moral government and acting in defiance of his moral government.

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    DS (& attn HP, JDK etc),

    First, there is an active worldviews thread, which is backed up by the 101 survey here and onward discussions. That is where these should have come up, but you were not active there. Similarly, these ethics issues came up tangentially to a thread on an attempt to dismiss the design inference. As well, many of the persistent objections regarding ID are sustained by refusal to cogently address responses in the longstanding weak argument correctives. It almost seems that there is a determination among objectors not to discuss things under their appropriate heads.

    Be that as it may, let us pause a moment to set a context for a world in which we get to 1 + 1 = 2.

    Let us start from, what goes on behind that, referring to sets:

    {|}, {|} (two separate but comparable single member sets) –>

    {|} UNION {|} (no overlap, as distinct identities) –>

    {|,|} . . . a two-set

    Where, per von Neumann:

    {} –> 0

    {0} –> 1

    {0,1} –> 2

    . . . [endlessly]

    So, to get to the expression, we need a world in which abstract or concrete entities can be grouped as sets, distinct identity exists so that we can have non overlapping sets, the act of union can be carried out mentally or physically, and the united set can be distinguished also.

    Further to this, we need to recognise numbers and carry out an extension of the set of whole, counting numbers, and more. In all of this, propositions as what is asserted in sentences as true or false to reality, play a vital role. Thus, sentences, including those enough to describe procedures or even algorithms.

    For mathematics to exist so far as getting to 1 + 1 = 2, we have to have the study of the logic of structure and quantity, and also we have to have an underlying world in which coherent structures and quantities, as well as distinct identities, exist.

    We might as well take in things up tot he astonishing discovery of Euler:

    0 = 1 + e^{i * pi}

    . . . which indicates an infinitely precise coherent interlocking of entire, largely independently developed, domains of mathematics [think, where 0, 1, e, i and pi came from originally, and how they came together in this expression!], a locus of unification that then spreads out into the world of the complex frequency domain, differential equation analysis and more, taking in a huge swath of science, engineering and technology.

    This is backdrop for Nobel Prize winning physicist Eugene Wigner’s famous 1960 essay, e.g. here are the opening remarks — we have become far too jaded:

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

    by Eugene Wigner [1960]

    “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” in Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics, vol. 13, No. I (February 1960). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 1960 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

    Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.

    –BERTRAND RUSSELL, Study of Mathematics

    THERE IS A story about two friends, who were classmates in high school, talking about their jobs. One of them became a statistician and was working on population trends. He showed a reprint to his former classmate. The reprint started, as usual, with the Gaussian distribution and the statistician explained to his former classmate the meaning of the symbols for the actual population, for the average population, and so on. His classmate was a bit incredulous and was not quite sure whether the statistician was pulling his leg. “How can you know that?” was his query. “And what is this symbol here?” “Oh,” said the statistician, “this is pi.” “What is that?” “The ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter.” “Well, now you are pushing your joke too far,” said the classmate, “surely the population has nothing to do with the circumference of the circle.”

    Naturally, we are inclined to smile about the simplicity of the classmate’s approach. Nevertheless, when I heard this story, I had to admit to an eerie feeling because, surely, the reaction of the classmate betrayed only plain common sense. I was even more confused when, not many days later, someone came to me and expressed his bewilderment [1 The remark to be quoted was made by F. Werner when he was a student in Princeton.] with the fact that we make a rather narrow selection when choosing the data on which we test our theories. “How do we know that, if we made a theory which focuses its attention on phenomena we disregard and disregards some of the phenomena now commanding our attention, that we could not build another theory which has little in common with the present one but which, nevertheless, explains just as many phenomena as the present theory?” It has to be admitted that we have no definite evidence that there is no such theory.

    The preceding two stories illustrate the two main points which are the subjects of the present discourse. The first point is that mathematical concepts turn up in entirely unexpected connections. Moreover, they often permit an unexpectedly close and accurate description of the phenomena in these connections. Secondly, just because of this circumstance, and because we do not understand the reasons of their usefulness, we cannot know whether a theory formulated in terms of mathematical concepts is uniquely appropriate. We are in a position similar to that of a man who was provided with a bunch of keys and who, having to open several doors in succession, always hit on the right key on the first or second trial. He became skeptical concerning the uniqueness of the coordination between keys and doors.

    Most of what will be said on these questions will not be new; it has probably occurred to most scientists in one form or another. My principal aim is to illuminate it from several sides. The first point is that the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and that there is no rational explanation for it. Second, it is just this uncanny usefulness of mathematical concepts that raises the question of the uniqueness of our physical theories. In order to establish the first point, that mathematics plays an unreasonably important role in physics, it will be useful to say a few words on the question, “What is mathematics?”, then, “What is physics?”, then, how mathematics enters physical theories, and last, why the success of mathematics in its role in physics appears so baffling . . .

    All of these and much n=more point to an extraordinary nexus through mathematics that joins the linguistic-conceptual world of abstracta to the concrete one of our day to day experience and its glorified common sense extrapolation, aka science. Mind and body somehow find themselves fused, starting with our first fact of consciousness, and the logic of that rational, responsible, free consciousness then forces us, step by step to analyse what sort of world do we inhabit and how could it come about, not just on structure and quantity but also conscience, rationality and morality, etc.

    Much of this is mysterious, but we know that, limited though it be, conscience guided logic is our principal guiding light to inquire, and that it has a track record of such power that we should treat its deliverances with serious respect, tempered by our proneness to err and need to cross check against experience.

    We inhabit a temporal causal world that unfolds by causally connected stages, e.g. from the big bang singularity [and what is that mysterious entity that logic tells us should be there as part of our roots?], forward to now. This then presents us with, what lies aback of that event? Thence the chaining of causal succession by stages and the triple choice, turtles all the way down, turtles in a circle, a last turtle that stands somewhere. Antinomies cut across the first two and lead us to the concept of a finitely remote world root reality.

    Assessment of the logic of being and non-being soon tells us that such a reality must in part at least be a necessary being, an entity independent of enabling, on-off causal factors, such that a serious candidate NB will either be impossible or eternally present in any possible world, as it is a frameworking reality. One example of course being distinct identity, i.e. two-ness: comparables, A and ~ A. Which brings us back full circle to the expression 1 + 1 = 2.

    So, already, we are at a world with a very strange-seeming root property. This is not the God of ethical theism, it is something far more general and generic, though such a God is a candidate.

    How does such a root give rise to a physical world?

    We do not know, any more than we know how mind and body interact. However, for the latter, we know that absent responsible, rational freedom, reasoning itself collapses in one or more of several ways that we have often discussed here at UD. the simplest is to see that a GIGO-limited computational substrate mindlessly churning away through cause-effect chains based on the happenstance of organisation and programming, is not a freely reasoning entity undertaking rational, insightful contemplation and inferences towards the truth and the right.

    We do instantly recognise, the two must somehow be connected.

    Further to this, we find that we are responsible, self-moved rational agents, that is, we are free enough to reason, and to regulate reasoning we are responsible with conscience as a sense that prompts us to the truth and the right, we find ourselves inescapably morally governed. Indeed an underlying force in all of the above is the implicit expectation that we are under binding duty of ought towards the truth and the right etc. And indeed we cannot carry out any sustained reasoning process without that discipline. To be rational is to be morally governed, as the complement to being a self-moved free agent.

    Where, this seems to be a general result.

    Going further, we now need to further constrain the world root by the need for it to be the ground of moral government. For at no other level is such feasible, the correct part of Hume’s strictures. We then face what Clarke and Rakestraw hinted at in the clip in comment no 1, the world root, credibly, must inherently fuse is and ought.

    It is this which puts the serious candidate on the table, the God of ethical theism. Namely, the inherently good creator God, a necessary, maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and the responsible, reasonable, free service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. Such a serious candidate NB will be either so, or else impossible as a square circle is impossible — unavoidable incoherence of core characteristics. Where, of course, as this is philosophy, one is welcome to simply put forth a credible, cogently argued, coherent alternative: _____ , on the case that _____ .

    but in all of this, we see that mathematical entities and propositions such as 2 + 3 = 5 or 1 + 1 = 2 or 0 = 1 + e^i*pi, etc, come about through being intricately connected to a world, both in the abstract and in the concrete. So, we must not make the error of trying to think of such in isolation.

    Mathematics as a study that generates credibly true propositions, is an exercise of the study of the logic of structure and quantity, in a case where there is a going-concern world with self-moved, responsibly and rationally free, insightful agents in it. It applies to a world in which such abstract forms and constraints are inescapably bound up in the world of concrete objects.

    So, we cannot simply shut our eyes to the facts of the rationally contemplating, responsible, insightful, self-moved, embodied agent who carries out mathematics, and who then must fit into a world that adequately accounts for such an entity.

    Mathematics does not allow us to shut down the worldviews issues, including the question of resolving the IS-OUGHT gap.

    KF

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    HP,

    Pardon, but once we engage worldviews issues, we have to make very careful, precise use of language or we run into needless difficulties. So, I am sorry that some of the discussion will be above your level as a high school student whose native language is not English.

    Next, if you look here on (and focussing on SET’s from here on), you will see that one of the first, utterly pivotal self evident truths is the one that error exists, following Josiah Royce.

    let me break out a brief form of this discussion, as it is directly relevant to the radical relatitivism and/or subjectivism you have been taught and led to accept as truth:

    Consider:

    1: Error exists, symbolised E and

    with the denial,

    2: Error does not exist, ~E. (That is, it is an error to assert Error exists ~E.) Already, we see that

    3: E and ~E are mutually exhaustive and utterly opposed, one will be true and the other false.

    4: Simple inspection shows that the assertion that in effect it is an error to hold that error exists must be the one in error. ~E falsifies itself.

    5: So, we see that E is not only factually true (think of red X’s for wrong sums in elementary school) but it holds undeniably, the very attempt to deny it ends up underscoring that it is true.

    6: This is an example of a self-evident truth.

    7: Such a SET is true, it accurately describes some aspect of the world. In Aristotle’s language, it says of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. (Cf. Metaphysics 1011b.)

    8: The SET, E is also UNDENIABLY true, so it is justified true belief, certain knowledge.

    9: Thus, certain knowledge exists, and the first such point is that error exists.

    10: We know that truth exists, self evident truth exists, certain knowledge of such truth exists, and that a first such truth is that error exists.

    11: This is key — a plumb line truth — as it at once sweeps away schemes of thought, ideologies, claims and worldviews that assert or imply that truth does not exist beyond strong opinion, or that truth is not knowable, or that self evident and certainly known truth is not possible.

    12: This includes radical relatitivism and subjectivism, in the many, many forms that are popular or even academically entrenched.

    13: Our era is an era in which key little errors in the beginning have led to vast systems built on errors,systems which need to be corrected and reformed or even replaced.

    14: Likewise, moral SET’s exist, such as that it is evil to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a young child for one’s pleasure or the like motive. 9this one, if followed up, leads to many key consequences about morality, it is a moral yardstick truth.)

    15: In the case of the 9/11 attackers, they must have known that treachery, hostage taking, mass murder and the like were acts of piracy and war crimes, for cause. Such acts do not meet the criteria of just war, not least as there are non lethal means of addressing any legitimate concerns they may have had.

    16: In fact these were acts of IslamIST terrorism, jihad by suicide bands, meant to open up the way for the final global conquest by Mahdi. This, under Q 9:5 and 29, which abrogate essentially all of the irenic parts. Just, it is not politically correct to say that these days.

    17: In short, these are cases of readily demonstrated gross moral error. Similar to the acts of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro Che Guevarra and co.

    18: So, if moral truth is knowable and moral error exists, our duty is to recognise and correct error, seeking to live by moral truth.

    19: That is indeed an implication of your argument. You expected to exert persuasive power by appealing to our duties to truth and to right etc. But on radical relativism or subjectivism, such moral truths and duties do not exist, above might and manipulation making ‘truth’ ‘right ‘rights’ and the like in a given community.

    20: In short, your arguments above turn on implicit appeals to duties that on your premises do not exist, they are self-contradictory and false, errors.

    What is actually going on is more or less what Plato warned us against in The Laws, Bk X, 2350+ years ago. Yes, this is nothing new, and the ruinous consequences have played out in history again and again, especially over the past 250 years:

    Ath [in The Laws, Bk X 2,350+ ya]. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.-

    [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, leading to an effectively arbitrary foundation only for morality, ethics and law: accident of personal preference, the ebbs and flows of power politics, accidents of history and and the shifting sands of manipulated community opinion driven by “winds and waves of doctrine and the cunning craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming . . . ” cf a video on Plato’s parable of the cave; from the perspective of pondering who set up the manipulative shadow-shows, why.]

    These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might,

    [ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”) . . . ]

    and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality at the hands of ruthless power hungry nihilistic agendas], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral and/or nihilistic factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse and arbitrariness . . . they have not learned the habits nor accepted the principles of mutual respect, justice, fairness and keeping the civil peace of justice, so they will want to deceive, manipulate and crush — as the consistent history of radical revolutions over the past 250 years so plainly shows again and again], and not in legal subjection to them [–> nihilistic will to power not the spirit of justice and lawfulness].

    I suggest, it is time for some re-thinking.

    KF

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Let us contrast, the well known advocates of naturalism, Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson in their 1991 essay, “The Evolution of Ethics”:

    The time has come to take seriously the fact

    [–> This is a gross error at the outset, as macro-evolution is a theory (an explanation) about the unobserved past of origins and so cannot be a fact on the level of the observed roundness of the earth or the orbiting of planets around the sun etc. Also, evolutionary materialistic scientism is an ideology that builds on a materialistic interpretation of ideas about evolution, not a fact. And indeed, it is demonstrably self referentially incoherent and self falsifying.]

    that we humans are modified monkeys, not the favored Creation of a Benevolent God on the Sixth Day . . . We must think again especially about our so-called ‘ethical principles.’ The question is not whether biology—specifically, our evolution—is connected with ethics, but how. As evolutionists, we see that no justification of the traditional kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will … In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding… Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference. [–> see the grand delusion I spoke of coming out quite directly?] This is the crux of the biological position. Once it is grasped, everything falls into place.

    [[Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson, “The Evolution of Ethics,” Religion and the Natural Sciences: The Range of Engagement, , ed. J. E. Hutchingson, Orlando, Fl.:Harcourt and Brace, 1991. (NB: Cf. a separate discussion on the grounding of worldviews and ethics here on, which includes a specific discussion of the grounding of ethics and goes on to Biblical theism; having first addressed the roots of the modern evolutionary materialist mindset and its pretensions to the mantle of science. Also cf. here on in the next unit in this course, IOSE, for Plato’s warning in The Laws, Bk X, on social consequences of the rise of such a view as the philosophy of the avant garde in a community.]

    . . . with Will Hawthorne’s stinging rebuke to such thought in the blog, Atheism is Dead:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

    Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

    And further with St John in this warning from scripture:

    1 Jn 3:7Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as [[God] is righteous . . . . 11This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous . . . 14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

  34. 34
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Well, the main point of my #25 was that I don’t see any reason to suppose that God/the world-root builds mathematics into the universe through some process of contemplation (or otherwise). After reading your #31, I still don’t. It seems to me it would instantly exist the moment the universe began to exist, with no action by God required.

    Precisely what did God have to do in order to make e^iπ equal −1? What would have happened if God had neglected this duty? Would the equation be false?

  35. 35

    Origenes @ 17: Well said.

  36. 36
    hammaspeikko says:

    Origenes: “It may very well be the case that Mohamed Atta felt morally governed on September 11, 2001, while in fact he was not.”

    I disagree. I think that he was morally governed. As we all are.

    Obviously there is a difference between ‘actually being morally governed’ and ‘feeling that one is being morally governed’.”

    Why? If we are morally governed by God, by Satan, or by some other process, we are still morally governed.

    I am suggesting that some people are more in tune with moral government by God than others.”

    This may very well be true. But how does anyone know if their moral compass is congruent with the will of God? Do we take their word for it? Are they wrong if we disagree? Does majority rule?

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, have to head out but the point is that the cosmos is an ordered system [per physics a quite complex one, too], which necessarily involves the logic of structure and quantity, that is mathematics. On that narrow point: mathematics is built in due to the coherent structure of the cosmos and its laws. Where, the wider point is that we are looking at world framing including having to account for us. Gotta run. KF

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    HP, please see the Kant Categorical Imperative, which is a rule of coherence in morals.I have to go, later. KF

  39. 39
    hammaspeikko says:

    Kairosfocus: “Pardon, but once we engage worldviews issues, we have to make very careful, precise use of language or we run into needless difficulties.”

    There is a difference between using precise language and using language that is not used by anyone. Nobody here has ever used the word antinomies, which, by the way, is of Latin origin. The word “paradox” would have been just as precise and effective, with the added benefit of being understood by everyone.

    So, I am sorry that some of the discussion will be above your level as a high school student whose native language is not English.”

    Thank you for the condescension. You are making the mistaken assumption that formal education and intelligence go hand in hand. You would be wise to keep that in mind. And what is with the crack about English not being my first language? It is my first. I am also fluent in four others. You?

  40. 40
    HeKS says:

    hammaspeikko #39

    Thank you for the condescension. You are making the mistaken assumption that formal education and intelligence go hand in hand. You would be wise to keep that in mind.

    Oh, come on!

    Let’s go to the tape for a moment, shall we?

    Here’s what you said:

    Kairosfocus, I am only a high school graduate so you will have to use words other than “antinomies” if you want to convince me of anything.

    Then to john_a_designer you said:

    JaD: “You are making an inductive argument for moral relativity, aren’t you?”

    hammaspeikko: Couldn’t tell you. I don’t know what inductive means. But I do know what makes sense to me.

    You are the one who waded into a fairly complex philosophical discussion and then made a show of saying ‘aw shucks, I’m only a high school graduate, I can’t be expected to understand these big words you’re using.’ You’re the one who made the connection between your formal education and your ability to understand words that, as you’ve clearly discovered, can be easily looked up online. KF only responded to the connection that you made. So, while I completely agree that there’s no important connection between formal education and intelligence or knowledge (and consider myself evidence of that), to now take umbrage at KF acknowledging a connection in your case that you made is just silly and disingenuous.

    If you don’t want people here to make a negative connection between your formal education and your intelligence, maybe don’t start off by making that very connection for them. If you don’t understand something and would like someone to explain it, just say so and people here will usually be more than happy to oblige (we’re a wordy bunch). There’s nothing wrong with not knowing or understanding something. There is something wrong, however, with blaming your lack of understanding on your formal education and then getting offended when people take you at your word.

  41. 41
    john_a_designer says:

    hammaspeikko,

    (ditto HeKS)

    Are you a voluntary participant here? Did someone force you to become part of this discussion?

    I agree that KF’s posts are often excessively long and ponderous. However, if you are going to comment on one of his threads then it’s your responsibility to understand his arguments. By contrast, I try to make my comments as succinct and easy to understand as possible. Yet for some reason KF is the click bait and I am not (not that I have the interest, time or desire to assume his role.)

    My question for you is this: are you really here to have a discussion or debate or do you see KF’s posts as an opportunity to be obstructive and obfuscate? Am I questioning your motives? Actually, I am questioning what your motives are. Only you can tell us that.

  42. 42
    Charles says:

    hammaspeikko @ 39

    Nobody here has ever used the word antinomies, which, by the way, is of Latin origin. The word “paradox” would have been just as precise and effective, with the added benefit of being understood by everyone.

    Grammar police here. In fact, antinomies and paradox have different meanings:

    antinomy: a contradiction between two statements that seem equally reasonable

    paradox: a statement that contradicts itself

    a contradiction among multiple statements (that seem reasonable) is not the same as a single statement that contradicts itself.

    kairosfocus @ 8 alluded to 3 possible explanations, of which one explanation does not contradict the other two, i.e. that particular explanation lacks antinomies or it reconciles the other two. Multiple reasonable statements, yet with contradictions amongt them – antinomies is the correct term.

  43. 43
    hammaspeikko says:

    Charles@42, most words, even those that are considered synonyms, have slightly different meanings. But we will typically use the one that has the most common usage if we want to get our point across. Using a word that may be slightly more accurate does not add clarity if it is a word that is so obscure that nobody knows what it means.

    antinomy: a contradiction between two statements that seem equally reasonable.”

    Then might I suggest that his point would have been made clearer if you had have used the word “contradiction”?

    I am not trying to be critical of Kairosfocus’ actual argument, just that his arguments could be made much clearer and easier to read if he would avoid obscure words in favour of words that are in common use.

    Now, be honest, did you know what antinomy meant before it was used here?

    But I am distracting from the conversation.

  44. 44

    DaveS,

    Why should humans be able to comprehend mathematics at all? Why should we value truth? Why should the universal constants be as finely tuned as they are? Why should symbolic communication even be possible?

    Other than drawing upon bare, brute possibility, the only answer (as best explanation) we have is that our mental capacities and the physics of the universe converge upon a single world-root causation that has created/developed the two hand-in-hand for some purpose.

    Why would anyone want to believe that their existence is a material absurdity of illusionary self, illusionary morality, and illusionary understanding?

  45. 45
    kairosfocus says:

    Antinomies (where, paradox does not necessarily imply irresolvable contradictions):

    Merriam-Webster

    Definition of antinomy
    plural antinomies
    1
    : a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles or between inferences correctly drawn from such principles [–> this also applies as the other two alternatives end in incoherence]
    2
    : a fundamental and apparently unresolvable conflict or contradiction [–> main intent]
    antinomies of beauty and evil, freedom and slavery — Stephen Holden

    I trust this helps.

    We face as temporal-causal order, which chains in causally linked stages as the world unfolds and time marches on.

    The issue is where does such a chain come from, and that leads to three main alternatives. First, turtles all the way down, to use the commonly told story — meaning infinite regress, which ends up with how do we ever cross endlessness to reach here. The second is some chicken-egg circle of causation, which ends up in incoherences tied to such a cycle being proposed as an ultimate origin. The third is the last turtle stands somewhere, i..e. a finitely remote world root.

    This was previously discussed and is in fact tangential to the focus of this thread which builds on those.

    KF

  46. 46
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: A quiet plea, cf this from The Laws, Bk X:

    Ath. At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe.

    Cle. One such teacher, O Stranger, would be bad enough, and you imply that there are many of them, which is worse.

    Ath. Well, then; what shall we say or do?-Shall we assume that some one is accusing us among unholy men, who are trying to escape from the effect of our legislation; and that they say of us-How dreadful that you should legislate on the supposition that there are Gods! Shall we make a defence of ourselves? or shall we leave them and return to our laws, lest the prelude should become longer than the law? For the discourse will certainly extend to great length, if we are to treat the impiously disposed as they desire, partly demonstrating to them at some length the things of which they demand an explanation, partly making them afraid or dissatisfied, and then proceed to the requisite enactments.

    Cle. Yes, Stranger; but then how often have we repeated already that on the present occasion there is no reason why brevity should be preferred to length; who is “at our heels”?-as the saying goes, and it would be paltry and ridiculous to prefer the shorter to the better. It is a matter of no small consequence, in some way or other to prove that there are Gods, and that they are good, and regard justice more than men do. The demonstration of this would be the best and noblest prelude of all our laws. And therefore, without impatience, and without hurry, let us unreservedly consider the whole matter, summoning up all the power of persuasion which we possess.

    Ath. Seeing you thus in earnest, I would fain offer up a prayer that I may succeed:-but I must proceed at once . . .

    We are here dealing with issues that generally come in thousand page books when fully addressed. Especially when ramifications and tangents have to also be addressed.

    These are not simple issues, worldviews and worldview issues are among the most intractable of all issues. Generally we hope for a society with enough consensus on a sound system that we do not have to worry about such. But thanks to the past 3 – 500 years, we do not have that luxury.

    And it is worldview troubles that lie at the heart of the ongoing collapse of our civilisation.

    So, to these troubled waters we must go.

    KF

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, 44: Spot on. KF

  48. 48
    Charles says:

    hammaspeikko @ 43:

    Then might I suggest that his point would have been made clearer if you had have used the word “contradiction”?

    I don’t think so. Precision and nuance are always preferable to inaccuracy and gloss. Might take a little longer to comprehend, but the end result is valuable.

    Now, be honest, did you know what antinomy meant before it was used here?

    No, I did not. I had to look it up, as I often must with some of the terms used here (and elsewhere).

  49. 49
    hammaspeikko says:

    Kairosfocus: “HP, please see the Kant Categorical Imperative, which is a rule of coherence in morals.”

    I wasn’t talking about categorical versus hypothetical imperatives. At least that wasn’t my intent. I was simply being the devil’s advocate with regard to the concept of moral governance. Personally I believe that we are under moral governance and that it is GOD who instilled this in us, in spite of the fact that we often have difficulties in discerning the values He actually wants us to follow.

    I just want to present a hypothetical, which I don’t think is much different than what JDK proposed (he can correct me if I am wrong). Is it not possible that the gift God gave us was the need for a deeply ingrained moral system but didn’t actually provide any individual objective moral values? In this way the actual moral values that we end up with are those best suited for our survival and our ability to thrive? These cultural moral values may change over time but they retain their own inertia, making change difficult and slow, which is often a good thing.

    I am not suggesting that this is what actually happened, but I also don’t see that this type of hypothetical world is not a coherent possibility. I apologize for the double negative.

  50. 50
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, have to head out but the point is that the cosmos is an ordered system [per physics a quite complex one, too], which necessarily involves the logic of structure and quantity, that is mathematics. On that narrow point: mathematics is built in due to the coherent structure of the cosmos and its laws.

    If the cosmos were less ordered (or perhaps unordered, if that’s even possible), how would that change mathematics?

    I don’t see how that would affect the truth of e^iπ = −1, for example.

  51. 51
    daveS says:

    WJM,

    Other than drawing upon bare, brute possibility, the only answer (as best explanation) we have is that our mental capacities and the physics of the universe converge upon a single world-root causation that has created/developed the two hand-in-hand for some purpose.

    The existence of a world-root has been stipulated by me in this thread. What I’m asking is how this world-root could have any effect on mathematics, for example. Is it necessary that the world-root contemplate “1 + 1 = 2” eternally for it to be true? I’m not interested at the moment in discussing the much broader questions of why we value truth, &c.

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, absent the sort of complex order with logic of structure and quantity applicable, there will be no ordered system of reality, no cosmos. And I am not claiming there is just one ordered system or just one way to order a cosmos, by any means. Hence, possible worlds speak. Note, too, necessary beings will be in the framework of ANY possible world. KF

  53. 53
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: In a cosmos, we will have an infinite set of necessarily true propositions that will be so contemplated. The sort of NB we speak of on grounds of addressing moral governance — that’s how we got there — will be reason itself so to speak and will contemplate all these truths. Recall, this is more specific than, there is a finitely remote world-root of necessary being character. The God of ethical theism is on the table as serious candidate to be that world root as answering best to the need for a root that will fuse is and ought. It is a bonus that such a being would explain the eternal nature of propositions as being eternally contemplated. Do you have a serious alternative candidate world root that does not run into incoherence? As in: ______, and if the God of ethical theism (clearly a serious candidate) is ruled out, on what basis is this an impossible being? ______ (Recall, a serious candidate NB is either impossible or actual. Flying spaghetti monsters and the like need not apply.)

  54. 54
    kairosfocus says:

    HP, in effect you asked for how we would operationalise moral governance. I gave you one key, and earlier I pointed to a case study that would give inductive lessons, the moral yardstick case of kidnapping and torturing then raping and murdering a young child for sick pleasure . . . unfortunately, not at all hypothetical. here, I give you a remark by Locke, extended through his own citation from Hooker, that also has much to teach us:

    [2nd Treatise on Civil Gov’t, Ch 2 sec. 5:] . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [This directly echoes St. Paul in Rom 2: “14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them . . . “ and 13: “9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law . . . “ Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [Eccl. Polity ,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.] [Augmented citation, Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government, Ch 2 Sect. 5. ]

    I trust these will be of help for those inclined to study, especially as this passage and context was in fact foundational to the rise of modern liberty and democracy. . KF

  55. 55
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, absent the sort of complex order with logic of structure and quantity applicable, there will be no ordered system of reality, no cosmos. And I am not claiming there is just one ordered system or just one way to order a cosmos, by any means. Hence, possible worlds speak. Note, too, necessary beings will be in the framework of ANY possible world. KF

    Ok, but do you have any response to my question about e^iπ = −1?

    I haven’t seen you assert that it could fail to be true in some possible world. Therefore perhaps it’s true in every possible world?

    In that case, is it not possible that humans could discover this equation with no divine assistance? It’s not that difficult to understand.

  56. 56
    hammaspeikko says:

    Kairosfocus@54. Thank you for the response. I read your clip, specifically the bolded sections. Unless I am misinterpreting this, the examples he is using are the same used by those who support subjective morality. Essentially, the golden rule.

    As I suggested as a hypothetical, what if the objective part of our moral governance is the moral governance itself? The absolute need for all humans to have some type of moral system who’s adherence borders on reflex (although reflex is not a strong enough word). And what if the values that populate this moral system are not objective but based on a combination of objective observations and subjective interpretations and extrapolations? It is easy to envision how things like not killing, stealing, lying, torturing, kidnapping, and the like would be incorporated into such a system and still be coherent. It would be difficult for any of us to envision wanting any of this to happen to us or our family. To say nothing of the fact that these sorts of values are drummed into our heads from the day we can start to comprehend the world. But, again hypothetically, such a system would, by the necessity of its subjective nature, be open to the moral values of a few being completely outside the norm.

    Again, I believe that there are objective moral values, but I honestly can’t see how we prove this or how we can rule out that they are not objective.

  57. 57
  58. 58
    john_a_designer says:

    hammaspeikko @ 56,

    “Again, I believe that there are objective moral values, but I honestly can’t see how we prove this or how we can rule out that they are not objective.”

    Consider this:

    Jonathan A.C. Brown, director of a centre for Muslim-Christian understanding at Georgetown praised slavery in Muslim societies and claimed that it is “not immoral for one human to own another human” and that “consent isn’t necessary for lawful sex.” No riots ensued, so the content of his ideas does not matter.

    (emphasis added)

    See more at: https://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/the-war-on-freedom-is-rotting-our-intellectual-life/19725#sthash.rEu3AuYc.dpuf

    Where are you trying to go with your reasoning? From what I can see you are saying or suggesting something like this:

    Since we cannot prove that objective moral values exist then how can we say that slavery or rape is immoral?

    Furthermore, your belief that objective moral values exist is just your personal belief. How is anyone else obligated to follow your beliefs or personal opinions?

  59. 59

    DaveS asks:

    In that case, is it not possible that humans could discover this equation with no divine assistance? It’s not that difficult to understand.

    In a world utterly created and empowered by God, tell me how how humans do anything without divine assistance?

  60. 60

    DaveS asks:

    What I’m asking is how this world-root could have any effect on mathematics, for example. Is it necessary that the world-root contemplate “1 + 1 = 2” eternally for it to be true?

    I guess that depends on what you mean by “contemplate”. I take it to mean that god’s “attention” is fixed upon creation, holding it in place, empowering it, manifesting it according to its fundamental laws and principles (reflecting god’s fundamental nature). I wouldn’t have any idea what something would look like without that fixed “contemplation” of God. I have no idea how one would ascertain what was “true” outside of that scenario.

  61. 61
    Phinehas says:

    DS:

    What I’m asking is how this world-root could have any effect on mathematics, for example. Is it necessary that the world-root contemplate “1 + 1 = 2” eternally for it to be true?

    Lacking a ground of all being, nothing would exist to add to anything else, the very concept of addition would be meaningless, and there would be nothing for which symbols could stand as representation.

    Nor is the point that the ground of all being “contemplates” the meaning. Rather, the ground of all being IS the meaning. The meaning of 1 + 1 = 2 inheres in the world-root, as does the meaning of the good. In this way, your “contemplation” is analogous to Divine Command Theory and how such get’s hung up on the Euthyphro Dilemma.

    EDIT: Unless you mean by “contemplate” what WJM has said above. I shouldn’t assume otherwise, I suppose.

  62. 62
    hammaspeikko says:

    JaD: “Since we cannot prove that objective moral values exist then how can we say that slavery or rape is immoral?”

    Would you like to be enslaved or raped? I know that I wouldn’t. It’s not very hard for me to say that these are immoral. But as your quote demonstrates, not everybody believes this.

    Furthermore, your belief that objective moral values exist is just your personal belief. How is anyone else obligated to follow your beliefs or personal opinions?”

    Are you saying that if I say that it is my “belief” that certain moral values are objective, others aren’t obliged to follow my moral values, but if I “claim” that they are objective, others are obliged to follow them even though I can’t support my claim with conclusive evidence or a logically sound argument? I prefer to be honest.

  63. 63
    Phinehas says:

    HP:

    Would you like to be enslaved or raped? I know that I wouldn’t. It’s not very hard for me to say that these are immoral. But as your quote demonstrates, not everybody believes this.

    Would you like to eat liver? I know that I wouldn’t. It’s not very hard for me to say that this is immoral.

    On the other hand, it would be a massive non sequitur.

  64. 64
    hammaspeikko says:

    Phinehas: “Would you like to eat liver?”

    I love liver. With Chianti and fava beans.

    “I know that I wouldn’t. It’s not very hard for me to say that this is immoral.”

    Thank you for making me laugh.

  65. 65
    Phinehas says:

    HP:

    Thank you for making me laugh.

    You’re welcome. But more than making you laugh, I was looking to make you think. Whether I was successful or not in this regard is still an open question until you decide to close it.

    Out of curiosity, should anyone read into the fact that you’ve adopted a troll as your moniker?

  66. 66
    hammaspeikko says:

    Phinehas: “You’re welcome. But more than making you laugh, I was looking to make you think. Whether I was successful or not in this regard is still an open question until you decide to close it.”

    You were serious? I apologize. I didn’t think that anyone would seriously equate forced slavery a rape with the voluntary eating of liver.

  67. 67
    mjoels says:

    HP you are very close to it. Reverse that thought. If morality is subjective, what makes those 3 different?

  68. 68
    hammaspeikko says:

    Mjoels: “HP you are very close to it. Reverse that thought. If morality is subjective, what makes those 3 different?”

    Let’s see. Two of them (slavery and rape) are forced on others against their will, and involve violence. One is a personal preference.

    I believe in objective morality and presented a devil’s advocate argument from the subjective perspective. And the best that my side of the argument can give is the equivalent of telling a woman who has been raped that she shouldn’t complain because the rapist was just making a choice that was no morally different than selecting a meal at a diner. We really have to do better than this if we are to have a chance of convincing anyone of objective morality.

  69. 69

    hammaspeikk said:

    You were serious? I apologize. I didn’t think that anyone would seriously equate forced slavery a rape with the voluntary eating of liver.

    He wasn’t equating those two acts; he was correctly equating the fact that both people would be acting on their preferences. Under subjective morality, all one can ultimately be doing is acting on their preferences (even if it means long-game-social-theory preferences over short-gain preferences).

    Ultimately, both acts are engaged in due to personal preference, even though one is choosing a preferred meal and the other is choosing a preferred act of violence. That is the problem with subjective morality. There is no objective moral compass which can tell us that any particular personal preference is wrong.

  70. 70
    Seversky says:

    I suppose I ought to contribute something since my nom de plume is in the headline…
    kairosfocus@ 33

    . . . with Will Hawthorne’s stinging rebuke to such thought in the blog, Atheism is Dead:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true.

    I do so assume.

    Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    So assumed.

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’.

    That’s what I’ve been arguing.

    And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is.

    That’s what I believe

    It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    We already agreed to that above.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    See, now here’s the problem. You are smuggling intelligent agency into the argument. Permission can only be granted by a ‘permitter’. The natural world, in my view, is not an intelligent being. It can neither permit nor forbid anything so it is just as logical to say “‘if atheism is true, all things are forbidden’ as to say ‘‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’, in other words, it does not follow logically at all.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Who granted Hitler permission to do what he did? Not the natural world. Not atheism. What is actually impermissible is the argument that atheism somehow precludes the ability to form moral judgements.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions).

    I would agree but is it accurate to say we “know” or is just that the majority of us agree that certain human behaviors are harmful to others and should be curbed for the benefit of all?

    Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

    You introduced the concept of intelligent agency without acknowledging that is what you were doing.

    Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

    I’m afraid not. Neither position is changed. It is still impossible to infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. And atheism doesn’t preclude morality, it simply means that it is founded on something like intersubjective agreement rather than divine providence.

  71. 71
    hammaspeikko says:

    That is the problem with subjective morality. There is no objective moral compass which can tell us that any particular personal preference is wrong.”

    If we need some objective moral compass to inform us that being raped and forced into slavery are things that we would not want for ourselves, humanity is screwed. Is it not possible that our entire moral system is based on a God given need for moral governance and a God given ability to empathize? It seems to me that these two characteristics of humanity is all that is needed to account for what we see around us.

  72. 72
    hammaspeikko says:

    On a totally different subject, how do I place other people’s comments in those indented boxes? They look so much cleaner than what I have been doing.

  73. 73
    HeKS says:

    hammaspeikko #72

    You do it like this:

    <blockquote>Quoted text goes here</blockquote>

    and it looks like this:

    Quoted text goes here

  74. 74

    The real trick is to be able to demonstrate how to add blockquotes without your demonstration itself turning into a blockquote.

    🙂

  75. 75
    hammaspeikko says:

    HeKs, thank you. I will try that next time I comment.

  76. 76
    jdk says:

    Yes, good job, HeKS @ 73. I looked at the page source, and it looks like you used the html code for , < and >, so that the software doesn’t recognize the word “blockquote” between them as a tag. Is that how you did it?

  77. 77
    HeKS says:

    hammaspeikko #68

    There is nothing wrong with jumping into the fray, but before taking an overly arrogant approach to the subject matter (as you’ve already started to do) you might want to familiarize yourself with some of the deeper issues involved, because most of the people engaging in the discussion have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about this subject over several years.

    The questions that Phinehas and others have asked you are serious and cut to the core of this issue. It is trivially easy to identify differences that humans consider morally significant between choosing to eat liver and choosing to rape and murder. The problem is that it becomes devilishly difficult to justify why these differences themselves matter in any ultimate sense if objective morality does not exist as a real feature of the world, or to justify intervention in the ‘moral’ choices other people make. If objective morality does not really exist, then nothing is truly morally wrong or impermissible and moral intervention can never be rationally justified (certainly not as a moral imperative), because it would only ever amount to forcing your own moral opinions on other people who have different moral opinions that, objectively speaking, cannot possibly be wrong or inferior to your own.

    This discussion is one about ultimate grounding. If no ultimate grounding exists for moral values and duties then you can point out that rape and murder involve violence, the suppression of someone’s free will and a disregard for the value of life, but you can’t offer any ultimate justification for why any of those things are truly wrong. Instead they just become socially taboo … out of fashion among folks who consider themselves respectable … contrary to some kind of utilitarian philosophy or another. There would be no objective difference between the moral status of rape and murder and voluntarily choosing to eat liver because morality would ultimately consist of nothing more than statements about personal or group preference rather than descriptive statements about how the world actually is.

    Where the discussion proceeds from there depends on the person. Many people consider it self-evident that certain things really are morally wrong, considering a belief in objective moral values and duties to be properly basic (i.e. capable of being rationally held without needing justification by appeal to more basic evidence) and the conversation simply becomes about what is needed to ground those moral realities, with God being the only serious candidate on offer. For those who don’t hold a belief in objective moral values and duties to be properly basic, the discussion can become about establishing their existence as either a matter of logical necessity or as being the most rational conclusion based on other conclusions that are considered to be logically necessary.

    If you’re looking for the latter then I suggest you take up jdk’s offer in #12 to follow our conversation in the other thread.

    There are also a number articles on this site (some of which I’ve written) that will give you a good primer in the finer points of this issue. Just go to the main page and type “objective morality” into the search bar in the right column.

    Take care,
    HeKS

  78. 78
    HeKS says:

    hammaspeikko #75

    You’re welcome.

  79. 79
    HeKS says:

    jdk #76

    Yup, that’s how I did it.

  80. 80
    HeKS says:

    jdk,

    BTW, I added a response in the other thread today. It’s been a couple days since I last had time to respond so I figured I’d give you a heads-up. Obviously no need to rush on your own response. My time is pretty limited at the moment.

    Take care

  81. 81
    jdk says:

    Seversky at 70 says,

    See, now here’s the problem. You are smuggling intelligent agency into the argument. Permission can only be granted by a ‘permitter’. The natural world, in my view, is not an intelligent being. It can neither permit nor forbid anything so it is just as logical to say “‘if atheism is true, all things are forbidden’ as to say ‘‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’, in other words, it does not follow logically at all.

    This is a good point. It is a category error to apply a descriptor to something to which it doesn’t apply. The example a friend of mine used to use was asking, “Is the ocean humble or proud.” Clearly it is neither, because the quality of which pride and humility are the nominal opposites just doesn’t apply to inanimate objects such as the ocean.

    Note: I’m not jumping in here to defend naturalism: I am currently presenting and discussing a possible non-materialistic alternative to traditional theism (and naturalism)in another thread. But I think Seversky has a good point about the “anything is permitted” claim.

  82. 82
    jdk says:

    Thanks, HeKS. Yes I saw that and have just had time to skim it, and won’t have much time for a thoughtful response for at least a day. But I’m glad you’re still involved, and I haven’t dropped out.

  83. 83
    HeKS says:

    jdk #81,

    See, I have a very different take on Seversky’s statement.

    I would first say that it’s hard to smuggle in something that you are openly pointing to. The theists here regularly argue that an intelligent being at the base of reality is precisely (and uniquely) what is needed in order to ground objective moral values and duties. It is only as a result of intelligent agency that anything might be either forbidden or mandated, proscribed or prescribed.

    Regarding the statement, “if atheism is true, all things are permitted”, Seversky may have picked up on a slight technical inaccuracy in the wording [1], but the correction doesn’t change the ultimately meaning or validity of the underlying point one iota. To address Seversky’s somewhat pedantic point, one need only restate the slogan as, “if atheism is true, nothing is forbidden”.

    Contrary to Seversky’s claim, it is not just as logical to say, “if atheism is true, all things are forbidden”, because there is no logical parity between the underlying content of the two statements. One can be corrected to avoid a pedantic technical criticism and its content can be rationally justified. The same cannot be said of the other.

    And just to be clear, I’m not criticizing Seversky for the pedanticism, per se. I appreciate people pointing out confusing or technically inaccurate wording in conversations like this since that can only help to clarify the positions and arguments in the long run. The real problem is that the pedanticism is the meat of his
    comment while his larger claim has no real merit.

    When someone makes a substantive claim and you choose to respond, it’s one thing to point out in the process that they’ve misplaced a comma, but it’s another thing entirely if your whole response is centered on the misplaced comma while ignoring the larger valid point they’ve made. One thing I’ve pointed to many times in my discussions with people here is the Principle of Charity, which requires that you try to take the strongest and most reasonable version and interpretation of your opponent’s arguments and statements and address that rather then trying to get yourself off the hook by looking for the weakest possible interpretation and attacking that. In my opinion and experience, Seversky has routinely failed in that regard.

    —–
    [1] As a side point, the statement, “if atheism is true, all things are permitted” can be understood as saying that, in the absence of God, there is no higher moral law than human opinion, and so humans are free to permit all things for themselves. In any case, the statement usually takes the general form KF used because it references the statement in Dostoevsky’s, The Brothers Karamazov, though translations of that typically begin with “If God does not exist” or “Without God” rather than “If atheism is true”.

  84. 84
    mike1962 says:

    DaveS: I actually did mean that the truth of mathematical statements such as 1 + 1 = 2 is not dependent on God/the world-root, or whatever we choose to call it. At least that’s my opinion. In what way could the truth of 1 + 1 = 2 depend on anyone or anything?

    Opinion (conclusion of a material brain)

    Fair enough

  85. 85

    In what way could the truth of 1 + 1 = 2 depend on anyone or anything?

    The truth itself? I don’t know. The potential to know a truth – now that is a different question.

    9. The irreducibility of the epistemic cut

    The concept of constraint is not considered fundamental in physics because the (internal, geometric reactive) forces of constraint can, in principle, be reduced to active impressed forces governed by energy-based microscopic dynamical laws. The so-called fixed geometric forces are just stationary states of a faster, more detailed dynamics. This reducibility to microscopic dynamics is possible in principle for structures, even if it is computationally completely impractical. However, describing any bridge across an epistemic cut by a single dynamical description is not possible even in principle.

    The most convincing general argument for this irreducible complementarity of dynamical laws and measurement function comes again from von Neumann (1955, p. 352). He calls the system being measured, S, and the measuring device, M, that must provide the initial conditions for the dynamic laws of S. Since the non-integrable constraint, M, is also a physical system obeying the same laws as S, we may try a unified description by considering the combined physical system (S + M). But then we will need a new measuring device, M’, to provide the initial conditions for the larger system (S + M). This leads to an infinite regress; but the main point is that even though any constraint like a measuring device, M, can in principle be described by more detailed universal laws, the fact is that if you choose to do so you will lose the function of M as a measuring device. This demonstrates that laws cannot describe the pragmatic function of measurement even if they can correctly and completely describe the detailed dynamics of the measuring constraints.

    Dynamics cannot explain the measurement function. Without a measuring entity, 1 + 1 = 2 would never exist, and its truth or falsity would never be known. In that sense, the truth would not exist, and is dependent on the measurement.

    /butting back out

  86. 86
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky:

    {W. Haw.] Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    [Sev.] See, now here’s the problem. You are smuggling intelligent agency into the argument. Permission can only be granted by a ‘permitter’. The natural world, in my view, is not an intelligent being. It can neither permit nor forbid anything so it is just as logical to say “‘if atheism is true, all things are forbidden’ as to say ‘‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’, in other words, it does not follow logically at all.

    All WH did was to say we are radically free: in absence of binding oughts, there are no limits we should not pass — of course, absent might and manipulation make ‘truth’ ‘right’ ‘rights’ etc . . . nihilism.

    Your imagined smuggling in of a strawman fails.

    You do have to confront the onward meaninglessness of moral government and particularly its application to the responsibility we need to govern rationality. Also, the sense that we are governed is still there, so you have to confront pervasive, grand delusion in “mindedness.” Which in turn on your known worldview reduces to GIGO-limited computation on a neural network substrate that magically pulls the FSCO/I of its organisation and programming out of lucky noise filtered incrementally through differential reproductive success, undirected drift etc.

    In short, you have let grand delusion and nihilistic mindedness loose just as warned against. Ruse and Wilson rather severely understate the damaging effects, but at least put the matter on the table:

    The time has come to take seriously the fact [–> This is a gross error at the outset, as macro-evolution is a theory (an explanation) about the unobserved past of origins and so cannot be a fact on the level of the observed roundness of the earth or the orbiting of planets around the sun etc.] that we humans are modified monkeys, not the favored Creation of a Benevolent God on the Sixth Day . . . We must think again especially about our so-called ‘ethical principles.’ The question is not whether biology—specifically, our evolution—is connected with ethics, but how. As evolutionists, we see that no justification of the traditional kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will … In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding… Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference. This is the crux of the biological position. Once it is grasped, everything falls into place.

    [ –> And everything instantly falls apart as this would set grand delusion loose in our mental lives. Even logical reasoning is guided by the conscience-driven urge to truth, right and justice, so once such a grand delusion is let loose it undermines the general credibility of conscious mindedness, setting up a cascade of shadow-show worlds. The skeptical spider has enmeshed himself in his own web. Thus, any such scheme should be set aside as self-refuting.]

    [Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson, “The Evolution of Ethics,” Religion and the Natural Sciences: The Range of Engagement, , ed. J. E. Hutchingson, Orlando, Fl.:Harcourt and Brace, 1991. (NB: Cf. a separate discussion on the grounding of worldviews and ethics here on, which includes a specific discussion of the grounding of ethics and goes on to Biblical theism; having first addressed the roots of the modern evolutionary materialist mindset and its pretensions to the mantle of science. Also cf. here on for Plato’s warning in The Laws, Bk X, on social consequences of the rise of such a view as the philosophy of the avant garde in a community.]

    Do you understand the chaos that is being let loose, a chaos that Plato — reflecting on the collapse of Athens — warned us against in no uncertain terms?

    KF

    PS: I see HeKS has spotted and spoken to much the same.

  87. 87
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Again, Plato’s warning on pretty grim history:

    Ath [in The Laws, Bk X 2,350+ ya]. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.-

    [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, leading to an effectively arbitrary foundation only for morality, ethics and law: accident of personal preference, the ebbs and flows of power politics, accidents of history and and the shifting sands of manipulated community opinion driven by “winds and waves of doctrine and the cunning craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming . . . ” cf a video on Plato’s parable of the cave; from the perspective of pondering who set up the manipulative shadow-shows, why.]

    These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might,

    [ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”) . . . ]

    and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality at the hands of ruthless power hungry nihilistic agendas], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral and/or nihilistic factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse and arbitrariness . . . they have not learned the habits nor accepted the principles of mutual respect, justice, fairness and keeping the civil peace of justice, so they will want to deceive, manipulate and crush — as the consistent history of radical revolutions over the past 250 years so plainly shows again and again], and not in legal subjection to them [–> nihilistic will to power not the spirit of justice and lawfulness].

    We need to learn from history, or we will be doomed to pay the same coin of blood and tears over and over again. And this time around — as the chaos over No Ko shows — nukes are in play.

    KF

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    HeKS, 77 (& attn HP):

    If objective morality does not really exist, then nothing is truly morally wrong or impermissible and moral intervention can never be rationally justified (certainly not as a moral imperative), because it would only ever amount to forcing your own moral opinions on other people who have different moral opinions that, objectively speaking, cannot possibly be wrong or inferior to your own.

    This discussion is one about ultimate grounding. If no ultimate grounding exists for moral values and duties then you can point out that rape and murder involve violence, the suppression of someone’s free will and a disregard for the value of life, but you can’t offer any ultimate justification for why any of those things are truly wrong. Instead they just become socially taboo … out of fashion among folks who consider themselves respectable … contrary to some kind of utilitarian philosophy or another. There would be no objective difference between the moral status of rape and murder and voluntarily choosing to eat liver because morality would ultimately consist of nothing more than statements about personal or group preference rather than descriptive statements about how the world actually is.

    Where the discussion proceeds from there depends on the person. Many people consider it self-evident that certain things really are morally wrong, considering a belief in objective moral values and duties to be properly basic (i.e. capable of being rationally held without needing justification by appeal to more basic evidence) and the conversation simply becomes about what is needed to ground those moral realities, with God being the only serious candidate on offer. For those who don’t hold a belief in objective moral values and duties to be properly basic, the discussion can become about establishing their existence as either a matter of logical necessity or as being the most rational conclusion based on other conclusions that are considered to be logically necessary.

    Very well summarised, thanks.

    I also note that in 32 above, I addressed the core questions of relativism and subjectivism in steps of thought, which HP does not seem to have adequately taken up in the past day or so. Let me clip:

    let me break out a brief form of this discussion [turning on Josiah Royce’s proposition, Error exists — which he identified as a point of general agreement on truth (we just typically think it’s the other guy or gal who is in error! . . . ) and thus is pivotal for onward discussion], as it is directly relevant to the radical relativism and/or subjectivism you have been taught and led to accept as truth:

    Consider:

    1: Error exists, symbolised E and

    with the denial,

    2: Error does not exist, ~E. (That is, it is an error to assert Error exists ~E.) Already, we see that

    3: E and ~E are mutually exhaustive and utterly opposed, one will be true and the other false.

    4: Simple inspection shows that the assertion that in effect it is an error to hold that error exists must be the one in error. ~E falsifies itself.

    5: So, we see that E is not only factually true (think of red X’s for wrong sums in elementary school) but it holds undeniably, the very attempt to deny it ends up underscoring that it is true.

    6: This is an example of a self-evident truth.

    7: Such a SET is true, it accurately describes some aspect of the world. In Aristotle’s language, it says of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. (Cf. Metaphysics 1011b.)

    8: The SET, E is also UNDENIABLY true, so it is justified true belief, certain knowledge.

    9: Thus, certain knowledge exists, and the first such point is that error exists.

    10: We know that truth exists, self evident truth exists, certain knowledge of such truth exists, and that a first such truth is that error exists.

    11: This is key — a plumb line truth — as it at once sweeps away schemes of thought, ideologies, claims and worldviews that assert or imply that truth does not exist beyond strong opinion, or that truth is not knowable, or that self evident and certainly known truth is not possible.

    12: This includes radical relatitivism and subjectivism, in the many, many forms that are popular or even academically entrenched.

    13: Our era is an era in which key little errors in the beginning have led to vast systems built on errors,systems which need to be corrected and reformed or even replaced.

    14: Likewise, moral SET’s exist, such as that it is evil to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a young child for one’s pleasure or the like motive. (This one, if followed up, leads to many key consequences about morality, it is a moral yardstick truth. [I add, cf here in context])

    15: In the case of the 9/11 attackers, they must have known that treachery, hostage taking, mass murder and the like were acts of piracy and war crimes, for cause. Such acts do not meet the criteria of just war, not least as there are non lethal means of addressing any legitimate concerns they may have had.

    16: In fact these were acts of IslamIST terrorism, jihad by suicide bands, meant to open up the way for the final global conquest by Mahdi. This, under Q 9:5 and 29, which abrogate essentially all of the irenic parts. Just, it is not politically correct to say that these days.

    17: In short, these are cases of readily demonstrated gross moral error. Similar to the acts of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro Che Guevarra and co.

    18: So, if moral truth is knowable and moral error exists, our duty is to recognise and correct error, seeking to live by moral truth.

    19: That is indeed an implication of your argument. You expected to exert persuasive power by appealing to our duties to truth and to right etc. But on radical relativism or subjectivism, such moral truths and duties do not exist, above might and manipulation making ‘truth’ ‘right ‘rights’ and the like in a given community.

    20: In short, your arguments above turn on implicit appeals to duties that on your premises do not exist, they are self-contradictory and false, errors.

    What is actually going on is more or less what Plato warned us against in The Laws, Bk X, 2350+ years ago. Yes, this is nothing new, and the ruinous consequences have played out in history again and again, especially over the past 250 years . . .

    Food for thought.

    of course, the past day shows just how easily people go off on all sort of tangents and just how much exactitude is required to work one’s way through a complex difficult question. The very stuff of philosophy.

    KF

  89. 89
    kairosfocus says:

    DS et al:

    Again, the issue is not any one or two expressions of the logic of structure and quantity. it is the coherence of a whole world.

    Though, I note that the Euler identity in particular draws out the infinitely deep connexion between the five most important numbers in Mathematics (and linked domains of thought as a direct consequence, lending great confidence in a Post-Godel world), showing a deep coherence. In particular, notice how the two transcendentals, e and pi are strangely locked together to infinite precision through this result, 0 = 1 + e^i* pi. (I notice someone tries to trivialise by rearranging to leave out the 0 and to move to – 1.)

    The core issue is the coherence of a complex world, and the conditions for the existence of such a world, which point to the need for a necessary being world root that is in effect the context and undergirding of all that occurs.

    Including, how there exist creatures able to reason on insight through responsible — morally governed — actions of logical inference. Both deductive and inductive.

    From the perspective of ethical theism, it is summed up in the worlds of Paul at Athens in 50 AD, speaking to the elites and guardians of the Western intellectual tradition at that time and place, at kairos, a hinge of history:

    Ac 17:22 So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus, said:

    “Men of Athens, I observe [with every turn I make throughout the city] that you are very religious and devout in all respects.

    23 Now as I was going along and carefully looking at your objects of worship, I came to an altar with this inscription:

    ‘TO AN [d]UNKNOWN GOD.’

    Therefore what you already worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

    24 The God who created the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He [e]served by human hands, as though He needed anything, because it is He who gives to all [people] life and breath and all things. 26 And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands and territories.

    27 This was so that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grasp for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

    28 For in Him we live and move and exist [that is, in Him we actually have our being], as even some of [f]your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’

    29 So then, being God’s children, we should not think that the Divine Nature (deity) is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination or skill of man.

    30 Therefore God overlooked and disregarded the former ages of ignorance; but now He commands all people everywhere to repent [that is, to change their old way of thinking, to regret their past sins, and to seek God’s purpose for their lives], 31 because He has set a day when He will judge the inhabited world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed and destined for that task, and He has provided credible proof to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”

    32 Now when they heard [the term] resurrection from the dead, [g]some mocked and sneered; but others said, “We will hear from you again about this matter.” 33 So Paul left them. 34 But some men joined him and believed; among them were Dionysius, [a judge] of the Council of Areopagus, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. [AMP]

    Food for thought.

    KF

  90. 90
    kairosfocus says:

    UB, food for thought, and do stick around. KF

  91. 91
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let me just inject a challenge. Knowledge implies a knowing, warranting subject, but claims credible objectivity as warranted, credibly true (and so reliable) belief, thus running beyond individual- or community- relative perception or opinion (and enforcement). Warrant of course being the gap-spanning bridge between belief or opinion and knowledge. In short, how do we bridge the kantian ugly gulch between the phenomenal internal-to-each-of-us world of rationally contemplative consciousness, and the domain of things in themselves? With, of course the logic of structure and quantity — Math — in very strong play (per Wigner), especially the Euler Identity, 0 = 1 + e^i*pi. That is, Kant’s noumenal world. For this, I suggest as a start-point F H Bradley’s challenge that the man who claims the unknowability of the noumenal world has already implied that he knows a very important thing about such a world: its alleged un-know-ability. Thus, he subtly reduces his claim to self-refutation — and no, this is not patent, it took a leading philosopher to spot this about one of the all time top twenty. That is, this is precisely NOT a self-evident truth, as its discernment is obviously difficult and required sophisticated mental senses deeply trained by reason of long use. This hard-won insight, then frees us to ponder something like Josiah Royce’s proposition, Error exists, and its import. As in, for SOME things we do not accurately know the external world of things in themselves, but for others we can know to undeniable certainty as shown. KF

    PS: Then also, ponder the issue of objective ethical knowledge, ethical SET and the problem of the warped yardstick. That is, if we adopt a warped and inaccurate yardstick as criterion of measuring truth, right etc, then that which is actually true, conforming accurately to reality, will never conform to the warped yardstick. So, if we reject criteria for testing our yardsticks — plumb-line SETs (cf. here) — we will become stuck in error and utterly resistant to correction. Until, we head over the cliff. And then, it is usually bloodily too late.

    PPS: Do you see why the cynical manipulator, such as a ruthless agit-prop strategist, will want to get us into a position where we cling to a warped yardstick? (Hence, do we see the redoubled importance of straight thinking informed by sound philosophical, logical, epistemological and ethical tools?)

  92. 92
    Origenes says:

    Question:

    Can morality be grounded in multiple persons? Is it feasible that morality is more like an agreement between multiple persons rather than rules dictated by the one?
    One practical earthly problem would be that moral agreement between so many different persons is impossible. However, from a theoretical point of view, assuming the existence of a limited group of free rational responsible persons and enough time, what could stop them from freely reaching agreement on moral laws and by doing so base morality on multiple persons?

    Suppose we conclude that it is possible, in principle, for morality to be grounded in multiple persons. Suppose further that the persons involved live forever and will always gladly and freely support this morality. Would such a morality be ‘objective’? If not, why not?

  93. 93
    kairosfocus says:

    O, Inter-subjective or even community “consensus” agreement may still be in error, as the case of that once universal — and sadly not yet dead — plague known as slavery, shows. Likewise, we must ponder the problem of the warped yardstick and the need for self-evidently true plumb-lines that cross-check. We really do need to go down to world-roots and find IS and OUGHT inextricably fused there to warrant moral knowledge, and we must know that our reasoning insofar as it is genuinely free, is pervaded by considerations of moral government. As we can readily recall from the almost inevitably earnest tone of our first instructions in logic, rhetoric and fallacies. KF

  94. 94
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Though, I note that the Euler identity in particular draws out the infinitely deep connexion between the five most important numbers in Mathematics (and linked domains of thought as a direct consequence, lending great confidence in a Post-Godel world), showing a deep coherence. In particular, notice how the two transcendentals, e and pi are strangely locked together to infinite precision through this result, 0 = 1 + e^i* pi. (I notice someone tries to trivialise by rearranging to leave out the 0 and to move to – 1.)

    I wonder who that would be? 😛

    But seriously, I wrote the equation in a simplified form not to trivialize it, but because it’s simpler that way. I for one don’t find it “strange” that e and π satisfy this relation. It’s a useful and beautiful formula, and a stepping stone to deeper understanding no doubt.

  95. 95
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I actually saw someone else. The simplification drops significant aspects, and one of the most wonderful features is not just the convergence of the five numbers and associated domains, giving a demonstration of core coherence [vital, post Godel!], but also that two very different transcendentals e and pi, are locked together with infinitely fine key-lock precision such that the prescribed operations yield an exact whole number result. I find that facet actually astounding. KF

  96. 96
    daveS says:

    DS, I actually saw someone else.

    Noted.

    I find that facet actually astounding.

    I don’t have much more to say about my original question here, but to respond to this—is it not desirable to, at some point and if possible, “get over” the feeling that this identity is astounding?

    As I ask this question, I fully concede that there are some facts which I will always find astounding (e.g., the number of permutations of a standard deck of cards is about the same order of magnitude as the number of atoms in our galaxy). However I think Euler’s identity is much more comprehensible to humans.

  97. 97
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, that identity may be many things, but in effect “trivial and simple in significance” is not one of them. Start with infinitely deep coherence and elegant unifying simplicity. KF

    PS: The astounding number of raw possibilities in collections of objects is also something we struggle to understand. It lies at the heart of the significance of FSCO/I as a strong sign of design.

  98. 98
    daveS says:

    KF,

    And I’m not suggesting it’s trivial or simple in significance. Just that it’s comprehensible, and perhaps a bit less astounding eventually.

  99. 99

    hammaspeikko said:

    If we need some objective moral compass to inform us that being raped and forced into slavery are things that we would not want for ourselves, humanity is screwed.

    Because I do a thing to someone else doesn’t mean it will be done to me; because I don’t do a thing to someone else doesn’t mean it won’t be done to me. What difference does it make if we would want it for ourselves or not? You are relying upon an assumed universal general moral rule to make your case when you have no grounds from which to assert or imply such a rule. There is no natural law that prevents me from doing to others things which I would prefer not be done to me.

    And yes, you are right – without the presumed universality and authority of the very moral rule you have implied – do unto others as you would have done unto yourself – humans would indeed be in some very deep trouble. However, it is precisely because such universals moral guidelines exist and we refer to them when speaking to each other that you can put on display your outrage that anyone would draw a moral equivalence between one preference and another.

    An outrage that should not exist if one actually lived up to the premise that morality is entirely subjective.

    Is it not possible that our entire moral system is based on a God given need for moral governance and a God given ability to empathize? It seems to me that these two characteristics of humanity is all that is needed to account for what we see around us.

    No, because “empathy” is not “governance” and can never satisfy a “need for moral governance”. If all we have is empathy and there is no moral structure or consequences beyond that, then why not just shove empathy aside, deaden our concern for others, and do whatever we wish, whatever we think is ultimately in our best interests? Is there no penalty for harming others if we deaden our empathy or train our predilections to enjoy cruelty?

    There is no moral “governance” without consequences. Also, “empathy” is a poor source of moral information because empathy can be easily tricked or misled. We might feel empathy for someone going through addiction withdrawal, but we must put our empathy aside to do what is right for them and help them get through their withdrawal. The same is true when we have to teach our children or keep them from harmful situations or get them to eat a healthy diet.

    Empathy is a useful emotion, but it is conscience and reason that must prove the correct moral path forward even when empathy tugs at our hearts.

  100. 100

    Suppose we conclude that it is possible, in principle, for morality to be grounded in multiple persons. Suppose further that the persons involved live forever and will always gladly and freely support this morality. Would such a morality be ‘objective’? If not, why not?

    If by “grounded” in multiple persons you mean it is subjectively held by all the individuals of a group, then no, it’s not objective. Why not? Because black isn’t white, up isn’t down, and objective isn’t subjective. Morality either refers to an objective commodity that exists regardless of subjective acceptance/participation, or it is not an objective commodity.

    That many or all hold a subjective view doesn’t make that view objective in nature. A thing is objective in nature; we can then have subjective views of that thing that correctly assess/understand the objective thing’s qualities.

  101. 101
    jdk says:

    I wrote e^(i•pi) = -1 because when I used to teach this I first showed the more general formula e^(ix) = cos x + i sin x, from which x = pi produces e^(i•pi) = -1. Rearranging the terms to include 0 is often done in order to make the “five basic constants” form, but the way I wrote it is really more mathematically meaningful if one is not trying to make a philosophical point.

  102. 102
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, you inadvertently underscore my point. The rearrangement as you put it brings out a phenomenon of infinitely deep coherence across entire domains of Mathematics, which is highly significant post Godel, it is even in effect the other side to the story of the incompleteness theorems. Evidence that we have good reason for high confidence in the grand coherence of major domains of Math. In turn such coherence undergirds confidence — note my adverting to faith here — that we are seeing something real in mathematical investigations, we are discovering truths. Objective truths. And, thus, the implicit suspicion towards philosophy as shown is itself now suspect; indeed it begs the question, why that suspicion and dismissal? Could it be that the philosophical context the result points to is pointing where many would not go, today? After all, rhetorical persuasion is always to a purpose, and reveals the thoughts and intents of our hearts. KF

    PS: To see the lurking issues in small part cf here: https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_is_Special_in_Eulers_identity_e_ipi_102 then note Wolfram: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/EulerFormula.html

    PPS — I add: This article is also interesting: http://www.bbc.com/news/scienc.....t-26151062 I clip:

    Prof David Percy from the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications . . . . told the BBC: “It is a real classic and you can do no better than that.

    “It is simple to look at and yet incredibly profound, it comprises the five most important mathematical constants – zero (additive identity), one (multiplicative identity), e and pi (the two most common transcendental numbers) and i (fundamental imaginary number).

    “It also comprises the three most basic arithmetic operations – addition, multiplication and exponentiation.

    “Given that e, pi and i are incredibly complicated and seemingly unrelated numbers, it is amazing that they are linked by this concise formula.

    “At first you don’t realise the implications it’s a gradual impact, perhaps as you would with a piece of music and then suddenly it becomes amazing as you realise its full potential.”

    He said beauty was a source of “inspiration and gives you the enthusiasm to find out about things”.

  103. 103
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, some very good notes. KF

  104. 104
    jdk says:

    The identity as a wrote it “brings out a phenomenon of infinitely deep coherence across entire domains of Mathematics”: I agree with that. A slight rearrangement to include zero doesn’t make that “infinitely deep coherence” any deeper, I don’t think.

    I can assure that I understand the deep coherence: I used to teach the derivation of the formula for e^ix. I don’t think the article you linked to tells me anything I don’t already know.

  105. 105
    daveS says:

    KF (and jdk):

    I know this was directed toward jdk, but it piques my interest:

    And, thus, the implicit suspicion towards philosophy as shown is itself now suspect; indeed it begs the question, why that suspicion and dismissal?

    Is there evidence of suspicion toward philosophy here? I think philosophy is exactly what is needed. I’m not suspicious of philosophy in the slightest. I’m no scholar, but I enjoy reading philosophy (of mathematics and logic, especially) and like to engage some of these questions to the best of my ability.

  106. 106
    john_a_designer says:

    I don’t recall anyone in any of our recent discussions, relating to this topic, discussing William Lane Craig’s syllogistic argument, which actually uses inductive logic to establish one of its premises. Here it is:

    1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

    2. But objective moral values and duties do exist.

    3. Therefore, God exists.

    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....z3Tfk4P86Z

    How does Craig arrive at premise #2 which claims that “objective moral values and duties do exist”? It is because throughout human history most people from most cultures believe– recognize– that there are at least some things that are really morally wrong, even if they don’t completely agree about what those things are. We arrive at those moral beliefs inductively– existentially from our experience of life as human beings.

    Of course, the weakness of inductive logic is that you can never be certain that particular facts A, B, C… establishes a universal truth. For example, it is generally observed that the solid form of a chemical substance is denser than its liquid form. Therefore, when place in a container of its liquid form, the solid form will sink. However, that is not true of water. The solid form of water– ice– floats in liquid water.

    However, Craig’s argument works even if there are some things– even a few things– which are really morally wrong. I would argue that human beings throughout history do generally agree that some things which are really wrong. For example, most societies think that murder, rape and incest are morally wrong. However, in modern society it goes way beyond that. How can we even conceive of the possibility of universal human rights without some kind of transcendent moral standard?

  107. 107
    Eric Anderson says:

    kf:

    Thanks for highlighting the prior exchange and our discussion with AJ, Seversky, Origenes and others. I haven’t had a chance to go through all the comments above, but it looks like a lively exchange.

    For those interested, I’ve posted a new OP, analyzing not so much the argument against materialism and for objective morality, but the materialist mindset itself and how that impacts how the debate plays out:

    https://uncommondescent.com/atheism/the-materialist-mindset/

  108. 108
    kairosfocus says:

    DS: I spoke to/of another participant, where the subtext does suggest a subtle denigration of philosophical matters connected to Mathematics. KF

    PS: I put it to you, that the form that brings out the five connected numbers is indeed further illuminating. There is a reason why that form is so widely used and is the form on which the remarks that this is the most beautiful equation in mathematics, were based.

  109. 109
  110. 110
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, for the real world we have to be content with at most moral certainty — and that very term is a clue, too. Indeed the exchange above on the Euler identity brings out the issue of the incompleteness theorems and the theoretical possibility of incoherent axiom-sets for mathematics. KF

  111. 111
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS: I spoke to/of another participant, where the subtext does suggest a subtle denigration of philosophical matters connected to Mathematics. KF

    Ok, thanks, I must have missed that exchange.

  112. 112
    jdk says:

    I didn’t denigrate philosophical matters, either, although kf must be referring to me. I just wrote an explanation about why I wrote Euler’s identity the way I did. I used to also write it the way kf did, and make the exact same point to my students about the five main constants that kf did.

    But no one would write the more general formula e^ix) – (cos x + isinx) = 0.

    I think kf is being too sensitive here.

  113. 113
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, the power series form for e^x then of e^ix leads to the exponential relationship e^i*theta = cis theta. The substitution instance, in rads, theta = pi, gives a specific, powerfully relevant result. That result ties together several domains of mathematics and implies a powerful coherence that is highly relevant post Godel. Among other things. The resistance to what should be an easy yes, has to have its own explanation and I simply don’t buy the line that algebraically we can get there from the form e^i*pi = – 1 so we go with what is “simpler.” Yes, add 1 to RHS and LHS, so why is so much invested in not taking that step, which gives so much insight? Especially to students, where something of that level of beauty and power is utterly magnetic, drawing people to the discipline? [BTW, I didn’t first hear this from the tutor in a class, a fellow student showed me at a student Astronomy club meeting, being amazed at what he had learned in class and knowing its striking power to draw attention, provoking interest.] KF

  114. 114
    Origenes says:

    W J Murray @100

    For clarity, I am not at all trying to argue with you. What follows is just an attempt to get some clarity about terms and concepts I struggle with.

    WJM: Morality either refers to an objective commodity that exists regardless of subjective acceptance/participation, or it is not an objective commodity.

    One feature of “objective”, I take it, is to exist regardless of subjective acceptance/participation. Here is my problem with this term. I my view all existence is ultimately grounded in a person, a subject if you will. In my view God is also a person — a subject.
    If God, as a person, upholds his morality, what makes it “objective”? Is it only “objective” to us, because God would hold the same morality regardless of our subjective acceptance/participation, or is it also somehow objective to God?
    One more thing: often “subject” or “subjective” is used as to indicate unreliability and/or weird random preferences/morality. This is not my understanding of those terms.

  115. 115
    jdk says:

    kf writes at 113,

    JDK, the power series form for e^x then of e^ix leads to the exponential relationship e^i*theta = cis theta. The substitution instance, in rads, theta = pi, gives a specific, powerfully relevant result. That result ties together several domains of mathematics and implies a powerful coherence that is highly relevant post Godel. Among other things.

    Yes, that is what I wrote at 101 and 104, although when I mentioned that I derived it for my students,I didn’t bother to mention that we did that using power series. I also agreed that I understood the “deep coherence” that the formula represents.

    Also, in 112 I said I used to explain the form e^ix) + 1 = 0 for exactly the reasons you mention.

    Therefore, I don’t understand why you keep lecturing me about this as if I didn’t understand something. ???

  116. 116
    Phinehas says:

    Origenes:

    Suppose we conclude that it is possible, in principle, for morality to be grounded in multiple persons. Suppose further that the persons involved live forever and will always gladly and freely support this morality. Would such a morality be ‘objective’? If not, why not?

    Subjective feelings are not made objective simply by being widely or even universally felt.

    One aspect of subjective opinion is that we routinely recognize that its opposite is just as valid. I find liver disgusting, but I recognize that it is perfectly valid for someone else to hold that it is delicious.

    We can clearly see this is the case in that, even if every single person on the planet found liver disgusting, the moment someone said they found it delicious, we’d have to admit that their personal preference was just as valid as any other.

    That’s how personal preference works. And this is completely at odds with how everyone treats morality. We treat morality, with incredible consistency, exactly as though it is an objective commodity. Though some may claim that morality is subjective, what they can do is demonstrate that we treat it as such, or that there is any substantive difference between how we treat it and how we treat things that we believe are objectively true.

  117. 117
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, you made some remarks above. KF

  118. 118
    jdk says:

    ??? I have no idea what you are talking about ???

  119. 119

    Origienes @ 114:

    That is where our outlooks different; I don’t view god as a subject, an individual or as a person. but rather as the root of existence itself. It is the absolute nature of being that provides the basis for “objectiveness”.

  120. 120
    jdk says:

    to kf:

    Here are a list of statements that I believe are true about Euler’s identity, and I think that there are none that you would disagree with. Do you see any statements here that you don’t think are true, or you think should be stated differently to be more accurate?

    1. Euler’s formula e^(ix) = cos x + i sin x is an important formula in mathematics.

    2. Euler’s formula can be derived from the power series for e^x, cos x, and sin x, plus the powers of i.

    3. Euler’s formula is quite remarkable, as it brings into a single formula three major and seemingly separate areas of mathematics: trigonometry, exponential functions, and complex numbers.

    (Side note: I think it is thus remarkable that e^(ix) can be interpreted as a vector in the complex plane.)

    4. Given that Euler’s formula can be derived from the power series, which are themselves derived from calculus in respect to the fundamental properties of trig and exponentials, Euler’s formula can ultimately be shown to be logically derived back to the basic foundations of the mathematics of functions, algebra, and arithmetic.

    5. Euler’s identity e^(i*pi) = -1 is a direct result of letting x = pi in Euler’s formula.

    6. Euler’s identity can therefore be written e^(i*pi) + 1 = 0, which is very nice because it contains the two fundamental constants of arithmetic (the additive identity 0 and the multiplicative identity 1), pi (representing trig), e (representing exponentials), and i (representing the complex numbers).

    7. Thus many people see Euler’s identity as one of the most, if not the most, remarkable identities in math, representing the way that seemingly disparate aspects of math can cohere into a unified whole.

  121. 121
    hammaspeikko says:

    JaD@106, we may believe these three premises, but that is far from proof. First, why is it impossible to have objective moral values and duties without God? Duties could certainly be designed into us by a designer that isn’t God. But even assuming that they were put their by God, what makes the moral values objective? Wouldn’t they, by definition, be subjective, at least from God’s perspective?

    Secondly, the second premise, that objective moral values and duties exist, is far from proven. Most of us may believe this because of what we have always been taught, much like many people believe evolution, but we can’t know this for a fact.

    For example, most societies think that murder, rape and incest are morally wrong.

    Most is not all, which I would think is the prerequisite for something to be universal. Most societies have condoned institutional murder, whether as capital punishment, war or abortion. Rape was legal in so called Christian societies until well into the 20th century (1993 in some US states). Incest was not uncommon until fairly recent times.

    How can we even conceive of the possibility of universal human rights without some kind of transcendent moral standard?

    We think about it all the time, even though we don’t always agree on what a universal human right is. For example, the equality of all people, regardless of gender, race and religion is generally agreed to be universal human rights, and we are willing to fight for them. But this has not always been the case. Even in western cultures, women did not receive equal treatment and equal rights until quite recently. More recently, basic human rights have been extended to homosexuals. None of this was the result of any transcendent moral value. It was the result of people fighting for these rights and the rest of society not having any logical and rational reason to deny people these rights. And, I hate to admit it, religion has often played a significant role, often in a misguided fashion, in denying these basic rights to people. For example, the Christian marriage vow, up until very recently, required the wife to “love honour and obey“.

  122. 122
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, did you not notice your very telling remark at 101 above:

    101 jdk May 3, 2017 at 6:44 am

    I wrote e^(i•pi) = -1 because when I used to teach this I first showed the more general formula e^(ix) = cos x + i sin x, from which x = pi produces e^(i•pi) = -1. Rearranging the terms to include 0 is often done in order to make the “five basic constants” form, but the way I wrote it is really more mathematically meaningful if one is not trying to make a philosophical point.

    That is what I am responding to, and you obviously have made no serious defense for the highlighted point. I point out: the five numbers form brings out a powerful and deep coherence across domains of Mathematics, and in so doing gives us significant mathematical — not merely philosophical — comfort in a post Godel incompleteness theorems world. Though, the epistemological import of coherence giving confidence regarding knowledge claims is not to be lightly disregarded. I put it to you that it is not a correct judgement that the one step short form is MORE mathematically meaningful given that issue of showing a strong coherence across key domains of Mathematics. Coherence is very important indeed, and this one eqn may be the most profound single short unifying statement of extremely broad and powerful coherence I saw in all my academic studies. A case, therefore, of a key fact for the discussion of the vexed puzzle of the one and the many. KF

  123. 123
    Origenes says:

    WJM @119

    Now I understand your use of the term “objective”. Thanks.
    Unfortunately it is not something I can adopt, because the concept of a non-personal God does not make sense to me.

  124. 124
    Origenes says:

    Phinehas @116

    Can you provide a definition of “objective”? See also post #114.

  125. 125
    kairosfocus says:

    HP,

    Pardon an intervention.

    Did you notice that the root case actually argued that — on pain of grand delusion — we are responsibly and rationally, insightfully free and thus logically and morally governed?

    Thus, that we live in a world that must come from roots that sufficiently sustain such creatures. For, we can see that neither infinite temporal-causal regress nor an ultimate chicken-egg loop make good sense . . the antinomies issue. Thus, we face a finitely remote world-root of necessary being character. Where also, post Hume, we can only so support moral government at world-root level.

    So, we need a necessary being world root that fuses IS and OUGHT inextricably and inherently.

    In that context, I invited a worldviews level inference to best explanation on comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power.

    the God of ethical theism is a serious candidate necessary being and as a matter of fact after centuries of debates, is the only serious candidate that answers to the challenge: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and the reasonable responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.

    I then simply invited (as I have done for years) that objectors simply put forward an alternative that will not rapidly fall into incoherence etc: _________

    It will be readily seen that no one has put forth such a serious candidate. this underscores the force of the point, there is just one serious candidate.

    Where, a serious candidate necessary being (Flying Spaghetti Monsters etc need not apply) will either be an impossible being as a square circle is, or else it will be actual. Present, as part of the undergirding framework for any actually possible world. Not just this one.

    I also invited objectors to provide grounds for holding the God of ethical theism an impossible being: _______

    Again, little or no response.

    What we see above is all sorts of side-tracks and tangents.

    In some cases, fair comment is: approaching the status of strawman fallacies.

    I suggest that you should refocus your thoughts and address the core challenge on the table.

    The same, holds for others also.

    KF

    PS: Hume’s “Guillotine” argument:

    In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.

    I draw attention, again to the Holmes comment I put up as comment no 1 above, which has largely been ignored but it of the greatest moment on the focal matter:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments.
    [Arthur F. Holmes, Ethics, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1984), p. 81. Holmes goes on to point out that certain duties arise from our particular relationships, commitments and roles in the family and wider community. We may also face situations in which we are forced to choose the lesser of evils, especially where delay or inaction is in effect to make a worse choice.]

    The answer of ethical theism is that IS and OUGHT are fused in the character of the necessary being root of the world, God. And as this is at the root of reality, it is not vulnerable to the IS IS — OUGHT OUGHT gap Hume highlighted. Where also, intersubjective agreement [even among small-g gods who inherently are not going to be the NB root of reality], empathy, etc are all inadequate to sufficiently root OUGHT as a binding obligation, above and beyond might and manipulation make ‘truth,’ ‘right,’ ‘rights’ etc.

  126. 126
    kairosfocus says:

    Origines, in context, we can speak of overlapping degrees or aspects of truth. Subjective — as perceived by a subject. Absolute, as being the materially complete, utterly accurate, undiluted, untainted description of reality. Objective, as intermediate and overlapping: well warranted and sufficiently reliable for use, but in principle open to correction towards being a closer approximation to the absolute ideal. Warrant is the bridge that moves us beyond mere perceptions to a heightened confidence that we have something reliably close enough to the truth, the whole relevant truth and nothing but the relevant truth. The problem with subjects is of course that we may well err, though that error exists is a self evident, certain truth. One that utterly overthrows ideas that truth is no more than subjective, or relative to circumstances and communities, etc or is unknowable [especially to certainty] etc. I may know something subjectively that is absolutely true too, e.g. that I am conscious [including here even dream states etc], even through I may be deluded about some of the contents and circumstances of that consciousness. KF

    PS: Notice, how more and more philosophical detains are being required to clarify issues, puzzles and more? See why Plato in the Laws Bk X is right?

    PPS: The God of ethical theism is maximally great and inherently good, so will be the truth himself and communicative reason himself — cf. here, too, the profound remarks on the LOGOS in John 1: 1 – 14, which is a philosophical introduction to specifically Christian ethical theism.

  127. 127
    Origenes says:

    KF: … in context, we can speak of overlapping degrees or aspects of truth. Subjective — as perceived by a subject. Absolute, as being the materially complete, utterly accurate, undiluted, untainted description of reality.

    The perceived Absolute (truth) is … perceived by a subject. Correct? If so, how does it help to say that the “subjective” is what is perceived by the subject?

    KF: Objective, as intermediate and overlapping: well warranted and sufficiently reliable for use, but in principle open to correction towards being a closer approximation tot he absolute ideal.

    Assuming that the “objective” (truth) is used by … a subject, I again fail to see how this helps to differentiate between the different levels of knowledge.
    In my book all knowledge is subjective: the bad, the good and the absolute. And there is nothing wrong with that; “subjective” is not a dirty word.

    KF: I may know something subjectively that is absolutely true …

    Right, I’m with you 100%. But, how does that not pose a problem wrt the use of the terms “subjective” and “absolute”?

  128. 128
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Regarding:

    I point out: the five numbers form brings out a powerful and deep coherence across domains of Mathematics, and in so doing gives us significant mathematical — not merely philosophical — comfort in a post Godel incompleteness theorems world.

    do you mean this provides some evidence for the consistency of our mathematical systems (e.g., ZFC)?

  129. 129
    kairosfocus says:

    O, truth is that which says of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not, following Ari in metaphysics 1011b, giving source. The force of this should be obvious, telling it like it is. Truth — an assertion of what is or is not so — requires communicative agents, who will normally be perceivers. One may be subjectively aware of what is the absolute truth. But for that truth to have objective warrant, some logic has to be applied to evidence and to premises: are our senses credible, are we reasoning properly, did we start from plausible premises, are these observations accurate etc, and in the case of inductive reasoning, are our supportive arguments cogent. The distinction between the three degrees is important, as we or other agents may be in error. Absolute truth is an ideal goal, to know the relevant truth in entirety without gaps and without false additions, material to the issues we face. Subjective truth is what we actually perceive to be so, but that may be tainted by error. After a warranting, rational, responsible process, we may arrive at objective truth, open to correction but credible and tested to be reliable, to whatever degree. KF

  130. 130
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, nope, I used coherence for cause [I am specifically speaking of an epistemological grounding for confidence to moral certainty, not a claimed axiomatic deductive proof . . . which Godel showed we must suspect], and what I am speaking to is antecedent to ZFC etc. ZFC etc need to bow to this, not the reverse. Euler showed that major domains were in coherence, and even though he probably did not know what we would understand transcendentals to be [or did he do even more than I know on this area?], he showed that the two key ones that unify so much of math are infinitely locked, and locked to 0, 1 and i in that coherence. Likewise we see this extending to the operations involved and implied, and then flowing out again to a vast domain, including the applied world. KF

  131. 131
    Origenes says:

    KF @129

    KF: Subjective truth is what we actually perceive to be so, but that may be tainted by error.

    Why call uncertain knowledge “subjective”? Why not use terms like “provisional” or “uncertain”? What information is added by the term “subjective”? We are subjects, all our knowledge is “subjective” by definition, so why the restrictive use of the term “subjective” for our most provisional/uncertain knowledge? What does it clarify?

  132. 132
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Ok, is this a fair paraphrase of your statement?

    We do not know if (most of) our mathematical reasoning is consistent. However we can take comfort in the fact that there is some coherence among mathematical domains, as demonstrated for example by Euler’s Identity (and the related Formula) which relates 5 fundamentally important numbers, and which has significant application in a diverse collection of these domains.

  133. 133
    hammaspeikko says:

    Kairosfocus@125, this may all make sense to you, I have to be honest and say that it doesn’t to me. But I am interested in your thoughts on the one comment I made. If God is the ultimate source of our moral values, are they not then subjective from his perspective? If not, then they exist in spite of Him, not because of Him. This being the logical consequences, doesn’t it make more sense that God is the ultimate source of our need for a deeply ingrained moral system, but not necessarily responsible for the individual moral values that we each have?

    This is certainly a better explanation of the fact that we each have different values than to rationalize it by saying there are objective values but that we have difficulty figuring out what they are.

    The argument that if moral values are subjective that we are living a delusion is dead at the starting gate. I believe that not killing is an objective value, but the same value can easily be arrived at through simple logic. It may be subjective, but it is not delusional. If I am to expect others to not harm me, logic dictates that I should should not harm others and I should not sit back and watch others be harmed.

  134. 134

    Origines said:

    Unfortunately it is not something I can adopt, because the concept of a non-personal God does not make sense to me.

    I’m not sure how you’re using the term “personal”. The concept of god “as a person” makes no sense to me whatsoever, if we’re talking about the fundamental root of existence.

    If you’re talking “personal” as in an entity that is intimately involved in you personally, then I don’t know how it can get more personal than god being the root and ongoing creator of your existence and source of your free will capacity.

  135. 135

    hammaspeikko said:

    If God is the ultimate source of our moral values, are they not then subjective from his perspective?

    What does it mean to see things “from god’s perspective”? God doesn’t have “a perspective”, god is omniscient and omnipresent. A perspective means having “a point of view” as if there are other “points of view”; what are the competing “points of view” or perspectives when it comes to God?

    Your question is a categorical non-sequitur. There is no other perspective. God’s perspective contains all possible perspectives. This is why god is the root of the existence of the objective. There are no alternatives available.

  136. 136
    Charles says:

    William J Murray @ 134

    I don’t know how it can get more personal than god being the root and ongoing creator of your existence and source of your free will capacity.

    It gets more personal because God has personally paid the price for the sins that you personally committed and God expects you to personally show your gratitude to Him personally and acknowledge Him personally, one way or the other.

  137. 137
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, in part. It is not just comfort, an emotive term, it is that we have warrant enough to be responsibly willing to bet the farm on that coherence, which in fact we routinely do. And the Euler identity gives a striking one-point case on that coherence. KF

  138. 138
    kairosfocus says:

    O, start at predawn. I perceive a large, blackish ball on a table. As the sun rises, I find my sense of sight to be in a better environment, and I now see the ball is bright red. I have good reason to trust my colour-sense in daylight, rather than at night. However, some subject may have a form of colour blindness that causes him to easily confuse certain colours. In some cases he may correctly identify the red, but in others, he may be confused, I am told there is a muddiness. Now, suppose somebody makes a gift of those glasses that have a filtered cut-out band which appalrently reduces overlap of certain cone cells, and now is able to more accurately perceive colours. I have seen vids of people reduced to exclamations and tears on first putting on such glasses. In turn, I have reason to trust the vids and the claims that by filtering certain colour bands, a better colour resolution is possible for some colour blind people. I am also told there are people with a fourth type of cone, who have a super-resolution of colours. This, I have no reason to doubt, but it is not as well warranted for me. The difference between subjective perception and the advance to warrant that then leads to a degree of objectivity should be clear, where there is a whole realm of study on what degree of warrant is possible, reasonable or not reasonable in a given case, cf Courts of law and their rules of evidence as a good case in point. The further point that the absolute truth is an ideal of complete accuracy on the material factors in a situation, should also be clear. But this whole exercise in a nutshell shows just how ticklish the seemingly simple issues we are dealing with are. KF

  139. 139
    kairosfocus says:

    HP, we are dealing with quite difficult matters, as you can see form just the exchange on degrees of truth and what this connects to. Not even, this is true is a simple matter in the end, especially given the degree of assault objectivity has suffered in our civilisation. Likewise, another exchange is beginning to turn on the difference between claiming evidence of coherence to moral certainty and the fallacy of claiming a proof of consistency i/l/o the Godel results. the matters you have taken up are even more ticklish and broad ranging, actually requiring years of effort to form a coherent view that one can stand up in public with. I strongly suggest to you that you need to start with what a worldview is, what first principles of right reason are, what the logic of being is about — I have found Avi Sion a very helpful source online on this, what possible worlds talk is about, then how can we explain the origin of our world as a temporal-causal order. In that context, there are issues on our being inescapably morally governed, indeed your and all of our arguments turn on implied binding duties to truth, right, and much more. In this context, I have argued that a finitely remote world root is the best supported solution on causal-temporal order and origin. This points to a necessary being as world root. beyond, post Hume, such a being will also have to ground moral government. I then brought to bear inference to best explanation (a form of inductive argument in the modern sense) to put forth the only serious candidate. I have invited those of other persuasions to put up alternatives that can pass the comparative difficulties test: _______ . Likewise, as a serious candidate necessary being will either be impossible (as a square circle is impossible) or actual, I have invited those who imagine there is no God to suggest how God is an impossible being: ______ . I trust this will at least outline for you the sort of range of issues and ideas I am working with. KF

    PS: At least twice above, I have shown you why radical subjectivism and/or relativism — though popular and rhetorically appealing — necessarily fail.

  140. 140
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Let me draw it to your attention, again:

    1: Error exists, symbolised E and

    with the denial,

    2: Error does not exist, ~E. (That is, it is an error to assert Error exists ~E.) Already, we see that

    3: E and ~E are mutually exhaustive and utterly opposed, one will be true and the other false.

    4: Simple inspection shows that the assertion that in effect it is an error to hold that error exists must be the one in error. ~E falsifies itself.

    5: So, we see that E is not only factually true (think of red X’s for wrong sums in elementary school) but it holds undeniably, the very attempt to deny it ends up underscoring that it is true.

    6: This is an example of a self-evident truth.

    7: Such a SET is true, it accurately describes some aspect of the world. In Aristotle’s language, it says of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. (Cf. Metaphysics 1011b.)

    8: The SET, E is also UNDENIABLY true, so it is justified true belief, certain knowledge.

    9: Thus, certain knowledge exists, and the first such point is that error exists.

    10: We know that truth exists, self evident truth exists, certain knowledge of such truth exists, and that a first such truth is that error exists.

    11: This is key — a plumb line truth — as it at once sweeps away schemes of thought, ideologies, claims and worldviews that assert or imply that truth does not exist beyond strong opinion, or that truth is not knowable, or that self evident and certainly known truth is not possible.

    12: This includes radical relatitivism and subjectivism, in the many, many forms that are popular or even academically entrenched.

    13: Our era is an era in which key little errors in the beginning have led to vast systems built on errors,systems which need to be corrected and reformed or even replaced.

    14: Likewise, moral SET’s exist, such as that it is evil to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a young child for one’s pleasure or the like motive. (This one, if followed up, leads to many key consequences about morality, it is a moral yardstick truth. [I add, cf here in context])

    15: In the case of the 9/11 attackers, they must have known that treachery, hostage taking, mass murder and the like were acts of piracy and war crimes, for cause. Such acts do not meet the criteria of just war, not least as there are non lethal means of addressing any legitimate concerns they may have had.

    16: In fact these were acts of IslamIST terrorism, jihad by suicide bands, meant to open up the way for the final global conquest by Mahdi. This, under Q 9:5 and 29, which abrogate essentially all of the irenic parts. Just, it is not politically correct to say that these days.

    17: In short, these are cases of readily demonstrated gross moral error. Similar to the acts of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro Che Guevarra and co.

    18: So, if moral truth is knowable and moral error exists, our duty is to recognise and correct error, seeking to live by moral truth.

    19: That is indeed an implication of your argument. You expected to exert persuasive power by appealing to our duties to truth and to right etc. But on radical relativism or subjectivism, such moral truths and duties do not exist, above might and manipulation making ‘truth’ ‘right ‘rights’ and the like in a given community.

    20: In short, your arguments above turn on implicit appeals to duties that on your premises do not exist, they are self-contradictory and false, errors.

    If you think this is an error, kindly explain specifically why: ______

  141. 141
    kairosfocus says:

    O, have you heard the phrase, “my truth is X”? KF

  142. 142

    Charles said:

    It gets more personal because God has personally paid the price for the sins that you personally committed and God expects you to personally show your gratitude to Him personally and acknowledge Him personally, one way or the other.

    Again, I don’t see how that is any more personal. God has done everything there is to do, including everything you’ve personally done and everything required in the development of your journey be it salvation, enlightenment, ruination, damnation or ultimately non-existence. Omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. There’s nothing you can say that I do, chose, had occur for me, etc., that is not contained in the universal immanence of the O3 godhead. There’s nothing more objectively existent and at the same time there’s nothing more personal. It’s logically impossible for there to exist something more personal and objective than the O3 God.

  143. 143
    john_a_designer says:

    Origenes @ 114,

    I agree that the terms objective and subjective when is come to morality can be either misleading or confusing. It is no doubt confusing because we don’t see, smell or sense morality in the same way we sense something objectively “out there” is the world– rocks, trees, flowers, stars, planets or people etc. Obviously morals are not something we perceive in that way.

    However, when it comes to ethics and morality is there a difference between what someone personally believes is right or wrong and what is really right and wrong. The first view is what is usually termed “subjective”; the second is what is termed “objective.” For example, is a man justified in cheating on his wife because they are having marital difficulties? He may be able to personally rationalize to himself that his actions are justified but does that make it right? Does right and wrong rest on an individual’s personal (subjective) opinion or is there a higher (objective) interpersonal standard that as human we are all obligated to follow?

    In other words, even if the terms “objective” and “subjective” are inadequate there are still categorical distinctions in ethics and morality which exist.

  144. 144
    Charles says:

    William J Murray @ 142

    It’s logically impossible for there to exist something more personal and objective than the O3 God.

    He doesn’t exist in solitude. He created you, in His image and less than Him, but apart from Him with your own free will.

    God has done everything there is to do, including everything you’ve personally done and everything required in the development of your journey be it salvation, enlightenment, ruination, damnation or ultimately non-existence.

    No, God has not done everything required in your salvation. He has provided for it, yes, and offered it to you, as a gift, but like a gift, it must be accepted by you for what it is and the giver acknowledged. God has not lived your life for you, He gave you life and free will and with it you made your own choices, comitted your own actions. He has provided you with all that you require, yes, but you are responsible for your actions and inactions.

    God has delegated to you the responsibility to acknowledge the sacrfice He made for your sins. He doesn’t thank Himself in your stead. That responsibility is yours to fulfill.

    He expects you personally to accept His offer of forgiveness and for you personally to thank Him for His sacrifice personally in your place, on your behalf personally. If you were the only person God ever created, He would still have made that same sacrifice for you personally and still expects you to acknowledge that sacrifice and be grateful to Him, personally.

    There’s nothing you can say that I do, chose, had occur for me, etc., that is not contained in the universal immanence of the O3 godhead.

    There remains the matter of “gratitude”, yours to Him.

  145. 145
    hammaspeikko says:

    Kairosfocus@139, I am not suggesting that a world root level necessary being is not required. I am merely hypothesizing what this necessary being is responsible for. And possibly what He is not responsible for.

    I don’t think that anyone argues that, whatever the cause, we are morally governed. Humans have this deeply ingrained feeling of something, for lack of a better word, we call morality and that we feel, rightly or wrongly, that we are justified in expecting others to comply with our values. Whether or not our justifications are actually logically sound justifications is immaterial.

    For example, there was a recent case of a county clerk refusing to issue a marriage licence to a same sex couple. I have no doubt that she felt fully justified in this action and nothing anyone could say would change her mind. On the other side, I think that she was completely unjustified in her actions. The thing that we both have in common is that our views in this respect are governed by our individual and different moral values.

    As such, I have still not seen why a God given need for individual moral systems that is populated with subjectively derived moral values cannot result in the world we see around us. The values that the vast majority of us share (not killing, not stealing, not lying…) are easily seen as a requirement of a stable society, and therefore easily arrived at through reason. If you can identify a moral value that is shared by the vast majority of people that can’t easily be derived by reason as a requirement of living in a community, then that is the one that can best be argued as being objective.

  146. 146
    Origenes says:

    KF: The difference between subjective perception and the advance to warrant that then leads to a degree of objectivity should be clear …

    It is clear Kairosfocus. This is the third time in a row that you explain it to me. It is clear to me that bad knowledge is termed “subjective”, that good knowledge is termed “objective” and that perfect knowledge is called “absolute”. I’m pretty sure that I got it the first time. Don’t worry: it is perfectly clear to me.

    What is not clear to me is ‘why’. Why is the term “subjective” used to indicate bad/provisional/unwarranted knowledge? My questions in post #131 remain unanswered

  147. 147
    Origenes says:

    KF: have you heard the phrase, “my truth is X”?

    Many times. It suggests that there are multiple truths, which is incoherent.

  148. 148
    HeKS says:

    Origenes,

    I’m finding these ways of defining subjective and objective rather odd in this context.

    When speaking of Subjective Morality, we’re not talking about a type of knowledge or belief, but about a type of commodity or reality. Subjective morality speaks to a morality that has its existence only in the mind of one or more humans, but it does not reflect any reality that exists in the world at large, outside the minds of humans. For this reason, nobody can ever be wrong about Subjective Morality in any ultimate sense, because its ultimate ground exists only within the individuals who hold those particular moral opinions. They are real for the person who holds them, but they are no more real than the opposite moral opinions that might be held by someone else. There is no touchstone or ruler against which these can be compared and found to be in error.

    Conversely, Objective Morality refers to a morality that really exists as part of the backdrop of reality, and it is what it is regardless of how well people discern it or how they get to know about it. In this case, moral claims become descriptive claims about how the world is, rather than merely descriptive claims about how this person or that person feels. This means that moral claims about what is good or bad can actually be in error, because they are claims about what THE truth is, not simply what YOUR OWN truth is.

  149. 149
    kairosfocus says:

    O, subjectivity is inevitable in human knowing etc. The issue is that truth is what accurately describes reality, no reference to warrant or whatever. One can subjectively perceive and assert or accept the absolute truth of a matter. Or, one can be in error. The application of warrant of appropriate degree moves us to objective truth that is not just a perception. But warrant typically is not perfect so objective truth claims are open to onward test. KF

    PS; The my truth is X claim tries to reduce truth to the subjective domain.

  150. 150
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, can someone kindly show us i, the square root of -1? An abstract entity like that can have objective warrant. We can show that a square circle is an impossible being. We can show that were there ever utter non-being, as such has no causal capacity, such would forever obtain. And many more cases. In morality, it is self evident — and thus quite objective — that it is evil to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a young child for one’s sick pleasure. (BTW, notice how across the years no-one has tried to argue that such is a good thing or at least morally neutral?) So, we can be pretty sure of objectivity of truth and knowledge in general, and of moral knowledge on key points in particular. Just, it is not fashionable to say that in today’s reprobate age in which say, law, medicine, media, parliaments, education etc are utterly warped to enable the worst holocaust in history, our generation’s war on our unborn children: 800+ million dead in 40+ years, and mounting up at a million per week. Such an untoward generation cannot be expected to think straight. We need to wake up to what we have become, fast. KF

  151. 151
    Origenes says:

    john_a_designer @143

    … when it comes to ethics and morality is there a difference between what someone personally believes is right or wrong and what is really right and wrong.

    Is there necessarily a difference?

    The first view is what is usually termed “subjective”; the second is what is termed “objective.”

    Indeed. Now why is this? This convention seems to suggest that there is something wrong with ‘what someone personally believes is right or wrong’. There is something wrong with personal beliefs, because they are personal/subjective. Because they are personal they cannot, in principle, be correct/“objective”.
    I have two problems with this:
    1) I don’t understand why this is necessarily the case. Why does the fact that knowledge X is held by a person make knowledge X wrong?
    2) All knowledge is held by a person. There is no other kind. There is only “subjective” knowledge.

  152. 152
    hammaspeikko says:

    HeKs:

    For this reason, nobody can ever be wrong about Subjective Morality in any ultimate sense, because its ultimate ground exists only within the individuals who hold those particular moral opinions. They are real for the person who holds them, but they are no more real than the opposite moral opinions that might be held by someone else. There is no touchstone or ruler against which these can be compared and found to be in error.”

    I’m afraid that I have to disagree. The touchstone or ruler by which they can be compared is how they serve the individual and their family over the long term. We have all experienced, either directly or indirectly, that dishonesty may benefit an individual over the short term, and sometimes over the medium term. But once others catch on to the dishonesty, the benefits quickly turn into detriments. A person who has a reputation of honesty benefits from it in the long run.

  153. 153
    Origenes says:

    KF @149

    One can subjectively perceive and assert or accept the absolute truth of a matter.

    There is no other way, right? We are subjects, so we can only do things “subjectively”.

    Or, one can be in error.

    You mean: ‘Or, one can be “subjectively” in error’.

    We could also choose, and this would be my suggestion, to refrain from the term “subjective”, because it is meaningless:

    One can subjectively perceive and assert or accept the absolute truth of a matter. Or, one can be in error.

    See? I don’t think that any meaning has been lost by leaving “subjectively” out.

  154. 154
    HeKS says:

    hammaspeikko #152

    But this is why this discussion always comes down to ultimate logical grounding. Notice…

    I’m afraid that I have to disagree. The touchstone or ruler by which they can be compared is how they serve the individual and their family over the long term.

    And that is a subjective or utilitarian measure. Of course certain actions will be more or less conducive to achieving certain targets, but you must always then ask why anyone should be compelled to accept that the target itself is good or right. Some actions are more or less conducive to the flourishing of human well-being, but who says that the flourishing of human well-being is a good or right target? Why should anyone feel compelled to accept that if they are not so inclined? Perhaps the other person, like the radical environmentalist, thinks that the good and right thing is for 90% of humans to be exterminated from the planet for the sake of the plants and the rocks, so that the planet can return to looking untouched by human habitation. Who is to say they would not be right in killing off most of the human population to achieve the ends they consider desirable?

    Saying that we are able to measure actions against desired goals and then call those things that are conducive to attaining the goal, “good”, and those that are not, “bad”, tells us nothing about the objective moral status of the actions. Two groups with two diametrically opposed goals could place opposite moral labels on identical actions and both groups would be equally right in the context of their own subjective standards and goals. If Objective Morality exists, however, they cannot possibly both be right. At least one of the groups would have to be wrong about the moral status of their actions.

    We have all experienced, either directly or indirectly, that dishonesty may benefit an individual over the short term, and sometimes over the medium term.

    But who says that it’s long-term benefits that should matter? And what if some individual succeeds in attaining long-term benefits from dishonesty? Does that mean that dishonesty is morally good for them?

    But once others catch on to the dishonesty, the benefits quickly turn into detriments. A person who has a reputation of honesty benefits from it in the long run.

    And what if someone doesn’t care about their reputation or about getting benefits in the long run? Or what if they just keep moving to new towns every time they think their dishonesty is about to start working against them and they start in with their dishonesty all over again?

    As I’ve said before, if we want to affirm that there is ANY action that is really morally right or wrong, even just one thing, then we are affirming the existence of objective morality and we need an ultimate grounding for that.

  155. 155
    Origenes says:

    HeKS @148

    When speaking of Subjective Morality, we’re not talking about a type of knowledge or belief, but about a type of commodity or reality. Subjective morality speaks to a morality that has its existence only in the mind of one or more humans, but it does not reflect any reality that exists in the world at large, outside the minds of humans.

    If subjective morality ‘does not reflect any reality that exists in the world at large, outside the minds of humans’, then it has to be wrong. What does that mean? It means that all my personal/subjective beliefs about morality are wrong, because they are personal/subjective. But why is that the case? Why is it that, because a belief is held by a person—because a belief is “subjective”—, it has to be wrong?
    Given the fact that I am a person (subject) and can only hold personal (subjective) knowledge, this doesn’t look good.

    For this reason, nobody can ever be wrong about Subjective Morality in any ultimate sense, because its ultimate ground exists only within the individuals who hold those particular moral opinions.

    This doesn’t make sense to me. Any morality, so-called “subjective morality” included, makes claims about the world that exists outside the minds of humans. Obviously those claims are false if they do not reflect that reality. Also, it does not make the claims ‘not wrong’ when the ultimate ground of those claims lies within individuals.

    They are real for the person who holds them, but they are no more real than the opposite moral opinions that might be held by someone else.

    So? The mere fact that they look real to some ppl (also) do not make them true.

    There is no touchstone or ruler against which these can be compared and found to be in error.

    Again, moral claims are about reality.

    Conversely, Objective Morality refers to a morality that really exists as part of the backdrop of reality, and it is what it is regardless of how well people discern it or how they get to know about it.

    Given that we are subjects and that all our knowledge is therefor “subjective”, how can we know about “objective morality”, without turning it into that useless “subjective morality”, which, according to you, by definition, ‘does not reflect any reality that exists in the world at large, outside the minds of humans’?

    In this case, moral claims become descriptive claims about how the world is, rather than merely descriptive claims about how this person or that person feels.

    Okay, so “subjective morality” is “merely descriptive claims about how this person or that person feels.” You do understand that this is not what I’m talking about, right?

    This means that moral claims about what is good or bad can actually be in error, because they are claims about what THE truth is, not simply what YOUR OWN truth is.

    Sorry HeKS, this is not helpful. Nowhere have I argued that there is such a thing as “multiple truths”.

  156. 156
    hammaspeikko says:

    HeKs:

    And that is a subjective or utilitarian measure.

    Agreed.

    Of course certain actions will be more or less conducive to achieving certain targets, but you must always then ask why anyone should be compelled to accept that the target itself is good or right.

    Why? If the vast majority agree with it (eg, killing, stealing, lying…), does it really matter if it is right or wrong? With that level of support, it is going to happen, or efforts will be made to prevent in from happening, regardless. We have seen this throughout history, with both favourable and detrimental outcomes.

    Why should anyone feel compelled to accept that if they are not so inclined?

    That is why we have laws. They are not perfect, but they seem to work.

    Perhaps the other person, like the radical environmentalist, thinks that the good and right thing is for 90% of humans to be exterminated from the planet for the sake of the plants and the rocks, so that the planet can return to looking untouched by human habitation.

    They are certainly entitled to their thoughts.

    Who is to say they would not be right in killing off most of the human population to achieve the ends they consider desirable?

    I think that the 90% slated for extermination might object.

    Saying that we are able to measure actions against desired goals and then call those things that are conducive to attaining the goal, “good”, and those that are not, “bad”, tells us nothing about the objective moral status of the actions.

    But we are talking about objective versus subjective morality. If there are no objective moral values, why does it have to tell us anything about the objective moral status of the values?

    But who says that it’s long-term benefits that should matter?

    That was just an example. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

    And what if some individual succeeds in attaining long-term benefits from dishonesty? Does that mean that dishonesty is morally good for them?

    For them? Yes. Whatever “morally good” means.

    And what if someone doesn’t care about their reputation or about getting benefits in the long run?

    Then they will just live outside of society. As we see every day.

    Or what if they just keep moving to new towns every time they think their dishonesty is about to start working against them and they start in with their dishonesty all over again?

    Then they aren’t interested in living within a community. And, again, we see this in real life. How is this an argument for objective morality?

    As I’ve said before, if we want to affirm that there is ANY action that is really morally right or wrong, even just one thing, then we are affirming the existence of objective morality and we need an ultimate grounding for that.

    But I am playing devil’s advocate. If there is no objective morality, how is it possible to affirm objective right or wrong?

    I realize that I am being a little pig headed in this, but most of the arguments that I have seen supporting objective morality either presuppose that it exists, or base their arguments on the perceived negative consequences if it doesn’t exist. I have not seen any arguments that actually explain what we see every day in a better fashion than an assumption that morality is subjective.

  157. 157
    HeKS says:

    hammaspeikko,

    I have not been arguing in these comments for the existence of objective morality. All I have been doing is explaining what the differences are between objective and subjective morality and pointing out that they really are different things.

    If you want actual arguments for the existence of objective morality then I suggest you take up the invitation that has been extended to you multiple times now to review the discussion jdk and I have been having in the other thread.

    And just quickly…

    But we are talking about objective versus subjective morality. If there are no objective moral values, why does it have to tell us anything about the objective moral status of the values?

    Not only does it not have to … it can’t. That’s what I was pointing out.

    But I am playing devil’s advocate. If there is no objective morality, how is it possible to affirm objective right or wrong?

    Again, it isn’t … and that’s my point.

    Look, there are people who already accept the existence of objective morality but deny the existence of God. For those people, you can show them that if objective moral values and duties exist, God must exist.

    For others who don’t believe in objective moral values, you can make arguments to show that their existence is either logically necessary or, at the very least, the most rational conclusion.

    But in either case, it’s important for people to properly understand the concepts and what is and is not being talked about at any given time.

  158. 158
    HeKS says:

    Origenes #155

    If subjective morality ‘does not reflect any reality that exists in the world at large, outside the minds of humans’, then it has to be wrong.

    No, it doesn’t, because there would be nothing that would be objectively right for it to be tested against and found wanting. If objective morality does not exist and morality is simply a subjective construct existing in the minds of humans in various and contradictory forms, a person’s moral claims could only be wrong if they are claimed to represent an objective reality, and in that case they would simply be factually wrong about the alleged objective status, not wrong about their moral claim itself.

    As much as the people who accept subjective morality hate the ice cream flavor comparison, it is highly apt. If objective moral values and duties do not exist, someone saying that genocide is terrible is very much like someone saying that vanilla ice cream is terrible, and a different person saying genocide is great is like them saying that vanilla ice cream is great. Is vanilla ice cream terrible or is it great? Well, it’s terrible for the first person and great for the second. To the extent that each person’s declarations accurately express their own personal views and preferences, they are both right. Whether vanilla ice cream is terrible or great depends entirely on the subjective perspective of the person eating it. In the absence of any objective truth about how good or bad vanilla ice cream is, nobody can be wrong in describing their personal feelings about it. Claims about some ice cream flavor are not objective claims about how the world ultimately is, but about how the person speaking feels about something, namely, a particular flavor of ice cream. And in the absence of objective moral values and duties, moral claims about genocide are precisely like preferential claims about ice cream flavors. It might truly be terrible for me, but it might also truly be great for you. If there are no actual objective moral values and duties in the world, then neither one of us could possibly be wrong about our preferences. We could only be wrong if we claimed that our preferences reflected an objective truth or standard.

    Any morality, so-called “subjective morality” included, makes claims about the world that exists outside the minds of humans.

    No, they don’t. At least not in the way that you seem to mean it. Someone who does not accept the existence of objective moral values and duties might make moral assessments about certain actions that are happening in the world, but in labelling some action “bad” (or “wrong”, or “evil”), they are merely describing how they feel about that action, not saying that the action is wrong when compared to objective moral aspect of reality. Consider this statement from Mark Frank to see what I’m talking about:

    Mark Frank: As a subjectivist … when I assert something is evil I am not describing, I am condemning. There is no fact I am reporting so it can’t be wrong.

    Do you see?

    Again, moral claims are about reality.

    Not for moral subjectivists. This is precisely the difference between people who believe in objective moral values and duties and those who don’t.

    Given that we are subjects and that all our knowledge is therefor “subjective”, how can we know about “objective morality”, without turning it into that useless “subjective morality”, which, according to you, by definition, ‘does not reflect any reality that exists in the world at large, outside the minds of humans’?

    You seem to be completely confusing concepts here. We can have a subjective experience of an objective reality. The mere fact that we experience something as a subject of the experience doesn’t mean that experience is false, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the objective reality we experienced doesn’t exist. But this is all beside the point. Moral Subjectivism consists in the claim that morality is only subjective and that it does not have any independent real existence as an aspect of the world. It claims that when we have a personal feeling or subjective experience related to the moral status of some action, it is impossible that such a subjective experience might be a reflection of a deeper moral reality existing in the world because no such deeper moral reality exists. On this view, our feelings about morality can only ever possibly be our own subjective feelings, which might be the result of our upbringing, environmental conditions, genetic conditions, our evolutionary history, or whatever, but because there is no objective moral dimension to reality, it is impossible that anybody could be objectively right in their moral feelings, and it is equally impossible that anyone could ever be objectively wrong in their moral feelings.

    Okay, so “subjective morality” is “merely descriptive claims about how this person or that person feels.” You do understand that this is not what I’m talking about, right?

    No. Honestly I don’t know what you’re talking about at this point. You seem to be taking a lot of issue with the standard terms that are used to describe the differing views on this subject, but you seem to be using them in ways that have nothing to do with their standard meanings, which I think is resulting in a lot of talking past each other. I’m really confused about what your point is, what you’re trying to argue for, and what you’re taking issue with.

    Sorry HeKS, this is not helpful. Nowhere have I argued that there is such a thing as “multiple truths”.

    I didn’t say you did. I was merely pointing out that it is only if we accept the existence of objective moral values and duties that we could affirm the possibility of being factually wrong about moral claims or of committing acts that are truly morally wrong (rather than just contrary to the preferences of some group of people)

  159. 159
    Origenes says:

    HeKS: Honestly I don’t know what you’re talking about at this point. You seem to be taking a lot of issue with the standard terms that are used to describe the differing views on this subject …

    Correct. I am not arguing against “objective” morality in favor of “subjective” morality. I am arguing that using these terms in this context makes no sense. See e.g. post #151.

    HeKS:… but you seem to be using them in ways that have nothing to do with their standard meanings …

    Not at all, I would like to see the term “subjective” being used with its proper value/meaning. Now it is often used to indicate that some knowledge or morality is wanting. This usage seems to suggest that there is something wrong with personal/subjective knowledge, which is utterly nonsensical, since we are subjects and all our knowledge is subjective*. — See also #146, #153.
    – – –
    (*) Please note that here I use the term “subjective” in its proper meaning. I am not saying that all our knowledge is BS, I am saying that we hold knowledge as persons. There is nothing wrong with that and the mere fact that we hold knowledge X as persons does not make knowledge X wrong.

  160. 160

    Origenes said:

    Not at all, I would like to see the term “subjective” being used with its proper value/meaning. Now it is often used to indicate that some knowledge or morality is wanting.

    I’ve never heard of the term “subjective” being used that way. I don’t know that anyone here is using the term to express that view.

    Being individuals everything we perceive is subjectively processed and interpreted. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t reflect objective reality, nor does it mean it is wrong. That is different from commodities, like personal proclivities, which are entirely subjective (manufactured by the individual) and are not taken to reflect any exterior reality.

    IOW, “Vanilla ice cream is the best!” is not a claim of fact about objective reality, it is a statement of subjective preference. Conversely, “The box is 12 inches tall” is a statement intended to be an accurate claim about physical reality, even though all any of us can do is subjectively measure the box.

    If morality is entirely subjective (manufactured internally by the individual), then “beating your wife” is factually right or wrong depending on how that person subjectively feels about it. By this I mean that it is a fact that that person feels a certain way about it. There is no claim about the objective value of that entirely subjective “moral”.

    If, however, morality is an objectively existent phenomena which we sense subjectively and are making claims we believe reflect the reality of that morality, then “beating your wife is wrong” becomes a claim about reality which we expect others to adhere to regardless of their personal proclivities.

  161. 161
    Origenes says:

    WJM #160:

    Origenes: … I would like to see the term “subjective” being used with its proper value/meaning. Now it is often used to indicate that some knowledge or morality is wanting.

    I’ve never heard of the term “subjective” being used that way. I don’t know that anyone here is using the term to express that view.

    I find that hard to believe. See for instance post #138 by Kairosfocus. Here he describes bad/incomplete perception to illustrate what he means by “subjective” perception. He then goes on to describe better perception, which, according to him, leads to “a degree of objectivity”.

    KF: The difference between subjective perception and the advance to warrant that then leads to a degree of objectivity should be clear …

    I’m sure that I can show you many examples where the term “subjective” is used to indicate something negative. How about post #143 by JAD, who wrote:

    … when it comes to ethics and morality is there a difference between what someone personally believes is right or wrong and what is really right and wrong. The first view is what is usually termed “subjective”; the second is what is termed “objective.”

    Also here ‘subjective’ is clearly used to indicate that there is something wrong with the knowledge/morality at hand. The “subjective” view, according to JAD, means something opposed to the “objective” view, which informs us about “what is really right and wrong”. Objective = correct, subjective = wrong.
    But Kairosfocus and JAD are not the only ones. “That’s only your ‘subjective’ opinion”, is an often heard phrase and it is meant dismissively.

  162. 162

    Origenes said:

    I find that hard to believe. See for instance post #138 by Kairosfocus. Here he describes bad/incomplete perception to illustrate what he means by “subjective” perception. He then goes on to describe better perception, which, according to him, leads to “a degree of objectivity”.

    I think you’re misunderstanding him. He’s not using the term “subjective” to mean something about the perception is necessarily, inherently “wrong”, but rather he’s describing the potential problem in all subjective perceptions/interpretations that they may be faulty with regards to how they reflect reality.

    He then goes on about how we can become more confident that our subjective perception/interpretation is an accurate description of the reality; that doesn’t mean anything about the original perception/interpretation was necessarily wrong in the first place. KF is certainly welcome to correct me if I’m wrong here.

    I’m sure that I can show you many other examples where the term “subjectivity” is used to indicate something negative. How about post #143 by JAD, who wrote:

    You might be right there, but I disagree with JAD if that was his meaning. There may be no difference between what a person subjectively believes is right and wrong and what is actually, objectively right or wrong. I’ll have to let JAD say what he meant by that. People often us terms loosely without strict contextualization because they assume both parties are understanding the term the same way – it leads to miscommunication.

  163. 163

    Let’s look at this logically, Origenes. If my original subjective perception/interpretation of a box I see is that it is black, 9″x2″x4″ and weighs 5 lbs, and further examination by several people confirm this, how was my original subjective perception erroneous or faulty?

    Answer: it wasn’t. Which means “subjective” is not synonymous with “erroneous” or “faulty”.

  164. 164
    kairosfocus says:

    Origines, have you noted that I have pointed out that we may subjectively perceive the absolute truth, e.g. that — under appropriate lighting — the ball on the table is bright red? But that we may also err in such a matter: it may be the pre-dawn dark, or we may be colour-blind etc? It is in that context that it is undeniable that error exists, that prudence calls for warrant towards objective truth. So that we may have a credibly reliable grasp of the material truth to guide us. This is indeed an advance, and it in no wise implies that subjectivity per se is inferior or somehow lacking. Relative to what — to being a blindly mechanical and/or stochastic computational substrate with no genuine rational insight? Without being self-moved, morally governed, responsibly free and rational subjects, we could provide no warrant that gives us confidence that we have a reliable grasp of enough of the truth on a matter to prudently act on it. I think, we must understand the precious gift of conscious subjectivity with responsible, rational, insightful freedom AND recognise that we are finite, fallible, morally struggling and too often ill-willed. So, the humility and wisdom that looks to sufficient warrant that our subjective perception is objectively grounded is a matter of moral government, not denigration of subjectivity. Where, the ideal case is obviously the absolute truth that aptly describes reality: the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. KF

  165. 165
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I think two comments in the mindset thread will be helpful here also:

    55 kairosfocus May 5, 2017 at 3:29 am

    BO’H: For one (as noted), Plato as long ago as c 360 BC gives us a warning on both history and worldviews analysis that — on the history of the past 100 years — we would be soberly advised to heed. One of the great errors of relativism and subjectivism is to underestimate the issue that sound history was bought with blood and tears, so that those who refuse to heed its lessons doom themselves to pay the same coin over and over again. A point BTW, strangely enough, underscored by no less a personage than Karl Marx in his assessment of the two Napoleons. Namely that history repeats twice; first as tragedy then as farce. In this context, we need to face the issue that while we are clearly inescapably under moral government (as EA counsels, just look at the ‘papers), evolutionary materialist ideologies and other worldview schemes that have no IS that grounds OUGHT clearly are left to relativistic and amoral agendas boiling down to the soft nihilism of manipulation and might making spin and agit-prop driven politically correct ‘truth,’ ‘right,’ ‘rights’ etc. With the consequence of inducing Noelle-Neumann’s spiral of silence for the marginalised, often in the context of marches of ruinous folly. So, I refuse to be isolated and silenced, there is too much innocent blood soaking the ground and crying out to the heavens to stand by passively with an enabling silence. For, the ghosts of 100+ million victims of democides over the past 100 years and those of 800+ million victims of our ongoing war on the unborn, now mounting up at a million a week, rebuke us for our folly. On fair comment, the proper response to those facts and such manifest blood guilt soaked folly, is to turn back from the crumbling cliff’s edge, rather than trying to dismiss warnings. KF

    And:

    56 kairosfocus May 5, 2017 at 3:59 am

    WJM (& attn BO’H i/l/o EA above), you are right. As we are conscious agents and subjects, everything we actively do goes through our subjectivity. The issue is to recognise that reality exists such that we are challenged by the ideal that absolute truth adequately and accurately describes relevant reality: the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Thus, we strive to find warrant that gives us well founded confidence that we have a sufficiently reliable grasp of the truth to act decisively when much is at stake. In the context of moral truth and moral certainty such that we would be ill advised to act otherwise than X, given Y, the big problem is that for centuries moral truth has been ideologically undermined with the same sort of radical relativism and implied amorality Plato warned against 2350+ years past being put up as a — grossly inadequate — substitute. Many do not even realise that if the social “consensus” determines ‘truth,’ ‘right,’ and ‘rights’ etc. one immediate consequence is that the dissident would-be reformer is automatically in the ‘wrong’ and is then a proper target for those tasked to enforce the consensus. Bringing us directly to the soft nihilism of manipulation, intimidation and naked might making ‘truth,’ ‘right,’ and ‘rights’ etc. Indeed, that is exactly what is now playing out through the bully-boy blackshirt censorship by riot and false accusation tactics at Berkeley and other so-called halls of higher education, undermining the integrity of the global university movement. And yet, something like, it is self-evidently evil to kidnap, torture, rape and murder an innocent child for one’s sick pleasure has long been on the table as a corrective yardstick case that allows us to instead recognise core moral truth, the moral government our consciences point to, and the recognition that we must live in a world where at world-root level, there is an IS that inherently grounds OUGHT. Responsible, rational freedom is governed morally, by a due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities, and points to a world root that adequately grounds that level of free, responsible, rational being. But we would have the fatter bone we see in the water, and we foolishly drop our own bone, splash; only to lose both. KF

    KF

    PS: WJM, excellent counter-example.

  166. 166
    Origenes says:

    WJM: Let’s look at this logically, Origenes. If my original subjective perception/interpretation of a box I see is that it is black, 9?x2?x4? and weighs 5 lbs, and further examination by several people confirm this, how was my original subjective perception erroneous or faulty?
    Answer: it wasn’t. Which means “subjective” is not synonymous with “erroneous” or “faulty”.

    This is the exact same argument that I have made repeatedly in this thread. Obviously, the mere fact that knowledge X is subjectively held makes knowledge X neither right nor wrong. Good that we agree on this.

    To be clear, being subjectively held doesn’t make knowledge false and it doesn’t make it true either. Subjectivity has nothing to do with the status of knowledge.

    KF: … in context, we can speak of overlapping degrees or aspects of truth. Subjective — as perceived by a subject. Absolute, as being the materially complete, utterly accurate, undiluted, untainted description of reality.

    Here KF describes a spectrum of degrees of truth. On the one side we find “subjective” and on the opposite side the “Absolute”. Is there any doubt about which one is preferable, about which one is false and which one is true?

    KF: Objective, as intermediate and overlapping: well warranted and sufficiently reliable for use, but in principle open to correction towards being a closer approximation to the absolute ideal.

    And between those two opposites (“subjective” and “absolute”) there is the “objective”, which, if all goes well, moves away from the bad (the “subjective”) towards the good (the “absolute”). Note that “objective” is “well warranted”, which suggests that this is not the case with “subjective”.

    KF: Warrant is the bridge that moves us beyond mere perceptions to a heightened confidence that we have something reliably close enough to the truth, the whole relevant truth and nothing but the relevant truth.

    “Subjective”, we read, seems to be something that is stuck at the level of “mere perceptions” and is far removed from the truth.

    If subjectivity is neutral wrt the validity of knowledge, what is its role in this story?

    KF: Origines, have you noted that I have pointed out that we may subjectively perceive the absolute truth, e.g. that — under appropriate lighting — the ball on the table is bright red?
    But that we may also err in such a matter: it may be the pre-dawn dark, or we may be colour-blind etc?

    Again, KF, I have to ask, why do inject the term “subjectively” in the line “we may subjectively perceive ….”. What does it clarify? Do we sometimes objectively perceive things? Does it make sense to ask someone:

    “Did you perceive X subjectively or objectively?”

    If so, what is being asked?

  167. 167
    kairosfocus says:

    O, did you see what else I am saying? Including that subjectivity is involved in all aspects of truth seeking, including the warranting process that allows us to have objective truth? For instance with the ball on the table in the dark or after day has dawned? [This is a simple case of warrant based on proper function of our senses and faculties, in an environment conducive to their correct perception of the truth. Thus, we see the issue that subjective perception may or may not be well warranted to be true but is capable of capturing the truth.] KF

  168. 168
    john_a_designer says:

    Origenes,
    Here are two numbers:

    17460731

    17460733

    In your opinion, is one of them a prime number?

    Actually there are four possibilities:

    The first one is prime.

    The second one is prime.

    Neither is prime.

    Or, both are prime.

    So without cheating, what is your opinion?

    There is free software available on the internet that quickly will tell you. But, of course then you are going to have to trust the software.

    Is your subjective opinion about numbers sufficient to establish the truth, not just for you but everyone else? Is number theory based on the subjective opinion of mathematicians, or is there objective truth about numbers?

    The same principle applies to moral truth. Nobody’s subjective opinion is sufficient to establish moral truth for everyone else.

  169. 169
    Origenes says:

    JAD @168:

    So without cheating, what is your opinion?

    To be honest, I have no idea JAD. At this point I can only take a wild guess. Ok here goes: the first is a prime number and the second is not.

    There is free software available on the internet that quickly will tell you. But, of course then you are going to have to trust the software.

    Is your subjective opinion about numbers sufficient to establish the truth, not just for you but everyone else?

    Nope. My opinion, subjective or objective, is insufficient to establish the truth.
    One point I’m trying to make in this discussion is that I, given that I am a subject, can only offer my subjective opinion. You may want to know my objective opinion, but I am unable to oblige.

    Is number theory based on the subjective opinion of mathematicians, or is there objective truth about numbers?

    You are contrasting “subjective opinion” and “objective truth”. You present them as mutually exclusive. I have a problem with that.
    WRT to your prime number question my “subjective opinion” is worth close to nothing. But what if I were a math wizard and could offer you the correct answer? In that case there would be no conflict with “subjective opinion” and “objective truth”.
    So what does that tell us about “subjective opinion”? Very little I would say.

    The same principle applies to moral truth. Nobody’s subjective opinion is sufficient to establish moral truth for everyone else.

    There is at least one person who may very well be an exception to your rule … — see post #114

  170. 170
    Origenes says:

    KF: O, did you see what else I am saying? Including that subjectivity is involved in all aspects of truth seeking, including the warranting process that allows us to have objective truth?

    Yes. You also said this:

    I may know something subjectively that is absolutely true too, e.g. that I am conscious …

    I agree with all of that. My problem is with the term “subjective”, it is superfluous.
    BTW ‘cogito ergo sum’, I act therefor I am, what ‘warranting process’ is involved here? Rather limited, right?

  171. 171
    kairosfocus says:

    O, have you ever had a visual hallucination? I recall the day I had the shock of my life so to speak when suddenly a 3/4 circle of glittering kaleidoscope like effects popped up in front of my eyes. I was in my lab, working hard — maybe too hard. I decided, let me go for lunch. 45 minutes and a couple of Tastee patties washed down with a box of orange juice later, the effect faded. I spoke with an ophthalmologist, who explained, it was a migraine effect; which fits right in with a relatively mild case. This was a situation where I could not be mistaken that I was conscious, but I was knowing that I was seeing things that were not real in the sense of being in the external world, and was scared that something had gone seriously wrong with my eyes. Here, we see the point that while subjectivity is always involved, the content can sometimes be in error and warrant that moves us beyond mere perception is important. KF

  172. 172
    HeKS says:

    Origenes #169

    My opinion, subjective or objective, is insufficient to establish the truth.
    One point I’m trying to make in this discussion is that I, given that I am a subject, can only offer my subjective opinion. You may want to know my objective opinion, but I am unable to oblige.

    It seems to me that this is where you’re going wrong.

    The distinction being made here is not between subjective opinion and objective opinion. It is not about, say, a personally biased opinion and an unbiased opinion. That is not the way “objective” is being used here.

    To say that morality is objective is to say that there is some moral dimension to reality with objective existence about which our subjective opinions and perceptions can be either right or wrong.

    Conversely, to say that morality is subjective is to say that there is no moral dimension to reality with objective existence about which our subjective opinions can be either right or wrong. Instead, our subjective moral opinions are all that exist, without there being any external object of our moral perceptions. Our moral perceptions, in this regime, are only perceptions about our own feelings, or about what kinds of actions we think would be conducive to achieving our desired goals (whether individually or as some group operating under a kind of social contract), or illusions foisted on us by our evolutionary history. But the one thing they are not and cannot possibly be is a reflection of some deeper truth embedded in the fabric of reality because no such deeper truth exists to be reflected in our subjective perceptions.

    You are contrasting “subjective opinion” and “objective truth”. You present them as mutually exclusive.

    No, that is not at all what we are doing. Not any of us as far as I can see. What we are saying is that in order for it to even be possible for our subjective opinions to properly align with some objective truth, that objective truth must actually exist. Under Moral Subjectivism, that objective truth does not exist and so there is nothing for our subjective moral opinions to align with, properly or otherwise. Moral Subjectivism is the rejection of any independently existing moral aspect to reality that might be the object of our moral perceptions.

  173. 173
    Origenes says:

    HeKS @172

    Conversely, to say that morality is subjective is to say that there is no moral dimension to reality with objective existence about which our subjective opinions can be either right or wrong.

    Here we should not use the term “subjective”! A unicorn also does not exist. Do we say that a unicorn is “subjective”? Is it not instead common usage to say that a unicorn does not exist? Similarly I don’t know of any atheists who claim that God is “subjective”.

    Instead, our subjective moral opinions are all that exist, without there being any external object of our moral perceptions. Instead, our subjective moral opinions are all that exist, without there being any external object of our moral perceptions.

    Back in the day when a spade was called a spade, this would have been called “hallucinating”. Am I right or am I right? If some guy sees unicorns everywhere and has strong opinions about them, then he is not being “subjective” but he is simply “hallucinating” — assuming that unicorns indeed do not exist.

    For what reason did we start saying “subjective” instead of “non-existent” or “hallucinatory”? It’s inappropriate and gives “subjective” a bad name.

  174. 174
    Origenes says:

    Follow-up #173,

    I should probably add this:

    When discussing so-called “subjective morality”, the term “subjective” is used to indicate that there is a disconnect (a certain ‘all-in-your-headness’) with external reality; as HeKS points out eloquently.
    But this is inappropriate, because this disconnect is not a defining characteristic of subjectivity. Subjects are part of and interact with reality.

  175. 175
    HeKS says:

    Origenes #173

    Here we should not use the term “subjective”! A unicorn also does not exist. Do we say that a unicorn is “subjective”? Is it not instead common usage to say that a unicorn does not exist? Similarly I don’t know of any atheists who claim that God is “subjective”.

    No, this is not correct. The terms are being used in the context of ontology, not epistemology. As I have been saying in several different ways, morality exists, one way or the other. Even if morality doesn’t have objective existence as an aspect of the world external to human minds and baked into the fabric of reality, there are nonetheless moral systems of various sorts that people create and try to adhere to in varying numbers which categorize actions into moral categories as per the dictates of those systems.

    So the question is, What is the ultimate nature of morality? Is it something that ONLY has subjective existence in the minds of humans, such that whatever moral pronouncements they make or systems they create are MERELY the product of their own minds and feeling and so CANNOT be either right or wrong in any ultimate sense because there is no ultimate moral truth for them to reflect? Or does morality ALSO have objective existence as a real phenomenon in the world, so that at least some moral values are baked into the fabric of reality, in which case the moral pronouncements humans make and the moral systems they follow really can be either right or wrong in an ultimate sense?

    There is nothing wrong with the way that “objective” and “subjective” are being used here. You seem to be zoning in on specific ways in which these terms are used in other contexts while ignoring the appropriate ways they are routinely used in this context.

  176. 176
    Phinehas says:

    Origenes:

    Maybe this will help.

    All opinions about a Jabberwocky are subjective. This is a statement about epistemology.

    As an objective fact, no Jabberwocky exists in reality. This is a statement about ontology.

    But the ontological reality has bearing on subjective opinions in this way. Because a Jabberwocky does not exist in reality, but only in the imagination of the individual, all opinions regarding the nature of a Jabberwocky are, strictly speaking, neither right nor wrong, since there is no ontological reality against which to compare them.

    Only if a Jabberwocky existed in reality could any subjective opinion about the nature of a Jabberwocky be either right or wrong. It would still be a subjective opinion, but it would be a subjective opinion about an underlying objective reality.

    Similarly, opinions about morality are subjective. This is a statement about epistemology. Nor is it the point of debate. Rather, the debate is about whether any ontological moral reality exists to which we might compare the subjective opinions. If not, as the subjectivist claims, then all opinions about morality are, strictly speaking, neither right nor wrong.

    The question about subjectivity with respect to God is an interesting one, but I think WJM makes some good points @135. Still, perhaps it would avoid confusion to think of morality as transcendent rather than objective. For me, the two are one and the same, since I believe the transcendent God is that within which every objective thing lives and moves and has its being.

  177. 177
    john_a_designer says:

    Here are some quotes from an online article by the unapologetic Darwinian apologist, Michael Ruse:

    Morality is just a matter of emotions, like liking ice cream and sex and hating toothache and marking student papers. But it is, and has to be, a funny kind of emotion. It has to pretend that it is not that at all! If we thought that morality was no more than liking or not liking spinach, then pretty quickly it would break down. Before long, we would find ourselves saying something like: “Well, morality is a jolly good thing from a personal point of view. When I am hungry or sick, I can rely on my fellow humans to help me. But really it is all bullshit, so when they need help I can and should avoid putting myself out. There is nothing there for me.” The trouble is that everyone would start saying this, and so very quickly there would be no morality and society would collapse and each and every one of us would suffer.

    So morality has to come across as something that is more than emotion. It has to appear to be objective, even though really it is subjective…

    [M]orality is an illusion put in place by your genes to make you a social cooperator, what’s to stop you behaving like an ancient Roman? Well, nothing in an objective sense. But you are still a human with your gene-based psychology working flat out to make you think you should be moral.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/mar/15/morality-evolution-philosophy

    However, if morality is just an illusion, and I know and believe this as Ruse does, then I don’t have any real moral obligation towards my fellow man nor should I expect that anyone is obligated to treat me “morally” in return. Morality in such a society would be superfluous if not totally meaningless. The surest way to cause the collapse of civilization is to convince a majority or even a large minority of people that Ruse is right– “morality is an illusion.”

  178. 178
    Origenes says:

    HeKS @175

    No, this is not correct. The terms are being used in the context of ontology, not epistemology.

    You are saying that the term “subjective morality” simply indicates that morality contingently exists on a subject. The usage of the term “subjective morality” informs us only about the ontology of morality and is neutral on its epistemological status.
    If that is the case, then I adhere to subjective morality, since I hold that all existence, morality included, is ultimately grounded in a person/subject — see post #114. William J Murray, who holds that God is not a person/subject, does not agree with me. Perhaps by using the term “objective morality”, WJM informs us about his ontological view, but I doubt that…

    As I have been saying in several different ways, morality exists, one way or the other. Even if morality doesn’t have objective existence as an aspect of the world external to human minds and baked into the fabric of reality, there are nonetheless moral systems of various sorts that people create and try to adhere to in varying numbers which categorize actions into moral categories as per the dictates of those systems.

    By what reason would it be the case that morality ‘exists, one way or the other’? If we are not rational free responsible persons then morality does not exist. We all know that there is no point whatsoever in discussing morality with ppl who deny free will.

    So the question is, What is the ultimate nature of morality? Is it something that ONLY has subjective existence in the minds of humans, such that whatever moral pronouncements they make or systems they create are MERELY the product of their own minds and feeling …

    Let’s see … “subjective” would indicate that moral system X is fully produced by human subjects. And I take it that the term “objective” is used when a divine subject is causally involved ….
    This usage of terms does not appeal to me. I posed some questions about that in post #114.

    … and so CANNOT be either right or wrong in any ultimate sense because there is no ultimate moral truth for them to reflect?

    Given those circumstances, it cannot be right but it can certainly be wrong. Consider the claim “everyone has a right to X”. If there is no morality baked into the fabric of reality, then that claim is obviously wrong.

    Or does morality ALSO have objective existence as a real phenomenon in the world …

    I can translate your question like this: Or has the existence of morality also a non-human (divine / evolutionary processes) ground? Again, in my view, God is a person/subject, so ‘divine ground’ would mean ‘subjective ground’.
    – – – –
    A final thought: I may prefer the term moral relativism over ‘moral subjectivism’.

  179. 179

    Origenes said:

    Perhaps by using the term “objective morality”, WJM informs us about his ontological view, but I doubt that…

    That is exactly what I am doing, and how I am using the term “objective morality”; I’m referring to an objective real aspect of universal existence, something sewn into the fabric of reality because it is an innate aspect of the grounding root of everything that is created.

    You and I just disagree about the fundamental nature of god. I hold that god as god is not a subject/person at all, but rather the ground upon which subjectivity/personhood/individuality itself exists in relation to. God is the “objective”, individuals are the “subjective”, individualized creations ***of*** god that exist within an objective framework.

    I really do appreciate the conversation Origenes, because I hadn’t ever actually been able to express this dualistic nature quite so well before. Thank you!

  180. 180
    kairosfocus says:

    O, moral subjectivism is not the same as relativism, esp. insofar as the latter is tied to community or culture rather than the individual. KF

  181. 181
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Perhaps, Clarke and Rakestraw can give us a context:

    Principles are broad general guidelines that all persons ought to follow. Morality is the dimension of life related to right conduct. It includes virtuous character and honorable intentions as well as the decisions and actions that grow out of them. Ethics on the other hand, is the [philosophical and theological] study of morality . . . [that is,] a higher order discipline that examines moral living in all its facets . . . . on three levels. The first level, descriptive ethics, simply portrays moral actions or virtues. A second level, normative ethics (also called prescriptive ethics), examines the first level, evaluating actions or virtues as morally right or wrong. A third level, metaethics, analyses the second . . . It clarifies the meaning of ethical terms and assesses the principles of ethical argument . . . . Some think, without reflecting on it, that . . . what people actually do is the standard of what is morally right . . . [But, what] actually happens and what ought to happen are quite different . . . . A half century ago, defenders of positivism routinely argued that descriptive statements are meaningful, but prescriptive statements (including all moral claims) are meaningless . . . In other words, ethical claims give no information about the world; they only reveal something about the emotions of the speaker . . . . Yet ethical statements do seem to say something about the realities to which they point. “That’s unfair!” encourages us to attend to circumstances, events, actions, or relationships in the world. We look for a certain quality in the world (not just the speaker’s mind) that we could properly call unfair. [ Readings in Christian Ethics, Vol. 1: Theory and Method. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), pp. 18 – 19.]

    Also, Holmes:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments . . . .

    If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly. Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights. [ Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: 1984), pp. 70 – 72 & p. 81. Holmes goes on to point out that certain duties arise from our particular relationships, commitments and roles in the family and wider community. We may also face situations in which we are forced to choose the lesser of evils, especially where delay or inaction is in effect to make a worse choice.]

    KF

  182. 182
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Here is how I elaborated:

    http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....#core_mrlz

    normally responsive people will at least grudgingly respect the following summary of such core, conscience attested morality from the pen of Paul:

    Rom 2:14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them . . . .

    Rom 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong [NIV, “harm”] to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. [ESV]

    Where, John Locke, in grounding modern liberty and what would become democratic self-government of a free people premised on upholding the civil peace of justice, in Ch 2 Sec. 5 of his second treatise on civil Government [c. 1690] cites “the judicious [Anglican canon, Richard] Hooker” from his classic Ecclesiastical Polity of 1594 on, as he explains how the principles of neighbour-love are inscribed in our hearts, becoming evident to the eye of common good sense and reasonableness:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8 and alluding to Justinian’s synthesis of Roman Law in Corpus Juris Civilis that also brings these same thoughts to bear:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

    We may elaborate on Paul, Locke, Hooker and Aristotle, laying out several manifestly evident and historically widely acknowledged core moral principles; for which the attempted denial is instantly and patently absurd for most people — that is, they are arguably self-evident (thus, warranted and objective) moral truths; not just optional opinions.

    So also, it is not only possible to

    (a) be in demonstrable moral error, but also

    (b) there is hope that such moral errors can be corrected by appealing to manifestly sound core principles of the natural moral law.

    For instance:

    1] The first self evident moral truth is that we are inescapably under the government of ought.

    (This is manifest in even an objector’s implication in the questions, challenges and arguments that s/he would advance, that we are in the wrong and there is something to be avoided about that. That is, even the objector inadvertently implies that we OUGHT to do, think, aim for and say the right. Not even the hyperskeptical objector can escape this truth. Patent absurdity on attempted denial.)

    2] Second self evident truth, we discern that some things are right and others are wrong by a compass-sense we term conscience which guides our thought. (Again, objectors depend on a sense of guilt/ urgency to be right not wrong on our part to give their points persuasive force. See what would be undermined should conscience be deadened or dismissed universally? Sawing off the branch on which we all must sit.)

    3] Third, were this sense of conscience and linked sense that we can make responsibly free, rational decisions to be a delusion, we would at once descend into a status of grand delusion in which there is no good ground for confidence in our self-understanding. (That is, we look at an infinite regress of Plato’s cave worlds: once such a principle of grand global delusion is injected, there is no firewall so the perception of level one delusion is subject to the same issue, and this level two perception too, ad infinitum; landing in patent absurdity.)

    4] Fourth, we are objectively under obligation of OUGHT. That is, despite any particular person’s (or group’s or august council’s or majority’s) wishes or claims to the contrary, such obligation credibly holds to moral certainty. That is, it would be irresponsible, foolish and unwise for us to act and try to live otherwise.

    5] Fifth, this cumulative framework of moral government under OUGHT is the basis for the manifest core principles of the natural moral law under which we find ourselves obligated to the right the good, the true etc. Where also, patently, we struggle to live up to what we acknowledge or imply we ought to do.

    6] Sixth, this means we live in a world in which being under core, generally understood principles of natural moral law is coherent and factually adequate, thus calling for a world-understanding in which OUGHT is properly grounded at root level. (Thus worldviews that can soundly meet this test are the only truly viable ones. If a worldview does not have in it a world-root level IS that can simultaneously ground OUGHT — so that IS and OUGHT are inextricably fused at that level, it fails decisively.*)

    7] Seventh, in light of the above, even the weakest and most voiceless of us thus has a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of fulfillment of one’s sense of what s/he ought to be (“happiness”). This includes the young child, the unborn and more. (We see here the concept that rights are binding moral expectations of others to provide respect in regards to us because of our inherent status as human beings, members of the community of valuable neighbours. Where also who is my neighbour was forever answered by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Likewise, there can be no right to demand of or compel my neighbour that s/he upholds me and enables me in the wrong — including under false colour of law through lawfare; usurping the sword of justice to impose a ruthless policy agenda in fundamental breach of that civil peace which must ever pivot on manifest justice. To justly claim a right, one must first be in the right.)

    8] Eighth, like unto the seventh, such may only be circumscribed or limited for good cause. Such as, reciprocal obligation to cherish and not harm neighbour of equal, equally valuable nature in community and in the wider world of the common brotherhood of humanity.

    9] Ninth, this is the context in which it becomes self evidently wrong, wicked and evil to kidnap, sexually torture and murder a young child or the like as concrete cases in point that show that might and/or manipulation do not make ‘right,’ ‘truth,’ ‘worth,’ ‘justice,’ ‘fairness,’ ‘law’ etc. That is, anything that expresses or implies the nihilist’s credo is morally absurd.

    10] Tenth, this entails that in civil society with government, justice is a principal task of legitimate government. In short, nihilistic will to power untempered by the primacy of justice is its own refutation in any type of state. Where, justice is the due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities. (In Aristotle’s terms as cited by Hooker: “because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like .”) Thus also,

    11] Eleventh, that government is and ought to be subject to audit, reformation and if necessary replacement should it fail sufficiently badly and incorrigibly.

    (NB: This is a requisite of accountability for justice, and the suggestion or implication of some views across time, that government can reasonably be unaccountable to the governed, is its own refutation, reflecting — again — nihilistic will to power; which is automatically absurd. This truth involves the issue that finite, fallible, morally struggling men acting as civil authorities in the face of changing times and situations as well as in the face of the tendency of power to corrupt, need to be open to remonstrance and reformation — or if they become resistant to reasonable appeal, there must be effective means of replacement. Hence, the principle that the general election is an insitutionalised regular solemn assembly of the people for audit and reform or if needs be replacement of government gone bad. But this is by no means an endorsement of the notion that a manipulated mob bent on a march of folly has a right to do as it pleases.)

    12] Twelfth, the attempt to deny or dismiss such a general framework of moral governance invariably lands in shipwreck of incoherence and absurdity. As, has been seen in outline. But that does not mean that the attempt is not going to be made, so there is a mutual obligation of frank and fair correction and restraint of evil.
    _________________

    * F/N: After centuries of debates and assessment of alternatives per comparative difficulties, there is in fact just one serious candidate to be such a grounding IS: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. (And instantly, such generic ethical theism answers also to the accusation oh this is “religion”; that term being used as a dirty word — no, this is philosophy. If you doubt this, simply put forth a different candidate that meets the required criteria and passes the comparative difficulties test: _________ . Likewise, an inherently good, maximally great being will not be arbitrary or deceitful etc, that is why such is fully worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. As a serious candidate necessary being, such would be eternal and embedded in the frame for a world to exist at all. Thus such a candidate is either impossible as a square circle is impossible due to mutual ruin of core characteristics, or else it is actual. For simple instance no world is possible without two-ness in it, a necessary basis for distinct identity inter alia.

    But, widespread or even general acknowledgement of many or most of the above as more or less useful rules of conduct is not the same as to further acknowledge that the sort of wrong we are contemplating is bindingly, objectively, universally something that OUGHT not to be done. And indeed, many will boldly assert today that it cannot be proved that it is absurd to reject the notion that core moral principles are objective and universally binding. Indeed an actual argument made is oh, how can you PROVE that such a list of truths is coherent?

    (My reply was, after several rounds:

    “truths must all be so together, a key point of a coherent world: on distinct identity the triple first principles obtain and so no x is both A and not-A, and so too no two truths x and y can be such that y = NOT-x. In this context, each of the 12 being in turn directly credibly true on grounds of patent absurdities on attempted denial, they are immediately credibly coherent. Next, it so happens that the principles are in fact linked together in a chain so they are mutually supportive and relevant, in fact framing the basis for moral principles in governance.”

    The onward question was absolute certainty regarding coherence, to which I responded that not even Mathematics — the logical study of structure and quantity — post Godel is absolutely certain, and that the relevant degree of certainty is moral, where I would be confidently willing to cast the weight of my soul on the above, and would be prepared to bet the future of civilisation on them. [Indeed, whatever moral view we take, we are casting the weight of our souls and the future of civilisation on it. The ethical component of our worldviews is awesomely momentous.])

    So in the view of too many today, we are left to the feelings of revulsion and the community consensus backed up by police and courts on this.

    Not so.

    Compare a fish, that we lure to bite on a hook, then land, kill and eat for lunch without compunction. And even for those who object, they will do so by extension of the protective sense we have about say the young child — not the other way around. But, unless there is a material difference between a young child and a fish, that sense of wrong is frankly delusional, it is just a disguised preference, one that we are simply willing to back up with force.

    So, already, once we let radical relativism and subjectivism loose, we are looking at the absurdity and chaos of the nihilist abyss, might (and manipulation) makes for ‘right.’

    Oops.

    At the pivot of the skeptical objections to objective moral truth, notwithstanding persistent reduction to absurdity, is the pose that since we may err and since famously there are disagreements on morality, we can reduce moral feelings to subjective perceptions tastes and preferences, dismissing any and all claims of objectivity much less self evidence.

    So, the objector triumphantly announces: there is an unbridgeable IS-OUGHT gap, game over.

    Not so fast, as there is no better reason to imagine that we live in a moral Plato’s Cave world, than that we live in a physical or intellectual Plato’s Cave world.

    That is, we consider the imagined world of Plato where the denizens, having been imprisoned from childhood, all imagine that the shadow shows portrayed for their benefit are reality. Until, one is loosed, sees the apparatus of manipulation, then is led outside and learns of the reality that is there to be discovered. Then he tries to rescue his fellows, only to be ridiculed and attacked:

    Video:

    . . .

    Now, the skeptical question is, do we live in such a delusional world (maybe in another form such as the brains in vats or the Matrix’s pods . . . ), and can we reliably tell the difference?

    The best answer to such is, that such a scenario implies general delusion and the general un-trustworthiness of our senses and reasoning powers.

    So, it undercuts itself in a turtles all the way down chain of possible delusions — an infinite regress of Plato’s cave delusions.

    Common good sense then tells us that the skeptic has caught himself up in his own web, his argument is self referentially incoherent.

    This may seem so outlandish that a live example will help, here on from a real blog discussion thread exchange:

    CS, 176: . . . you see, it’s not that I don’t perceive other individuals “out there. It’s that I’m not sure about what the external world “really is.” It could be an illusion. Or it could have a reality close to what I’m perceiving. There’s no way to know for sure. In the end, I’m only sure that I’m conscious and experiencing “the external world.” But I don’t have a surety about the nature of “the external world.” Pragmatically, I assume it exists, because I really have no choice, unless I want to just lie down and do nothing.

    WJM, 183: . . . You [CS] have stated that your epistemological solipsism means that you cannot be sure of what exists outside of your mind – or even if there is an existence outside of you mind.

    My question to you, then, is: can you be sure of what does not exist outside of your mind?

    CS, 184: . . . No. Can you?

    WJM, 185: So, you cannot be sure that morality is not a commodity that exists objectively outside of your mind?

    CS, 189: Correct. It may very well be. But I can’t be sure of it. Neither do I perceive anything that would make me think it is true . . .

    The onward cascade of doubts and/or delusional worlds, though implicit, is painfully patent. This participant is neither confident of the external nor the internal worlds, and ends up in an arbitrary and confessedly blind faith that something is “out there” and “in here” nonetheless. Which boils down to, s/he cannot live consistent with his or her view.

    So also, the proper stance in response to such is that this sort of appeal to general doubt or general delusion about major aspects of reality and the mind reduces to absurdity. In response, we should hold that it is senseless to assume or imply the general dubiousness or delusion of any major faculty of mind, precisely because of that absurd result. Including, of course, conscience as that candle of the Lord within, shining a sometimes painful light into some very dark corners of our thoughts, words and deeds.

    Instead, until and unless we can find evidence of specific error, we will confidently hold to what seems to be reliable, common sense reality; beginning with the bench-mark truths that are self-evident and foundational (e.g. first truths and first principles of right reason . . . ), which we will use as plumb-lines to test the systems of thought we hold. Yes, as finite, fallible, intellectually and morally struggling creatures, we must live by faith, but there is no reason why such faith should be blind, hopeless and/or absurdly irrational. Thus, we proceed on common good sense and solid first principles, until and unless we see specific good evidence and reason to acknowledge and turn from specific error. Which, we pledge to promptly do, out of our sense of a duty of care to seek and follow the truth through good reasoning on credible evidence.

    H’mm — isn’t that an OUGHT?

    Yes it is.

    No surprise.

    And, a big hint on the nature of the underlying foundational IS that grounds OUGHT.

    So also, we see the absurdities implied by attempted denial of moral reality through reducing it to mere [potentially] delusional subjective perceptions. Even the much prized or even vaunted rationality is in the stakes!

    For, if our minds are that delusional on so important a matter, we have decisively undercut the mind, period.

    Which should be patent, once we give it a moment’s thought in light of our experience and understanding of the world we live in.

    It is reasonable to hold and accept instead that: just as we have minds that allow us to make sense of the signals of our external world accessed through seeing and hearing, forming a coherent picture of the world, we have a generally [as opposed to absolutely] trustworthy sense — conscience — that is detecting and responding to duty in light of the value of those we interact with.

    Or, as John Locke so tellingly put it in the Introduction, Section 5, of his essay on human understanding (again, c. 1690):

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better.

    How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . [.]

    It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . [.]

    If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke’s allusions and citations. Paragraphing added.]

    Now, too, we have already seen grounds for understanding and acknowledging that there are objective truths that we subjects can access and know using our senses and faculties of conscious thought, even to undeniable certainty in certain key cases.

    The question behind this thread of thought, now, is whether this extends to the domain of OUGHT.

    And, a specific (and unfortunately, real world) candidate has been put: that it is self evident that it is wrong to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a child.

    The peculiar thing is that for all the skeptical arguments that have so often been raised in reply to this case [which, unfortunately, is based on real world events and the sad fate of a real child], we consistently find very little evidence of open direct denial.

    Instinctively, objectors realise that to deny this truth plainly is to admit to moral deficiency, to be morally defective in an absurd way.

    So, consistently the challenges raised in various fora have been indirect; intended to undermine and redefine morality in ways that — while such is not usually openly admitted — amount to might and manipulation make ‘right.’

    Where, of course: the child is a proverbial example of one who is not able to appeal to strength or persuasive ability, especially in the face of a kidnapper.

    That is, might makes ‘right’ would rob children of their rights — as arguably has already been happening with children still in the womb.

    Where, too, all of us here to read and discuss this once were children in the womb and then growing children walking around in a world where there are such things as predators like this.

    And so the hesitation to be brazenly direct and dismissive is easily explained as hesitation to openly embrace moral absurdity; and, the widespread attempts to instead seek to undermine the general objectivity and binding nature of OUGHT therefore stand exposed as little more than irresponsible evasions and obfuscations.

    So also, we see indirect inadvertent evidence that even those who deny objectivity to morality recognise it.

    Thus, objectors are inadvertently testifying against interests that they too are quite aware of an inner sense — usually termed conscience — that senses, makes sense of and responds strongly to morality even as eyes sense light and ears sound thence minds manifest an awareness of the world based on such sight and sound.

    The conscience speaks.

    That brings up the root issue: conscience is invisible, as conscious mind is invisible, and in a materialism-influenced age, seeing is believing.

    Oops, seeing the physical world depends on that invisible, familiar but mysterious consciousness, and rocks — whether fancy bits of silicon or peculiar cells that pass ion currents and thus signals in networks similar to solid state electronic logic gates — have no dreams.

    Yet another sign of the irretrievable incoherence and factual inadequacy of materialism and its fellow travellers. So, we have no good reason to reject the objectivity of being bound by OUGHT.

    And, just by observing the pattern of human quarrels — we habitually appeal to fairness that is binding upon us all, we find that the sense of ought is near universal and forms a core consensus that we ought to be treated fairly in light of simply being human, the exceptions being accountable for on much the same grounds as that some people have become blind. (I will never forget the videotaped last words cry of a man in a gas chamber, even as the gases were being released: I am a human being! [How this was allowed out on news way back when, I don’t know.])

    We recognise that we have quasi-infinite worth, which should not be violated. Thus, we see our sense of justice and of the difference between luring and catching a fish to become lunch and luring and despoiling then destroying a child. (Where, that some take pity on the fish and will go out of their way to eat only vegetables is itself further eloquent testimony on the point. [Notice, there is no “people for the ethical treatment of fruit, root starches, grains and vegetables” movement.])

    As the ghost of that child tells us, OUGHT, then, is credibly real — objective and binding; which then points onward to a foundational IS that properly bears the weight of OUGHT.

    Notoriously, there is but one level of reality where that can enter, the foundation.

    Namely, the best explanation for the binding nature of core morality leading to our being under moral government, is a Moral Governor. This Governor would be the inherently good creator God who has endowed us with minds, hearts, consciences and rights; thus also, duties.

    In a world where God is the foundation, OUGHT makes sense, and is grounded in a foundational IS. Refuse to acknowledge God in light of evidence that he is real — including that of finding ourselves under the binding force of the moral government of OUGHT — and we lose anchorage for morality, rights, fairness, justice, law and civilisation. Opening the door to absurd chaos.

    That is, if evil is real and objectionable, OUGHT is real. This, we face the challenge to bridge the IS-OUGHT gap, which can only be done at world-foundation level.

    For which, after many centuries of debates, there is but one serious candidate: the inherently good Creator-God, a necessary and maximally great being.

    Hence, the force of the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, when it confidently asserts:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 – 21, 2:14 – 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . .

    This is of course historically pivotal in the rise of modern liberty and democratic self government guided — however inevitably imperfect and struggling the reality! — by the twin stars of liberty and justice for all.

  183. 183
    Origenes says:

    HeKS, JAD, KF, Phinehas, WJM …. A question to everyone.

    Introduction:
    I act—I do something, for instance, I doubt my existence—therefor I exist. In order for me to do something at all, it is (logically) required that I exist. I do something, therefor I exist.

    The question(s):
    What kind of knowledge is this?

    This knowledge about my existence, is it “subjective” knowledge? The source of the knowledge is me, in the sense that I am the one who understands (holds) the knowledge.
    Does this knowledge pertains to something “external to my human mind” and is it “baked into the fabric of reality”, to use HeKS’ phrase? What sayeth you?

    Would anyone here be tempted to term this knowledge “absolute” or even “objective”?

    – – – – –
    WJM @ 179. Don’t thank me yet. We are not done. 🙂

  184. 184
    kairosfocus says:

    O, we are here looking at conscious, rationally reflective existence, which is self-moved, and prodded by conscience towards the truth and the right. Such existence is a case where we are as subjects incorrigibly aware THAT we are conscious, which is in a sense the first self-evident truth. We may be in error about some contents of consciousness — I use the brain in a vat illustration here — but we cannot be in error on perceiving THAT we are conscious. Notice, insofar as we address consciousness as self-moved, rationally contemplative creatures, we are here subjectively aware of the absolute truth THAT we are conscious. That truth takes on objective warrant through what happens should we try to doubt or deny it: who is doubting or denying, please? Is it not “I”? Said warrant is self evident, even undeniable, thus certain. KF

    PS: Where things get interesting is in looking at others, are they all zombies or figments of a grand delusion? The best answers pivot on what happens when the other shows unexpected, unexpected, situation-responsive creativity beyond the limits of the blind chance and mechanical necessity of the observed cosmos [500 – 1,000 bits]; esp. with a linguistic component, and particularly involving mathematics — note CAPTCHA at a simplistic level. This shows rational intelligence. Next, when we see others who are as we are, we should be willing to be mutually respectful. Third, if our scheme of doubts implies grand delusion, we should set it aside as self-undermining. Cf the above.

    PPS: I remind of F H Bradley’s rejoinder to the kantians. He who imagines that the external world is unknowable already implies a knowledge claim about that world, its claimed un-know-ability. He is self-referentially incoherent. It is safer to start from error exists which then established both the certain knowledge of some truths, the certain warrant that implies certain knowledge, but humbles us as the first such truth implies the possibility and actuality of error.

  185. 185
    Origenes says:

    KF thank you for the summation of those essential thoughts. One question and one comment:

    KF: … we cannot be in error on perceiving THAT we are conscious.

    Do you prefer “I am conscious” to “(I act therefor) I exist“? If so, why exactly?

    KF: …. towards the truth ….
    Third, if our scheme of doubts implies grand delusion, we should set it aside as self-undermining.

    Over the years, I have noticed, that the simple credo ‘I search for an understandable truth’ is an efficient guide through the intellectual landscape. When at a crossroad path X leads unavoidably to total incomprehensibility (e.g. “thoughts arise from a physical base, which is not at all concerned with logic, meaning or anything rational” or “you must understand that you don’t exist” or “microtubules orchestrate themselves into consciousness”) then my credo guides me by allowing me to set such theories aside as “irrelevant”. “Irrelevant” even while the possibility exist that they are true! What happens is that those ideas are compartmentalized in a (probably) permanent waiting room. If path Y, at the crossroad, leads to theories that do have the potential of being understandable, then path Y gets automatic precedence. Yes I admit it: I discriminate on the basis of comprehensibility.
    I have noticed that not many ppl follow the same path.

  186. 186

    Origines:

    Those kind of statements are called self-evident truths. We have the capacity to subjectively apprehend some absolute truths that form the basis of our fundamental understanding of things. If we reject those truths, then a chain-reaction of self-defeating absurdity follows – like rejecting the existence of the self leads to self-defeating absurdity. As KF said, we subjectively apprehend their absolute nature.

  187. 187
    Origenes says:

    William J Murray: The concept of god “as a person” makes no sense to me whatsoever, if we’re talking about the fundamental root of existence.

    – How can rational acts, like ‘understanding’ ‘having overview’ ‘having a plan’, be performed by something other than a person? If there is no person, who understands who has overview, how can there be understanding and overview? There must be something that understands, what can that be other than a person? How can there be knowledge without a knower? How can there be a free choice if there is no person?

    – The First Cause is free, as opposed to having an external cause. Only a person is free.

    – How do we explain moral laws, tailor-made for persons, if the source of those laws is not a person?

    – – – – –
    Here W.L.Craig provides three arguments for a personal God:
    (1)

    The cause of the universe must be an ultramundane being which transcends space and time and is therefore either an unembodied mind or an abstract object; it cannot be the latter; hence, it must be the former, which is to say that this being is personal.
    We’ve concluded that the beginning of the universe was the effect of a first cause . . . . Now this is exceedingly odd. The cause is in some sense eternal and yet the effect which it produced is not eternal but began to exist a finite time ago. How can this be? If the necessary and sufficient conditions for the production of the effect are eternal, then why isn’t the effect eternal? How can all the causal conditions sufficient for the production of the effect be changelessly existent and yet the effect not also be existent along with the cause? How can the cause exist without the effect?

    . . . There seems to be only one way out of this dilemma, and that is to say that the cause of the universe’s beginning is a personal agent who freely chooses to create a universe in time. Philosophers call this type of causation “agent causation,” and because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions which were not previously present. For example, a man sitting changelessly from eternity could freely will to stand up; thus, a temporal effect arises from an eternally existing agent. Similarly, a finite time ago a Creator endowed with free will could have freely brought the world into being at that moment. In this way, the Creator could exist changelessly and eternally but choose to create the world in time. By “choose” one need not mean that the Creator changes his mind about the decision to create, but that he freely and eternally intends to create a world with a beginning. By exercising his causal power, he therefore brings it about that a world with a beginning comes to exist. So the cause is eternal, but the effect is not. In this way, then, it is possible for the temporal universe to have come to exist from an eternal cause: through the free will of a personal Creator.

    (2)

    In the case of the moral argument, the concept of God involved in the argument is that of a personal being, since moral values, if they exist, reside in persons, not in inanimate things, and since only a personal being can be a source of moral duty by issuing commands to us. This is the failing of Plato’s impersonal form of the Good. Justice, for example, is not itself just, being merely an abstract object, nor can it issue imperatives requiring us to be just. Christian theologians like Augustine advanced Plato’s ethical theory by identifying Plato’s Good with God himself.

    (3)

    Finally, the ontological argument requires God, as the maximally great being, to be personal, not only because personhood is entailed by the properties that make up maximal excellence such as omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection, but also because being personal is itself a great-making property, which a maximally great being cannot lack.

  188. 188

    Origenes said:

    How can rational acts, like ‘understanding’ ‘having overview’ ‘having a plan’, be performed by something other than a person? If there is no person, who understands who has overview, how can there be understanding and overview?

    I don’t think I’ve ever used such terminology in describing god. I actually don’t think you have the vaguest idea what my conception of god is, so I don’t know what you think you’re addressing using those phrases as if they have something to do with my position.

    I doubt Craig’s view of what existence is and what god is is very similar to mine other than that they converge on a few root issues about the characteristics/nature of god necessarily being a certain way.

    But to imply that god must either be an inanimate thing or a personal agent is, IMO, the false dichotomy of a person trying to reconcile logic with certain a priori ideological beliefs. I think Craig and Dembski do this a lot – use logic (and they are quite good at it) to endorse their a priori ideological worldview.

    I, however, am not a Christian. I’m not of any particular faith, so I’m not at any level trying to reconcile logical implications, facts or evidence with a particular worldview. I’m not saying that such apologists are wrong in their conclusions or in their beliefs; what I’m saying is that you are barking up the wrong tree by quoting Craig and responding to me as if I have what you think are standard theistic beliefs.

    I think ascribing to god any of the terms we use to describe subjective personhood as if those terms can mean the same thing about god is a category error.

    I will say this: If god is truly the O3 root of all of existence, god cannot be a personal agent like when we think of individual personhood. It’s a logical contradiction. Individual personhood has contextual requirements that are simply not available to an O3 root of all existence.

    That’s doesn’t make god a “thing” or an “inanimate object” like Craig implies; it makes god something else entirely.

  189. 189
    jdk says:

    I highly agree with wjm here. I don’t think we can know what the root of reality is like, and I think our attempts to ascribe God with qualities extrapolated from our experience as limiting beings in this world are bound to be wrong.

  190. 190
    Origenes says:

    WJM @188

    WJM:

    O: How can rational acts, like ‘understanding’ ‘having overview’ ‘having a plan’, be performed by something other than a person? If there is no person, who understands who has overview, how can there be understanding and overview?

    I don’t think I’ve ever used such terminology in describing god.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but does e.g. the fine-tuning of the universe by an intelligent agent not imply rational acts such as ‘understanding’, ‘having overview’ and ‘having a plan’? Does the term “intelligent” in “intelligent design” not imply “rational acts”?

    I actually don’t think you have the vaguest idea what my conception of god is …

    Actually I do, that is to say, I know that in your conception God is not a person. For this reason I used “something other than a person” and “no person”.

    … so I don’t know what you think you’re addressing using those phrases as if they have something to do with my position.

    I don’t understand why you object to the phrases I have used.

    But to imply that god must either be an inanimate thing or a personal agent is, IMO, the false dichotomy of a person trying to reconcile logic with certain a priori ideological beliefs.

    You are selling Craig short; he considers several categories, which include: inanimate things, unembodied minds and abstract objects.

    I think Craig and Dembski do this a lot – use logic (and they are quite good at it) to endorse their a priori ideological worldview.

    Very few people are ideologically neutral. BTW you make it sound as if they should not use logic.

    I, however, am not a Christian. I’m not of any particular faith, so I’m not at any level trying to reconcile logical implications, facts or evidence with a particular worldview.

    I am also no Christian. I’m also not of any particular faith. But a personal God makes good sense to me.

    I’m not saying that such apologists are wrong in their conclusions or in their beliefs; what I’m saying is that you are barking up the wrong tree by quoting Craig and responding to me as if I have what you think are standard theistic beliefs.

    I was aware of the fact that you, like me, are not a Christian before I wrote my post. Craig’s arguments are nevertheless relevant because they are purely philosophical. Why do you argue against the man and not his arguments?

    I will say this: If god is truly the O3 root of all of existence, god cannot be a personal agent like when we think of individual personhood. It’s a logical contradiction. Individual personhood has contextual requirements that are simply not available to an O3 root of all existence.

    I am not familiar with the term “O3 root”, but I take it that it means something equivalent to “First Cause”. You make the sweeping claim that a personal God is a logical contradiction, without making a serious attempt of an explanation.

    What can I say? I am a fan of your writings; I have read, reread, categorized and stored many of your posts. But this time I feel rather disappointed.

  191. 191
    jdk says:

    to HeKS. FYI: I finally got around to replying to you in the Worldviews thread.

  192. 192

    Origenes said:

    I don’t understand why you object to the phrases I have used.

    That’s because you don’t understand my view of God or my view of the nature of our existence. I think what we normally refer to as “Intelligent Design” is downstream from something far more primordial and more akin to magic than the breakdown phrases and terms you offer. I think those phrases and terms are what we as conscious, sentient separated and thoughtful entities interpret as characteristics from that more primordial demiurge interacting with the primordial psychoplasm which represents the first stage of dualism.

    O3 means Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent – no individual agent can be such things and still be what we call a “person” in the same way that we think about individual agencies. It’s not logically possible.

  193. 193
    jdk says:

    wjm writes,

    I think those phrases and terms are what we as conscious, sentient separated and thoughtful entities interpret as characteristics from that more primordial demiurge interacting with the primordial psychoplasm which represents the first stage of dualism.

    This is similar to what I am saying in my reply to HeKS on the Worldviews thread.

    I’ve avoiding using the term, but these ideas are very much like the fundamental ideas of Taoism.

  194. 194
    jdk says:

    Ooops – I meant “I’ve avoided using the term” Taoism, not “avoiding”, as obviously I used the term.

  195. 195
    Origenes says:

    WJM: O3 means Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent – no individual agent can be such things and still be what we call a “person” in the same way that we think about individual agencies. It’s not logically possible.

    You may very well have a point there. I’m not wedded to this O3 concept. Are you?
    If you are interested, in this post (and further in this thread) I argue that all three properties are incoherent.

  196. 196
    HeKS says:

    I’m finding myself right between Origenes and WJM on this personhood issue. More with Origenes on God being a person, though I think that term has to come with some clarifications and caveats, more with WJM on the O3 issue, though not entirely, and I think those terms need some clarifications and caveats as well.

    I’ll write a little more when I have a few minutes.

    —————–

    JDK, thanks for the heads up. I’ll take a look when I get a chance.

  197. 197
    kairosfocus says:

    Origines, it may be interesting to see the studies across time on what the three actually are understood as in serious scholarship. Two approaches help, that of the idea of God in phil of religion, and that used in serious systematic theologies. In a very simple nutshell, it is easy to generate false paradoxes, failing to hold the terms in due balance, e.g. can the Omnipotent make a rock that it cannot move or the like. (The in a nutshell, quick answer to this challenge is that the demand poses an implicit logical impossibility and such an object is meaningless — a non-being, like a square circle.) KF

    PS: I think it may be helpful to start with the following as FFT suggestions:

    1: Omnipotence: God is the root of being for all possible worlds, and so holds maximal possible power– capability and freedom of action — in any actualisable or actualised world. Actualised worlds with moral, self-moved agency involve limited beings whose intellectual ability, freedom of action and capabilities in general are by contrast infinitesimal though nonetheless real. (E.g. a supposed rock of infinite inertia is inherently a non-being; finitude is inherent in being a rock or any other creature.)

    2: Omniscience: God, as world-root in whom all other being subsists, knows all that is know-able in every actual or possible world. This is specifically not to be confused with forcing the future such that no freedom of creatures actually exists. That is, limited, self-moved rational and responsible agency is possible and indeed — as we manifest — actual. To a-temporally know an outcome is not to force it.

    3: Omnipresence: God, who is the root of being in whom all other being subsists in any given actualised or possible world, is everywhere active and aware in upholding the order and existence of any actual world. On this view, a miracle is a case where God, for good reasons of his own, acts beyond the usual course of a given world. E.g. note Paul asking in Ac 26:8 why should we imagine it impossible or incredible for the author of life from clay thence nothing, to restore life to the dead in fulfillment of prophecy to that specific effect.

    4: Omnibenevolence: God is inherently good and maximally great — possesses any and all great-making properties and no lesser-making properties to maximal possible degree — as necessary being root of any possible or actualised world. Thus, he is the IS that grounds ought in any possible or actual world. God’s freedom to act is self-regulated by his inherent goodness. E.g. this is the sense in which it is impossible for God to lie.

  198. 198

    jdk,

    I don’t know anything about Taoism, but it wouldn’t be the first time my philosophy has run in accordance with something already in existence. Apparently I’m also a Pragmatist, although my category of practical uses for beliefs might stretch farther than most pragmatists.

  199. 199
    Origenes says:

    Kairosfcus @197,

    Good idea. I would like to comment on each of those, one at a time:

    1: Omnipotence: God is the root of being for all possible worlds, and so holds maximal possible power– capability and freedom of action — in any actualisable or actualised world. Actualised worlds with moral, self-moved agency involve limited beings whose intellectual ability, freedom of action and capabilities in general are by contrast infinitesimal though nonetheless real.

    (1) If God is omnipotent, then God holds all power.
    (2) God transferred power X to me.
    (3) I am self-moved, free, rational and responsible. God is not responsible for what I do with X.
    (4) If I hold power X then God does not hold power X, which means God does not hold all power.

    Therefor
    (5) God is not omnipotent.

    – – – –
    A clarification about my postion. When I said, in post #190: “I am also no Christian. I’m also not of any particular faith.”, I should have probably added that, although at a distance, I, nonetheless, feel a strong connection with Christianity — as opposed to other organized religions, such as Atheism and Islam.

  200. 200
    kairosfocus says:

    O, that I hold power X is because God enables and gifts me so to do, i.e. has freely acted. This does not stop God from omnipotence, just describes how he has chosen to use it, i.e. he loves and respects creatures he has given ability to be self moved within creaturely limits, and so to be limitedly free also. In the end, he will hold me to account for my use of power X, a stewardship from him. KF

  201. 201
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, we can trace from signs, as we routinely do. And, we can trace through the logic of being, as has been done. Beyond, why should we think it incredible that the author of rational, communicative, creative reality [us . . . ] should himself be rational, creative, communicative reality? KF

  202. 202
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Let me add, that the creation of rational, responsible, self-moved creatures opens up a domain of goodness otherwise not accessible, that of love. Which, BTW, is the root of the virtues.

  203. 203
    Origenes says:

    KF: … that I hold power X is because God enables and gifts me so to do, i.e. has freely acted. This does not stop God from omnipotence …

    Maybe our difference has a definitional nature. If person A is “all-rich” and holds all the money there is, and freely enables and gifts me some, and I am not person A, then I would say that, after the transfer, person A no longer holds all the money there is.

    … just describes how he has chosen to use it, i.e. he loves and respects creatures he has given ability to be self moved within creaturely limits, and so to be limitedly free also.

    God freely chose not to hold on to all the power there is. He freely chose to give some away to the creatures He loves and respects.

    In the end, he will hold me to account for my use of power X, a stewardship from him.

    If I acted wrongly, would it help to say: “Dear Lord, how can You say that I held and misused power X, because it is You who hold all power, since, as we all know, You are omnipotent.” ?

  204. 204
    jdk says:

    wjm says above that he isn’t familiar with Taoism, although I find some of the things he has recently said (179, 188, 192) similar to Taoist thought. Also, in the Worldviews thread I’ve been in long discussion, I’ve been offering a s a logical alternative to theism a view based on my understanding of Taoism. And last, I recently met a young lady who has similar philosophic view as mine, and so I wrote a short summary of my interest in Taoism and its basic principles as I understand them.

    So now might be a good time to share. This is probably much more than most (any?) of you want to read, but someone might be interested in seeing a non-theistic yet non-materialistic way of looking at the world: a different worldveiw, if you will.

    My interest in Taoism began with being introduced to the I Ching in the late 60’s when I was college. It fit in well with the counter-culture times, especially the part about living in harmony with natural forces. It fit in well with other influences I had: the study of comparative religions; books by Alan Watts about Zen Buddhism; two books books by Paul Goodman, Gestalt Therapy and The Empire City, and the general dissatisfaction with Western culture of the times.

    Fast forward to 2000 or so. I became involved in defending the teaching of evolution in public schools, and as a corollary got re-interested in philosophical and religious views about the nature of the universe and the nature of man. In particular, I got involved in discussing/arguing with Christians theists who believed many things that I did not, especially that a omni-everything, conscious, willful divine entity not only had actively created the universe, but was actively guiding the world at every moment, and, many believed, occasionally intervening to create what the already created natural world could not.

    So I sometimes tried to explain that there was an alternative view to consider, one very much on the other end of the spectrum: the concept of yin/yang in Taoism, in which an underlying set of impersonal principles, so to speak, provide both the nurturing ground of existence and the creative urges which cause that ground to be constantly changing.

    I find that Taoism, in the non-scholarly way in which I understand it, resonates with me more than any other metaphysical or religious perspective.

    A disclaimer: On the other hand, I am a strong agnostic. I don’t think that human beings, individually or collectively, can actually know what is behind/beyond the material world. Therefore, when I describe, and even advocate for, a Taoist perspective, I’m not saying that I “believe” Taoism is true, because (and this is a tenet of Taoism), I don’t think we can know whether it is true or not.

    But as a metaphor of what might be true, it seems to fit the world as I see it. My beliefs about Taoism are a framework for metaphysically understanding our experience of, and in, this world, but they are not provable, logically necessary, or even testable in the empirical sense.

    However, as a metaphysical belief system it makes the most sense to me of all the religious and philosophical perspectives I have studied, and it has provided me with many meaningful principles about what the universe and human beings are, and how to live effectively in the world.

    But ultimately, I believe in Feynman’s statement (paraphrased) that I would rather live with uncertainty than believe things that are not true. Since there is no way to know whether Taoism, or any other metaphysical/religious belief is true, I believe that my “belief in Taoism” is a useful metaphorical story, but not a literal belief about truth. However, “living with uncertainty”–knowing when you can’t know–fits in well with Taoist principles anyway, so there is a certain resonance between Feynman’s principle and the ineffable nature of Taoism, with its emphasis on right action rather than on dogmatic belief.

    Another disclaimer: I’m not a scholarly expert, by any means, on this subject. Also, many of my thoughts have been influenced by other sources, so it would be hard to sort out what exactly is an accurate description of Taoism and what is added on. This needs to be considered, perhaps, my idiosyncratic, personal version. I also think some of this sounds pretty vague, woo-woo-ey, and pretentious, but I’ll let that stand.

    1. The Tao is the undifferentiated One out of which all that is arises. It is the ultimate ground of all characteristics, yet it has no characteristics itself.

    The Tao is ineffable.

    As the saying goes, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.” Words by their nature segment and specify, and the Tao cannot be segmented or specified. Trying to capture the Tao in words is not only fruitless, it squeezes the spirit out of our understanding of it.

    In Eastern traditions, to the extent that we can approach understanding the Tao, we must quiet the mind, give up attachment to our verbalizations, and find a sense of Oneness in a state of pure consciousness. From this point of view, all the logical manipulations about religious dogma are antithetical to a true spiritual understanding.

    2. Complementary duality: all of the fundamental concepts in the world arise out of the Tao according to the principle of complementary duality. Complementary duals are not opposites in the Western sense – antagonistic and exclusionary concepts defined by being not the other – but rather two facets of one whole which interact with each other as they manifest themselves.

    The two little circles in the yin-yang symbol (black inside white and white inside black) represent the idea that inside each one of the pair is the potential and the impetus to move to the other. Because of this complementary interplay, these “opposites” work to create dynamic balance, not antagonistic tension. Even existence/non-existence is a complementary dual. The Tao is neither something nor nothing, but that which encompasses both. That which exists has motion towards non-existence, but that which does not exist has motion to come into existence.

    Another related symbol from Western mathematics for this principle is the bell-shaped curve. The ends of the spectrum represent the two opposites when separated from their complementary nature – the ends represent antagonistic opposites. However the middle represents the balance that comes when the duals commingle. Far too often people exclude the middle and set up a black-and-white battle of the extremes. Such a perspective is out of balance and will inevitably be less effective than being aware of the value and interplay of the whole spectrum. Such an interplay is dynamic and fluid – truth is never solidified but always demands to be understood in context.

    3. The Creative and the Receptive

    The most fundamental dual is the yang/yin concept of the Creative and the Receptive, for it is the interplay of these two that sets and keeps the world in motion – that creates the “restless multiplicity” (a phrase from the yin/yangish song by Joni Mitchell, “Don Juan’s Reckess daughter”) of the world we experience.

    The Receptive is the ground upon which the world is built. It is passive and does what it is impelled to do, but it provides the nourishment of material for the activity that is imparted to it. The Creative is active, and impels the world to move and change. The Creative desires to bring forth what is new, and the Receptive desires to nourish what is old. Together they bring growth to the world.

    4. Synchronicity

    Because of our nature as creatures in the physical world, we necessarily experience time as flowing from moment to moment and space flowing from point to point. As the world thus changes we notice the regularities of cause-and-effect that are manifested. This causal relationship is the heart of our empirical understanding of how the world works.

    However just because that is all we can experience doesn’t mean that is all there is. The principle of synchronicity posits that there are other connections between non-contiguous points of time and space such that at times changes are coordinated in ways that are beyond normal causality and yet do not violate normal causality.

    From Carl Jung’s introduction to the Wilhelm version of the I Ching:

    Synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.

    … Just as causality describes the sequence of events, so synchronicity to the Chinese mind deals with the coincidence of events. The causal point of view tells us a dramatic story about how D came into existence: it took its origin from C, which existed before D, and C in its turn had a father, B, etc. The synchronistic view on the other hand tries to produce an equally meaningful picture of coincidence. How does it happen that A’, B’, C’, D’, etc., appear all in the same moment and in the same place?
    So when things happen “by coincidence”, or things turn out “just right”, or a dark cloud has a silver lining, it is not just pure random chance that might be involved, but rather a “behind the scenes” arrangement of events arising from the balancing of various complementary duals. Such events are the product of the Creative principle at work striving to bring disparate parts together into a new, meaningful whole.

    4. Spontaneity: one of my favorite Taoist sayings is that “the wise man is he who does spontaneously exactly that which he would do after great deliberation.”

    Spontaneity and deliberation are a complementary dual. However, when one is in harmony with the overall nature of a situation, the next right action often will rise all of a piece – both what to do and why to do it will be just presented to us, as if (and this is what happens) our larger organic self has grasped the whole without our active engagement.

    The world as a whole works like this also: at times the Creative and the Receptive interact to suddenly bring something new into existence – not in a poof-like way that violates normal causality but in a synchronous type of way that brings otherwise disparate parts together to truly produce something new.

    From this perspective, as opposed to a theistic one, our universe was a spontaneous creation of the Tao. There was no person behind it, acting with foresight and purpose, but there was a creative gathering of forces to produce something that had the wherewithal to keep on keeping on in an interesting way. How the Tao does that gathering is beyond our comprehension, but it doesn’t take a man behind the curtain to make it happen.

    A standard metaphor in Eastern thought is that the world is a web – a vast inter-connected lattice of events. Taoism says that the world is a web that has no weaver – that the design has no designer. Law and chance may be what we see when we examine the world empirically, but Taoism says that underlying our experience is the ever-present Tao – a deeper layer of synchronous creative causality which brings about the bigger patterns we see unfold around us.

    5. The world is fractal (although of course Taoism doesn’t use this word.) The principles of the Tao apply to every little moment of the world – our lives and all the events around us, down to the quantum level of every elementary particle at every moment – just as much as they apply to the creation of the universe as a whole.

    6. Living well: The main purpose of adopting a Taoist philosophy is to learn how to live well – to learn to act so as to maximize health and harmony in the world around us. Taoism is not concerned with dogma, nor with compelling belief, nor with dichotomizing the world. It is concerned with always doing “the next right thing” in a way that both contributes to and is receptive of the larger synchronous forces around us in a situation.

    Central to this is understanding that the Western view of a conscious “I” striving to be in control of one’s being and actions is wrong. Being conscious is one of the things one does, but consciousness is not the center of who one is. A goal of living is to be attuned to the larger underlying biological self, and to be able to let thoughts and actions arise from the being within. If one develops such a larger self to be in touch with the situations one finds one in, then one can learn to trust one’s spontaneity – to let one’s self flow out naturally.

    The I Ching puts great emphasis on adjusting one’s actions to the state of the moment – knowing when to forcefully act and when to withdraw, when to lead and when to follow, when to act as if one is certain he is right and when to know that one indeed doesn’t know.

    The other famous metaphor is that “the wise man knows how to ride the whirlwind” – how to remain calm and centered in the midst of activity. I think all the Eastern practices emphasize being able to step back from the outer edge of our awareness, so to speak, and somewhat dispassionately watch what we are doing without being attached to what we are doing. If one can remain calm in the midst of activity, then one can more easily be open to the spontaneous wisdom of the larger self.

    7. Intelligence and agency: The Western theistic view is that that intelligence and agency–the mind of God– precede the material world. An omniscient, omnipotent deity created the world, and that same deity empowers every person’s material body with an immaterial soul which is the source of our consciousness and our will. I think this is wrong.

    I believe that humans are embedded in the physical and biological world, and that intelligence and agency is an emergent property of the world: intelligence and agency come out of the world, but the world need not have overriding intelligence and agency itself to make that happen. We are not dual creatures – a passive material being empowered by an active immaterial soul. In Taoist terms, both the nurturing material world (yin) and the energetic creative energy which empowers it (yang) are part of a complementary duality that is itself one. We partake of the same creative and nurturing aspects of the Tao as the universe does, but when consolidated it a limited biological body, these properties coalesce to appear as human intelligence and agency.

    Another favorite saying, from Alan Watts: “We don’t come into this world, we come out of the world, like a leaf comes out of a tree.” There doesn’t need to be anything outside the world to have created the world, or to be the place where we come from, and there doesn’t need to be any little god inside of us to provide us with intelligence and will. Everything unfolds within the world we know.

    8. Individuality: Another favorite from Watts, which highlights the distinction between Western and Eastern views: in respect to whatever the “soul” may be, he wrote, “When we die, it’s like throwing a drop of water back into the ocean.” Individuality, whoever “I” am, is a temporary, local event associated with my existing as a biological being. When I’m dead, I’m dead. To the extent that the creative power of the universe helped uphold my existence, as it upholds the existence of everything, when I die that creative power sinks back into the universal ocean of the Tao. There is no “me” which lives after death.

    9. On thinking, philosophy, and abstract thought: In “The Yoga Matrix” by Richard Freeman, he remarks that the goal of yoga is to come to an immediate experience of the true nature of reality and of the human condition within reality. Being analytical and philosophical may be useful as ideas to get one started, but the goal is to go beyond the ideas: to get to the point where one understands that dwelling on the ideas and being attached to them is an impediment to the actual goal of truly experiencing what the ideas are about.

    That is one reason why practices such as meditation, yoga and tai chi are useful – they move one’s attention and mind out of the abstract and into the physical, with one’s relationship with one’s own body becoming a microcosm of one’s relationship with the world as a whole.

    Attachment to dogma is an impediment to living well. Philosophy and abstract thought, such as all I’ve written here, can be fun, satisfying, and even useful. But it is a mistake to think that it is “true”. All abstract thought is an overlay on top of the real world, and it’s important to not confuse the two.

  205. 205
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @203:

    Maybe our difference has a definitional nature. If person A is “all-rich” and holds all the money there is, and freely enables and gifts me some, and I am not person A, then I would say that, after the transfer, person A no longer holds all the money there is.

    That’s an interesting situation you present.

    Please, tell me, is “person A” a mortal creature like you and me?

  206. 206
    Dionisio says:

    jdk @204:

    That’s interesting what you wrote.

    Why is it called “Tao”? Where is that name taken from?

    Perhaps the answer to my questions are in your comment, but maybe I missed it?

    Thank you.

  207. 207
    jdk says:

    It’s a Chinese word for “the way”. It refers to the ineffable underlying “root-level of reality”, to use a term we have been using in recent discussions here. It can also mean, more broadly, “principle” or perhaps “the source of how things happen.”

  208. 208
    Dionisio says:

    jdk @204:

    [follow-up to #206]

    Never mind. Found it online:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism

    Since the beginning of human history all people have believed in something. Atheists believe there is no God. Taoists believe whatever they happen to believe.

    Paul the Apostle told the Greek philosophers he met in Athens that the unknown God they worshiped has been personally revealed to us in the current age of grace.

    Jesus Christ made you, me and the ancient Chinese people who started Taoism. And He loves all of us. He proved it on a cross that became the ultimate symbol of true redemption and freedom.

    Christians don’t follow any set of teachings. We want to follow and have intimate relationship with the person of Christ Jesus, who self-proclaimed Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is no going without Him. There is no knowing without Him. There’s no living without Him.

    That’s the radical difference between all belief systems out there and genuine Christianity.

    PS. FYI – I was a strong atheist who could teach atheism to the new atheists out there. I was educated in Soviet Moscow. I swam in the winter in a gigantic public open swimming pool located right where Stalin had ordered to destroy a building that was used by the Russian Christians. I was spiritually blind and lost. God’s grace saved me. Amazing grace. The King of kings died for me. Good news! He died for you too!

  209. 209
    Eugen says:

    jdk

    “The Tao is the undifferentiated One out of which all that is arises.”

    You have lots of beliefs for a non-believer

  210. 210
    jdk says:

    Hmmm. I think I said quite a bit about the tentative and qualified nature of my metaphysical beliefs. Did you read those parts?

  211. 211
    HeKS says:

    Eugen #209

    You have lots of beliefs for a non-believer

    I don’t recall jdk identifying himself as a ‘non-believer’. He seems to just be saying that he’s leaning towards a different belief than either of us might have.

  212. 212
    HeKS says:

    Origenes #203

    If person A is “all-rich” and holds all the money there is, and freely enables and gifts me some, and I am not person A, then I would say that, after the transfer, person A no longer holds all the money there is.

    God freely chose not to hold on to all the power there is. He freely chose to give some away to the creatures He loves and respects.

    This is an inapt analogy.

    By referring to “all the power there is” you’re treating power like an external commodity to which God has access and where the distribution of power is a zero-sum game. This simply fails to capture the concept properly.

    To say that God is omnipotent is to say that he has an unlimited capacity to exert power, and that there is no feat of power too great for Him to enact or that would exhaust his power in the doing of it. That He grants to living beings a limited power of their own does not deplete or reduce God’s ability to exert power as though it were some consumable good in limited supply. God is the wellspring of power, not simply its consumer and manipulator.

  213. 213
    Eugen says:

    I only read #204 by jdk

    He has “a non-theistic yet non-materialistic way of looking at the world”

    It’s like sitting on the fence on top of the fence…..

  214. 214
    asauber says:

    Eugen,

    It’s usually very amusing to read Atheists trying to accurately describe what it is they really think with some details that attempt coherence.

    It’s kinda like a radio news guy reading aloud a written story he hasn’t rehearsed. He’s not sure where he’s going to end sentences.

    Andrew

  215. 215
    Origenes says:

    HeKS @212

    By referring to “all the power there is” you’re treating power like an external commodity to which God has access and where the distribution of power is a zero-sum game.

    Not just external. “All the power there is” is meant to indicate power internal and external to God.

    To say that God is omnipotent is to say that he has an unlimited capacity to exert power …

    I have no logical issues with that *, because in your definition, omnipotent does not imply that He holds “all the power there is”.
    I see a logical problem only if the claim is that a maximally great being holds “all the power there is”.
    – – – – –
    (*) for now I ignore the logical problems wrt ‘unlimited’/infinity….

  216. 216
    jdk says:

    Thanks,HeKS, for the clarification: I am a non-believer in that I am not a Christian. I also think that I have explained that my understanding of the nature of my metaphysical beliefs, as opposed to their content, is also different than those of a theist.

    I also understand that my beliefs seem incoherent to people who strongly identify with theism.

    This is all related to the key issue of worldviews. Worldviews are like the water the fish swims in. At least initially one’s worldview is so pervasive that one has no notion that it is there: one doesn’t even realize that there are alternatives.

    In this sense, I am a Western man, having been raised in, and originally at least assimilating, the mainstream Western (and American) worldview. However Christianity made no sense to me from an early age, despite my attendance at church and Sunday school. However, through education (literature; anthropology degree; interest in comparative religions, psychology, and modern physics; yoga; the general counter-cultural disillusionment of the 60’s, etc.), my world has broadened so that my worldview now incorporates the sense of other metaphysical possibilities.

    So I don’t expect thoroughgoing theists to get much out of what I say. But others here might, as I did, benefit from contemplating something a bit different.

  217. 217
    kairosfocus says:

    Origines, freedom is in significant part a stewardship, just ask your friendly neighbourhood judge. And to have accountability does not undermine freedom of action, it is PREMISED on such freedom. The Clerk held at gun-point and forced to hand over the contents of the cash box is not guilty, but if he set it up to look that way and takes a cut, he is. KF

  218. 218
    Pindi says:

    jdk, I find your thoughts interesting. The snarky dismissal of your clearly deeply considered views by eugen and Andrew at 213 and 214 are the jarring notes in this conversation.

  219. 219
    jdk says:

    Thanks, Pindi. As I said, I know that some people will dismiss any non-Christian or non-theist perspective as incomprehensible.

    A possible realistic goal of mine is that at least some such people see, and acknowledge, that there are such perspectives that are as much of a product of centuries of thought as their view is. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, but I would hope that at least some people’s attitude might soften a bit.

  220. 220
    Origenes says:

    KF @217,

    I think I can agree with most of what you say.

    Question: does omnipotence imply holding all the power there is — including yours and mine?

    If that is not the case and omnipotence can be defined coherently, see e.g. HeKS #212, then I can go to the ‘second o’ (omniscience).

  221. 221
    HeKS says:

    jdk,

    Thanks, Pindi. As I said, I know that some people will dismiss any non-Christian or non-theist perspective as incomprehensible.

    Just a point of distinction here … There are some who will dismiss any non-Christian / non-theist perspective as incomprehensible, but there are others who will conclude that those alternative views are ultimately incomprehensible on their own merits.

    I think it’s important not to conflate these groups. If and when the latter group rejects non-Christian / non-theist perspectives as incoherent or incomprehensible, it is not simply because they are non-Christian / non-theist (i.e. different from their own beliefs) but because they are determined, in the final analysis, not to stand up to logical scrutiny.

  222. 222
    jdk says:

    I understand the distinction. However, I think there are some gray areas here, because concluding that a metaphysical view is logically wanting runs the risk of embedding various presuppositions about one’s own views into one’s logic.

    But I’m sure there are people who have thoughtfully considered, and rejected, views such as I have described, in much the same way that I have thoughtfully considered, and rejected, theism.

    So I’m certainly not saying all theists will just blindly dismiss any alternate views as not even worth thinking about, although I’m sure there are some people like that.

  223. 223
  224. 224
  225. 225
    Origenes says:

    Dionisio @205:

    Please, tell me, is “person A” a mortal creature like you and me?

    I have no opinion about that. Why is being a ‘mortal creature’ relevant?

  226. 226
    kairosfocus says:

    Origines, I think your concept of power needs revision. For instance, as I pointed out, our agency is not autonomous of God in ethical theism, and that our being agents does not undermine God as maximally powerful being. Indeed, absent his enabling and undergirding the world, our agency would be impossible. Such power as we have is secondary and “borrowed.” A stewardship, even as, the power to drive a car manifested in a licence is a stewardship, for which we are accountable, without that undermining our freedom and responsibility to act with prudence. And, if we act irresponsibly, the judge will have something to say to us, especially if our misuse of power has cost others harm. KF

    PS: D is hinting at the ontological difference between God as necessary being, world root and ground of being vs our own strictly circumscribed, secondary, dependent existence that depends from moment to moment on his support. Support of one who as the phrase goes, holds our breath in his hands.

  227. 227
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, many, many worldviews and life agendas are possible. However, they turn on key themes and face comparative difficulties challenges that turn out to have not very many core options. Three of these issues are the source of reality including ourselves as rationally responsible, significantly free individuals who are embodied, the linked IS-OUGHT gap/grounding challenge and the challenge of unifying THE ONE AND THE MANY in a coherent yet significantly diverse world-order with room for individuality such as we enjoy and depend on, even to argue. Characteristically, pantheistic or panentheistic schemes lose ability to account for the individual and for the clash between is and ought. Dualistic ones tend to lose unity, and are pressed to address the superiority of the good. (In this, a key point is to observe that the evil is best understood as perversion, privation and frustration of the good out of its proper, harmonious and suitable end, typically leading to chaos.) Polytheistic or henotheistic ones tend to lack a unifying root adequate to account for the world. Animism, it turns out often has a narrative of an alienated high God, leading men to try to get their best bargain with the lower powers they face (hence, much of Shamanism). In recent centuries, there has been a pattern of that High God being astonishingly friendly to the Gospel message. Atheism and its soft form, agnosticism — especially in light of evolutionary materialistic scientism — simply is utterly incoherent and lacking in answers. The issue is, again, comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power, informed by due attention to plumb-line, self-evident first truths. This last, being where much of our civilisation’s thought has gone astray and that is why so many have abandoned sound yardsticks for crooked ones that they then refuse to allow such plumb-lines to test. And of course, in the end, C S Lewis is right that we hunger for what nothing on earth can fill, hence his account of being surprised by Joy. For, Thou hast set Eternity in our hearts, oh Lord. KF

  228. 228
    Dionisio says:

    KF @226:

    D is hinting at the ontological difference between God as necessary being, world root and ground of being vs our own strictly circumscribed, secondary, dependent existence that depends from moment to moment on his support. Support of one who as the phrase goes, holds our breath in his hands.

    Bingo! Exactly!
    Why do you see that so clearly while others don’t?
    Please, can you explain that here?
    Humility hint: Matthew 16:17.
    Thank you.

  229. 229
    Origenes says:

    Kairosfocus @226

    Origines, I think your concept of power needs revision.

    I have continually spoken of “all the power there is”. How does that point to a particular concept of power that can be revised? BTW you are in good company, HeKS (#212) claimed that “all the power there is” necessarily points to power as an “external commodity” to God. No such particular concept of power is involved. “All the power there is” assumes power (of all sorts) to exist and refers to all of it. It is inclusive and does not single out or leave out any particular kind of power.

    For instance, as I pointed out, our agency is not autonomous of God in ethical theism, and that our being agents does not undermine God as maximally powerful being.
    It depends on how you define a ‘maximally powerful being’.

    If a maximally powerful being is defined as holding “all the power there is” and if I responsibly hold power X, then we have a logical problem — unless I am a max. pow. being.
    And it does not matter if this maximally powerful being, is necessary for the world to exist, and/or if that power is borrowed and/or if there is judgment later on. All that stuff cannot change the fact that there is power X, responsibly held by me and not by a maximally powerful being. And this means that the maximally powerful being does not hold all the power there is.

  230. 230
    Origenes says:

    #229 … “It depends on how you define a ‘maximally powerful being’.” has been mistakenly included in the second quote.

  231. 231
    Dionisio says:

    #228 addendum:

    Matthew Henry’s Commentary

    […] God must have the glory of it; “For flesh and blood have not revealed it to thee. Thou hadst this neither by the invention of thy own wit and reason, nor by the instruction and information of others; this light sprang neither from nature nor from education, but from my Father who is in heaven.”

    Note,
    1. The Christian religion is a revealed religion, has its rise in heaven; it is a religion from above, given by inspiration of God, not the learning of philosophers, nor the politics of statesmen.
    2. Saving faith is the gift of God, and, wherever it is, is wrought by him, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for his sake, and upon the score of his mediation, Phil. 1:29.

    Therefore thou art blessed, because my Father has revealed it to thee.

    Note, The revealing of Christ to us and in us is a distinguishing token of God’s good will, and a firm foundation of true happiness; and blessed are they that are thus highly favoured.

    Perhaps Christ discerned something of pride and vain-glory in Peter’s confession; a subtle sin, and which is apt to mingle itself even with our good duties. It is hard for good men to compare themselves with others, and not to have too great a conceit of themselves; to prevent which, we should consider that our preference to others is no achievement of our own, but the free gift of God’s grace too us, and not to others; so that we have nothing to boast of, Ps. 115:1; 1 Cor. 4:7.

  232. 232
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @229:

    I could be wrong on this (very high probability) but it seems to me that KF@226 was [also or mainly?] in reaction to your comments @225. KF may confirm or correct my assumption.
    BTW, my comments @228 and @231 were related to KF@226 and your comment @225 too.
    The PS in KF@226 is what I thought when I read your comment @225. My comments @228 and @231 were derived from reflecting on yours @225 and KF@226.
    Basically, something that is so obvious to KF does not seem clear to you. The Christian Scriptures fully and exclusively support one side of the discussion.

  233. 233
    kairosfocus says:

    O, I am sorry, but the matter remains as already highlighted; it is in God as world root that we live and move and have our being, all power we have can be aptly said to be “borrowed” from God, even the life that is expressed in our breaths. Reality is wholly dependent on God for its origin and moment to moment existence. We depend on him, not the reverse. We have a privilege of responsible, rational freedom (which gives us power to love and thus have a measure of virtue), but it does not exist autonomously, independent of and outside of God as world root. I now have to turn aside to address other matters. KF

    PS: Hodges’ Sys Theol may be of some utility on the topic as a modern classic of specifically Christian thought. I have already spoken on the core powers from a possible worlds perspective in a nutshell:

    https://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology1.iv.v.x.html

    “The Power of God.

    A. The Nature of Power, or, The Origin of the Idea.

    We get the idea of power from our own consciousness. That is, we are conscious of the ability of producing effects. Power in man is confined within very narrow limits. We can change the current of our thoughts, or fix our attention on a particular object
    407
    and we can move the voluntary muscles of our body. Beyond this our direct power does not extend. It is from this small measure of efficiency that all the stores of human knowledge and all the wonders of human art are derived. It is only our thoughts, volitions, and purposes, together with certain acts of the body, that are immediately subject to the will. For all other effects we must avail ourselves of the use of means. We cannot will a book, a picture, or a house into existence. The production of such effects requires protracted labor and the use of diverse appliances.

    B. Omnipotence.

    It is by removing all the limitations of power, as it exists in us, that we rise to the idea of the omnipotence of God. We do not thus, however, lose the idea itself. Almighty power does not cease to be power. We can do very little. God can do whatever He wills. We, beyond very narrow limits, must use means to accomplish our ends. With God means are unnecessary. He wills, and it is done. He said, Let there be light; and there was light. He, by a volition created the heavens and the earth. At the volition of Christ, the winds ceased, and there was a great calm. By an act of the will He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, and raised the dead. This simple idea of the omnipotence of God, that He can do without effort, and by a volition, whatever He wills, is the highest conceivable idea of power, and is that which is clearly presented in the Scriptures. In Gen. xvii. 1, it is said, “I am the Almighty God.” The prophet Jeremiah exclaims, “Ah Lord God! behold thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power, and stretched out arm; and there is nothing too hard for thee.” (Jer. xxxii. 17.) God is said to have created all things by the breath of his mouth, and to uphold the universe by a word. Our Lord says, “With God all things are possible.” (Matt. xix. 26.) The Psalmist long before had said, “Our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He pleased.” (Ps. cxv. 3.) And again, “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” (Ps. cxxxv. 6.) The Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and doeth his pleasure among the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth, is the tribute of adoration which the Scriptures everywhere render unto God, and the truth which they everywhere present as the ground of confidence to his people. This is all we know, and all we need to know on this subject: and here we might rest satisfied, were it not for the vain attempts of theologians to reconcile
    408
    these simple and sublime truths of the Bible with their philosophical speculations.

    C. The Negation of Power.

    The sensuous school of philosophers deny that there is any real efficiency or power in existence. Their principle is, that all knowledge is derived from the senses; and consequently, that, as we cannot know anything of which the senses do not take cognizance, it is unphilosophical or unreasonable to admit the existence of anything else. Our senses, however, do not take cognizance of efficiency. It cannot be felt, or seen, or heard, or tasted. Therefore it does not exist. A cause is not that to which an effect is due, but simply that which uniformly precedes it. All we can know, and all we can rationally believe, is the facts which affect our senses, and the order of their sequence; which order, being uniform and necessary, has the character of law. This is the doctrine of causation proposed by Hume, Kant, Brown, Mill, and virtually by Sir William Hamilton; and it is this principle which lies at the foundation of the Positive Philosophy of Comte. Of course, if there be no such thing as power, there is no such attribute in God as omnipotence.

    It is sufficient to say, in this connection, in reference to this theory, (1.) That it is contrary to every man’s consciousness. We are conscious of power, i.e., of the ability to produce effects. And consciousness has the same authority, to say the least, when it concerns what is within, as when it concerns what affects the senses. We are not more certain that our hand moves, than we are that we have the power to move, or not to move it, at pleasure. (2.) This theory contradicts the intuitive and indestructible convictions of the human mind. No man believes, or can believe really and permanently, that any change or effect can occur without an efficient cause. The fact that one event follows another, is not the ultimate fact. It is intuitively certain that there must be an adequate reason for that sequence. Such is the universal judgment of mankind. (3.) The argument, if valid against the reality of power, is valid against the existence of substance, of mind, and of God. This is admitted by the consistent advocates of the principle in question. Substance, mind, and God, are as little under the cognizance of the senses as power; and, therefore, if nothing is to be admitted but on the testimony of the senses, the existence of substance, mind, and God, must be denied. This principle, therefore, cannot be admitted without doing violence to our whole rational, moral, and religious nature. In other words, it
    409
    cannot be admitted at all; for men cannot, permanently, either believe or act contrary to the laws of their nature.

    D. Absolute Power.

    By absolute power, as understood by the schoolmen and some of the later philosophers, is meant power free from all the restraints of reason and morality. According to this doctrine, contradictions, absurdities, and immoralities, are all within the compass of the divine power. Nay, it is said that God can annihilate Himself. On this subject Des Cartes says, Deus “non voluit tres angulos trianguli æquales esse duobus rectis, quia cognovit aliter fieri non posse. Sed contra . . . . quia voluit tres angulos trianguli necessario æquales esse duobus rectis, idcirco jam hoc verum est, et fieri aliter non potest, atque ita de reliquis.”429 This “summa indifferentia,” he says, “in Deo, summum est ejus omnipotentiæ argumentam.”430

    It is, however, involved in the very idea of power, that it has reference to the production of possible effects. It is no more a limitation of power that it cannot effect the impossible, than it is of reason that it cannot comprehend the absurd, or of infinite goodness that it cannot do wrong. It is contrary to its nature. Instead of exalting, it degrades God, to suppose that He can be other than He is, or that He can act contrary to infinite wisdom and love. When, therefore, it is said that God is omnipotent because He can do whatever He wills, it is to be remembered that his will is determined by his nature. It is certainly no limitation to perfection to say that it cannot be imperfect.

    In this view of the omnipotence of God, the great body of the theologians, especially among the Reformed, agree. Thus Zwingle431 says: “Summa potentia non est nisi omnia possit, quantum ad legitimum posse attinet: nam malum facere aut se ipsum deponere aut in se converti hostiliter aut sibi ipsi contrarium esse posse impotentia est, non potentia.” Musculus,432 “Deus omnipotens, quia potest quæ vult, quæque ejus veritati, justitiæ conveniunt.” Keckermann,433 “Absolute possibilia sunt, quæ nec Dei naturæ, nec aliarum rerum extra Deum essentiæ contradicunt.” This scholastic doctrine of absolute power Calvin434 stigmatizes as profane, “quod . . . . merito detestabile nobis esse debet.”
    410

    Potentia Absoluta and Potentia Ordinata.

    There is a sense of the terms in which absolute power is generally recognized among theologians. A distinction is commonly made between the potentia absoluta and the potentia ordinata of God. By the latter is meant the efficiency of God, as exercised uniformly in the ordered operation of second causes; by the former, his efficiency, as exercised without the intervention of second causes. Creation, miracles, immediate revelation, inspiration, and regeneration, are to be referred to the potentia absoluta of God; all his works of providence to his potentia ordinata. This distinction is important, as it draws the line between the natural and supernatural, between what is due to the operation of natural causes, sustained and guided by the providential efficiency of God, and what is due to the immediate exercise of his power . . . “

  234. 234
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes,

    Please, can you explain –with your own words– how you understand what KF wrote @226 in the Post Script?

    PS: D is hinting at the ontological difference between God as necessary being, world root and ground of being vs our own strictly circumscribed, secondary, dependent existence that depends from moment to moment on his support. Support of one who as the phrase goes, holds our breath in his hands.

    I’m really interested in reading your interpretation of what KF wrote in the PS of 226, which apparently was in reaction to your comment @225.
    Thank you.

  235. 235
  236. 236
    jdk says:

    Hi Dionisio. I don’t think I understand why you keep posting links to your post at 208. I understand that you are a Christian. I’m not. Is there some part of your post at 208 that you would like me to reply to?

  237. 237
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: before heading out the door to other things, here is a clip from 197:

    . . . it may be helpful to start with the following as FFT suggestions:

    1: Omnipotence: God is the root of being for all possible worlds, and so holds maximal possible power– capability and freedom of action — in any actualisable or actualised world. Actualised worlds with moral, self-moved agency involve limited beings whose intellectual ability, freedom of action and capabilities in general are by contrast infinitesimal though nonetheless real. (E.g. a supposed rock of infinite inertia is inherently a non-being; finitude is inherent in being a rock or any other creature.)

    2: Omniscience: God, as world-root in whom all other being subsists, knows all that is know-able in every actual or possible world. This is specifically not to be confused with forcing the future such that no freedom of creatures actually exists. That is, limited, self-moved rational and responsible agency is possible and indeed — as we manifest — actual. To a-temporally know an outcome is not to force it.

    3: Omnipresence: God, who is the root of being in whom all other being subsists in any given actualised or possible world, is everywhere active and aware in upholding the order and existence of any actual world. On this view, a miracle is a case where God, for good reasons of his own, acts beyond the usual course of a given world. E.g. note Paul asking in Ac 26:8 why should we imagine it impossible or incredible for the author of life from clay thence nothing, to restore life to the dead in fulfillment of prophecy to that specific effect.

    4: Omnibenevolence: God is inherently good and maximally great — possesses any and all great-making properties and no lesser-making properties to maximal possible degree — as necessary being root of any possible or actualised world. Thus, he is the IS that grounds ought in any possible or actual world. God’s freedom to act is self-regulated by his inherent goodness. E.g. this is the sense in which it is impossible for God to lie.

  238. 238
    HeKS says:

    Origenes #229,

    BTW you are in good company, HeKS (#212) claimed that “all the power there is” necessarily points to power as an “external commodity” to God.

    That’s not exactly what I said. I didn’t say the phrase “necessarily” points to power as an exclusively external commodity, nor was the externality my primary point. Let me provide a streamlined quote of my point:

    By referring to “all the power there is” you’re treating power like [a] . . . commodity to which God has access and where the distribution of power is a zero-sum game. . . . That He grants to living beings a limited power of their own does not deplete or reduce God’s ability to exert power as though it were some consumable good in limited supply. God is the wellspring of power, not simply its consumer and manipulator.

    You could remove the word “external” from what I wrote and the point would be exactly the same.

  239. 239
    daveS says:

    KF et al,

    1: Omnipotence: God is the root of being for all possible worlds, and so holds maximal possible power– capability and freedom of action — in any actualisable or actualised world.

    I too don’t see any logical problems with an omnipotent being, under this definition. Such a being could only have powers consistent with the existence of other free agents (humans, in particular) of course.

    Now whether such a being would have to be unique, I’m not sure. Couldn’t there be distinct maximal collections of powers, and thus two or more omnipotent beings?

  240. 240
    Origenes says:

    Kairosfocus

    … it is in God as world root that we live and move and have our being …

    Yet, God is not alone. God is not the only actor. Not every hand that is raised is raised by God.

    … all power we have can be aptly said to be “borrowed” from God …

    Borrowed or not, we should take responsibility for our actions.

    … even the life that is expressed in our breaths. Reality is wholly dependent on God for its origin and moment to moment existence. We depend on him, not the reverse.

    Humans depend on him in many ways, yet humans —not God—created Auschwitz.

    We have a privilege of responsible, rational freedom (which gives us power to love and thus have a measure of virtue), but it does not exist autonomously, independent of and outside of God as world root.

    I’m fine with that, as long as one understands that one really does hold power and cannot blame God and/or others for one’s actions.

    – – – – –

    Defining “omnipotent” as “holding all the power there is” runs into a logical problem:

    (1) If God is omnipotent, then God holds all power.
    (2) God transferred power X to me.
    (3) I am self-moved, free, rational and responsible. God is not responsible for what I do with X.
    (4) If I hold power X then God does not hold power X, which means God does not hold all power.

    Therefor
    (5) God is not omnipotent.

  241. 241
    Dionisio says:

    jdk @236:

    Is there some part of your post at 208 that you would like me to reply to?

    You’ve done it @236. Just wanted to make sure you had not missed my post @208. Thanks.

    Now I see that you did not miss it. I respect your beliefs. You and I were made by our Creator in Imago Dei. That alone confers us equal dignity. God loves you. It’s written.

    Christ is the true source of real life. Please, think about this. Seriously.

    Sola Scriptura
    Sola Fide
    Sola Gratia
    Solus Christus
    Soli Deo Gloria

  242. 242
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @240:

    (2) God transferred power X to me.

    What does that mean?

    Where did you get that concept from?
    Is it from a book?
    Are you quoting somebody else here or elsewhere?
    Did you get it from a science-fiction movie?
    Did you make that up yourself?

    I don’t recall reading such a concept before, but my reading comprehension is rather poor, hence I could have overlooked it.

  243. 243
    Origenes says:

    Dioniosio:

    (2) God transferred power X to me.

    What does that mean?

    Something very simple. It means that I have a certain power (or powers) to do things (eat, think, walk, talk and so forth), and that I received this power from God.

  244. 244
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @243:

    […] I have a certain power (or powers) to do things (eat, think, walk, talk and so forth), and that I received this power from God.

    OK, so you refer to “capability” or “capacity” as “power”, right?
    And you correctly say that God provided that to you. OK, I think I understand that part.

    Now please explain, how does that relate to this which you wrote @240:

    If I hold power X then God does not hold power X

    If God gave you certain capabilities, how do you relate that to God losing something in that transaction?
    How can you explain that the fact that you have something that God gave to you implies that God does not have it?

    Can you elaborate on that? Also provide an illustrative example?
    Thanks.

  245. 245
    Origenes says:

    Dionisio:

    (4)If I hold power X then God does not hold power X

    If God gave you certain capabilities, how do you relate that to God losing something in that transaction?
    How can you explain that the fact that you have something that God gave to you implies that God does not have it?

    Can you elaborate on that? Also provide an illustrative example?

    What I am saying is that when I choose to fire a gun, then I am the one who is responsible. Surely God can intervene and take that power away from me. But, if He does not do that, then the use of that power is my responsibility. I use that power. God does not.

    In other words, God (by choice) does not hold all the power there is.

    Put differently, if God holds all the power there is, then there can be only one actor — assuming that to act requires power. God would de facto be alone. And if that is the case, then God is the only one responsible for everything that ever happened.

  246. 246
    HeKS says:

    Dionisio #244

    If God gave you certain capabilities, how do you relate that to God losing something in that transaction?
    How can you explain that the fact that you have something that God gave to you implies that God does not have it?

    This kind of notion follows from the issue I addressed in #212 and repeated in #238.

    If you view power as some kind of consumable, non-renewable commodity being apportioned in some kind of zero-sum game then it makes perfect sense that if God gives you some degree of power then he no longer has that bit of power he gave to you. This makes sense in the same way that it would make sense to argue that if God had a really big bag of potato chips and he gave you a couple of the chips in the bag, he would no longer have those chips, because he gave them to you rather than keeping them for himself.

    This is why I pointed out that “God is the wellspring of power, not simply its consumer and manipulator”.

  247. 247
    jdk says:

    Infinity – x = infinity, for all finite x.

  248. 248
    Origenes says:

    HeKS: This makes sense in the same way that it would make sense to argue that if God had a really big bag of potato chips and he gave you a couple of the chips in the bag, he would no longer have those chips, because he gave them to you rather than keeping them for himself.

    Very funny. You do have a way with comparisons.

    HeKs: This is why I pointed out that “God is the wellspring of power, not simply its consumer and manipulator”.

    Jdk: Infinity – x = infinity, for all finite x.

    Let’s suppose:
    There, mainly on the left quadrant of the multiverse, is an infinite number of potato chips. Here, in my hometown, 27 potato chips. There are no other potato chips.

    Question: Can someone rightly claim to hold “all the potato chips there are”, if he does not hold the 27 potato chips from my hometown?

  249. 249
    EugeneS says:

    Are people really discussing population-level reproductive advantage conferred by moral values? Really? I mean seriously?

    A wake-up call to evolutionists…

  250. 250
    jdk says:

    Hmm. I’m sorry if I’ve muddied the waters, especially since I’m not very interested in the actual theological discussion, but I think Origenes is right about my statement about infinity. There are an infinite number of natural numbers. If I take away all the odd numbers, I still have an infinite number of even numbers but I don’t have all the numbers anymore.

  251. 251
    asauber says:

    I don’t have all the numbers anymore

    You could never have all the numbers. Introducing infinity destroys the concept of ‘all’.

    In fact, numbers themselves lose the meaning they had.

    Andrew

  252. 252
    HeKS says:

    Origenes and jdk,

    A distinction must be made between an infinite set of things and infinite potentiality

    The former, being a completed infinity, is not possible. The latter, being only a potential infinite, is possible.

    When talking about God’s omnipotence we’re talking about his infinite capacity and potentiality for producing/exerting power, not his completion of the act (whether past, present or future) of producing/exerting “all” of the infinite power, or even of possessing it, like it is some commodity in limited supply.

    Who (other than Origenes) has defined omnipotence as “having all of the power there is” or defended that as the proper formulation of the concept? Perhaps I’ve missed it somewhere but I haven’t seen anybody else arguing for the meaning.

  253. 253
    Origenes says:

    In my view God is very powerful, but not omnipotent in the sense of a monopoly on all the power there is.

    The same with “omniscience”. Surely God knows an awful lot, but this does not include a complete description of all the quantum interactions in the star ‘RW Cep’. In my view God is a person and some things capture his interest and other things not so much.

  254. 254
    HeKS says:

    Origenes #253

    In my view God is very powerful, but not omnipotent in the sense of a monopoly on all the power there is.

    I don’t think I know anybody who believes God is omnipotent in that particular sense.

    The same with “omniscience”. Surely God knows an awful lot, but this does not include a complete description of all the quantum interactions in the star ‘RW Cep’. In my view God is a person and some things capture his interest and other things not so much.

    There are different views on the way in which God is omniscient. For example, some hold to the view that God has absolute omniscience, meaning that he always has all knowledge of all things at all times, including all future events. Others hold to the view that God has inherent omniscience, meaning that he has the capacity to know all things, including future events, but that he does not fully express this capacity, partly to preserve the dignity of humans and to ensure that when he makes offers to humans based on their future actions he can do so sincerely. I fall more into this latter camp than the former. Indeed, on all those ‘omni’ characteristics I hold mainly to a view of infinite capacity/potentiality rather than one of constant infinite expression.

  255. 255
    Phinehas says:

    Origenes:

    In my view God is very powerful, but not omnipotent in the sense of a monopoly on all the power there is.

    In my view God having a “monopoly” on power is nonsensical. That would be like claiming he had a monopoly on love. Love is not a commodity. It is not a zero sum game. When I love my wife it is not as though I somehow lost love in the process.

    For me and how I understand things, my issue isn’t with your view on how much of the commodity of power God does or does not hold, but rather on how you view power as a commodity in the first place. If power is not a commodity, then your argument against God’s “monopoly” on it has no leg to stand on.

  256. 256
    Dionisio says:

    HeKS @246:

    Interesting illustrative examples. Thanks.

    Some of our friends here don’t seem to see it that clearly though.

    I’m trying to understand Origenes’ point, but still can’t.
    That’s why I ask questions.
    He’s trying to explain it to me, but I’m not a fast reader. My reading comprehension level is rather low.
    I appreciate his effort to present his position.
    I’m kind of slow in discussions, hence discussants must bear with me patiently. 🙂

  257. 257
    HeKS says:

    Phinehas,

    Agreed.

    Nice to “see” you, by the way.

  258. 258
    jdk says:

    to HeKS at 252: Yes, as I said I confused the issue by bringing up infinite in respect to numbers, when the discussion is about the more general meaning of infinite as “without limit”. Carry on.

  259. 259
    Phinehas says:

    Thanks HekS! Same here. 🙂

  260. 260
    Origenes says:

    Phinehas: In my view God having a “monopoly” on power is nonsensical. That would be like claiming he had a monopoly on love. Love is not a commodity. It is not a zero sum game. When I love my wife it is not as though I somehow lost love in the process.

    I have emphasized the aspect of responsibility transfer and, perhaps, in effect, argued in favor of a zero sum game effect. That still seems correct to me. I think your claim about its absence is mistaken.
    Perhaps it helps to view the transfer of power in conjunction with the transfer of responsibility. God transfers a certain responsibility/power to us wrt other people and the world; e.g. the safety of our children. This may very well not be an irrevocable decision by Him, but, within a certain time frame and context, there is a zero sum game (transfer) in place. As I have argued before, we cannot blame God for our actions and their consequences; not God is responsible, we are — zero sum.

  261. 261
    kairosfocus says:

    O, Try to think in terms of God has maximal possible power to love and to be creative, L&C. He then creates a creature, M, such that M — to comparatively infinitesimal degree — has power to love and be creative, l&c, which BTW, from moment to moment requires the sustaining and supportive action of God; without which l&c cannot be exercised — think of “in him we live and move and have our being, as some of your poets have said” and “upholding all things by his word of power,” or “he made all things, and without him was not anything made that was made,” etc. How does the existence of M DIMINISH God’s power L&C? It cannot, God does not have to cut off and alienate or consume or degrade and discard a slice of L&C to create M. Indeed, for us as cases M, the use of power l&c typically INCREASES our capability l&c, i.e. we have INCREASING returns to scale because of learning and growth effects. This is not a zero sum game but a growing sum game* if we can put it that way, hence a world with cases M where on the whole a material proportion M-p will appropriately use l&c will end up INCREASING the net goodness of the world . . . a point more or less noted by Plantinga in his free will defense. This also speaks to a case where one manifestation of l&c is reproductive, so we see l&c increasing towards a potential infinity! As in, the meek shall inherit the earth. (Note, also, component l entails a power of rational, responsible choice, and power c implies the like power.) KF
    _________

    * The whole at end of stage k_e is greater than the sum of the parts going in at the start of the stage, k_o. I think growth can be internal to an agent and synergistic among agents and/or across a system. Knowledge, a known creative product, is a commonplace entity which behaves like that. Likewise, for innovation, indeed we can conceive of a critical mass, positive runaway/ avalanche effect that grows without limit once a key threshold is passed. (In the Christian Faith, that is the point of the gospel event, it is a critical threshold sparking a tide in history that is inexorably rising never mind waves of advance and retreat from time to time.)

  262. 262
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Someone above raised a query about distinct world roots.

    To respond, I think we need to look at three core principles:

    1: The power and breadth of the possible worlds (PW) concept: in effect a sufficient description of a coherent way a world can be. This takes in possible worlds as a unified, utterly broad whole, a unity amidst I imagine a potentially infinite diversity.

    2: The ontology of being and non-being, especially, the point that a necessary being would be framework-level to any possible world. (So the issue is, is a serious candidate NB impossible? If not, actual and framework to any PW. Try to think of a PW without distinct identity, or, equivalently, twoness, based on A and ~A.)

    3: The issue of distinct identity, thus two-ness and its corollary, the identity of indiscernibles. (Where there may be two or more ways to describe [facets of] the same essential entity.)

    Given us in our actual world, we have seen why the NB at root of our world must be able to be an IS that inherently grounds OUGHT. This has led to just one serious candidate: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. One, worthy of loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.

    Now, a distinct world root would have to be distinguishable on one or more of the core characteristics cited: inherently good, world-level creator, necessary being, maximally great. No being lacking any of these characteristics would be the God of ethical theism. And, a being meeting those characteristics would be indiscernible from God. That is, we have two descriptions of God, not two Gods governing differing realms of possible worlds.

    In short, there is good reason to see the world-root of ethical theism as utterly unique.

    KF

  263. 263
    Origenes says:

    KairosFocus @216

    … try to think in terms of God has maximal possible power to love and to be creative, L&C.

    From this Wiki article 6 interpretations of ‘omnipotence’:

    1. A deity is able to do anything that it chooses to do.
    2. A deity is able to do anything that is in accord with its own nature (thus, for instance, if it is a logical consequence of a deity’s nature that what it speaks is truth, then it is not able to lie).
    3. Hold that it is part of a deity’s nature to be consistent and that it would be inconsistent for said deity to go against its own laws unless there was a reason to do so.
    4. A deity can bring about any state of affairs which is logically possible for anyone to bring about in that situation.
    5. A deity is able to do anything that corresponds with its omniscience and therefore with its worldplan.
    6. Every action performed in the world is ‘actually’ being performed by the deity, either due to omni-immanence, or because all actions must be ‘supported’ or ‘permitted’ by the deity.

    I see nothing wrong with 1, 2 and 3. Option 4 I have to reject, because ‘anyone’ could be a monster. Option 5 seems debatable, because ‘anything’ seems to include behavior that goes against His nature.
    And, finally, here in this thread, I am arguing against 6. Option 6 seems to be very close to “God holds all the power there is”.
    For clarity, do you support 6? If not, why not.

    KF: How does the existence of M DIMINISH God’s power L&C?

    That’s not the focal point of my claim. My claim is simply that at some point M holds power that God (by choice) does not. My claim is that M holds responsibility that God does not.
    It follows that God does not hold all power/responsibility there is.

    As a side-issue we can argue about whether there is a sum zero game involved. I think there is a case to be made that God at some point transfers responsibility (e.g. wrt the safety of a child) to human parents. So we enter a situation where God does not have a certain responsibility, which he did have before — sum zero. But again that’s not my main argument.

    *edited

  264. 264
    kairosfocus says:

    O, the conceptual issue is right there before you. I used a case study to highlight it. KF

  265. 265
    Origenes says:

    K, you don’t give me straight answers and talk about a “good creator God” “worthy of loyalty” as if that contradicts my position.

    Let me lay it out one more time:

    you speak of humans as free self-moved rational responsible beings. In my view, this implies that there exists responsibility and accessory power, that belongs uniquely to humans — not to anything or anyone else; God included.

    What we have here is pure individual responsibility for the use of individual power.

    Now you cannot have it both ways. You cannot have a God who ‘somehow’/’actually’ performs every action in the world and a human being who is responsible for his ‘own’ actions. That is incoherent.

    Now you refuse to provide clarity on this point, and, to be frank, that’s why this discussion is getting rather frustrating. I think I have made it perfectly clear what I am arguing against. So maybe now the time has come for you to be clear also. What is your claim?

    Let me ask again: do you agree with wiki’s 6th option:

    Every action performed in the world is ‘actually’ being performed by the deity, either due to omni-immanence, or because all actions must be ‘supported’ or ‘permitted’ by the deity.

    Do you defenfd the claim that “God holds all the power there is”, put differently, do you defend the claim that “God holds a monopoly on all the power there is”? Because if you do, then this has not been clear to me and others.

    HeKS #254: I don’t think I know anybody who believes God is omnipotent in that particular sense.

  266. 266
    Phinehas says:

    Origenes

    Now you cannot have it both ways. You cannot have a God who ‘somehow’/’actually’ performs every action in the world and a human being who is responsible for his ‘own’ actions.

    I think these are interesting questions. Rather than giving any dogmatic answer, I’d like to tease this out a bit more using an analogy with which I am very familiar.

    Imagine a character in a video game. Suppose that I, personally, am the creator of the console the game runs on, have provided the electricity for that console, have crafted all the content in the video game, including the character, and have coded the game in its entirety. There is nothing that the character can do that is not entirely dependent upon me. The character cannot move apart from what I have provided. It cannot render apart from what I have provided. It cannot even exist apart from what I have provided and continue to provide.

    None of the above is diminished by me allowing someone to pick up a controller and drive the character around. I suppose you could argue that, in doing so, I was relinquishing some degree of control, but what if I also had the ability to alter any bit of hardware, content, programming, access to electricity, or any number of other factors in real time (or better than real time because I had perfect foreknowledge). Now is my power diminished in any way by the fact that someone else is holding a controller?

  267. 267
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes,

    I believe that whatever you, I or anybody else for this matter could say here is just our opinion based on our interpretation of what we know. How we receive that knowledge is another issue that requires a separate discussion.

    The ultimate reality does not change by our perception of it. The ultimate reality is not what we want it to be, or how we understand it, or how someone said it is. It is simply what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. Just that.

    However, if we desire to understand the ultimate reality, I believe we must start from being humble about our limited capacity to understand it. Thus we can enjoy the long and winding road that leads to more knowledge about the ultimate reality.

    We must test everything and hold only what is good. But that necessary requirement raises the question: what is good? However, such a fundamental question demands an absolute standard for discernment.

    What is that standard? Where is it? How can we reach it? How can we understand it?

    I believe these discussions here, however interesting they might be, don’t lead anywhere unless the participants are really interested in knowing the truth –humbly admitting their limited knowledge while contemplating in awe the marvelous universe and specially our own minds.

    I wrote a few comments addressed to you but apparently –at least according to what I read in your comment @245– we still don’t understand each other, hence the question “do we really want to understand?” seems to come to mind, doesn’t it?

    It’s not my intention to persuade or convince anybody here about anything, because I firmly believe that the ultimate source of wisdom and knowledge is God. But I would like to understand your thinking at least with respect to the discussed topics. So far I haven’t been able to reach that point regarding your ideas. Also I’ve noticed that you have not understood my points either.

    Perhaps various issues affect our mutual understanding, assuming that we both meet the above listed necessary conditions for a productive discussion.

    On my side, one thing that hinders the understanding is that my reading comprehension is rather poor. That’s why I ask more simple questions than most folks here do. Whoever wants to explain something to me has to do it in a very clear way that is extremely easy to understand and leaves no room for ambiguities or misinterpretations. Otherwise, I’ll have to ask more questions to clarify what I read.

    Another issue that may affect the smooth flow of our attempted discussion is that my written communication skills are practically nonexistent (my verbal communication is even worse, but fortunately our chatting here is all written). Basically, I don’t know how to present ideas in a clear and easy to understand format. Hence my co-discussants should bear with me patiently, making an extra effort to see my points, and in many cases have to ask me additional questions about what I’m trying to say. I don’t mind answering questions. In some cases I may have to say “I don’t know”, which is a valid answer too.

    I’ve been sneaking out of the current project I’m working on in order to read and write comments here, mostly as a learning experience. This “leisure” period might be coming to an end soon. I’m about to transition to another stage of the project that could demand much more dedication and time. The gathering of biology papers for different scenarios may slow down substantially in the near future, so that I can spend more time working on other parts of the project.

  268. 268
    Dionisio says:

    Phinehas @266:

    Now is my power diminished in any way by the fact that someone else is holding a controller?

    Well, in your example it seems like the other person having the controller still depends on your apparent total control over all the electronics of the entire video game. You could –if I understood it correctly– even deactivate the entire video game in an instant.

    Now, extending your interesting analogy, what if God had you create the video game (both hardware and software) and gave you all the capabilities you mentioned, then –also according to your example– someone else had temporarily the controller. You still could control the video game, and even indirectly influence on the other person’s thoughts or actions, but you could not affect directly what the other person would think or do unless you use external physical means that affect the body of that person. Because you did not create that person and don’t know exactly how that person is made. Actually, nobody else knows.

    By allowing you to create and control the video game He has not lost any control over the video game or over you or over the other person.

    The only thing that is argued, perhaps because it’s much more difficult to understand in the scriptures, is the issue of the personal free will in apparent conflict with God’s will.

    It’s very difficult to reconcile those two fundamental concepts: on one hand God is fully sovereign while on the other hand He gave us free will. The ultimate reality is much greater than anything we could imagine.

    Here’s where we need to remember the first beatitude “blessed are the poor in spirit” and humbly confess our limited capacity to understand certain mysteries.

    We still pursue knowledge, understanding and wisdom. But God decides what is revealed to us as well as when, where and how it is revealed.

    We humanly like to take too many credits for too many things.

    We want to know God. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we are discussing here. We should delight in God and God will give us the desires of our hearts.

    “As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
    My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When shall I come and appear before God?”
    [Psalm 42:1,2 (ESV)]

    A powerful description of deep desire for God’s presence.
    Due to Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross, the Christian has ready access to the Lord in prayer. The psalmist suffers because he is separated from the temple, the place God specifically set apart for worship during the period between David and Jesus. The psalmist desires to return to the temple and the assurance of God’s life-giving presence.
    [Reformation Study Bible provided by Ligonier Ministries]

  269. 269
    Phinehas says:

    D:

    The only thing that is argued, perhaps because it’s much more difficult to understand in the scriptures, is the issue of the personal free will in apparent conflict with God’s will.

    It’s very difficult to reconcile those two fundamental concepts: on one hand God is fully sovereign while on the other hand He gave us free will. The ultimate reality is much greater than anything we could imagine.

    Here’s where we need to remember the first beatitude “blessed are the poor in spirit” and humbly confess our limited capacity to understand certain mysteries.

    We still pursue knowledge, understanding and wisdom. But God decides what is revealed to us as well as when, where and how it is revealed.

    Strongly agree with all of this. I sometimes think of scriptures as handles on the surface of a large structure (I imagine something like the Epcot ball) representing God. For some scriptures (especially those about the very character, nature, or capabilities of God), it seems like I have to let go of one handle to hang onto another. But this should not be surprising if God is much bigger than my intellectual reach. The alternative is to try to nudge the handles closer together so that all are within arm’s reach, but while that may be more comfortable, I am making God much smaller in the process.

    I worry that some systematic theologies reduce God to the point where the theologians can wrap their stubby little intellectual arms all the way around Him and interlock their fingers on the other side. Frankly, I don’t see a lot of difference between doing this and creating a graven image, despite the fact the former is done by the mind rather than the hands.

  270. 270
    Origenes says:

    Phinehas @266

    Thank you for your interesting example.

    In this example you have, indeed, by choice, relinquished some degree of control/power/responsibility. If the character goes to the left, then you are not steering it in that direction. Someone else is responsible for that fact — not you. Someone else is the cause — not you.
    The fact that you can counteract it, does not mean that you caused it. And even the fact that you can foresee it, does not mean that you caused it.

    – – – –
    // A marginal note, mainly addressed to Dionisio.
    This talk about humility and praising God’s sovereignty is exemplary, as long as our perceived insignificance does not result in refusing to take responsibility for our own actions. Human history shows that the transfer of ‘insignificant’ control to us is not insignificant in the sense that it did not have stark consequences.

  271. 271
    kairosfocus says:

    O, please remember, I have RW constraints. If you see me give a summary response and invite reflection, or select a pivotal point and speak to it instead of going through step by step, it is likely to be in that sort of RW context. Above, I have given you a context that shows a way to understand omnipotence that demonstrates how it can be seen as a non-rival commodity [ –> attribute of God’s core nature]. It also turns out that capability to love and be creative imply freedom, rationality, moral government etc. Where, a major relevant tradition teaches us both that (a) as to essential nature God is love and (b) we are made in his image, backing it up with the points that God is communicative reason himself, that his ways and thoughts are as higher than ours as the heavens are above the earth, whilst they may often seem to be weak and foolish to those who are locked into the idea systems of this age. But God’s follies are wiser than our wisdom, and his weaknesses dwarf our greatest strength; so, we are duly cautioned to tread with care. Thus, too, something MUST be wrong with the zero sum rivalry game you imply. A major clue in our idea of God musings, is that God’s attributes will stand in coherent balance; where it is all too easy to pose an incoherent but unjustified straw picture. That is a lesson Plantinga taught once for all time with his free will defense. KF

  272. 272
    Dionisio says:

    Phinehas @269:

    Thank you for your insightful commentary.

  273. 273
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @270:
    I have to humbly admit that I did not quite understand your marginal note. Will have to try another time. Thank you.

  274. 274
    jdk says:

    I also liked what Phinehas wrote at 269, and said similar things at 204. My thoughts were, unlike Phinehas’, not about the Christian idea of God, but more broadly about any speculations about the metaphysical nature of the root level of reality.

    At 204, I wrote,

    I don’t think that human beings, individually or collectively, can actually know what is behind/beyond the material world. Therefore, when I describe, and even advocate for, a Taoist perspective [or any other perspective], I’m not saying that I “believe” Taoism is true, because (and this is a tenet of Taoism), I don’t think we can know whether it is true or not. …

    Ultimately, I believe in Feynman’s statement (paraphrased) that I would rather live with uncertainty than believe things that are not true. Since there is no way to know whether Taoism, or any other metaphysical/religious belief is true, I believe that my “belief in Taoism” is a useful metaphorical story, but not a literal belief about truth.

    and later,

    On thinking, philosophy, and abstract thought: In “The Yoga Matrix” by Richard Freeman, he remarks that the goal of yoga is to come to an immediate experience of the true nature of reality and of the human condition within reality. Being analytical and philosophical may be useful as ideas to get one started, but the goal is to go beyond the ideas: to get to the point where one understands that dwelling on the ideas and being attached to them is an impediment to the actual goal of truly experiencing what the ideas are about.

    Attachment to dogma is an impediment to living well. Philosophy and abstract thought, such as all I’ve written here, can be fun, satisfying, and even useful. But it is a mistake to think that it is “true”. All abstract thought is an overlay on top of the real world, and it’s important to not confuse the two.

    It is for this reason that I am very skeptical of attempts to provide “logical” justifications that attempt to prove, or worse, disprove, metaphysical speculations.

    One reason is, as Phinehas says, that the fundamental nature of reality is so beyond our comprehension that we just have to accept what look like logical problems from our limited point of view. For instance, he writes

    It’s very difficult to reconcile those two fundamental concepts: on one hand God is fully sovereign while on the other hand He gave us free will. The ultimate reality is much greater than anything we could imagine.

    Jillions of words, many here, have been written arguing about this, when it fact for the believer it is much better to

    “humbly confess our limited capacity to understand certain mysteries” than it is to think we can “reduce God to the point where the theologians can wrap their stubby little intellectual arms all the way around Him and interlock their fingers on the other side.”

    I think similar things could be said about arguments about such things as whether “God” is a personal being, or whether “God” intervenes in the world or all the many arguments people make about who or what they think “God” is.

    It is better, in my opinion, to be less ideological and less concerned with dogma, attached to thinking we know more than we really can, or do, and to be more focused on what we can do to improve the world around us. Let the mysteries be mysteries, and learn to live comfortably and more humbly with metaphysical uncertainty.

    </sermon>

  275. 275
    Dionisio says:

    jdk @274:

    I also liked what Phinehas wrote at 269, and said similar things at 204.

    I don’t see similarities between your comment @204 and Phinehas’ @269. However –as a disclaimer– I have previously stated that my reading comprehension is rather poor.

  276. 276
    jdk says:

    Dionosio, I think a common theme in what the two of us are saying is that because of our limited nature, we really can’t grasp the total nature of the ultimate ground of reality, and there are some benefits to humbly accepting that limitation.

  277. 277
    Origenes says:

    jdk: I don’t think that human beings, individually or collectively, can actually know what is behind/beyond the material world.

    Why do you think that there is something behind/beyond the material world?

  278. 278
    jdk says:

    As I have stated, I am strongly agnostic about such things that point to something beyond/behind the material world, such as fine-tuning, or consciousness, to name two. And by strongly agnostic, I mean I think there are some fundamental ways that we can’t know the “true” nature or source of those things. But, I think the existence of such mysteries precludes my thinking that the material world is necessarily, or definitely, all that there is.

  279. 279
    Dionisio says:

    jdk @274:

    At 204, I wrote,

    I don’t think that human beings, individually or collectively, can actually know what is behind/beyond the material world.

    Since there is no way to know whether […], or any other metaphysical/religious belief is true […]

    Why not?

    Definitely we can’t acquire that knowledge ourselves by our own means.

    However, the Christian scriptures tell us that God himself revealed to us many things about Himself and about His creation (which includes ourselves).

    In two thousand years no one has been able to prove it false, despite having more enemies working hard to discredit it than all the other philosophical or theological worldviews together.

    They have spread lies -either fabricated or based on misinterpretations of text taken out of context– to no avail. They have pointed to alleged ‘conflicts’ that are just conceptual misunderstandings.

    The central message of “redemption” is unambiguously clear.

    Perhaps there are things that appear in some extant manuscripts but not in others. Considering the relatively large number of early copies of copies that were manually made so long ago, it’s not surprising that some pieces of text have been altered (omitted, misplaced, repeated). Actually, it’s amazing that the number of errors isn’t bigger.

  280. 280
    Origenes says:

    jdk @278

    What do you mean by “mysterious”? What is mysterious and what is not?
    Is the non-mysterious part the material world? What is time? What is space? What are laws? What is matter and energy? Where does it all come from?

  281. 281
    jdk says:

    to Origines: too many questions? 🙂

    I don’t know where it all came from, and in some sense it’s all a mystery. But there are things we can figure out “within the mystery” so to speak. For example, we may not know why gravity exists as it does, but we can use what we know about gravity to calculate a spacecraft’s orbit to the moon.

    So we deal with what we can establish within the limited scope of our experience and abilities without knowing the ultimate causes or perhaps “true natures” of the elementary components of the world.

  282. 282
    Dionisio says:

    jdk @274:

    One reason is, as Phinehas says, that the fundamental nature of reality is so beyond our comprehension that we just have to accept what look like logical problems from our limited point of view. For instance, he writes

    It’s very difficult to reconcile those two fundamental concepts: on one hand God is fully sovereign while on the other hand He gave us free will. The ultimate reality is much greater than anything we could imagine.

    [emphasis added]

    When you wrote: “For instance, he writes”
    did you mean: “For instance, he quoted this”?

    However, since Phinehas fully agreed with the text he quoted, then it’s almost as if he had written it himself.

    🙂

  283. 283
    jdk says:

    Good point: that was from a quote that Phinehas provided from a post of yours. Those were not his own words: my mistake.

  284. 284
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @280:

    Excellent questions.

  285. 285
    Dionisio says:

    jdk @283:

    No problem. As I said, since Phinehas fully agreed with the text he quoted, then it’s almost as if he had written it himself.
    Just wanted to see if you had noticed that Phinehas had quoted some text within his comment.
    I’m studying some basic “written communication”, which includes reading comprehension and written presentation of ideas, for my personal education and also as part of a subproject I’m working on. That’s why sometimes I make annoying –perhaps irrelevant– observations about the way comments are written here or I post comments written in a kind of weird format. I’m using y’all to learn ‘gratis’! Now you know the secret. You may share it –only within this website– if you want to. 🙂
    Thanks.

  286. 286
    HeKS says:

    jdk,

    I just wanted to let you know that I’ve started writing a response to you in the other thread but I have so little time that it will probably be a few days before I get anything posted.

  287. 287
    jdk says:

    I understand the “so little time” issue, as mine also ebbs and flows. Thanks for checking in: I appreciate it that you have more to say and think the discussion might go further.

  288. 288
    Phinehas says:

    jdk:

    I think a common theme in what the two of us are saying is that because of our limited nature, we really can’t grasp the total nature of the ultimate ground of reality, and there are some benefits to humbly accepting that limitation.

    I agree with this in general, but I would stop short of saying “can’t” since, as Chesterton put it, we do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable. If I am holding my knowledge of ultimate reality loosely because I suspect what I am holding is much too big for me to wrap my arms around it, then it seems only fair to suppose that same “much too big” reality might have the ability to make my “can’t” look rather puny.

    This is what I typically fall back upon when it comes to the more radical questions of epistemology. If I start with my fallible self, then yes, the foundation for my knowledge looks pretty shaky. But if I start with an omniscient, omnipotent God, then this is no longer the case. An omniscient God Knows, and who can claim that an omnipotent God can’t overcome my fallibilities such that I can Know as well?

    This is the foundation of my view on Scripture. It is the Word of an omnipotent God speaking from His omniscience in a way that supervenes the fallibilities of the ones who were inspired to write, and also supervenes my own fallibilities as the Holy Spirit actively helps me understand what I read. This entire process is called Revelation, and I believe it is the only reliable method to really Know about ultimate reality.

    So, in my view, Scripture provides reliable data points that, although I cannot logically reconcile them all with each other, help to give an overall impression of a God who is much bigger than my comprehension. But I don’t think this is the same as a position that claims any knowledge about ultimate reality must be only and entirely pure speculation. That position seems untenable to me, since it, itself, makes a claim about ultimate reality.

  289. 289
    Origenes says:

    Jdk,

    I am asking because I have a serious problem with the initial ‘position’ which is implied in your statement.

    Jdk: I don’t think that human beings, individually or collectively, can actually know what is behind/beyond the material world.

    The idea seems to be that the material world is ‘comprehensible’, but there might be something mysterious and unknowable beyond that. Something unknowable far far away next to the land of the unicorns.
    This is not a starting point that I can agree with.

    For one thing it may very well be the case that “I” am part of this alleged ‘unknowable’. It may very well be the case that the one thing that is most intimate — most knowable — to me, namely my consciousness, is what you call ‘unknowable’.

    I do not agree with the boundaries you propose.

  290. 290
    jdk says:

    Good questions and comments at 288 and 289: I hope to have time this evening to respond. I appreciate the thoughtful responses.

  291. 291
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I clip Grudem on Omnipotence, showing what is intended, beyond what we may derive from implied simplistic etymology:

    >>16. Omnipotence (Power, Sovereignty). God’s omnipotence means that God is able
    to do all his holy will.
    The word omnipotence is derived from two Latin words, omni
    “all,” and potens “powerful,” and means “all-powerful.” Whereas God’s freedom
    referred to the fact that there are no external constraints on God’s decisions, God’s
    omnipotence has reference to his own power to do what he decides to do.
    This power is frequently mentioned in Scripture. God is “The LORD, strong and
    mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!” (Ps. 24:8). The rhetorical question, “Is anything
    too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:27) certainly implies (in the contexts in
    which it occurs) that nothing is too hard for the LORD. In fact, Jeremiah says to God,
    “nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17).
    Paul says that God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or
    think” (Eph. 3:20), and God is called the “Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 1:8), a term
    (Gk. ???????????, G4120) that suggests the possession of all power and authority.
    Furthermore, the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “With God nothing will be impossible”
    (Luke 1:37), and Jesus says, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
    These passages indicate that God’s power is infinite, and that he is therefore not
    limited to doing only what he actually has done. In fact, God is able to do more than
    he actually does. For example, John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:9, “God is able
    from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” God is one who “does whatever
    he pleases” (Ps. 115:3); he could have destroyed Israel and raised up a great nation
    from Moses (cf. Ex. 32:10), but he did not do so.
    However, there are some things that God cannot do. God cannot will or do
    anything that would deny his own character. This is why the definition of
    omnipotence is stated in terms of God’s ability to do “all his holy will.” It is not
    absolutely everything that God is able to do, but everything that is consistent with his
    character
    [–> Including as one who creates responsibly and rationally free creatures with ability to love and create, being in a significant sense, in his image] . For example, God cannot lie. In Titus 1:2 he is called (literally) “the
    unlying God” or the “God who never lies.” The author of Hebrews says that in God’s
    oath and promise “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18, author’s translation). 2
    Timothy 2:13 says of Christ, “He cannot deny himself.” Furthermore, James says,
    “God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). Thus,
    God cannot lie, sin, deny himself, or be tempted with evil. He cannot cease to exist, or
    cease to be God, or act in a way inconsistent with any of his attributes.
    This means that it is not entirely accurate to say that God can do anything. Even
    the Scripture passages quoted above that use phrases similar to this must be
    understood in their contexts to mean that God can do anything he wills to do or
    anything that is consistent with his character. Although God’s power is infinite, his
    use of that power is qualified by his other attributes (just as all God’s attributes
    qualify all his actions). This is therefore another instance where misunderstanding
    would result if one attribute were isolated from the rest of God’s character and
    emphasized in a disproportionate way.

    God’s exercise of power over his creation is also called God’s sovereignty. God’s
    sovereignty is his exercise of rule (as “sovereign” or “king”) over his creation. >>

    KF

  292. 292
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N, Likewise, Berkhof:

    >>2. THE SOVEREIGN POWER OF GOD. The sovereignty of God ?nds expression, not only
    in the divine will, but also in the omnipotence of God or the power to execute His will.
    Power in God may be called the effective energy of His nature, or that perfection of His
    Being by which He is the absolute and highest causality
    . It is customary to distinguish
    between a potentia Dei absoluta (absolute power of God) and a potentia Dei ordinata
    (ordered power of God). However, Reformed theology rejects this distinction in the
    sense in which it was understood by the Scholastics, who claimed that God by virtue of
    His absolute power could effect contradictions, and could even sin and annihilate
    Himself. At the same time it adopts the distinction as expressing a real truth, though it
    does not always represent it in the same way. According to Hodge and Shedd absolute
    power is the divine ef?ciency, as exercised without the intervention of second causes;
    while ordinate power is the ef?ciency of God, as exercised by the ordered operation of
    second causes. 34 The more general view is stated by Charnock as follows: “Absolute, is
    that power whereby God is able to do that which He will not do, but is possible to be
    done; ordinate, is that power whereby God doth that which He hath decreed to do, that
    is, which He hath ordained or appointed to be exercised; which are not distinct powers,
    but one and the same power. His ordinate power is a part of His absolute; for if He had
    not power to do everything that He could will, He might not have the power to do
    everything that He doth will.” 35 The potentia ordinata can be defined as that perfection of
    God whereby He, through the mere exercise of His will, can realize whatsoever is present in His
    will or counsel. The power of God in actual exercise limits itself to that which is
    comprehended in His eternal decree. But the actual exercise of God’s power does not
    represent its limits. God could do more than that, if He were so minded. In that sense
    we can speak of the potentia absoluta, or absolute power, of God. This position must be
    maintained over against those who, like Schleiermacher and Strauss, hold that God’s
    power is limited to that which He actually accomplishes. But in our assertion of the
    absolute power of God it is necessary to guard against misconceptions. The Bible
    teaches us on the one hand that the power of God extends beyond that which is actually
    realized, Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:27; Zech. 8:6; Matt. 3:9; 26:53. We cannot say, therefore, that
    what God does not bring to realization, is not possible for Him. But on the other hand it
    also indicates that there are many things which God cannot do. He can neither lie, sin,
    change, nor deny Himself, Num. 23:19; I Sam. 15:29; II Tim. 2:13; Heb. 6:18; Jas. 1:13,17.
    There is no absolute power in Him that is divorced from His perfections, and in virtue
    of which He can do all kinds of things which are inherently contradictory.
    The idea of
    God’s omnipotence is expressed in the name ’El-Shaddai; and the Bible speaks of it in no
    uncertain terms, Job 9:12; Ps. 115:3; Jer. 32:17; Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37; Rom. 1:20; Eph.
    1:19. God manifests His power in creation, Rom. 4:17; Isa. 44:24; in the works of
    providence, Heb. 1:3, and in the redemption of sinners, I Cor. 1:24; Rom. 1:16.>>

    KF

  293. 293
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Catholic Encyclopedia:

    >>Omnipotence

    (Latin omnipotentia, from omnia and potens, able to do all things).

    Omnipotence is the power of God to effect whatever is not intrinsically impossible. These last words of the definition do not imply any imperfection, since a power that extends to every possibility must be perfect. The universality of the object of the Divine power is not merely relative but absolute, so that the true nature of omnipotence is not clearly expressed by saying that God can do all things that are possible to Him; it requires the further statement that all things are possible to God. The intrinsically impossible is the self-contradictory, and its mutually exclusive elements could result only in nothingness. “Hence,” says Thomas (Summa I, Q. xxv, a. 3), “it is more exact to say that the intrinsically impossible is incapable of production, than to say that God cannot produce it.” To include the contradictory within the range of omnipotence, as does the Calvinist Vorstius, is to acknowledge the absurd as an object of the Divine intellect, and nothingness as an object of the Divine will and power. “God can do all things the accomplishment of which is a manifestation of power,” says Hugh of St. Victor, “and He is almighty because He cannot be powerless” (De sacram., I, ii, 22).

    As intrinsically impossible must be classed:

    Any action on the part of God which would be out of harmony with His nature and attributes;
    Any action that would simultaneously connote mutually repellent elements, e.g. a square circle, an infinite creature, etc. >>

    KF

  294. 294
    Origenes says:

    KF 291, 292, 293

    Thank you for collecting all this relevant information. A few initial comments:

    … and God is called the “Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 1:8), a term
    (Gk. ???????????, G4120) that suggests the possession of all power and authority.

    Perhaps, this should be read as just an expression of admiration for the Lord, but taken literally it runs into the problems I have outlined ad nauseam.

    Whereas God’s freedom referred to the fact that there are no external constraints on God’s decisions

    This, again, seems to overlook the simple fact that God is not alone. Given that God loves and respects us, our interests pose external constraints on God’s decisions.

    God is one who “does whatever he pleases” (Ps. 115:3); he could have destroyed Israel and raised up a great nation from Moses (cf. Ex. 32:10), but he did not do so.

    Destroying Israel pleases God only if that option served His and human interest equally well as the chosen alternative.

    In Titus 1:2 he is called (literally) “the unlying God” or the “God who never lies.”

    It must be noted though, that God is capable of withholding the truth, in the sense that He leaves a lot for us to be discovered. The Bible does neither contain a description of quantum mechanics, nor a description of the cell, nor a description of how the mental interacts with matter. Even a broad outline of the latter would have been helpful.

    “God can do all things ….”

    No problem here, as long as the claim is not “God does all things …”

  295. 295
    jdk says:

    In response to my statement that “I don’t think that human beings, individually or collectively, can actually know what is behind/beyond the material world,” Origenes at 289 writes,

    The idea seems to be that the material world is ‘comprehensible’, but there might be something mysterious and unknowable beyond that. … This is not a starting point that I can agree with.

    At 281, I said that I think the ultimate source and nature of the material is a mystery, but “within that mystery” we can comprehend a lot. I gave the example of gravity: “For example, we may not know why gravity exists as it does, but we can use what we know about gravity to calculate a spacecraft’s orbit to the moon.”

    So I am not saying that the material is through-and-through comprehensible, but that the source and ultimate nature of the material is incomprehensible. Why we live in a universe that is fundamentally governed by quantum dynamics at the particle level is a mystery, for instance.

    Origenes also says,

    For one thing it may very well be the case that “I” am part of this alleged ‘unknowable’. It may very well be the case that the one thing that is most intimate — most knowable — to me, namely my consciousness, is what you call ‘unknowable’.

    I don’t believe I have called consciousness “unknowable”. Throughout the posts I’ve written on this topic the past few weeks I think I’ve stated that I am agnostic on the question of whether consciousness, among other things, is a non-material aspect of the world. I obviously know my consciousness, as you know yours. My experience of my consciousness is empirically available to my inner experience, just as the path of balls thrown through the air are empirically available to my outer experience. And just as the ultimate nature of gravity is a mystery of the material world, the ultimate nature of my consciousness is a mystery of my inner, and possibly non-material, world.

    On the nature of my strong agnosticism, Phinehas at 288 writes,

    I would stop short of saying “can’t” [know] since, as Chesterton put it, we do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable. If I start with my fallible self, then yes, the foundation for my knowledge looks pretty shaky. But if I start with an omniscient, omnipotent God, then this is no longer the case. An omniscient God Knows, and who can claim that an omnipotent God can’t overcome my fallibilities such that I can Know as well?

    If you believe in, or posit, such a God who can reveal knowledge about ultimate reality to our limited selves, then of course you can overcome the objections of strong agnosticism. But I don’t think you, or anyone, can really know that. I have explained several times my thoughts on how people have invented, and culturally adopted, religious and other metaphysical belief systems, and I think the Christian story is no different than any other in respect to whether is is “true” or not.

    I know you believe otherwise about the truth of Christianity. I am interested in the meta-discussion about the nature of metaphysical belief, and I am interested in learning about different worldviews, but I’m not interested in arguing for or against the “truth” of any particular one, for reasons I’ve explained.

    Also, Phinehas concludes,

    But I don’t think this [a belief that God exists, but is bigger than one can totally comprehend] is the same as a position that claims any knowledge about ultimate reality must be only and entirely pure speculation. That position seems untenable to me, since it, itself, makes a claim about ultimate reality.

    Feyhman said, in “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”,

    I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything**.

    .

    I basically agree with Feynman.

    I claim no certain knowledge, even about my uncertainty. Theoretically I could come to believe that indeed a personal God exists who reveals to me certain true knowledge about the world. I could quit being an agnostic. I am open to experience and evidence, and can change my mind.

    However, realistically I feel pretty sure about many things, and virtually certain about many more things. I’ve been studying and thinking about these issues for 50 years, so it would take some pretty earth-shattering empirical events to change my epistemological beliefs about human knowledge.

    But I claim no certainty.

    ** Footnote: There are some things that I am certain about, such as the truths of purely mathematical and logical systems–I am a retired math teacher, among other things.

  296. 296
    Origenes says:

    jdk #295

    I have written this post in the context of concerns about ‘starting points’.

    Jdk: My experience of my consciousness is empirically available to my inner experience, just as the path of balls thrown through the air are empirically available to my outer experience. And just as the ultimate nature of gravity is a mystery of the material world, the ultimate nature of my consciousness is a mystery of my inner, and possibly non-material, world.

    This is a profound observation, which I have been pondering for decades. The ‘split’ in observation, which you point out, sets fundamental boundaries. Internal observation offers only mental phenomena and external observation offers only material phenomena. One never stumbles upon a brick between one’s thoughts, and one never sees a purpose, or a logical conclusion, waiting at the bus stop. The observational split marks two very different worlds; each with their own kind of phenomena and laws.

    The crucial question is: is one fundamental to the other?

    Before I attempt to answer that, I would like to note that we can clearly see, along the boundaries of the observational split, the distinct grounds on which different world views are build. Clearly, naturalism champions the world offered by external observation and has a strong inclination toward disregarding anything internal observation has to offer — to the point of denying the existence of consciousness. It is also clear, what directions are open to those who let the scales tip towards the mental (internal observation).
    A second note is that consciousness, the conscious experience of oneself, is part of what we call ‘internal observation’.

    Returning to the question about fundamentality. I don’t think it comes as a surprise that I hold internal observation to be fundamental to external observation. Here I offer two arguments:

    (1) “I act therefore I exist”. I cannot deny my existence, because I have to exist in order to deny my existence.
    (2) Truth is necessarily mind-involving.

    Support for this second argument; Bill Vallicella a.k.a Maverick Philosopher

    Classically, truth is adequation of intellect and thing, and cannot exist without intellects, whether finite or divine. Truth is Janus-faced: it faces the world and it faces the mind. * Truth is necessarily mind-involving. I suggest that truth conceived out of all relation to any mind is an incoherent notion.

    Consciousness cannot be an illusion for the simple reason that we presuppose it when we distinguish between reality and illusion. An illusion is an illusion to consciousness, so that if there were no consciousness there would be no illusions either.

    Not existing in reality, illusions of all sorts, not just perceptual illusions, exist for consciousness. But then consciousness cannot be an illusion. Consciousness is a presupposition of the distinction between reality and illusion. As such, it cannot be an illusion. It must be real.

    Calling Dennett a sophist is not very nice, even though I have very good reason to impugn his intellectual integrity, as you will discover if you read my entries in the Dennett category. So let me try to be charitable. Our man is a naturalist and an explanatory rationalist: he is out to explain everything. But not everything can be explained. Consciousness is not only presupposed by the distinction between reality and illusion, it is also presupposed by the quest for explanation. For where would explanations reside if not in the minds of conscious beings?

    – – – –
    edit:
    (*) Bill says that “Truth is Janus-faced: it faces the world and it faces the mind”, a line which I liked so much that I bolded it. However, I believe he should have said ” Truth about the world is Janus-faced”. Truth about consciousness, e.g. ‘I act therefor I am’, does not face the (material) world.
    IOWs e truth is only Janus-faced when it is about the external world, which, I believe, again, underscores the primacy of consciousness.

  297. 297
    kairosfocus says:

    O,

    the core point is probably best put by Grudem:

    “Omnipotence (Power, Sovereignty). God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will. The word omnipotence is derived from two Latin words, omni “all,” and potens “powerful,” and means “all-powerful.” Whereas God’s freedom referred to the fact that there are no external constraints on God’s decisions, God’s omnipotence has reference to his own power to do what he decides to do . . . .

    However, there are some things that God cannot do. God cannot will or do anything that would deny his own character. This is why the definition of omnipotence is stated in terms of God’s ability to do “all his holy will.” It is not absolutely everything that God is able to do, but everything that is consistent with his character [–> Including as one who creates responsibly and rationally free creatures with ability to love and create, being in a significant sense, in his image] . For example, God cannot lie. In Titus 1:2 he is called (literally) “the
    unlying God” or the “God who never lies.””

    God’s purpose as already discussed includes that he is love as to essential character, that he is communicative reason himself, and that he is creator; all of which must be held in balance. Part of that holy will is that he creates creatures able to love and create (including procreate), implying responsible rational freedom. All of this is from and of God, in him we live, move and have our being.

    One can indeed take things out of due balance and cast them into a dysfunctional or even ridiculous straw picture, leading to disharmony and incoherence [freedom of thought has that import], but it should be clear that on first principles and first duties of right reason, such is inferior to the proper balance of reasonable coherence. (Where, this is as opposed to genuine inconsistencies implying that a suggested being is impossible: e.g. a square circle.)

    And that should not have to be “proved” in the teeth of every step of the way hyperskeptical rejection and resistance. There is a responsible person standard in reasoning. Hence, concepts such as moral certainty.

    KF

    PS: BTW, I found this remark on sys theol by the same Grudem quite thought-provoking:

    “[i]n systematic theology, summaries of biblical teachings must be worded precisely to guard against misunderstandings and to exclude false teachings.” [Systematic Theology, Zondervan (1994), p. 24.]

    In short, the issue of due balance in the face of those who may not take that due balance is inherent to the subject.

    Charles Hodge in his famous 3-volume work speaks similarly:

    CH 1: In every science there are two factors: facts and ideas; or, facts and the mind. Science is more than knowledge. Knowledge is the persuasion of what is true on adequate evidence. But the facts of astronomy, chemistry, or history do not constitute the science of those departments of knowledge. Nor does the mere orderly arrangement of facts amount to science . . . . The Bible is no more a system of theology, than nature is a system of chemistry or of mechanics. We find in nature the facts which the chemist or the mechanical philosopher has to examine, and from them to ascertain the laws by which they are determined. So the Bible contains the truths which the theologian has to collect, authenticate, arrange, and exhibit in their internal relation to each other. This constitutes the difference between biblical and systematic theology. The office of the former is to ascertain and state 2the facts of Scripture. The office of the latter is to take those facts, determine their relation to each other and to other cognate truths, as well as to vindicate them and show their harmony and consistency. This is not an easy task, or one of slight importance . . .

    And, truth be told, there is apostolic warrant and warning aback of such:

    2 Peter 3:15 And consider the patience of our Lord [His delay in judging and avenging wrongs] as salvation [that is, allowing time for more to be saved]; just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him [by God], 16 speaking about these things as he does in all of his letters. In which there are some things that are difficult to understand, which the untaught and unstable [who have fallen into error] twist and misinterpret, just as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

    17 Therefore, [let me warn you] beloved, knowing these things beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of [c]unprincipled men [who distort doctrine] and fall from your own steadfastness [of mind, knowledge, truth, and faith], 18 but grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. [AMP]

    PPS: Clipped from 261:

    Try to think in terms of God has maximal possible power to love and to be creative, L&C. He then creates a creature, M, such that M — to comparatively infinitesimal degree — has power to love and be creative, l&c, which BTW, from moment to moment requires the sustaining and supportive action of God; without which l&c cannot be exercised — think of “in him we live and move and have our being, as some of your poets have said” and “upholding all things by his word of power,” or “he made all things, and without him was not anything made that was made,” etc. How does the existence of M DIMINISH God’s power L&C? It cannot, God does not have to cut off and alienate or consume or degrade and discard a slice of L&C to create M. Indeed, for us as cases M, the use of power l&c typically INCREASES our capability l&c, i.e. we have INCREASING returns to scale because of learning and growth effects. This is not a zero sum game but a growing sum game* if we can put it that way, hence a world with cases M where on the whole a material proportion M-p will appropriately use l&c will end up INCREASING the net goodness of the world . . . a point more or less noted by Plantinga in his free will defense. This also speaks to a case where one manifestation of l&c is reproductive, so we see l&c increasing towards a potential infinity! As in, the meek shall inherit the earth. (Note, also, component l entails a power of rational, responsible choice, and power c implies the like power.)
    _________

    * The whole at end of stage k_e is greater than the sum of the parts going in at the start of the stage, k_o. I think growth can be internal to an agent and synergistic among agents and/or across a system. Knowledge, a known creative product, is a commonplace entity which behaves like that. Likewise, for innovation, indeed we can conceive of a critical mass, positive runaway/ avalanche effect that grows without limit once a key threshold is passed. (In the Christian Faith, that is the point of the gospel event, it is a critical threshold sparking a tide in history that is inexorably rising never mind waves of advance and retreat from time to time.)

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