Intelligent Design

BarryA Responds to DaveScot

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In Bass Ackwards Darwinism (below) my friend DaveScott writes:

 “Good people do good things.  Evil people do evil things.  Knowledge (like Darwinian evolution and the recipe for dynamite) is inanimate and can be employed by good people for good things and evil people for evil things.”

The issue is not whether “good” people do good things.  Of course they do.  That’s why we call them “good.”  The issue is not whether “evil” people do evil things.  Again, of course they do.  That’s why we call them “evil.”  The issue is what do we mean when we say “good” and “evil.”  From the answer to that question everything else about our ethics follows.

Some people (mainly theists of various stripes) say “good” means that which conforms to a moral standard that transcends place, time, opinion, personality, social constructs and everything else, and “evil” means that which does not conform to that transcendent standard.  I will call these people transcendent standard advocates or TSA’s for short.

Other people say no such transcendent standard exists.  I will call these people materialists. 

Now here is the crux of the matter.  TSAs may be wrong.  There may not be a transcendant moral standard after all, and the appearance of such a standard (what C.S. Lewis calls the “Tao” in the Abolition of Man) may be an illusion.  But at least they can give a rational account for the basis of their morality, i.e., the transcendent standard exists.  All of our moral choices are either consistent with that standard or inconsistent with that standard.  We can argue about the exact parameters of the standard.  There will be gray areas.  But to say that some areas are gray is very different from saying everything is gray. 

On the other hand, after centuries of striving materialists have failed to provide a rational account for morality.  Indeed, thoughtful and courageous materialists (I’m thinking of Frederic Nietzsche and Will Provine) have argued that the premises of materialism absolutely preclude a conclusion that ethics or morality have any firm foundation.

Turning back to DaveScott’s post, he says that he does “good” because he intuitively understands and abides by the golden rule.  In other words, Dave bases his morality on his intuition.   

Here is the problem with this formulation in classical terms:  What is the Good?  Dave and the TSAs agree that the Good is that which is desirable.  So far so good (so to speak).  But the more important question is “what is the desirable?”  Dave believes the desirable is that which he actually desires based on his intuition about the golden rule.  TSAs believe the desirable is that which Dave OUGHT to desire.   If, as is the case with Dave, what is actually desired corresponds with what ought to be desired, there is no problem.

The problem for Dave’s philosophy is what happens when someone has a disordered desire.  What if this person (let’s call him Bob) desires to have sex with little children.  Dave will say to him “I have a strong intuition that sex with little children is profoundly wrong.”  Bob will reply, “Why should I care what your intuition tells you?  If I can get away with an activity that gives me pleasure, why should I restrain myself?  Surely you are not suggesting your intuition, i..e, your opinion, is in any way binding on me.”

Dave might reply, “But Bob, it is plain that you ought not have sex with little children.”  Now, if Dave means by “ought” that he has a strong intuition that sex with little children is wrong because it violates the golden rule, he has done no more than repeat himself using different terms.  He has not answered Bob’s objection.  On the other hand, if Dave means by “ought” that sex with little children breaks an obvious moral standard that transcends his and Bob’s opinion, he has not acted logically given his premise that no such standard exists.

At the end of the day, Dave can appeal to a standard that transcends his intuition or he can appeal to his intuition.  If he does the former, he has implicitly admitted the TSA premise.  If he does the latter, he has given Bob no rational reason for refraining from his activity.  Dave has only said, “I do not agree with it.”

What does this have to do with Darwin?  Darwin’s theory does not compel belief in materialism any more than ID compels a belief in God.  But many people believed (especially in late 19th century Europe and North America) that Darwin’s theory was evidence of the triumph of materialist science over the superstition of religion.  This had a profound impact on our social institutions. 

In most of the recent posts this impact has been explored in the context of the holocaust.  I will not add to that debate.  Instead, I will give an example from my own field of the law.   As I have written before, it is not an overstatement to say that the modern era of American law began with the publication in 1897 of “The Path of the Law” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.   In this seminal work Holmes announced that it was time to jettison the notion that the law has anything to do with morality, because morality has no meaning.  Holmes wrote, “For my own part, I often doubt whether it would not be a gain if every word of moral significance could be banished from the law altogether, and other words adopted which should convey legal ideas uncolored by anything outside the law.”

With “The Path of the Law” Holmes had founded the school of “legal realism,” and this theory gradually came to be the predominate theory of jurisprudence in the United States.  “Legal realism” should more properly be called “legal materialism” because Holmes denied the existence of any objective “principles of ethics or admitted axioms” to guide judges’ rulings.  In other words, the law is not based upon principles of justice that transcend time and place.  The law is nothing more than what willful judges do, and the “rules” they use to justify their decision are tagged on after they have decided the case according to their personal preferences.  At its bottom legal realism is a denial of the objective existence of a foundation of moral norms upon which a structure of justice can be built.

Why would Holmes deny the objective existence of morality?  This is where the influence of Darwin comes in.  It is one of the darker secrets of our nation’s past that Holmes, perhaps the most venerated of all our Supreme Court justices, was a fanatical — I used that word advisedly — Darwinist who advocated eugenics and the killing of disabled babies. I n Buck v. Bell Holmes wrote “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” As Phillip Johnson has written, Holmes was a “convinced Darwinist who profoundly understood the philosophical implications of Darwinism.”

“The Origin of Species” was published in 1859.  By 1897, when Holmes wrote “The Path of the Law,” Darwinism had had become an unchallengeable scientific orthodoxy accepted as a matter of course by practically all intellectuals. Holmes thought he had no choice but to believe Darwinism and to accept uncritically the philosophical materialism that most people of this time believed followed inexorably from Darwin’s ideas, and his great contribution to American law was to reconcile the philosophy of law with the philosophy of materialism.

Once they were unleashed from any duty to actually apply objective “rules of law,”  judges soon found they could impose their political views on the rest of us under the guise of interpreting the United States Constitution.  The federal judiciary’s long march through our laws, traditions and institutions began slowly in the 1930’ss but rapidly gathered momentum until, in 1973 in the most stunning example of judicial willfulness in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court invalidated the abortion laws of all 50 states.

So you see legal realism was built step by step, precept by precept, upon a foundation of philosophical materialism that in turn rests upon the triumph of Darwin for its acceptance. And upon this foundation was built a superstructure of judicial willfulness that resulted ultimately in Roe v. Wade.  Each link in the causal chain is plain to see for anyone who takes the time to look.

Obviously, I take for granted that abortion — the taking of an innocent human life — is immoral.  In the discussion thread I will not debate this topic, as it is beyond the scope of UD.  I will just say this:  If you believe an unborn baby is not human you are ignorant.  If you believe that taking that baby’s life is not immoral, you are deeply confused morally.

204 Replies to “BarryA Responds to DaveScot

  1. 1
    tribune7 says:

    Great post, Barry

  2. 2

    Thanks, Barry. Very well thought out.

    Your exposition is much more coherent and compelling than the self-defeating materialistic philosophy, which completely flounders in attempting to address the question of good and evil (unless one takes Provine’s view and follows it to the logical conclusion). I have found that most folks who loudly proclaim that there is no objective moral standard always fall back on one when pressed.

  3. 3
    Ekstasis says:

    Excellent concept. “Without God, all things are permissable” – Fyodor Dostoeyevsky. True, lacking transcendent standards, definitions of good and evil are afloat without an anchor.

    But then, how do good and evil get defined. Sure, it may be intuition at the individual level. But what about society, how is it defined? How do we collectively decide?

    Napolean refered to the rule of the bayonet. In the past, a society that had no allegiance to transcendent beliefs was simply ruled by force, with the powerful making and enforcing the rules. Simple and efficient.

    But not today in America, generally speaking. So instead we get a two-tiered system that establishes and enforces the definition of good and evil. The first is the bottom up. It is exemplified by Oprah. It is all about emoting. Whatever can be sold emotionally to people becomes our idea of good and evil, de facto. It is all about marketing and presentation, appearances and feelings. And it can change like the wind. Create your own victim group and you too are good to go.

    The second, the top down, is what is discussed in terms of judges. But it is a bit broader. It is our leaders that, once elected or appointed, manage to arrange things as they see fit, for the most part. This does not require paranoia or conspiracy theory to believe, just some observation of how leaders operate. They understand just what the Romans understood, bread and circus for the people and you pretty much are left with a free hand. And what are their goals? Public virtue? Individual freedom? Sorry, but no. Gaining, keeping, and expanding power, pure and simple. This is their definition of good.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but I find both of these substitute good-and-evil creaters/enforcers as incredibly dangerous and distasteful.

    And they say the bible is scary!!

  4. 4
    sagebrush gardener says:

    Thank you for the post, Barry. It reminds me of a new book I am reading now – The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. I recommend it highly. One of his points is that secularism is based on unprovable assumptions just as much as faith is.

  5. 5
    DaveScot says:

    Barry

    The problem with an objective moral standard given from a bearded thunderer is that unless the bearded thunderer makes a personal appearance then whatever those objective moral standards might be we mortals need to somehow agree on them and enforce them with laws and punishments.

  6. 6
    Charles says:

    Very well articulated.

    OT: Barry, might you consider lending your legal opinion to a legal question posed by Scott Hatfield, a Fresno, Ca. highschool science teacher: THE HORRORS OF EVOLUTION-FRIENDLY BELIEF? Note also a couple lawyer responses to that original post.

  7. 7
    mike1962 says:

    How do we know what the TSA morality is?

  8. 8
    selectedpete says:

    no. 5:

    Assuming such a thunderer (shaven or no) exists, and that this thunderer rendered all that exists – what makes you think that you, commenter No. 5, gets to create the rules for how such a thunderer manifests his/her/itself?

    But then this is not a very empirical rabbit hole we find ourselves in, now is it?

    This is why naturalist thinking fails at its very core – it disallows the movement of thought into any other realm but the sensate.

    We are capable of so much more than this. But that is a discussion best pursued outside of UD I believe.

  9. 9
    StephenB says:

    Barry A: This is an outstanding post.

    If the objective moral law isn’t real, and if it is not recognized as the standard for jurisprudential wisdom, everything we hold dear is lost. Not only do we lose the rational justification for personal morality, we also forfeit the standards for freedom and a well-ordered society. If morality is reduced to a “feeling of nobility,” then there is no way to arbitrate the differences in feelings among individuals. We are left with a “war of all against all,” which is always followed by tyranny.

    When Holmes, dedicated materialist/ Darwinist that he was, decided that we didn’t need the “natural moral law” as a standard for the rule of law, he was, in effect, militating against self government itself. Unless a government and its people acknowledge the reality of the natural moral law, which is written both in nature (design) and in the human heart (conscience), the individual can never claim to have a “natural” or “inalienable” right. If rights aren’t natural, then they can be given and taken away at the whim of the state.

    How can I say I have a moral obligation and therefore a political right to follow my conscience if there is no such thing as conscience? How can I claim that I deserve to be free if I can’t know the moral law or if there is no moral law to follow? How can I ask for the privilege of self government if I don’t have to tools to practice it?

  10. 10
    Charles says:

    DaveScot @ 5:

    And must that “beareded thunderer” make a personal appearance to everyone, without exception, before everyone, without exception, may agree on those moral standards?

    If in spite of such personal appearance, those moral standards are disobeyed by any number of individuals, does their rejection/disobedience negate the moral standards established for everyone else?. Is a transcendent standard in fact not transcendent but merely whatever each individual is willing to accept?

    Must enforcement of a transcendent standard be done at the behest and by equivalent means of those who disbelieve/reject the transcendent standard a priori?

    Is it in fact true that no bearded thunderer ever personally appeared and presented a transcendent moral standard? Or is it merely that you require the designer to prove himself to you personally before you’re willing to admit the possibility of design?

  11. 11

    DaveScot:

    Two points:

    (i) What if the thunderer has in fact appeared and provided some principles of an objective moral standard? Then perhaps our task is to listen and implement.

    (ii) Even without an appearance, is there some understanding in our collective conscience about right and wrong? Oh, sure, we can think of some difficult examples and close cases, but for the most part people around the world seem to understand some basic concepts of morality. Is this purely concidental, and nothing more than the product of chance and our current societal structure? Perhaps. Yet it is also possible that it represents an innate sense, at a very basic level, of certain inalienable rights that should exist and should be protected. In other words, perhaps there is something already within us and a personal appearance is not needed.

    Our challenges in understanding and implementing an objective moral standard do not mean one does not exist. Throwing out the idea of an objective moral standard because it it difficult to grapple with is a non-sequitur. Worse, it leads to a much more virulent incoherence, as well articulated by Barry.

  12. 12

    Charles, you have some good questions. Just on correction, as you wrote:

    “Or is it merely that you require the designer to prove himself to you personally before you’re willing to admit the possibility of design?”

    I don’t think DaveScot is against the idea of design. This is a separate issue.

  13. 13
    Charles says:

    Eric:

    I don’t think DaveScot is against the idea of design.

    I agree. I understand Dave to be an ID advocate.

    This is a separate issue.

    The Designer might care to disagree.

  14. 14
    StephenB says:

    —–“The problem with an objective moral standard given from a bearded thunderer is that unless the bearded thunderer makes a personal appearance then whatever those objective moral standards might be we mortals need to somehow agree on them and enforce them with laws and punishments.”

    What if the “bearded thunderer,” realizing that humanity is not ready for subtleties, really does makes an appearance and lays out the basic formula in the form of Ten Commandments? What if that same entity, in the spirit of continuity, makes another appearance and builds on the original framework, adding a few more nuances, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes? What if all those standards are consistent with the natural moral law which the bearded thunderer has already written in nature and in the human heart? What if those teachings harmonize with the teachings promoted by philosophers and religious teachers all throughout history? What if those same standards have already been shown to promote human happiness at the personal level and fashion a well ordered society at the collective level?

  15. 15
    specs says:

    unless the bearded thunderer makes a personal appearance then whatever those objective moral standards might be we mortals need to somehow agree on them and enforce them with laws and punishments

    In my experience, Dave, such agreement is really quite unnecessary because most folks who argue for an objective moral standard are also quite willing, nay eager, to tell you exactly what those standards are, and in great detail. Your agreement is quite superfluous and you need to stop trying to apply reason to matters of revelation.

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    Great post I’m sending it to a friend of mine who is in law school. (He has already been deeply impressed by Phillip Johnson)

    In regards to Dave’s statement:

    “The problem with an objective moral standard given from a bearded thunderer is that unless the bearded thunderer makes a personal appearance”

    He did make an appearance and left a life size photogragh:

    excerpt page 232 “Portrait of Jesus:

    Now, if the Shroud is a fake, then whoever fabricated it before 1357, by whatever unknown methods, had command of knowledge and abilities quite incredible for his time. He must have: known the precise methods of crucifixion of the first century; possessed the the medical knowledge of a modern expert surgeon; utilized an art process unknown to any great master, never duplicated before or since; been able to foresee and approximate principles of photographic negativity not otherwise discovered for several centuries; imported a piece of old cloth of Near East manufacture; used a coloring agent that would be unaffected by intense heat; been able to incorporate into his work details (that we have only recently discovered) that the human eye cannot see and that are only visible with the most advanced computer – scanning devices; been able to reproduce. flawlessly, on a nearly flat linen surface, in a single color, undistorted three-dimensional characteristics of a human body in “negative format” on the tops of the threads, while conversely showing the % ” as positive and soaking all the way through…This all had to be done prior 1357, for since that date the Shroud has a clearly documented and uninterrupted history. And even now with all the scientific knowledge and skills at our command, our scientists and artists cannot duplicate the Shroud.

  17. 17

    You discuss two possibilities, an appeal to a standard that transcends intuition or an appeal to individual intuition. This is a false dichotomy as other options exist. For example, you could instead appeal to majority intuition. If most people believe sex with children is wrong then codify that majority belief into, say, a law which is enforced on all people regardless of their individual intuition. This third choice seems completely compatible with materialism and would seem to yield the same conclusion that the TSAs reach.

  18. 18
    Charles says:

    Todd Berkebile @ 16:

    For example, you could instead appeal to majority intuition.

    But a majority is just the arithmetic total of each indidvidual’s opinion. Absent a transcendent morality, on what basis does each individual “believe” something is wrong? Do they believe it is wrong because the accummulated majority votes something is wrong? Does an individual’s opinion become right if majority reverse their votes, say, because enforcement is too costly? Or does each indidvidual form an opinion on their own belief, and on what is that belief based?

  19. 19
    nullasalus says:

    Majority intuition? The question isn’t whether you can assemble some structure of do’s and don’ts without reference to whether there is a real ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’ behind it. Provine would probably agree with as much.

    It’s not a third choice. It’s the ‘there is no right or wrong’ choice, plus a structure without justification.

  20. 20
    BarryA says:

    Todd, if the majority intuition in Nazi Germany was that killing Jews was right,did that make it right?

    In addition, you have just killed the idea of moral progress. The majority intuition of southern whites in the 1950’s was that “colored” folk should not have equal rights. I’m sure you will agree they were wrong, and the minority intuition was right.

  21. 21
    BarryA says:

    DaveScott, I give you C.S. Lewis in the Abolition of Man:

    “I am not trying to PROVE [the validity of the Tao] by the argument from common consent. Its validity cannot be deduced. For those who do not perceive its rationality, even universal consent could not prove it.” Emphasis in the original

  22. 22
    faithandshadow says:

    It’s irrelevant what universal moral law a person or group actually follows or which is true, which Dave has already said. In this country, it happens to be the Christian ethic. In Arabia, it’s Islam. The point is, the people in those places live by it and are judged by it. In this nation, all men have inalienable rights endowed by their Creator. (In Arabia, you can cross Jews off that list.) In materialistic nations, such as the now-defunct USSR and Cuba, God isn’t their to subdue their consciences and the leaders can oppress their peoples without feeling guilty. (After all, the strong survive and the meek shall not inherit the earth.)

    Perhaps we can look at it this way: theists can be hypocrites. Materialist can’t be hypocrites, but if they could be hypocrites, there would be nothing wrong with that. It would only be an issue of whether the hypocrisy (or murder or theft or whatever) gave them a survival advantage over the meek who consider such things wrong.

  23. 23
    Rude says:

    Yes, great post—and others making really good comments here too.

    Anyway I think a connection can be made between the natural law of the theologians and the mathematical realism (Platonism) of the physicists. Most physicists sense from deep in their bones (so I’m told) a deeper, noncontingent aspect of reality than the particles and forces they seek to unearth—a reality that could be no other way and that is true in all possible worlds (hence they study hypothetical worlds where the laws differ but the mathematics doesn’t). Also, as probably I’ve already mentioned somewhere before, there’s the Peircean tripartite world of logic, esthetics, and ethics (with illogic, ugliness, and evil on the other side of the coin), and thus there’s beauty as a guide to truth and the glaring ugliness and illogic of nihilism (“There are no true statements” is illogical; “Death is eternal” is ugly).

    One seldom hears these connected and hardly ever do we hear of mathematical realism except from physicists such as Paul Davies and Roger Penrose. Biologists and others seem to know nothing of the argument, and thus when Chomsky speaks of linguistic innateness we think that if it’s not in the gray matter there’s no such thing, having long ago ruled out the mind as a receiver for ideas that are “out there”.

    Interesting that the same George Lakoff who would teach leftists to frame (to have “faith in the power of euphemism”) would also try to debunk mathematical realism. Interesting also that truth doesn’t seem to matter for those who think that mathematics isn’t real. (But let’s give Prof. Lakoff his due, for long ago he did do some important work on metaphor.)

    Perhaps one could be an atheist and still be a mathematical Platonist—the laws of physics are written in the language of mathematics—and those laws are beautiful. But to move on to ethics—to natural law—which has to do with agency, not just chance and necessity—perhaps this presupposes an elemental nature of mind the atheist would not countenance.

    But are they all connected—logic, beauty, goodness—and are they real? It’d be great to see some books come out with new insight on this subject—maybe by a few young ID sympathizers in the area of philosophy or law.

    I also suspect that a society built on reason, even if based in natural law reasoning (not the the materialism that dominates today), it would still lack if God really had revealed the basics of his ethics at Sinai (as was so long supposed) and we spurn it.

  24. 24
    BarryA says:

    DaveScott, one more Lewis quote, this time from Mere Christianity:

    “some people say the idea of [the Tao] is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities. But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teachings of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Creeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own . . . I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country were two and two made five . . . Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.”

    Dave, the unspoken premise of your statement is that there is not already agreement as to the core of the Tao. But there is. Why we all agree on the core of the Tao and whether God has a beard are different questions. The fact that the Tao exists and that (I was about to say “deep down,” but truly it is not so deep) we know it exists is not reasonably subject to dispute.

  25. 25
    DaveScot says:

    BarryA

    Lewis? Core of the Tao? Universal agreement?

    I doubt it. I can’t even get many people to agree that killing other living things that are not causing you harm is, in principle, a violation of so-called natural law and rest assured that nothing will persuade me otherwise. My idea of natural law will always trump yours as far as I’m concerned. I’m not at all laboring under any burden of giving your notions of morality the same respect as I give my own. You might have me confused with someone who believes in a relative moral code. Like countless others I believe I know the transcendent moral code and relative moral codes is what I have to accept in compromise when your transcendent codes differ from mine.

    And that’s the really the problem. This universal agreement you speak of is as non-existent as the settled science of anthropogenic global warming.

  26. 26
    BarryA says:

    faithandshadow writes:

    “It’s irrelevant what universal moral law a person or group actually follows or which is true.”

    Nonsense: This statement is logically incoherent. If the moral law is “universal” there cannot be more than one.

    faithandshadow goes on: “ In this country, it happens to be the Christian ethic. In Arabia, it’s Islam.”

    Nonsense. See the C.S. Lewis quote from Mere Christianity above. You are wrong. There is no such thing as a “Christian ethic” or an “Islamic ethic.” There is only the Tao. This might surprise you coming from a Christian. It should not. Jesus was a brilliant ethical teacher, but he himself said that what he was teaching was not new. His ethical teachings were there all along for those who sought them. Christianity is radically distinct from other religions theologically. But Jesus never purported to establish a “new” system of ethics.

    faithandshadow goes on: “In this nation, all men have inalienable rights endowed by their Creator. (In Arabia, you can cross Jews off that list.)

    Nonsense. A Jew in Arabia has the same inalienable rights as a Jew in New York. Whether those rights are respected is another question. If this were not so we would have no right to say an Arab in Arabia was wrong if he murdered a Jew. But I am sure you agree it is just as evil for an Arab to murder a Jew in Arabia as in New York.

    faithandnonsense goes on: “In materialistic nations, such as the now-defunct USSR and Cuba, God isn’t their [sic] to subdue their consciences and the leaders can oppress their peoples without feeling guilty.

    Nonsense. The issue is not whether Stalin felt guilty when he murdered millions of Ukrainians or whether Mao felt guilty when tens of millions died at his hands or whether Pol Pot felt guilty for the killing fields. This is the very point I made in the post. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot had disordered desires.

    To Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, the Good was the desirable and the desirable was what they actually desired, i.e., killing millions of their own countrymen to achieve their ends. As Lewis says in Mere Christianity, if the Tao does not exist or if it is not manifest to all, we have no more right to blame Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot for their killing than for the color of their hair. The Tao does exist and it is manifest. Therefore, I can say – in an absolute sense – that Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were evil. And when I say they were evil I mean they were evil. I do not mean, simply, that at the end of the day I disagree with them.

  27. 27
    BarryA says:

    DaveScott, I can only say that, to me at least, you appear to be teetering on the brink of solipsism. Therefore, we have no common frame of reference in which to argue.

  28. 28
    DaveScot says:

    Barry

    I say I won’t ever completely agree with you on what are transcendent values and all of a sudden we have no common frame of reference at all?

    What a copout. We have more in common than not. You can’t deal with having to agree to disagree on some things?

  29. 29
    StephenB says:

    —–Dave: “I can’t even get many people to agree that killing other living things is, in principle, a violation of so-called natural law and rest assured that nothing will persuade me otherwise. My idea of natural law will always trump yours as far as I’m concerned.”

    If you don’t accept the natural moral law, on what principle would you build a well ordered society? I take it you agree that Sharia law is not a good idea. Also, I am sure that you will not allude to “reason,” which is a totally meaningless answer, inasmuch as it begs the question about which ethic reason would have us use.

  30. 30
    Jack Krebs says:

    7

    mike1962

    05/06/2008

    3:11 pm

    How do we know what the TSA morality is?

    How about Mike’s question?

  31. 31
    BarryA says:

    DaveScott, go back and read what you wrote: You said: “I believe I know the transcendent moral code and relative moral codes is what I have to accept in compromise when your transcendent codes differ from mine.”

    It seems to me that you are saying that transcendent morality is measured by what you believe. If that is not solipsism I don’t know what is. If I have misunderstood you, please let me know.

    I believe I understand with near perfect clarity the core of the Tao:

    Do as you would be done by.

    Do not murder.

    Do not steal.

    Do not bear false witness, etc., etc.

    But I know I have a fallen nature, and I know I am not able to understand how the Tao applies in every situation. Therefore, I approach some ethical questions (but by no means all) tentatively and with a sense of my fallenness, knowing that I could be wrong. I think this would be especially true if I came to an ethical conclusion that the vast majority of people disagreed with.

    Take your “don’t kill innocent living things” principle. Where do you draw the line? Some wackadoodles are now advocating for plants rights! See the link at the end of this comment.

    You do not seem to approach this ethical question with any sense that you might possibly be wrong and the overwhelming majority of humans throughout the history of the world might possible be right. That’s why I say you are teetering on the brink of solipsism and we have no common frame of reference.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....R=13A782CB

  32. 32
    BarryA says:

    Jack Krebs quotes Mike1962 “How do we know what the TSA morality is?” and asks:
    “How about Mike’s question?”

    The answer is: We just do. You can say it is written on our hearts if you like, but no one had to teach you that it is wrong, for example, to murder or steal. This not to say that there will not be hard questions. As I said above, we are fallen. But again, to say that there are gray areas is very different from saying everything is gray.

  33. 33
    StephenB says:

    —-“Jack Krebs quotes Mike1962 “How do we know what the TSA morality is?” and asks:
    “How about Mike’s question?”

    Assuming that you would be less than enthusiastic about the first three of the Ten Commandments (having to do with our obligation to God), which ones from four through tem would you challenge?

  34. 34
    mentok says:

    Dave

    It doesn’t matter if all people can agree or not on a universal transcendental moral standard. That of course is not true and never has been. For example in many Islamic cultures honor killing is seen as morally good, whereas in the rest of the world you would go to prison or be executed by the state for honor kiling. That is all besides the point. The impact of Darwin’s theories on the elites of western civilization was to make all transcendental morality, in fact the concept of transcendental morality, regarded as outmoded and unscientific. They were free to become gods of their own world by using “SCIENCE” as their new moral guidance for their exploitative designs on the common masses. Of course “SCIENCE” is mute, it’s dead, knowing that they knew therefore anyone could invent any type of social policy and justify it as morally “good” through their invocation of “SCIENCE” and “PROGRESS” as the highest authority.

    That was the goal i.e to replace transcendental authority which forbade them from their exploitative activity and which made them “sinners” in the vision of the masses. As long as the mass of people see the ruling elites as sinners before their Gods then the elites will be fearful of the masses coming to destroy them and their plans. The end of slavery made this reality very clear when religious people forced the end of slavery in the British Empire through which the British Empire had built it’s great wealth upon.

    Darwin’s theories were jumped upon by an already godless elite class who saw the propaganda value of his theories as very valuable for changing mass public opinion about what is considered ultimate authority. This was why the Soviet Union outlawed religion, and why subsequent communist regimes attempted to so as well. The idea is to replace a transcendental authority with a human authority. In order to do that they needed to prove that transcendental authority was bogus because there is no supra-intellect supra-moral God to create or enforce a moral teaching or code. Darwin is what they used for that goal. That is simply historical reality. Ever since Darwin came on the scene his theories have been used in an attempt by elites in society to destroy belief in transcendental authority. And it is in fact the main ideology which is inspiring those who attack ID. They want to be free from transcendental authority and openly claim that they fear the ID movement is a “trojan horse” for the implementation of theocractic rule. Like in the past they are trying to use Darwin to destroy belief in God for political purposes. Dawkins et all are very open about this.

    The Nazis were also using Darwin in order to gain acceptance for their immoral activities. Their role in the eugenics movement was greatly praised by leading academics and politicians outside of Germany before it became politically incorrect to do so. The goal was always to use “SCIENCE” as ultimate authority as a cover for their own exploitative actions. Darwin’s theory was needed to remove God as ultimate authority in order to install “SCIENCE” and “PROGRESS” as the new gods controlled by the elites of society.

  35. 35
    Jack Krebs says:

    StephenB writes,

    Assuming that you would be less than enthusiastic about the first three of the Ten Commandments (having to do with our obligation to God), which ones from four through ten would you challenge?

    That’s not the question being addressed. The question is how we can know that certain moral rules are transcendent standards. How does anyone know that their belief about some aspect of transcendent reality is true, or even that such a transcendent reality exists?

    Barry says we “know it our heart.” I don’t believe that answers the question.

    It is, in my opinion, irrelevant to claim that belief in transcendent standards is superior to lack of such a belief if in fact there is no way to know if one’s belief in the existence of such transcendent standards is true.

  36. 36
    Rude says:

    BarryA in 32,

    Maybe it’s like mathematics—the axioms we just know—and we reason from there (the fundamental categores and rules of reason we just know). But the formalists deny any transcendence—it’s just a game we play.

    Also is not our take on morality based largely on whether we believe there is a great Judge out there who will hold us to account? And whether or not there is life in the world to come? Otherwise I can balance my smarting conscience against my pleasure centers and make the choice I want because ultimately it doesn’t matter—and therein, I submit, Darwin has proven quite popular.

    Anyway not every culture has developed mathematics, just as our post-modernist touchy-feelies now would abandon it and all logic. And so likewise morality is not always very well developed, and therefore, as it says, “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”

    If there’s no God it all fails—meanwhile we must live in a world where the Deity can be ignored with no immediate consequences. But good will prevail as long as enough people care and speak out and do what they can—not to impose their way on all others but to insure that the life and liberty of all be respected.

    And that’s what scares me!

    Maybe Expelled will help turn the tide.

  37. 37

    Jack Krebs wrote:

    “. . . if in fact there is no way to know if one’s belief in the existence of such transcendent standards is true.”

    Do you mean there is no way for an individual to know, or that there is no way for them to prove it to others?

    Barry’s answer may not be satisfying, but it is a definite possibility. Indeed when one looks at the whole of history, there do seem to be some general principles that nearly all societies have tried to uphold. Why is that? Sheer dumb luck, an accident of societies, a coincidental societal contract that keeps repeating itself? Or perhaps it is a collective expression of what Barry suggests may be written in the heart (if one is willing to look there).

  38. 38
    mike1962 says:

    BarryA: The answer is: We just do.

    My take on this is that the morality we all might “just know” is really the morality that we feel that would benefit ourselves as well in a society that fully implemented it. “You shall not murder” is not only good for someone I might wish to kill, but it is good for me too that nobody kills me. Most of us would prefer a world where this sort of “fairness” is maximized for the benefit of all, including our selfish, self-preserving selves. These seems to me a plausible basis of the Tao that one might “know.”

  39. 39
    Borne says:

    BarryA : Great post. A lot of great posts. A lot of good reasonings.

    Of course the only way I can say that is if there’s really a rule by which one CAN measure “good” reasoning. 😉

    If there isn’t, then this whole discussion is useless as no one can be either right or wrong.

  40. 40
    mike1962 says:

    …in other words, “we just do”, translates into, “I want to be treated well, so I want to be part of a society that treats me well, and I will treat them well also, to our mutual benefit.”

    “We just do” equates to an impulse to maximize mutual benefit.

  41. 41
    specs says:

    t is, in my opinion, irrelevant to claim that belief in transcendent standards is superior to lack of such a belief if in fact there is no way to know if one’s belief in the existence of such transcendent standards is true.

    Indeed. And how valuable is a code, transcendent or otherwise, that, by Barry’s own admission, is full of gray areas. I would think a lawyer, like Barry, would value clarity in a moral code. Yet he seems to hold his moral code giver to a lower standard than he does his fellow members of the bar.

  42. 42
    mike1962 says:

    As for why some societies, like Muslims extremists who hate Jews, don’t seem to “know the Tao” towards Jews, is because the young are vigorously indoctrinated, and the cycle perpetuates itself. Take any child and raise him in a home where the Golden Rule is revered, and I doubt he’s going to hate anyone, let alone Jews. Etc. In such a case, the Tao (which I consider the default condition) can flower.

  43. 43
    Borne says:

    Dave: “I can’t even get many people to agree that killing other living things that are not causing you harm is, in principle, a violation of so-called natural law and rest assured that nothing will persuade me otherwise” I’d like you to clarify that please. Are you saying no killing of any living thing is morally acceptable? In your view at least?

    Do you eat? I presume so. Then what?

    Thanks.

    But you see, no matter what you answer, if there is no ultimate external rule governing life itself and declaring the value of life forms, it doesn’t matter in the least.

    The ONLY way of measuring Right and Wrong is through a transcendent, objective Rule. And that rule is written on the heart by the Designer as sure as you exist. Only mind can have preferences. Only mind can will on thing over another.

    You’re once again doing exactly what Lewis and others state that all those who deny an objective moral standard do – you’re confirming it by your assuming it. You assume it in your implications and underlying presumption that there really is a real Right and thus a real Wrong.

    Otherwise why even defend your view? Or any view?

    As I say elsewhere here, all debate assumes that truth and falsehood really exist. And all morality necessarily assumes a real objective Right or Ought – even when it is denied.

    Again, if materialism is true then all rationality stems from non rational processes and thus has no meaning. But as Lewis said, “If whole the universe has no meaning then we should never have found out it has no meaning just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning

    If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. Similarly if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.
    –The Abolition of Man

    “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared – the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true. We may be living nearer than we suppose to the end of the Scientific Age.”
    M. D. Aeschliman C. S. Lewis on Mere Science 1998 First Things

    Dave I think you’d really like Lewis’ Abolition of Man or Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain.

    And here’s what I hope you’re ready to realize: “Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self.”

  44. 44
    specs says:

    My take on this is that the morality we all might “just know” is really the morality that we feel that would benefit ourselves as well in a society that fully implemented it.

    So, when we see cooperation between members of species (or between different species) in nature are they operating based on a transcendental moral code?

  45. 45
    Barb says:

    Every law has a giver. If there is a transcendant moral code, then logically there must be a transcendant moral code giver. There can be no legislation unless there’s a legislature.

  46. 46
    StephenB says:

    —–Jack Krebs: “It is, in my opinion, irrelevant to claim that belief in transcendent standards is superior to lack of such a belief if in fact there is no way to know if one’s belief in the existence of such transcendent standards is true.”

    I submit the natural moral law is self evident to all reasonable people. Inasmuch as you evidently disagree with that statement, I must ask you again: Which of the Ten Commandments from four to ten is not self evident to you?

  47. 47
    Jack Krebs says:

    “Self-evidency” is not a very clear nor reliable criteria, and neither is the notion of “reasonable,” as clearly different people, learned and sincere, often disagree about what is self-evident and reasonable.

    Not only that, being self-evident is not necessarily the same thing as arising from a transcendent source.

    Your and Barry’s assertions about what appears to you as self-evident and written in the heart are not addressing the question of how do you know that what you strongly feel is true is in fact a transcendent truth?

    Do you not see the difference? You and I might agree on a particular moral value, and we might even agree that it seems “self-evident,” and yet we might disagree about whether that feeling of self-evidency stems from anything transcendent.

  48. 48
    PaV says:

    How would we know if something were transcendent or not unless we ourselves are able to transcend the strictly material. If, however, we are able to transcend the material, then we have a capacity that itself is transcendent. This transendent/spiritual component of our being obviously did not come from the strictly material since it is able to transcend the strictly material. Hence, our nature is composed of that which is transcendent and that which is material. Put another way, “natural law” cannot possibly exist unless we have a spiritual nature. How do you think Darwin would answer? I have my ideas.

  49. 49
    StephenB says:

    “Self-evidency” is not a very clear nor reliable criteria, and neither is the notion of “reasonable,” as clearly different people, learned and sincere, often disagree about what is self-evident and reasonable”

    —–“Your and Barry’s assertions about what appears to you as self-evident and written in the heart are not addressing the question of how do you know that what you strongly feel is true is in fact a transcendent truth?”

    Self evident truths are the best and the most reliable of all truths. Science, for example, is based on the self evident truth that we live in a rational universe. Even if science was infalliable, and it is a long way from being that, it could be no reliable that the self-evident metephysical truth that it rests on.

    It is the same with morality. All moral behavior is based on the assumption that moral truth is transcendent. It is not something that rational people prove; it is something that they assume. If there was no such thing as human conscience, there could be no such thing as self govenment. People can rule themselves only on condition that they can apprehend the natural moral law.

  50. 50
    Jack Krebs says:

    We are going around in circles, and obviously aren’t going to get any place.

    For instance, Stephen says,

    It is the same with morality. All moral behavior is based on the assumption that moral truth is transcendent. It is not something that rational people prove; it is something that they assume.

    Well, no, all rational people don’t assume that. In fact some rational people are loath to assume things that are not knowable and might very well be false.

    Now if you define rational to mean one who agrees with you and makes the assumption that the transcendent exists, then you are begging the question.

    So what I gather is that your belief in the transcendent is so strongly held that you can not conceive of it being any other way: that it is “self evidently true and any rational person would assume it to be so” is self-evidently true … and so on forever with no further evidence or reasoning to back it up.

    I, however, am a rational person, and the existence of the transcendent is not self-evidently true to me (nor is it’s absence self-evidently true to me, either, by the way), and therefore I do not assume it.

    So it is clear to me that you don’t really know that the transcendent exists, but rather that you assume it, and then have build a circular chain of reasonings and feelings that make it seem as if what you assume must in fact be so.

  51. 51
    bornagain77 says:

    The whole issue revolves around the primacy of transcendence.. To presuppose that lifeless dirt can give rise to the transcendent love that is required for the Golden Rule is as ludicrous as believing that one rock can “love” another rock.

    Yet in materialism anything goes so it is of necessity to actually prove the physical reality of a dominant transcendent reality which has dominion over the material reality. This proof is accomplished partially through Dr. Anton Zeilinger’s work in quantum non-locality. He actually proves the transcendence and dominion of “spiritual information” over the material/energy realm. This in conjuntion with the failure of gravity to be tied to the material/energy realm and timeless (eternal) nature of light as well as the sheer poverty and discoherence of the “many world’s interpretation” in quantum mechanics, in my humble opinion, forces one to accept the reality of a higher, timeless, transcendent, dimension from which our “material” reality has its primary reality based.

    Dr. Anton Zeilinger is even confident enough of the reality and dominion of this transcendent realm he manipulates in his quantum teleportation experments to state:

    http://www.metanexus.net/Magaz.....fault.aspx

    In conclusion it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Then the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word”.

    Anton Zeilinger Professor of Physics

    Transcendence of the material realm is now firmly established to overwhelming degree, thus why should we presuppose that any absolute moral standard such as the Golden rule would arise naturally from the material realm when it would be much more reasonable to presuppose that this absolute standard for moral conduct has its origination and primacy in the higher transcendent realm which gives rise to this “material” universe in the first place?

    As well it just seems clear and reasonable to me that since love even exist in the first place, then of logical necessity there must be an ultimate source for love to come from. Indeed for me, love has an element of primacy that I would classify as almost being foundational and independent of any other “building blocks”!

  52. 52
    DLH says:

    The USA was legally founded by an appeal to transcendent moral law by the Declaration of Independence. (“USC The Declaration of Independence – 1776” remains the first organic law in the United States Code)

    King and Parliament breached the Colonists constitutional right of petition for redress of grievances as guaranteed by the Magna Carta #61.

    we give and grant to them the underwritten security, . . . that if we, or our justiciar, or our bailiffs or any one of our officers, shall in anything be at fault towards anyone, or shall have broken any one of the articles of this peace or of this security, . . .petition to have that transgression redressed without delay.

    All constitutional basis having failed, the American Colonists then appealed to the highest transcendent law:

    . . .to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them. . .

    We hold these truths to be self-evident:
    That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; . . .

    . . , appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, . . .

    . . .with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, . . .

    . . .we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

    Each of these clauses refers to transcendent moral values.

  53. 53
    allanius says:

    Fortunately the “transcendent standard” doesn’t depend upon a bearded thunderer, or upon opinion, or tradition, or culture, or upon the Tao, about which one must become enlightened.

    The “transcendent standard” is life. As itself, life transcends mortal existence. Life is holy, since it cannot be divided and still be life. It is also the “light of men,” the good, since it alone among all values known to men is absolutely desirable (viz, we’re blogging).

    The law and the prophets are neither arbitrary nor conditioned. They reflect the value of life. They are summed up in one command: to love one another. And this command is firmly rooted in the sanctity of life. This accounts for the similarity between moral codes; not the Tao, which is interpretable.

    The ancient Hebrews were given only one name for God: “I am.” Note that the “I” and the “am” are joined together as a unity–pure subject and also pure object. There is no division between immanence and transcendence, as there is in methods of discerning “the good” that are rooted in intellect and its qualitative force of resistance.

    That’s because, in the sacred text, “the good” is not intellect, as it was for the philosophers. The good is life, the light of wisdom and understanding and substance of the way.

  54. 54
    DLH says:

    For legal and historical background, see Defending the Declaration
    Gary T. Amos, (1989-1994) Providence Foundation Charlottesville VA, ISBN 1-887456-05-8.

    In Chapter 3, Amos traces the well established legal/historical usage and meaning of “Self Evident Truths”. e.g., via:
    Matthew Tindal, Christianity as Old as the Creation(1730).
    John Locke, Essay on Human Understanding (1690),
    Thomas Aquinas, (1225-1274) in Summa.
    St. John of Damascus (d. 749) in De Fide Orthodoxa.
    Paul, Romans 1,2.

    English “self-evident” is a translation of the Latin per se notum (“known through the instrumentality of oneself”). This in turn of the Greek phaneros en autois (evident in themselves) from Romans 1:19. Similarly, tois poiemasin nooumena kathoratai (by means of things that are made, being understood, being clearly seen) etc.

  55. 55
    tragicmishap says:

    Barry and Dave:

    Lewis didn’t really believe there was a standard natural law which everyone believed. There was no standard code that everyone implicitly knows through their conscience. But he found it significant that everyone, despite the differences, BELIEVES in a code. That was the key point for Lewis. Everyone believes there is a code, and though there is no consensus, we are constantly arguing about what it really is. For him, the only reasonable explanation is that there is an existing code to which we have been blinded in varying degrees.

  56. 56
    tragicmishap says:

    He then logically deduced that if there was a law, there must be a lawgiver. Laws do not simply come into being of their own accord. There is a mind, or intelligence if you will, behind them. Lewis was a design theorist pertaining to morality rather than science.

  57. 57
    StephenB says:

    —–“Well, no, all rational people don’t assume that. In fact some rational people are loath to assume things that are not knowable and might very well be false.”

    If one doesn’t agree that we live in a rational universe, then how can one be a rational person? Is it possible to be a rational person in an irrational universe? To be sure, it is POSSIBLE that objective truth is an illusion, but if it is an illusion, then rationality collapses.

    —–“Now if you define rational to mean one who agrees with you and makes the assumption that the transcendent exists, then you are begging the question.”

    No, I am simply pointing out that rationality has several starting points. If a person doesn’t believe that the whole is greater than the sum of all the parts, that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time, and that rationality exists independent of his biases, prejudices, and feelings, then he is not a rational person. These things cannot be proven anymore than the fact that anyone exists outside of our own mind can be proven. We simply accept it. These are self evident truths that all rational people assume without question.

    —–“So what I gather is that your belief in the transcendent is so strongly held that you can not conceive of it being any other way: that it is “self evidently true and any rational person would assume it to be so” is self-evidently true … and so on forever with no further evidence or reasoning to back it up.”

    You don’t back up self evident truths with evidence. Evidence is something that occurs once rationality is accepted. You can’t believe in evidence or science if you don’t believe in their metaphysical foundations. I suggest that you read “The Metaphysical foundations of modern science,” by Burtt.

    —-“I, however, am a rational person, and the existence of the transcendent is not self-evidently true to me (nor is it’s absence self-evidently true to me, either, by the way), and therefore I do not assume it.”

    Either truth and morality exist or they do not. If they do not exist, then there is no reason to discuss them or argue about them. By what standard do you challenge my assertions if there is no such thing as objective truth or objective morality. The very fact that you are arguing with me about it proves that you believe in objecitve truth. You are saying that my statements do not conform to “the truth.” Overwise, you would not attempt to refute what you perceive as my erroneous statements. If truth is whatever we want it to be, then there can be no rationality.

  58. 58
    Bob O'H says:

    StephenB –

    Self evident truths are the best and the most reliable of all truths.

    It’s self-evident to me that you are an idiot. Is that a reliable truth?

    (OK, I don’t think you are an idiot, but I hope you see my point)

  59. 59

    Well, sir, this is a well written and well reasoned blog entry. I agree. Period. Thanks BarryA!

    However, I fear that these very deep questions will lead to schisms.

    Ah, never mind. We’re much bigger people than the close minded evolanders. We know that a seed planted today might take awhile before it sprouts, grows, and bears good fruit.

    Meanwhile, who is afraid to disagree? Not this side.

  60. 60
    Jack Golightly says:

    WOW!!!
    Some really good stuff here, Barry. I don’t think we’ll reach a satisfactory conclusion for everyone, but it is fun. Keeps the ol’ brain wavin’.

    Question for Mr. Krebs:
    So, where exactly do we start?

  61. 61
    StephenB says:

    —-“Bob O’H: It’s self-evident to me that you are an idiot. Is that a reliable truth?”

    —-“(OK, I don’t think you are an idiot, but I hope you see my point)”

    A subjective impression or an interpretation of facts is not synonymous with a self evident truth. Think about what the words “self evident truth” really mean. Truth means that which happens to be the case. Self evident means that the proof is obvious upon inspection. What could be more reliable than that which is obviously true upon inspection?

    Now you could argue that there are too few self-evident truths to be of any help. Or you could argue that a truth that is reputed to be self evident is either not true or not self evident. But you cannot reasonably argue against the proposition that a self evident truth is the best kind to have.

  62. 62
    BarryA says:

    tragicmishap writes: “Lewis didn’t really believe there was a standard natural law which everyone believed.”

    Actually, Lewis believed this very thing and stated as much in The Abolition of Man and Mere Christianity. You are simply wrong.

  63. 63
    vividblue says:

    “Well, no, all rational people don’t assume that. In fact some rational people are loath to assume things that are not knowable and might very well be false.”

    There is not one person alive of sound mind who does not assume something.

    Please define “knowable”

    Vivid

  64. 64
    kairosfocus says:

    Hi Barry:

    Excellent post, and it has sure provoked a striking series of comments on the roots of reason and morality.

    STEP 1: On the first of these — WRT undeniably self-evident truths — I suggest Mr Krebs et al reflect on the claim that Josiah Royce drew so much from: “error exists.”

    –> Try to deny it. Oops, one necessarily instantiates an error. So it is evident in itself on inspection with insight.

    –> So, we see that some things refer to reality accurately, but we may be wrong about claims to such truth.

    –> Humbling: truth exists, but we may be mistaken. (And in that lieth the grain of truth in teh relativist clai9m, i.e we may be mistaken. But to be mistaken is to imply that there is something to be mistaken about: reality and truth that says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.)

    STEP 2: are there MORAL truths, more than mere personal or collective “values”?

    ANS: Credibly, yes, and as will be shown shortly.

    WHY: Lewisian observation — we quarrel, i.e disagree with vehemence, and try to show one another IN THE WRONG.

    –> That is, we agree intuitively and globally that the Tao exists.

    –> More than that, we agree we are bound by it: a duty to truth, to fairness and respect of person [especially when we or those we are close to are on the receiving end of wrong],

    –> Also, we EXPECT tha tthe other in teh quarrel seesand understands the principle at stake.

    –> As a rule, this is indeed so: the other party does not bat us aside as a lion does the bleatings of a gazelle, but instead tries to show that nope s/he was NOT in the wrong. [The “there is an exception” argument is a favourite way to do that.]

    –> resemblance to events in this and related threads is not coincidental.

    So, we disagree — not on whether right or wrong exist or that we can in praxis discern basic principles such as fairness and respect — we disagree on where duty lies when our particular interests are at stake. That is we see conflict of interest at work, a notorious blinder to the truth and the right.

    This brings me to . . .

    STEP 3: Locke’s start-point for the foundation of liberty, from Ch 2, section 5 in his 2nd essay on civil gov’t, citing anglican theologian Hooker:

    . . 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.

    Locke then draws out:

    The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions [Cf R^om 13 v 8 – 10] . . . . so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he as much as he can to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another . . . . In transgressing the law of Nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity, which is that measure God has set to the actions of men for their mutual security [i.e. we see here the right to self-defense for the community, and also the individual, as is discussed at length in the work], and so he becomes dangerous to mankind . . . . [Ch III, S 17] he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power [i.e. to tyrannise upon another, by force, fraud, usurpation or invasion] does thereby put himself into a state of war with him; it being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life. For I have reason to conclude that he who would get me into his power without my consent would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it.

    This is the underlying direct context of the 2nd para of the US DOI of 1776 [which is deeply foreshadowed in say the Calvinist Dutch DOI of 1581, of the century before the rise of Deism as a movement].

    Contrast that with the evide4nt undermining of the principles of mutuality and respect that lurk in the idea that “might makes ‘right'” — which of course keeps company with the ideas of the survival of the fittest and nature red in tooth an claw that historically were deeply embedded in the rise of the ideas of a Holmes, and of those in other states who took up yet more virulent forms of such principles.

    No prizes for guessing just which states and with just what results.

    In short,t he alternative to self-evident truths and acceptance of the transcendent Tao, is force, whether naked or veiled: “might makes ‘right,'” and “propaganda/manipulation makes ‘truth.'”

    Somewhere out there the ghost of Plato is shaking his head as he tries to remind us of his parable of the Cave. And the ghost of Socrates and that of Aristotle are joining in the chorus too.

    GEM of TKI

  65. 65
    toc says:

    I have never had meaningful conversation with any human being who at some point has not appealed to an assumed higher moral standard. Those who appeal to moral relativism are posers. Unless one is a psychopath, this standard is known in our bones.

  66. 66
    bornagain77 says:

    Barry,
    I sent a copy of your post to a law school friend of mine and this is what he wrote in return;

    Thanks, I have been looking for those words for a long time. I knew there was someone out there thinking like me, but I could not find them. Thank you thank you. Much thanks. I will use this online and in the classroom. In fact I needed this today, but fell short of getting to your hotmail in time. I will use it from now on, with a couselink stuck to it to retreive immediately.

    Barry, If you knew my law school friend you would laugh out loud at this, because he is not the type of individual to let a sleeping dog lay, he will use your article as a springboard to start and defend many spirited debates in his class.

  67. 67
    Ekstasis says:

    BarryA: “tragicmishap writes: “Lewis didn’t really believe there was a standard natural law which everyone believed.”

    Actually, Lewis believed this very thing and stated as much in The Abolition of Man and Mere Christianity. You are simply wrong.”

    Agree, but we do need to qualify. True, the universal standard exists. However, much like Platonic forms are modified in their manifestation, so goes the universal standard. The modification takes place in two ways:

    1. Picture the universal standard as a boat anchor. A boat will move about within a certain range due to local conditions, e.g., tide, breeze. The local conditions do not erase the universal standard, but accommodate some range of movement. For example, as C.S. Lewis presented it, modesty is a universal standard, but it may be different in Bali as opposed to North Korea, perhaps due to differences in climate. Or for another example, hard work in children is a universal standard, but it may take place in a framework of education for us today, while in past years there was more of an emphasis on chores around the farm, ranch, or shop.

    2. We can dilute the effects of the universal standard by continuous rationalization and justification. This if often seen in the case of the embezzler or those who pilfer corporate property. “The company screwed me over, so I am just taking my fair share”. And one could argue that the Materialist activists are justifying the intolerance toward IDers in career positions based on constant rationalization, even while understanding it is wrong.

    “15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” Romans 2

  68. 68
    GilDodgen says:

    There is a great little book on this general topic, Relativism: Feet firmly planted in mid-air, by Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl.

  69. 69
    tragicmishap says:

    BarryA: “Actually, Lewis believed this very thing and stated as much in The Abolition of Man and Mere Christianity. You are simply wrong.”

    Well yes since you took that statement out of context Lewis would have disagreed with it. Ekstasis has made my point a bit better.

  70. 70
    tragicmishap says:

    So forgive me for being unclear. But the point you are making, that there is a nearly universal agreement on the natural law, was a means to an end to Lewis. I especially don’t think you are going to get anywhere with an agnostic arguing that point, and there is no reason to try. Lewis’ point was simply that there is a law. DaveScot and you have both stated you believe in a transcendent moral law. Lewis simply went one step further and concluded there must be a lawgiver. DaveScot is a bit behind Lewis there, but maybe if you quit making an argument out of something you agree on you could get somewhere.

  71. 71
    Bob O'H says:

    A subjective impression or an interpretation of facts is not synonymous with a self evident truth. Think about what the words “self evident truth” really mean. Truth means that which happens to be the case. Self evident means that the proof is obvious upon inspection. What could be more reliable than that which is obviously true upon inspection?

    Well, on inspection, I can come up with reasons why you are an idiot, and hence argue why it’s obviously true (and you are therefore in denial about your status).

    So, the problem remains: how can we distinguish a “self-evident truth” from an individual’s subjective impression? What form of judgement are you going to appeal to?

  72. 72
    SteveB says:

    Jack Krebs,

    You seem to be asking your questions as if the TSAs have an obligation to produce a treatise on epistemology for your considered review while you have the freedom to sit on the sidelines and ask academic questions—as if you’re not obligated to engage with moral issues personally.

    Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. We’re all in the game and as such the “written in the heart” answer that some have proposed is still better than your non-answer. So, I’d like to propose that we approach your questions from the following practical situation.

    One of the Russian novelists (I forget which one) tells the story about a soldier who wrenches a baby from his screaming mother’s arms, tosses him into the air, and then catches the child on his bayonet as she looks on.

    Is this event:
    1. Wrong, period. Regardless of time, place, culture, reason or any other extenuating circumstance you care to name (i.e., it reflects a transcendent moral value)
    2. Wrong “for the mother” but right “for the soldier” (the “wrong for you but right for me” argument is very much in vogue on college campuses these days)
    3. The soldier’s actions “make me uncomfortable” but I can’t say that he’s wrong (variation on #2)
    4. Not possible to evaluate because we can’t know if morals are transcendent or not.
    5. Traditional morality is without grounding because it’s just an adaptation. (EO Wilson’s view)
    6. Other.

    I know what my answer is. Please provide yours and justify how you know which is correct.

  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    —–Bob O’H: “Well, on inspection, I can come up with reasons why you are an idiot, and hence argue why it’s obviously true (and you are therefore in denial about your status).”

    Let me try to lay it out for you again. One (not the only) important philosophical truth that allows science its legitimacy is the proposition that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances. This is a self evident truth for all rational people. It is not something that you prove; it is something that you use for proof. If it isn’t true, there is no science, no communication, no inferences, or no syllogisms.

    —–“So, the problem remains: how can we distinguish a “self-evident truth” from an individual’s subjective impression? What form of judgment are you going to appeal to?”

    We distinguish a “self-evident truth” from an individual’s subjective impression by knowing the necessary conditions for rationality. Some things are more basic than others. The law of non-contradiction, for example, is a basic, self evident truth. It is not something to be proven; it is something to be assumed. If you don’t assume it, then you are not a rational person. We can say the same thing about the rationality of the world in which we live. If the universe is not rational, then it is rather stupid to try to understand it. This, by the way, is another self evident truth (for rational people that is).

  74. 74
    BarryA says:

    StephenB,

    You are wasting your time with Jack Krebs and Bob O’H. Let me quote Lewis again [see 21] from The Abolition of Man.

    “I am not trying to PROVE [the validity of the Tao] by the argument from common consent. Its validity cannot be deduced. For those who do not perceive its rationality, even universal consent could not prove it.” Emphasis in the original.

    Stephen, you are making a valiant effort to prove that which cannot be proved. If someone denies that which is self-evident, as Bob and Jack have done, by definition there is no arguing with them, because argument absolutely depends upon a common frame of reference from which to argue. And that common frame of reference in turn depends upon accepting as self-evident that which is self-evident.

    Jack was correct when he said you will never get anywhere with him.

  75. 75
    leo says:

    “How do we know what the TSA morality is?”

    I think this is still the most important question (to those who believe it exists). It is quite easy to say “I feel it in my heart” or “it is in my bones”, but entirely meaningless. All that you are saying is:

    “What I believe is what the TSA is and anyone who believes differently is mistaken, misinterperated, etc.”

    So, how do we know that Stalin, Mao, Pot, etc. were not correctly obying the ‘Natural Moral Law’? Because YOU wouldn’t do it is not an answer. Even if it is not what you feel in your bones – well they felt it in theirs.

    So, even if a Natual Law exists, there is obviously a degree of subjectivity in its application withing each consiousness, making reality no more morally objective in practice, than if one did not exist.

  76. 76
    Jack Krebs says:

    I succumb to argument by self-evidency. 🙂

    And I will point out that, conversely, I will never get anyplace with Stephen or Barry.

    But I am firmly convinced that it is not self-evident that transcendent moral standards exist.

  77. 77
    benkeshet says:

    Very informative BarryA. Thanks for posting.

    The issue of moral accountability to an objective standard, in extreme form, is what ultimately drove me from materialistic naturalism to Theism.

    In contrast to Leo, who glibly implies that mass murder may be okay, even as a naturalist it was self-evident to me that the murderous Nazi Third Reich inflicted untold criminal horror on millions of humans like me, including guiltless children.

    At the same time the naturalism I espoused compounded the issue by saying that when you die you are dead forever – every human’s sentient self-awareness ceases evermore upon death.

    My conflict as a naturalist was this:

    For both Nazis and their murdered victims, senseless oblivion is their everlasting fate.
    Nazi murderers and victims alike share the eternal void equally.
    Multitudes of Nazis received no punishment for their cruel deeds, but none of the millions of murdered victims will ever receive compensation for being deprived of life against their will.

    To me the implications were clear with two basic choices:

    1) As a materialistic naturalist death is the eternal end and the preceding life is essentially meaningless. For multiplied millions of fellow humans life is the cruelest hoax ever devised and perpetrated. (Ask them if Hitler, Stalin and Mao were following some “natural law.”)
    2) Perhaps death is not the end, but there actually is a Great Judge who will punish and compensate. There certainly has been testimony of such judgment in the world for millennia.

    I decided to check out number 2 and attempt communication with this “Great Judge.” I was assuredly answered.

  78. 78
    StephenB says:

    —–Barry A: “You are wasting your time with Jack Krebs and Bob O’H. Let me quote Lewis again [see 21] from The Abolition of Man.”

    —–“Stephen, you are making a valiant effort to prove that which cannot be proved. If someone denies that which is self-evident, as Bob and Jack have done, by definition there is no arguing with them, because argument absolutely depends upon a common frame of reference from which to argue. And that common frame of reference in turn depends upon accepting as self-evident that which is self-evident.”

    Yes, I have read Lewis and found him compelling in this context. G.K. Chesterton also made the same point in his own way. I agree that self evident truths cannot be proven, nor do they lend themselves to “evidence.” Indeed, it is the in the act of denyting self evident truths and then demanding evidence for their existence that irrational people reveal their irrationality.

  79. 79
    dreamwalker007 says:

    “But at least they can give a rational account for the basis of their morality, i.e., the transcendent standard exists. All of our moral choices are either consistent with that standard or inconsistent with that standard.”

    Yes, but how can you know that what people say about this standard is good? Heck, I could write out a list of commandments, say they were from god, and how would you be able to argue with me? How could the only thing making murder wrong be that it just happened to be against the “transcendent standard”?

    I’ll agree that it’s much easier to get people to follow a moral code if you get to claim it’s an order from god/the supernatural. But ultimately, you need to justify WHY things are good and bad.

    Ultimately it comes down to whether certain actions affect people positively or negatively.

  80. 80
    Charles says:

    Jack Krebs @ 75:

    But I am firmly convinced that it is not self-evident that transcendent moral standards exist.

    On what self-evidenciary basis do you dismiss that such transcendent moral standards were transmitted to humans from a transcendent God?

    The fact of the Bible’s existence as a book, is self-evident.

    The fact that God therein declares Himself to be creator, is self-evident.

    The fact that God therein transmitted moral standards, is self-evident.

    The fact that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, reiterated and retransmitted those moral standards, is self-evident.

    Understandbly, you dismiss all that as unauthentic and mere myth, albeit perhaps very old written down myth.

    And yet, the fact remains that transcendant God gave transcendent information to Daniel 564 years in advance that God’s only begotten Son, the Messiah Prince would come.

    It is provably true that Daniel wrote down a transcendent prophecy 564 years in advance of it’s exact fulfilment at the baptism in the Jordan river of Jesus Christ.:

    “Daniel’s exact foretelling, unmistakably fulfilled in a unique confluence of events, could only be foreknown and revealed to Daniel by God. It is in fulfilled biblical prophecy (the foretelling of future events controlled and known only by God, and verified after the fact) that we can recognize God’s unforgeable “signature” to the Bible, and the authenticity God demonstrates in fulfilled prophecy can be extended to as yet unfulfilled prophecy and the entire Bible as well.”

    So, absent any disproof of the archaeological and historical evidence presented therein (and I would caution you to not presume until you have carefully reviewed the factual evidence presented and arguments refuted), why then is it not self-evident to you that only a transcendant God could so authenticate His existence and that of His Son, and the concomitant transmitals of their transcendent moral standards to us?

    Reiterating then, on what self-evidenciary basis do you dismiss that such transcendent moral standards were transmitted to humans from a transcendent God?

  81. 81
    leo says:

    benkeshet,

    I course I didn’t not state that mass murder is okay for ME. The entire point is that mass murder MUST have been okay for THEM. Therefore, if this ‘Natural Law’ does exist and if it is ‘in our bones’ as had been stated earlier, that does not mean that the way it is interpreted in practice is any less subjective than if one did not exist at all.

    Assuming the intelligence whom designed us is the same that designed the Natural Law, said intelligence gave us no way that we can objectively apply that law, because each situation has to be filtered through our conscience, which is a subjective filter. Clearly if the Natural Law does exist, each individual interprets it through their own experience, which will differ the interpretation.

    In this respect, we can never objectively determine what the ‘true’ Natural Law is (unless, as DaveScot stated earlier, said creator tells us INDIVIDUALLY and not filtered through someone else’s subjective experience), so in practice we must (and do) live as if that Natural Law is ultimately unknowable and arrive at moral standards that are consensus, subjective, opinions which constantly shift with time and culture. This is, of course, living as if it did not exist in the first place.

  82. 82
    specs says:

    If someone denies that which is self-evident, as Bob and Jack have done, by definition there is no arguing with them, because argument absolutely depends upon a common frame of reference from which to argue.

    Yes. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge the rational simplicity of the argument “we just do” is not going to be open to your logic.

  83. 83
    StephenB says:

    —–Jack: I succumb to argument by self-evidency.

    —–And I will point out that, conversely, I will never get anyplace with Stephen or Barry.

    —–But I am firmly convinced that it is not self-evident that transcendent moral standards exist.

    What is self evident is IF there are no transcendent moral truths, then there is no morality.

    What is self evident is that IF the universe is not rational, then it is futile to try to understand it using rational principles.

    What is self evident is that IF the law of non-contradiction is false, then science is impossible, communication is impossible, and rationality itself is impossible.

    What is self evident is that IF we deny these and other first principles, then it makes no sense to argue on behalf of anything for any reason.

  84. 84
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm:

    Checking out on putting up AVG 8.0

    I see there is a basic conceptual challenge with the idea of self-evident truth. Truths that we see are necessarily so, upon inspecting and properly understanding what is claimed; on pain of self referential absurdity. One may deny or dismiss, but only to thus expose oneself as utterly and blatantly confused.

    Try the claim I suggested, following Josiah Royce: error exists.

    Try to deny it, and see where it lands you — it is undeniably true and bound up in the concepts of truth, reference and error as failure of said reference. Once we have an experiential basis to have a functioning consciousness and mind so we understand truth and error, we see that this proposition is so, is undeniably so [on pain of absurdity], is thus necessarily so, and is not provable by reference to other propositions. (Other propositions and arguments rely upon it, usually implicitly!)

    By contrast, that any particular individual may be wise or foolish in any given situation is a matter to be shown by testing and is a claim that is not necessarily so on pain of obvious absurdity on attempted denial.

    Again, at the next level, as Mortimer Adler aptly observed on “little errors in the beginning”:

    In addition to merely verbal statements which, as tautologies, are uninstructive and need no support beyond the rules of language, and in addition to instructive statements which need support and certification, either from experience or by reasoning, there is a third class of statements which are non-tautological or instructive, on the one hand, and are also indemonstrable or self-evidently true, on the other. These are the statements that Euclid called “common notions,” that Aristotle called “axioms” or “first principles,” and that mediaeval thinkers called “propositions per se nota.”

    One example will suffice to make this clear — the axiom or selfevident truth that a finite whole is greater than any of its parts. This proposition states our understanding of the relation between a finite whole and its parts. It is not a statement about the word “whole” or the word “part” but rather about our understanding of wholes and parts and their relation. All of the operative terms in the proposition are indefinable. We cannot express our understanding of a whole without reference to our understanding of its parts and our understanding that it is greater than any of its parts. We cannot express our understanding of parts without reference to our understanding of wholes and our understanding that a part is less than the whole of which it is a part.

    When our understanding of an object that is indefinable (e.g., a whole) involves our understanding of another object that is indefinable (e.g., a part), and of the relation between them, that understanding is expressed in a self-evident proposition which is not trifling, uninstructive, or analytic, in Locke’s sense or Kant’s, for no definitions are involved. Nor is it a synthetic a priori judgment in Kant’s sense, even though it has incorrigible certitude; and it is certainly not synthetic a posteriori since, being intrinsically indemonstrable, it cannot be supported by statements offering empirical evidence or reasons.

    The contemporary denial that there are any indisputable statements which are not merely verbal or tautological, together with the contemporary assertion that all non-tautological statements require extrinsic support or certification and that none has incorrigible certitude, is therefore falsified by the existence of a third type of statement, exemplified by the axiom or self-evident truth that a finite whole is greater than any of its parts, or that a part is less than the finite whole to which it belongs. It could as readily be exemplified by the self-evident truth that the good is the desirable, or that the desirable is the good — a statement that is known to be true entirely from an understanding of its terms, both of which are indefinables. One cannot say what the good is except by reference to desire, or what desire is except by reference to the good. The understanding of either involves the understanding of the other, and the understanding of both, each in relation to the other, is expressed in a proposition per se nota, i.e., self-evident or known to be true as soon as its terms are understood.

    Such propositions are neither analytic nor synthetic in the modern sense of that dichotomy; for the predicate is neither contained in the definition of the subject, nor does it lie entirely outside the meaning of the subject. Axioms or self-evident truths are, furthermore, truths about objects understood, objects that can have instantiation in reality, and so they are not merely verbal. They are not a priori because they are based on experience, as all our knowledge and understanding is; yet they are not empirical or a posteriori in the sense that they can be falsified by experience or require empirical investigation for their confirmation. The little error in the beginning, which consists in a non-exhaustive dichotomy mistakenly regarded as exhaustive, is corrected when we substitute for it a trichotomy that distinguishes (i) merely verbal tautologies, (ii) statements of fact that require empirical support and can be empirically falsified, (iii) axiomatic statements, expressing indemonstrable truths of understanding which, while based upon experience, do not require empirical support and cannot be empirically falsified.[6]

    GEM of TKI

  85. 85
    SteveB says:

    My post from this morning appears to be stuck in the filter. Trying again with apologies for the double posting…

    Jack Krebs,

    You seem to be asking your questions as if the TSAs have an obligation to produce a treatise on epistemology for your considered review while you have the freedom to sit on the sidelines and ask academic questions—as if you’re not obligated to engage with moral issues personally.

    Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. We’re all in the game and as such the “written in the heart” answer that some have proposed is still better than your non-answer. So, I’d like to propose that we approach your questions from the following practical situation.

    One of the Russian novelists (I forget which one) tells the story about a soldier who wrenches a baby from his screaming mother’s arms, tosses him into the air, and then catches the child on his bayonet as she looks on.

    Is this event:
    1. Wrong, period. Regardless of time, place, culture, reason or any other extenuating circumstance you care to name (i.e., it reflects a transcendent moral value)
    2. Wrong “for the mother” but right “for the soldier” (the “wrong for you but right for me” argument is very much in vogue on college campuses these days)
    3. The soldier’s actions “make me uncomfortable” but I can’t say that he’s wrong (variation on #2)
    4. Not possible to evaluate because we can’t know if morals are transcendent or not.
    5. Traditional morality is without grounding because it’s just an adaptation. (EO Wilson’s view)
    6. Other.

    I know what my answer is. Please provide yours and justify how you know which is correct.

  86. 86
    BarryA says:

    Dreamwalker007 writes: “but how can you know that what people say about this standard is good?”

    You speak as if we are writing on a tabula rasa (i.e., blank slate). We are not. The Tao is not secret knowledge. Indeed, I have argued all along that the basic propositions of the Tao are known by all. The precepts of the Tao are “what you can’t not know,” as Dr. J. Budziszewski.

    Dreamwalker007 continues: “Heck, I could write out a list of commandments, say they were from god, and how would you be able to argue with me?”

    Not true. The unspoken premise of your statement is that the Tao is arbitrary, that it is only one moral system among many possible moral systems. It is not. To use Lewis’ example, try to think of a moral code in which murder is admired and rape applauded. It is literally unthinkable.

    Dreamwalker007 continues: “How could the only thing making murder wrong be that it just happened to be against the ‘transcendent standard’?”

    Murder does not “just happen” to be against the Tao. Once again, you are assuming the Tao is arbitrary. It is not. The proscription on murder is part of the very fabric of the universe in which we exist.

    Dreamwalker now blithers: “I’ll agree that it’s much easier to get people to follow a moral code if you get to claim it’s an order from god/the supernatural.”

    I never claimed the Tao was an order from God or DaveScott’s “bearded thunderer.” I simply claim the Tao exists, and you have provided no argument to refute that claim. The source of the Tao is a separate question.

    Dreamwalker says: “But ultimately, you need to justify WHY things are good and bad.”

    ARRRRRG! Have you listened to nothing that has been said? The Tao does NOT need to be justified. The Tao is self-evident and therefore self-justifying. You cannot go behind the Tao. Lewis again: “If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. Similarly if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.”

    Dreamwalker concludes: “Ultimately it comes down to whether certain actions affect people positively or negatively.”

    Sigh. The phrase “whether certain actions affect people positively or negatively” is just another way of saying “whether certain actions are good or bad,” which takes us right back to the beginning. It is not a helpful question.

  87. 87
    Jack Krebs says:

    to Stephen:

    It’s Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamozov, I believe, and it’s wrong, period, – option 1.

    I imagine you agree.

    However,

    1. I don’t think you can justify your answer in any different way than I can. As I’ve repeatedly said, your belief that there is some transcendent moral standard that justifies your answer is not relevant because you don’t really know that such transcendental morals exist.

    2. And I’m sure I can’t justify my answer to your satisfaction, either, because to you justification fails if it doesn’t reference some transcendental moral standard.

    Interestingly enough, it was reading The Brothers Karamozov in high school that was part of getting me interested in existentialism: we make moral choices based on a conglomeration of things that make up our nature, but ultimately we choose, period, without recourse to transcendent standards. We are condemned to be free (said Camus or Sartre or someone like that.)

    I choose my moral standards. I do my best to pay attention to what others say on the matter, I pay attention to the expression of my inner nature, and I balance, as all humans must, a hierarchy of human components, from basic physiological needs to the most abstract and non-ego bound concepts: but ultimately I choose, and so do you. We’re in the same boat in that regard.

  88. 88
    StephenB says:

    —–Jack Krebs: “to Stephen:

    It’s Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamozov, I believe, and it’s wrong, period, – option 1.”

    While my namesake SteveB does me proud, I must acknowledge that we are not the same person. Since his argument has a slightly different texture than mine, I will let mine rest for a while and allow his to develop.

  89. 89
    BarryA says:

    Jack Krebs writes: “I choose my moral standards.”

    Jack, this is an interesting statement. Are you suggesting that it is possible for you to choose moral standards in which it is good for the soldier to kill the baby?

  90. 90
    toc says:

    Jack Krebs,
    Your appeal is nihilistic. The next time someone does something you think wrong you will tell yourself that you don’t believe it is a problem, but you know it is a problem. However you argue, BarryA is quite correct; there is no common ground, which is precisely the problem. You are appealing to something that apparently doesn’t exist and you argue your point as if it does.

    Your comments remind me of the late Richard Rorty’s views of literary deconstruction. He denied value to the very books he’d written, at least from his own point of view as a writer. Postmodernists swooned all over him by admitting this. But I cannot believe he meant it. Why write the books? He actually had no intent? Did he have intent in anything in his life, including his diatribes against religious people and his appeal to his fellow academics:

    Rorty argued that secular professors in the universities ought “to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own.” He also noted that students are fortunate to find themselves under the control “of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.” Indeed, parents who send their children to college should recognize that as professors “we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.”

    I wonder if he meant for that to be understood as he said it.

    I’m afraid the appeal of Existentialism is a dead end also. The existentialist simply cannot live the way he says he believes. Sartre failed as an existentialist as soon as he pronounced “should” at the end of his life for being too interested in sex and making moral-political statements about what is right and wrong in this and that government. How did he come up with that?

    Indeed, you do choose your standards for yourself. But you choose standards for others also. And when you do, you simply end up at the same well looking for water. You used the word “must” in your last paragraph and then followed it with a litany of constructs for acquiring values and standards. So, to what, or to whom, are appealing to here? How did you reach the conclusion “that all humans must” do something that you alone may think is rational?

  91. 91
    Jack Krebs says:

    Oops – got my Steve’s and Stephen’s confused. My bad.

    And no, my approach is not nihilistic – the absence of transcendental standards does not lead to or leave one with nihilism.

    And no to Barry’s question – I could not choose moral standards that would make it “good” for the soldier to kill the baby.

    And yes, I see there is no common ground here because Barry, StephenB and others believe that it is self-evident that it is self-evident that … and so on that transcendental moral standards exist, and I don’t think that is self-evdient at all.

    And my mentioning of a major point of existentialism involving the important role of choice did not mean that I want to offer the offer the overall philosophy of Sartre or Camus as my position.

    For what it’s worth, I’ll mention that, as a high school teachers, one of the main things I do, aside from actually teaching math, is to help kids grow up well by helping them develop character. There are a whole bunch of morals and values I have, and work to develop in others, that I’m sure we all share.

    Just because I don’t believe in transcendent morals doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in a common, universal ground for human morality. I am a strong believer in, and supporter of, the need for people to engage the world morally, and I believe that when people do engage the world morally, a certain commonality arises even though cultural and individual differences will still exist.

    But I don’t think that a transcendent reality is necessary to explain that commonality. In fact, I think that if you TSA’s were to somehow drop your belief in a transcendent reality this minute, your moral behavior would not change a bit. In my opinion, your belief in a transcendent reality and the logical explanations you have built to defend it are philosophical overlays on top of your moral nature, arising after the fact and not before it, adding a false sense of certainty.

  92. 92
    JPCollado says:

    Does the Darwinian religion have a Bruce Olson equivalent?

  93. 93
    JPCollado says:

    Maybe I should rephrase and ask,

    “Can the ethics of materialism produce someone like an Olson or a Helen Roseveare or…?

  94. 94
    BarryA says:

    Jack Krebs writes: “I could not choose moral standards that would make it ‘good’ for the soldier to kill the baby.”

    Even more interesting. One final question. You say “I could not choose . . .” OK. But what about our soldier? Is he free to choose moral standards just like you, including moral standards in which baby killing is good?

  95. 95
    StephenB says:

    —–“And yes, I see there is no common ground here because Barry, StephenB and others believe that it is self-evident that it is self-evident that … and so on that transcendental moral standards exist, and I don’t think that is self-evdient at all.”

    I take it, then, that you reject the principle of “natural rights,” which are based on the natural moral law.

  96. 96
    Jack Krebs says:

    BarryA writes,

    Even more interesting. One final question. You say “I could not choose . . .” OK. But what about our soldier? Is he free to choose moral standards just like you, including moral standards in which baby killing is good?

    He is free to choose, and he may think what he does is “good,” but I will not only strenuously disagree, I will also do what I can to get society as a whole to agree with me – agree with me enough to do something about it in terms of punishment and prevention.

    Let’s get more realistic. I am close to being a pacifist when it comes to war: I believe very strongly that it is wrong to cause deliberate pain, suffering and death to others, including non-combantant civilians. I can imagine a war that I would support (such as WW II), but I don’t think any of the wars we’ve fought since then qualify.

    Now I know there are people, many of them and probably some of you, that support the current wars that are maiming and killing countless thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such people are free to support that killing, and to create reasons why they think that is, on balance, the right thing to do, but I think they are quite wrong.

    I strongly support the admonition that “thou shalt not kill” even though I don’t believe it is a transcendent truth handed down by God.

    Are those of you who believe in this commandment as a transcendent truth opponents of war? – especially our currents one? If not, why not. If not, what “transcendent truth” allows you to support the killing of thousands in our current wars. Are you part of the those who think those wars are a moral outrage, or not?

  97. 97
    mike1962 says:

    BarryA: Are you suggesting that it is possible for you to choose moral standards in which it is good for the soldier to kill the baby?

    Was any transcendent morality violated when Yahweh orderded Israel to kill all the Midianite woman and children?

  98. 98
    Jack Krebs says:

    to StephenB, who asks. “I take it, then, that you reject the principle of “natural rights,” which are based on the natural moral law.”

    I’ve made it clear that I don’t think we can know whether there are transcendent moral standards, and I certainly don’t think that the existence of such is “self-evident.”

    I assume in the question above you are using “natural” to mean transcendent, in which case I’ve already answered that question.

    What is your answer to the question I have asked: are our current wars morally justified by some self-evident transcendent truth? If so, what truth, and how does it override the commandment that “thou shalt not kill?”

  99. 99
    vividblue says:

    “Are those of you who believe in this commandment as a transcendent truth opponents of war? – especially our currents one? If not, why not. If not, what “transcendent truth” allows you to support the killing of thousands in our current wars. Are you part of the those who think those wars are a moral outrage, or not?”

    Jack why do I think you are one of those people who want to save the whales and allow the abortion of fetuses (babies)?

    Regarding your question about the war you are missing the point. Those that argue for an absolute standard know that there actually is a correct stance regarding the morality or lack of morality of this war. What our views regarding this war does not change that. Those that support the war may be wrong and vice versa so your question is really just a diversion.

    BTW define “knowable” please.

    Vivid

  100. 100
    Charles says:

    Jack Krebs @ 96:

    He is free to choose, and he may think what he does is “good,” but I will not only strenuously disagree, I will also do what I can to get society as a whole to agree with me – agree with me enough to do something about it in terms of punishment and prevention.

    Assuming, hypothetically, all the relevant facts can be established and are stipulated by all, on what basis should everyone agree with you in terms of punishment and prevention?

    What self-evident moral standard do you assert such that, assuming the facts are uncontested, any consequences and judgements on others ought to be as you propose?

    Why should your standard (whatever that is) be adopted by everyone? Why should no one dispute the applicability of your moral standard? Why should your moral standard be universally agreed?

    Why should it be self-evident to the soldier that he is “guilty” (regardless of his having being free to choose)?

  101. 101
    Jack Krebs says:

    to Vivid:

    If my question was a diversion, was BarryA’s question about the soldier in the Brother Karamazov also a diversion? Barry was asking me about the issue of making moral choices in the absence of a belief in transcendent moral standards by bringing up a fictional situation, and I changed the situation to a real one so as to make the discussion more relevant and meaningful.

    I also stated where I stand, and am now asking those of you in belief in transcendent moral standards to tell me what you think.

    Your answer, Vivid, is interesting: you believe that there is a transcendent moral position on these wars, and presumably on the individual acts of killing that go on in them, but that we can’t know it and might be wrong. Obviously, therefore, you don’t believe that in this case the relevant moral standard is self-evident.

    Also, you don’t address the issue that the commandment “thou shalt not kill” is being violated here. That’s a pretty major transcendent moral standard for those who believe in such things. Can you even give an outline of a rationale that invokes other transcendent standards that might explain why the killing going on in those wars might be morally justified?

    Also, you write,

    Jack why do I think you are one of those people who want to save the whales and allow the abortion of fetuses (babies)?

    I’m going to take that as a real question, rather than as a snide rhetorical question, which is the what I think you intended.

    I think you think that I am “one of those people who want to save the whales and allow the abortion of fetuses (babies)” because you are responding to your stereotypes about what kind of person you think I am based on what you know about my beliefs about science and metaphysics. In fact, you know nothing about my position on abortion or on whales. I suggest you stick with discussion of the issues and leave your personal prejudices about me out of it.

  102. 102
    allanius says:

    Jack, Jack; I used to reach up and shake the sides of my crib when I dealt with such problems. Your seeming conundrum is based on the value of life: it is wrong to kill (presumably). Does this mean you accept that life has value? If so, then you have simply proven the point of the original post. If not, then you have also proven the point of the original post. (Now, don’t disappoint me…)

  103. 103
    Jack Krebs says:

    to Charles:

    You write,

    Assuming, hypothetically, all the relevant facts can be established and are stipulated by all, on what basis should everyone agree with you in terms of punishment and prevention?

    What self-evident moral standard do you assert such that, assuming the facts are uncontested, any consequences and judgements on others ought to be as you propose?

    Why should your standard (whatever that is) be adopted by everyone? Why should no one dispute the applicability of your moral standard? Why should your moral standard be universally agreed?

    You are misinterpreting what I said. I don’t believe in self-evident transcendent moral standards, so I am obviously not claiming that such apply here. What I am saying is that I would do my best to both forthrightly state and take a stand for my moral position and also try to persuade others to join me. That’s all I, or anyone, can do. I’m not claiming that I have some special insight into the Truth, or that I have some special right to claim what “ought” to be the case. But I can take a stand and do all that I can to get others to take a stand with me.

  104. 104
    Jack Krebs says:

    And at allanius, who writes, “Does this mean you accept that life has value? If so, then you have simply proven the point of the original post.”

    No. One can value life without there being a transcendent reality. Being alive is a really wonderful thing – it’s incredibly neat and challenging and full of satisfactions on all levels, and I treasure my opportunity. Likewise, as I have grown I have extended my sense of self to include a connectedness to all human beings, and I now choose (and have for many years) to also value their lives. I have no idea whether a transcendent reality exists or not, but I don’t see that as affecting the issue of whether I value life or not.

  105. 105
    Charles says:

    jack krebs @ 103:

    What I am saying is that I would do my best to both forthrightly state and take a stand for my moral position and also try to persuade others to join me. That’s all I, or anyone, can do. I’m not claiming that I have some special insight into the Truth, or that I have some special right to claim what “ought” to be the case. But I can take a stand and do all that I can to get others to take a stand with me.

    Yes, I understand you’re not claiming some special insight insight or right.

    However you do hope to persuade others to agree with you. On what basis should the soldier realize he has been immoral and agree with you? On what basis should I agree with you?

    With what moral standard do you hope to persuade others to your point of view?

  106. 106
    JPCollado says:

    mike1962:
    “Was any transcendent morality violated when Yahweh orderded Israel to kill all the Midianite woman and children?”

    Apparently, the Midianites were not exterminated as they re-appear years later as a major force to contend with (e.g., book of Judges). One interpretation, if I am not mistaken, is their having a connection with the Nephilim since these also re-appear in the post-flood record even though they were supposedly extinguished during the flood, which has all the indications of a supernatural origin. The Nephilim, according to tradition and the pseudoepigraphical book of Enoch, were these freaks-of-nature born out of the unnatural union between angels and women, spirits toying with human DNA if you will.

    Jewish sacred writings do not present the Nephilim under favorable light. The book of Enoch gives a glimpse as to why. In almost all the cases where Yahweh calls for the extermination of a group of people, somehow the Nephilim were involved.

    For one, during Moses’ time, the Israelites began to mingle with the Midianites and eventually commit the same kinds of sins that Amalekites, and the Moabites and all the other “ites” were known for, continuing all the way to the times of the Judges, when the Israelites saw themselves struggling to survive against a now more powerful and determined agressor who wanted to wipe them off the face of the planet.

    I guess what I am trying to say is, since we are dealing with phisophical and theological subjects, that there could be no such thing as a transcendant being violating a “transcendant morality.”

    If the God of the Bible is a being who exists outside space and time, I guess he is in a far better position to see things that may not be so clear to those of us who are in the outside trying to look in (if that makes any sense).

    If you recall, a prophecy was given to Adamas in the book of Genesis about how the serpent will try to destroy the seed:

    “From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers. You will strike his heel, but he will crush your head” Gen 3:15 (TLB)

    This has been an ongoing battle from the Garden all the way to Sinai up to Golgotha: how the serpent has tried in vain to annihilate the Promise.

    It was through the seed of Abraham that this promise was to be fulfilled. And all we see in the intervening pages of the Pentateuch is the enemy trying to obliterate any chances of that happening.

    Hence, the measures that were taken by a transcendant being who saw the calculable future.

  107. 107
    BarryA says:

    I am gaveling the Old Testament discussion. It is a distraction.

  108. 108
    BarryA says:

    Please post further comments on this topic under my new post “Is Murdering Babies Ever Good?”

  109. 109
    kairosfocus says:

    Pardon BarryA:

    This thread aptly — and, ever so sadly — illustrates the precise point of self-evidence in truth claims, general or moral.

    Namely, the price one pays for rejecting self-evident truth is that one descends inot a morass of absurdity and confusion, tot he point where one cannot accept the obvious.

    One may indeed choose to be absurd, but that absurdity itself is the strongest evidence that the Tao is as advertised; self-evidently true.

    GEM of TKI

  110. 110
    Jack Krebs says:

    Two quick comments:

    1. I have not descended into a mass of confusion or absurdity.

    2. I’d be glad to have further discussion here.

    A question to Barry: why not start a thread called “Is killing civilians in war ever good?”

  111. 111
    Jack Krebs says:

    Actually, I take back the question I asked Barry.

    The reason is that the subject of this thread is not whether a particular action is good or not, but rather the claim that one can only know what is good if one believes in transcendent moral standards. That is the proposition that I am arguing against.

    I am making two points:

    1. You can’t know whether transcendent moral standards exist. The argument that they are self-evident and are just “known in the heart” doesn’t work.

    2. One doesn’t have to believe in transcendent moral standards to have moral standards.

    I’ve made quite a few statements in defense of these two points in the above posts. I’ve also asked a question that I think highlights the problem: how does one who believes in the transcendent truth “thou shall not kill” handle the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the killing and maiming of thousands of non-combatant civilians (including babies) therein. I say those wars are immoral.

  112. 112
    SteveB says:

    Jack Krebs,
    Thanks for the great discussion Jack, and yes, it was Dostoyevsky, which I remembered soon after I pressed “submit.” Story of my life…

    He [the soldier] is free to choose, and he may think what he does is “good,” but I will not only strenuously disagree, I will also do what I can to get society as a whole to agree with me – agree with me enough to do something about it in terms of punishment and prevention.

    Imagine attempting to reason with such a soldier: as you strenuously disagree, would you expect that he SHOULD see it your way, that he should recognize that his actions are reprehensible, and that he should choose another course? Furthermore, if the discussion grew to a wider audience would you have the same expectations of anyone who might become involved?

    Seems to me you have two basic options:
    (1) Appeal to a standard that is shared by both of you, that is known by the soldier as well as you, but that for whatever reason, he is choosing not to follow. This standard, which you yourself seem to at least recognize (in selecting Option 1)* is independent of time, culture and circumstance—ie, a transcendent standard.
    (2) Appeal to something non-transcendent—something rooted in time, culture and circumstance like political power, personal pursuasiveness or idiosyncratic opinion.

    If you make a #2-style appeal, what’s to keep the soldier from asking (legitimately, IMO), “Why should I give a damn about your opinion? I make moral choices based on a conglomeration of things that make up my nature, but ultimately I choose, period, without recourse to transcendent standards…

    I choose, period. You choose, I choose, and I choose to continue. To hell with your standard.”

    How do you answer the soldier?

    -Steve (not Stephen) B (only my mother and great aunt still call me Stephen… 😉

    *Yes, this was my choice too. See, we do have common ground ;-), and thus, while I agree with much of Barry’s line of reasoning, we part company on this point. Our shared humanity guarantees at least some amount of common ground upon which to have these discussions. Thanks again, -sb.

  113. 113
    Borne says:

    A denial of self-evident truths or first truths is a denial of rationality itself. What is the basis of rationality? Logic absolutes. Logical absolutes exist therefore rationality exists. But if logical absolutes exist they too are transcendent for logic is not an attribute of matter or energy in any combination. It is an attribute of mind only. Rocks are not logical. Atoms are not logical. They are as they are.

    I’m a bit amazed that this is not obvious. However, in the post-modern context where people have been long brain-washed into believing there are no absolutes it is understandable.

    All the arguments against what Barry has said here are nothing more, in their assumptions and implications, than a denial of absolutes.

    To deny the existence of absolutes – logical or moral – requires intrinsic contradiction with reality. For, one must be absolutely sure there are no absolutes.

    Iow, denial of self-evident or first truths is a form of willful insanity (denial of reality). Those who deny them assume them in their very denial.

    No argument on any subject is possible without absolutes, as I state often here.

  114. 114
    StephenB says:

    Jack Krebs: OK you win. I will take a leave of absence from the current thread and repeat the question. What is your metaphysical (materialism, dualism etc.) position and what is your stance on abortion (pro-choice, pro-life)?

  115. 115
    Jack Krebs says:

    Thanks Stephen, although I’m not sure that posting over here has anything to do with anyone winning or losing anything.

    What you wrote over there was (combining two posts):

    What is your metaphysical position and how do you feel about abortion? Inasmuch as there are only two options (metaphysical dualism, metaphysical materialism) (pro-choice, pro-life), the answer is bound to be instructive. [and] It is conceivable that someone might be a metaphysical idealist, but that doesn’t seem very likely for a Darwin[i]st.

    First of all, I don’t agree that there are just two options, and I don’t know what you mean when you include metaphysical idealist as a third option, and I don’t know what you mean by “Darwinist” because most people on this forum use that as a synonym for materialist (which is wrong, in my opinion.) But maybe further discussion will clarify things.

    As I think I have made clear throughout this thread (although I haven’t labeled myself thusly), I think I could say I am a strong agnostic: although I feel pretty certain that the material world we experience is likely to have some metaphysical component behind/beyond/embedded in it, I don’t think we human beings can know what that metaphysical reality is. That is why I am strongly arguing in this thread that we can’t know that transcendental truths exist, and that we certainly can’t say that they are self-evident. However, as I said earlier, I don’t believe that it is self-evident that transcendental truths don’t exist either. To me, if anything is self-evident, it is the fact that we don’t know and can’t know the nature of the transcendental, if in fact it does exist.

    Hopefully that clarifies a few things, and perhaps can lead to further discussion.

    Also, I refuse to discuss abortion, in part because that is just more stuff about killing babies, and it’s become way too much of a hot-button, black-and-white issue. I have brought up the moral issue of killing people, especially non-combatants, in war, and that is a moral issue I’m willing to discuss.

  116. 116
    Jack Krebs says:

    Also, as to your point that there are only two choices metaphysical dualism and materialism, it seems to me that is too simplistic because there are many two possible metaphysical possibilities. For instance, theism (which itself has various ideas about the nature of God and his interaction with the material world) can be contrasted to an impersonal and diffuse metaphysical reality as might be found in Taoism (not the C.S. Lewis version, but the real version such as is described in the I Ching), or the metaphysics of the other Eastern religions, or a purely Platonic reality of abstract laws underlying the physical world but with no personal or moral components. All of these are possibilities that have been seriously entertained and elaborated on by various substantial thinkers. (And some of these are more appealing, and seem more likely, to me than others: despite my strong agnostic position, I have found some of these more useful to explore than others.)

    So just contrasting materialism with non-materialism is not very instructive, I think. It limits and dichotomizes the discussion too much.

  117. 117
    vividblue says:

    The reason is that the subject of this thread is not whether a particular action is good or not, but rather the claim that one can only know what is good if one believes in transcendent moral standards. That is the proposition that I am arguing against.

    I don’t think that is the main thrust of this thread but that’s just me. I see three main themes. 1) Objective moral standards do exist. 2) We know this because it is self evident. 3) That those who deny the existence of objective moral standards act as if they do indeed exist.

    Krebs: “I’m not claiming that I have some special insight into the Truth, or that I have some special right to claim what “ought” to be the case.”

    Ok Jack lets examine this statement in light of the current Iraqi war. In a previous thread you said the only war you would have supported was WW2. For arguments sake I will assume you are against the Iraqi war. Now if you do not have any special insight into the truth that we should not be engaging in this war what possible argument could you put forth against it? Furthermore if you do not have any special right to claim that we “ought” not be there how can you argue that we “ought” not be there?

    Krebs: “ You can’t know whether transcendent moral standards exist. The argument that they are self-evident and are just “known in the heart” doesn’t work.”

    How do you know one cant know whether transcendent moral standards exist? Furthermore what differentiates the knowable from the unknowable?

    Krebs: “The argument that they are self-evident and are just “known in the heart” doesn’t work.”

    Why is the argument that they are self evident not work?

    Krebs: “I suggest you stick with discussion of the issues and leave your personal prejudices about me out of it.”

    Excellent advise, I was out of line and I apologize.

    Vivid

  118. 118
    StephenB says:

    —–Jack Krebs: “First of all, I don’t agree that there are just two options, and I don’t know what you mean when you include metaphysical idealist as a third option, and I don’t know what you mean by “Darwinist” because most people on this forum use that as a synonym for materialist (which is wrong, in my opinion.) But maybe further discussion will clarify things.”

    I use Darwinist to mean anyone who thinks that evolution can occur without any Divine principle directing it, as opposed to anyone who believes that God may have directed it. Most Darwinists prefer to leave the matter ambiguous so as to muddy the debate waters.

    —–“As I think I have made clear throughout this thread (although I haven’t labeled myself thusly), I think I could say I am a strong agnostic: although I feel pretty certain that the material world we experience is likely to have some metaphysical component behind/beyond/embedded in it, I don’t think we human beings can know what that metaphysical reality is. That is why I am strongly arguing in this thread that we can’t know that transcendental truths exist, and that we certainly can’t say that they are self-evident. However, as I said earlier, I don’t believe that it is self-evident that transcendental truths don’t exist either. To me, if anything is self-evident, it is the fact that we don’t know and can’t know the nature of the transcendental, if in fact it does exist. Hopefully that clarifies a few things, and perhaps can lead to further discussion.”

    If you don’t believe in the non material world of spirit, soul, or mind, then you are a materialist. If memory serves, you have roundly challenged those who believe in minds, insisting that there is no evidence for such a thing, but of course, you have never gone on record of saying that minds don’t exist. If you are not sure, why do you always take the side of materialists and argue against dualists? Frankly, it sounds as if you want to have it both ways, except that all of your initiatives are on the side of materialism.
    When it comes right down to the real gut issues, you seem to always opt for non-disclosure, which lends itself nicely to your agnosticism. It is as if you were saying, “What me, a dogmatist, never? I am too open-minded for that”–except, of course, when intelligent design asks for a place at the table. Then, suddenly you know exactly where you stand, and there is no ambiguity at all in your position. Suddenly, you have all the confidence in the world that your “evidence” and your perception of “science” is irrefutable, yet, curiously enough, you have no confidence at all in the dualistic metaphysics that gave rise to that science in the first place.

    As I have pointed out many times, the metaphysical foundations of science, which, by the way constitute self evident truths, take logical precedence over the science itself and are far more reliable. It all starts with the self-evident truth that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time, a fact that is far more dependable than any scientific discovery you could ever point to. Yet, you cling to your definition of science, while denying its self evident foundations, because the foundations are consistent with metaphysical dualism. So, once again, you say that you are not a materialist, but you always challenge dualism and you never challenge materialism—so, I connect the dots. And, by the way, other than idealism, which has been dead for a long time, materialism and dualism are the only two options.

    —–“Also, I refuse to discuss abortion, in part because that is just more stuff about killing babies, and it’s become way too much of a hot-button, black-and-white issue. I have brought up the moral issue of killing people, especially non-combatants, in war, and that is a moral issue I’m willing to discuss.”

    This appears to be another example of your reluctance to disclose critical information when such information would allow others to scrutinize your position. Most people observing this discussion would think that your willingness to discuss war and your refusal to discuss abortion is just another example of political correctness that doesn’t want to acknowledge itself. Inasmuch as this is a discussion about moral absolutes, and inasmuch as the morality of abortion is a lot less complicated than the morality of war, your reluctance to discuss the matter seems like an evasion.

    Let me share with you a tactic that some like to use. This is not an accusation, merely a report from my own experience. First, the Darwinist refuses to disclose, making it necessary for others to connect the dots in an effort to figure him out. Then, if they get it wrong, the Darwinist can claim the moral high ground by pointing out that only he knows for sure what he believes. If all else fails, he can always disclose his position in such an ambiguous way, that it really amounts to no disclosure at all.

    Now, I do understand that, like most in your camp, you have been bamboozled by the Kantian error. So, it is easy to fall back on epistemological skepticism almost as a matter of habit. I know that most hyper-skeptics are unaware that Kant’s error was refuted at the time he made it and again by Adler in the twentieth century. Further, I appreciate the fact that it is this same kind of skepticism that passes for intellectual sophistication among members of the academy, and it is very difficult to get away from. This is especially true when your peers are ready to pounce on you if you show signs that you believe that the universe is a rational place, meaning, or course, that it may have been designed. Of course, if I was less discreet, I might try to make the case you are more of a pouncer than a pouncee.

    In any case, I have never met a dedicated Darwinist (that would be you) who was not also pro-choice when it comes to abortion. Indeed, I would be willing to gamble that this is your position. To admit it, however, would shed much light on the discussion about your attitudes on moral absolutes. It would make it much more difficult to maintain your skepticism about self-evident truths if you had to defend a pro-choice position, inasmuch as the immorality of abortion is, dare I say it, self evident.

  119. 119
    kairosfocus says:

    JK [and others . . .]

    Without implicitly assuming the existence of absolute and self-evident truths and absolutely and self evidently binding moral obligations, could you show us how you get to:

    1] Truth claims that are true (as opposed to merely believed or perceived), starting with the logical commitments — such as non-contradiction, etc — that allow you to reason and communicate.

    2] Oughts that do not reduce to is-es such as “my choice is . . .” or “my preference is . . .” or “since I [and my ilk] happen to hold power in certain institutions and can make the rules to suit our preferences we can impose that . . . and label it the definition of science, or science education or whatever” (Onlookers, kindly cf here and onward in a recent UD thread on this one.)

    3] Decisions that are real actions not merely the result of neural network noise and mechanical necessities, or personal conditioning or general cultural and biological factors driving us so that we only have the illusion of choice. [Note, without choice that rises above cause-effect bonds, we end up in incoherence on intelligent communication, reasoning and discussion. Cf here.]

    Failing the three above, your position reduces to incoherence and in fact becomes a victim of reductio ad absurdum. Thus, my painful but unfortunately well-warranted term, confusion.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Also note that there is a distinction to be made between whether or not things arte vil, and whether a particular action tainted with evil may or may not be the leasser of evils in a situation. Killing a human is an evil, but shooting a terrorist before he can press the button and blow up dozens in a store in Tel Aviv is the lesser of two evils. So is jumping on a grenade and sacrificing your life to save your platoon.

  120. 120
    Daniel King says:

    StephenB #118:

    As I have pointed out many times, the metaphysical foundations of science, which, by the way constitute self evident truths, take logical precedence over the science itself and are far more reliable. It all starts with the self-evident truth that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time, a fact that is far more dependable than any scientific discovery you could ever point to.

    On the contrary, I suggest that the proposition that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time (the principle of noncontradiction) is a definition. It is self-evident, because the underlying definitions of “true” and “false” refer to contradictory properties. Without rules of language like this, which require consistency in how we use terms, we would be unable to communicate coherently.

    Please list the other the “self-evident truths” that form your so-called “metaphysical foundations of science.”

  121. 121
    StephenB says:

    —–Daniel King: “On the contrary, I suggest that the proposition that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time (the principle of noncontradiction) is a definition. It is self-evident, because the underlying definitions of “true” and “false” refer to contradictory properties. Without rules of language like this, which require consistency in how we use terms, we would be unable to communicate coherently.”

    The law of non-contradiction is a logical prerequisite for reasoning in the abstract. That is why reductio ad absurdum’s and syllogisms work. Without it deductive reasoning is impossible.

    —–“Please list the other the “self-evident truths” that form your so-called “metaphysical foundations of science.”

    How many others to you want? Let’s start with these. We live in a rational universe that we can apprehend using rational principles. The whole is always greater than any one of the parts. Our mathematical calculations correspond to the quantifiable patterns in the universe. Materialists have a way of forgetting that the investigator is not synonymous with the investigation.

  122. 122
    Daniel King says:

    StephenB, I am obliged to you for taking the trouble to respond to my remarks.

    You say,

    The law of non-contradiction is a logical prerequisite for reasoning in the abstract. That is why reductio ad absurdum’s and syllogisms work. Without it deductive reasoning is impossible.

    I say, The law of non-contradiction is a linguistic rule for keeping our discourse coherent. Without coherent discourse, neither deductive nor inductive reasoning are possible.

    I asked,

    Please list the other the “self-evident truths” that form your so-called “metaphysical foundations of science.”

    You answered,

    How many others to you want? Let’s start with these.

    We live in a rational universe that we can apprehend using rational principles.

    Not clear to me what a “rational” universe might be. Why not simply propose that we can (with more or less success) apprehend elements of the universe? Looks like a sensible working assumption to me in any case. But not self-evident or metaphysical.

    The whole is always greater than any one of the parts.

    Another linguistic clarification; in this case, of the properties of the terms “whole” and “part.” Therefore, self-evident. Not metaphysical.

    Our mathematical calculations correspond to the quantifiable patterns in the universe.

    An empirical proposition based on another good working assumption and so far borne out by experience in many cases. Still being tested and always will be. Not at all self-evident! Or metaphysical.

    Materialists have a way of forgetting that the investigator is not synonymous with the investigation.

    An empirical proposition that is not self-evident or metaphysical. (Or comprehensible to me without further explanation.)

    If you have more, bring them on, please.

  123. 123
    StephenB says:

    —–Daniel King: “I say, The law of non-contradiction is a linguistic rule for keeping our discourse coherent. Without coherent discourse, neither deductive nor inductive reasoning are possible.”

    Aristotle, a philosopher not a linguist, discovered the principle and used it as a principle of logic. According to logicians, it is the standard for propositional logic. In logic, “modus ponens” is a valid, simple argument form sometimes referred to as affirming the antecedent or the law of detachment. It is closely related to another valid form of argument, “modus tollens” or “denying the consequent”. It’s a dressed up word for the famous reductio ad absurdum argument.

    Any If/then proposition you can think of is a function of this principle. All of this and much more rests on the proposition that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances. Most people understand this to be true intuitively.

    We also assume that the logic of our mind corresponds to the logic of the world. That is why you can say with confidence that if the streets are wet, if must be raining. We are constantly assuming that truth is the correspondence of the mind to reality.

    —–“Not clear to me what a “rational” universe might be. Why not simply propose that we can (with more or less success) apprehend elements of the universe? Looks like a sensible working assumption to me in any case. But not self-evident or metaphysical.”

    The whole scientific enterprise took off when scientists insisted that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” They assumed, (not proved) that the universe was the kind of place that could be studied systematically. It is not enough to say that “we can apprehend elements of the universe.” The question is, why did all those scientists believe that? It was because they were convinced that a Creator left clues and that we could find those clues if we looked for them. In other words, based on their religious faith, they concluded that the design in the universe was real, meaning that it must have been made with a purpose. Put another way, it is a rational place that can be understood using rational principles. Believe it or not, atheists operate on this assumption every day. They simply take it for granted even as they deny it.

    —–“Daniel King: “If you have more, bring them on, please.”

    There are more, but I think these three will keep us busy enough for a while.

  124. 124
    Jack Krebs says:

    I intend to go back and respond to some of the posts made last night, but I’m going to respond right now to this discussion about the nature of the “self-evident truth of non-contradiction.” In general, I agree with Daniel.

    The law of non-contradiction, that something is either A or not-A, is a logical tool. However it, in and of itself, tells us nothing about the real world. Let me give an example.

    Take the statement “a Point X on the earth’s surface is on a mountain”, or “X is a mountain point” or “X is an M point” for short. Now it is logically true that either X is a mountain point or it is not. But when we apply this statement to the real world we discover that it only applies if there is a clear and unequivocal set of criteria for distinguishing mountain points from non-mountain points, and there are not such. Only if we agree to decide upon some somewhat arbitrary criteria for dividing all points into M points and non-M points does the law of contradiction apply. A point on Longs Peak is clearly an M point, and a point in Limon, Colorado is not, but there are countless points in between that could be clearly be labeled M or not M only if we make some arbitrary decisions to shoehorn the real world into the two halves of the logical dichotomy.

    The more general point about both logic and math is this: their propositions are internally true, but in order to apply them to the real world we have to create a model in which the parts of the logical/mathematical system match up with parts of the real world. This second step – making the model – is not a purely logical operation: it is subject to various decisions on our part about how to name and categorize things.

    Furthermore, if we then draw logical conclusions about the model – a very powerful tool – we still have to test our conclusions against the real world because even though we trust the logic we don’t know for sure whether all the parts of the model are accurate.

    There are other problems with the universal applicability of A or not A. One is that sometimes the original proposition X is an A is meaningless, and therefore its negation is also. For instance, “either the ocean is proud, or it is not proud” is a logically true statement. However , since pride is in fact not a property of oceans, the entire statement is meaninglessly true.

    Another problem: people (and this has taken place in this discussion) often think that is obvious (i.e., self evident) that two things form a comprehensive and mutually exclusive dichotomy: that A and B are the only possibilities for a certain situation. Then they move from A or not-A to A or B, assuming that not-A and B are equivalent, and then declare that the law of non-contradiction supports this dichotomy. I think something of this nature has gone on in this thread when StephenB seems to have declared that one is either a metaphysical dualist or a materialist, so that if one is not a dualist (which he associates with certain properties), then one is a materialist. A tendency to think in A and not-A terms leads to a too simplistic view, in my opinion, when in fact the world (of ideas or physical things) is more complex and doesn’t have such nice sharply defined boundaries.

  125. 125
    vividblue says:

    “The law of non-contradiction, that something is either A or not-A, is a logical tool. However it, in and of itself, tells us nothing about the real world. Let me give an example.”

    I think a better definition of the law of noncontradiction is that A cannot be A and non A at the same time and in the same relationship.

    The law of non contradiction tells us a lot about the real word ie that A cannot be A and non A at the same time and in the same relationship. If someone trys to claim otherwise about the physical world we live in we know either that there is confusion in what A and non A is , which I think is Jacks point or one has escaped rationality.

    I really dont see that your argument has any bearing on the self evidency of the truth of the law of non contradiction. Sure we must agree about that which we are applying this law to but once that is done its pretty straight forward from there.

    There is a mountain in Tuscon called Mount Lemon and a mountain in Phoenix called Camelback mountain. If one so chooses one can also designate each mountain by its GPS coordinates, we can designate each city by its GPS coordinates. If we add time to the equation we can narrow time down to Pacific Standard time.

    Now if I claim that I was at Camelback mountain at the same time, date and year and claim I was also at Mount Lemon at the same time,date and year you know either I am confused about the times and dates, more qualifiers need to be added or I am lying.

    In sum all your doing Jack is stating the obvious as if it has some relevancy to the self evidency of the law of non contradiction.

    Vivid

  126. 126
    vividblue says:

    One final point. Jack you are confusing the application of the law with the law itself.

    Vivid

  127. 127
    Jack Krebs says:

    Vivid complains a bit that my post about the law of non-contradiction is stating the obvious, and not relevant to the bigger issues in this thread.

    So let me go back to something that StephenB wrote (post 118) that prompted Daniel’s comment and also was in response to some of my earlier points:

    As I have pointed out many times, the metaphysical foundations of science, which, by the way constitute self evident truths, take logical precedence over the science itself and are far more reliable. It all starts with the self-evident truth that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time, a fact that is far more dependable than any scientific discovery you could ever point to. Yet, you cling to your definition of science, while denying its self evident foundations, because the foundations are consistent with metaphysical dualism. So, once again, you say that you are not a materialist, but you always challenge dualism and you never challenge materialism—so, I connect the dots. And, by the way, other than idealism, which has been dead for a long time, materialism and dualism are the only two options.

    The law of non-contradiction is not a “metaphysical” truth. It is not a truth about some aspect of reality beyond the physical, but rather a truth about the logic of manipulating symbols. One might claim that it is “self-evident” that it is a logical truth, but that is different than the claim that it is a self evident metaphysical truth. If one takes the Platonic position that mathematical and logical truths exist as ideal forms in a world of ideas that is beyond the physical world, then one can could claim that the law of non-contradiction is a self evident metaphysical truth, but it is precisely the existence of such a metaphysical world that is in question, and whose existence is not self evident.

    So Stephen is begging the question when he talks about logic as a metaphysical foundation for science: we don’t know if, or that, concepts of logic, math, ethics or whatever exist in some sort of metaphysical reality, or not.

    I’ll also note that StephenB continues to divide the situation into dualism vs. materialism, and to put me in the camp of the materialist based on my rejection of the self-evidency of the metaphysical. Throughout post 118, he offers a number of insinuations about my lack of honesty – seeing my agnosticism as a ploy and a tactic, and yet not responding to my point that there are a wide variety of metaphysical positions, some of which appeal to me. I don’t think all his pyscho-analysis of what he sees as my deceptive character furthers the discussion.

    Stephen says that I always challenge dualism and always support materialism, but that is false. What I am challenging in this thread is that there are self-evident metaphysical truths that one must be irrational to not see and accept. This challenges one (of many) possible dualistic philosophies, but not all dualistic philosophies.

    For instance, I have frequently defended theistic evolution as a legitimate Christian position about the limits of scientific knowledge and its relationship to the nature of an omni-everything divine deity. I have also, in other fora, defended Taoist and other Eastern principles as worthy philosophical positions. And I have consistently said that I feel fairly certain that there is some larger context of reality in which our physical universe resides.

    So StephenB is wrong about me, I think, and wrong to think that I am dissembling. And, to the point of the discussion about the law of non-contradiction, I think one of the reasons Stephen is wrong is because his inclination is to dichotomize things: since I don’t support his type of metaphysical dualism (A) he assumes that I must support what he sees as the only possible not-A, materialism.

    As I said at the end of my last post, “A tendency to think in A and not-A terms leads to a too simplistic view, in my opinion, when in fact the world (of ideas or physical things) is more complex and doesn’t have such nice sharply defined boundaries.”

    So instead of questioning my honesty and trying to tell me what he thinks I really am, perhaps Stephen would like to discuss the more specific issues: one can believe in a variety of metaphysical belief systems without believing that there are transcendent self-evident moral truths. Or conversely, not believing in transcendent self-evident moral truths, does not make one a materialist.

  128. 128
    Jack Krebs says:

    Oops. I left out and “end italic” tag and so the whole end of that post is in italics. My bad.

    And to Vivid: I was not confusing the law of non-contradiction and its application – I was discussing the difference between the law and its application.

  129. 129
    vividblue says:

    “The law of non-contradiction is not a “metaphysical” truth. It is not a truth about some aspect of reality beyond the physical”

    Jack what material is the law of non contradiction made of? What is its chemical properties? How much does it weigh?

    Vivid

  130. 130
    Jack Krebs says:

    I see. So you think all ideas are metaphysical – is that true?

    For instance, I am thinking of an elephant right now. Is my thought of an elephant a metaphysical thing?

  131. 131
    Jack Krebs says:

    How about my perception of the color blue when I look at the sky. Is that metaphysical?

    What are the chemical properties of a perception? How much does a perception weigh? Is every awareness event metaphysical?

    That seems to be what your question is implying. Can you explain?

  132. 132
    vividblue says:

    “How about my perception of the color blue when I look at the sky. Is that metaphysical? ”

    Jack you said that the law of non contradiction was not a metaphysical self evident truth.If it is not meta physical it is physical so describe its physics.

    The color blue has nothing to do with your perception.Furthermore I can give you the physics of the color blue. Each color is characteristic of a distinct wavelength. This wave length can be measured.If a light wave of a given frequency strikes a material with electrons having the same vibrational frequencies, then those electrons will absorb the energy of the light wave and transform it into vibrational motion. During its vibration, the electrons interacts with neighboring atoms in such a manner as to convert its vibrational energy into thermal energy. Subsequently, the light wave with that given frequency is absorbed by the object, never again to be released in the form of light. So the selective absorption of light by a particular material occurs because the selected frequency of the light wave matches the frequency at which electrons in the atoms of that material vibrate. Since different atoms and molecules have different natural frequencies of vibration, they will selectively absorb different frequencies of visible light.

    The wave length of the light, the interaction with the electrons and molecules, the materials it strikes happens whether you percieve the color or not. The color blue can be described strictly in material terms but rather than describel its physics, wave length the electrons the material it strikes we just call this totally physical process blue.

    We could say the same thing about SLOT or any other descriptive term of physical objects, view them as shortcuts to a long explanation.

    What are the physics of the law of non contradiction?

    Vivid

  133. 133
    kairosfocus says:

    Vivid:

    You are carrying out a thankless task in the face of evidently determined objectionism. (I just want to express my appreciation for your patience per 1 Tim 2:24 – 6.)

    However, onlookers, we should see how JK and DK inadvertently illustrate how rejection of self-evident truth leads to incoherence:

    1 –> Both DK and JK are implicitly assuming the correctness of the law of contradiction as a self-evidently true premise of all thought, even as they try to object to its self-evidential status! For, every time they type and post a declarative sentence, they are asserting A in the sense that A is not to be confused with NOT-A. [LAWS OF IDENTITY, NON-CONTRADICTION AND EXCLUDED MIDDLE] Observe the structure of such sentences:

    [Subject | predicate], with the latter in the form of [verb\object] or a similar pattern.

    In such, we see the former asserting a certain entity A, and the latter asserting a certain circumstance regarding it: “Jesus | rose \from the dead.”

    It thus asserts existence of a subject, an action or circumstance, and perhaps a target of that action or circumstance. Non-contradiction is indeed deeply embedded in the very structure of language — what is that trying to tell us? (And, I have already repeatedly pointed out the implications of “error exists” as addressing the case of failure of accurate reference of such a sentence and its associated propositions.

    Of course, the existence of propositions, truth and error is itself pregnant with implications for metaphysics, including [evolutionary] materialism’s blatant failure to accurately “cover” what is real: gross factual inadequacy on the very stuff of our conscious, reasoning and communicating existence!

    2 –> But, doesn’t that mean that the law is simply a lingiusitic rule? Nope, since truth is that which accurately refers to reality, insofar as linguistics tries to capture reality, it will have rules that reflect . . . reality. [And, try to state the laws of linguistics without assuming the three laws of thought just identified.]

    3 –> In short, non-contradiction was a law of reality long before it ever was one of language and of how we construct and give meaning to words and sentences. [Absent distinction of symbols and meanings, we cannot communicate. Indeed, it is no accident that “logic” comes from a Greek root that means more or less to select and distinguish.]

    4 –> Similarly, the point of a definition that points to a real-world entity is that it should accurately and precisely describe. Indeed, we first point to examples and counter-examples, then we try to capture in words what is a necessary and sufficient basis for distinguishing the two. (Often, hard, very hard, whether on genus and difference, or on direct statement of N & S conditions.)

    5 –> And, so the very act of definition — much less its statement, assumes that non-contradiction is a law of reality. [The moon is not the non-moon. Soufriere Hills Volcano either had a pyroclastic flow on 5th May just past, probably triggered by heavy rains leading to avalanche, or it did not. On authoritative, credible evidence of last night’s MVO report, it did.]

    6 –> So, when we point and say the clear daytime sky [not the clouds in it . . .] is BLUE, we are observing a phenomenon that is distinct and distinguished from its denial, and we are attaching a label that by convention refers to that fact. And, in so doing, our use of language is also — as the emphases just past illustrate in part — riddled with the implication that non-contradiction is essential to reasoning and communication.

    7 –> Further to this, let us pull Aristotle himself, in Metaphysics, 1011b, as it is harder to rebut the man than to dismiss the caricature:

    . . . perhaps it is for this reason that those who argue not from a sense of difficulty but for argument’s sake are compelled to say that the appearance is not true in itself, but true to the percipient;and, as we have said before, are compelled also to make everything relative and dependent upon opinion and sensation, so that nothing has happened or will happen unless someone has first formed an opinion about it; otherwise clearly all things would not be relative to opinion. [Sounds familiar? Ari blew this one out of the water 2300 years ago . . . just read on . . . ]

    Further, if a thing is one, it is relative to one thing or to something determinate. And if the same thing is both a half and an equal, yet the equal is not relative to the double.If to the thinking subject “man” and the object of thought are the same, “man” will be not the thinking subject but the object of thought; and if each thing is to be regarded as relative to the thinking subject, the thinking subject will be relative to an infinity of specifically different things.

    That the most certain of all beliefs is that opposite statements are not both true at the same time, and what follows for those who maintain that they are true, and why these thinkers maintain this, may be regarded as adequately stated. And since the contradiction of a statement cannot be true at the same time of the same thing, it is obvious that contraries cannot apply at the same time to the same thing. [LAW OF NON-CONTRADICTION] For in each pair of contraries one is a privation no less than it is a contrary–a privation of substance. And privation is the negation of a predicate [20] to some defined genus. Therefore if it is impossible at the same time to affirm and deny a thing truly, it is also impossible for contraries to apply to a thing at the same time; either both must apply in a modified sense, or one in a modified sense and the other absolutely.

    Nor indeed can there be any intermediate between contrary statements, but of one thing we must either assert or deny one thing, whatever it may be. [LAW OF THE EXCLUDED MIDDLE] This will be plain if we first define truth and falsehood. To say that what is is not, or that what is not is, is false; but to say that what is is, and what is not is not, is true [TRUTH AS THAT WHICH ACCURATELY REFERS TO REALITY]; and therefore also he who says that a thing is or is not will say either what is true or what is false. But neither what is nor what is not is said not to be or to be. Further, an intermediate between contraries will be intermediate either as grey is between black and white, or as “neither man nor horse” is between man and horse. If in the latter sense, it cannot change (for change is from not-good to good, or from good to not-good);but in fact it is clearly always changing; for change can only be into the opposite and the intermediate. And if it is a true intermediate, in this case too there would be a kind of change into white not from not-white; but in fact this is not seen.1
    ________

    [Footnote] 1 It is not qua grey (i.e. intermediate between white and black) that grey changes to white, but qua not-white (i.e. containing a certain proportion of black).

    8 –> Such things are not subject to proof, they are embedded in all proofs. They are not linguistic rules, they are foundational to any statement of such rules or any sentence that declares anything. They are not definitions, they are required before we can act to define.

    9 –> Indeed, so soon as we reflect on the matter with understanding in light of our existence as reasoni8ng conscious agents, we see that they are and must be so. We reject themn only if we are willing to end in incoherence, absurdity and confusions. (And, the persistent discomfort of evolutionary materialist thinkers with such laws shows us that something is very wrong with evo mat thought.)

    Aristotle gets my vote. JK and DK do not. No prizes for guessing why.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Here is my five minute 101 on thinking straight.

  134. 134
    Jack Krebs says:

    Thanks for the physics lesson, vivid, but I understand all that. In fact I used to teach it in psychology class.

    My question was about my awareness of the color blue, and about the nature of perception and thought in general. I am trying to find out what you mean by “metaphysical”, because your question about how much the law of contradiction weighs made me think that we are using the word metaphysical to mean different things.

    Let’s take a simple example of a circle. Plato believed that the idea (or Ideal) of the perfect circle existed independently of physical reality in a world of other perfect ideas. A Christian might say that the idea of the perfect circle exists in the mind of God. These worlds – either the Platonic world of ideals or the mind of God – are metaphysical: in some way beyond physical reality.

    However you seem to be using the word to refer to any act of awareness whatsoever – if I think of an elephant, or perceive the color blue, or consider a circle or the law of contradiction, those thoughts and perceptions in my awareness are metaphysical. Am I understanding you correctly? Can you clarify what you mean by metaphysical?

    Also, back to the general audience, the word used in the original post was transcendent, not metaphysical. The claim is that a world beyond the physical exists, and that truths from that world are available to us: transcendent moral standards and presumably transcendent logical and mathematical ideas. In this discussion, I have been using metaphysical to refer back to that idea of being part of a transcendent reality, which does not seem to be how vivid is using the word.

  135. 135
  136. 136
    vividblue says:

    “Thanks for the physics lesson, vivid, but I understand all that. In fact I used to teach it in psychology class”

    Your welcome. Since you are aware of physics you should have no problem answering my question. What are the physics of the law of non contradiction.

    “I am trying to find out what you mean by “metaphysical””

    Jack as StephenB has pointed out you are very reluctant to to answer any questions put to you when it does not suit you. You made a statement, I asked a question, your response to my question was to ask questions of me. I am not moving on until you answer it.

    “Both DK and JK are implicitly assuming the correctness of the law of contradiction as a self-evidently true premise of all thought, even as they try to object to its self-evidential status!”

    Yeh pretty crazy ‘aint’ it!!

    Vivid

  137. 137
    kairosfocus says:

    Ah, Vivid:

    When one rejects self-evident truth, one ends in incoherence and absurdity.

    Ah really gone now.

    GEM of TKI

  138. 138
    Jack Krebs says:

    I don’t know what the physical nature of consciousness is, and I don’t think anyone does. A great deal is known about the physiology of the brain, and our conscious states are obviously (this is empirically verified) tied to those states, but how some aspect of the brain states become our conscious experience is unknown.

    So when you asked “what are the physics of the law of non-contradiction”, I generalized the problem to “what are the physics of conscious thought and perception in general.” Do you think all perceptions and thoughts are metaphysical? I’m trying to find out how we are using that word in order for us to understand better what each of us is talking about.

  139. 139
    Jack Krebs says:

    Also, vivid quotes kf as saying,

    “Both DK and JK are implicitly assuming the correctness of the law of contradiction as a self-evidently true premise of all thought, even as they try to object to its self-evidential status!”

    No, I don’t think you are reading what I say carefully enough.

    I accept that the law of non-contradiction is a fundamental premise of logic, along with a number of other rules. (I have taught these rules as part of both geometry and programming courses.) That is not the issue, and I’ve never said anything to deny this fundamental status to the law of non-contradiction.

    What I have done is make two points:

    1. Logic itself can’t tell us anything about the real world. Logic is a tool, but once we apply actual content, we have statements that may be logically correct but factually wrong, either because the premises we use as starting points are wrong, or because the modeling we do that associates the logical structure to the real world is wrong.

    2. Logic is a tool of thought (symbolic representation and manipulation, really), and it’s basic premises, such as the law of non-contradiction, are self evident as laid out by Aristotle years ago. What I have objected to is the continual claim throughout this thread that these are transcendent or metaphysical truths: that they are representations of some Truths that exist in some meta-physical reality.

    This is why the discussion with vivid has brought up some confusion on my part, because he seems to be implying with his question that all thought is metaphysical, not because it is transcendent in some world of Platonic Ideals or the mind of God, but rather just because it appears in our consciousness and we don’t know what the physical nature of consciousness is. This is why I am seeking some clarification from vivid.

  140. 140
    vividblue says:

    “So when you asked “what are the physics of the law of non-contradiction”, I generalized the problem to “what are the physics of conscious thought and perception in general.” ”

    Jack if I asked you what the Sun was made of you could tell me. I am asking you the same question regarding the law of non contradiction. Tell me what the law of non contradiction is made of in the same way you would tell me what the Sun is made of?

    Vivid

  141. 141
    Jack Krebs says:

    I can’t vivid – I don’t know. I just said that.

    Now I am asking you a simple question, because I am trying to understand your position: do you think that all ideas (not just the law of non-contradiction) are metaphysical because we don’t know what they’re made of?

    I’m trying to understand your point. I’ve answered your question.

  142. 142
    vividblue says:

    “I can’t vivid – I don’t know.”

    Yet you seem to know enough to claim in no uncertain terms.

    “The law of non-contradiction is not a “metaphysical” truth.”

    Yet you cannot tell me what it is physically made of!!

    Vivid

  143. 143
    BarryA says:

    Let’s take Jack and Vivid’s example of the color blue. This is in fact a great way to discuss the issue and much work has been done here.

    Vivid says “blue” is physical. True enough. Here’s one physical definition I cibbed from Wikki: “Blue is a color, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 440–490 nm.”

    Jack objects: To say that “blue” is light of a certain wavelength tells me nothing about my “perception” of blue. This is also true.

    And here we have one of the great proofs of consciousness. Qualia.

    Jack’s perception of the color blue is a metaphysical, not a physical experience, in that it cannot be reduced to the properties of any physical thing, such as his brain. It is a “qualia.”

    Of course, if I know Jack, he will argue this point until he is “blue,” in the face that is. 😉

    But the fact remains that Jack can never give an explanation of his perception of blue that can be reduced to the function of his brain.

  144. 144
    kairosfocus says:

    JK at 139:

    “[1]vivid | [2] quotes \ [3] kf . . .

    [3] kf | [4]as saying\ . . . ”

    QED again. [Cf. 133 supra.]

    GEM of TKI

  145. 145
    StephenB says:

    —-Jack Krebs: “Logic itself can’t tell us anything about the real world. Logic is a tool, but once we apply actual content, we have statements that may be logically correct but factually wrong, either because the premises we use as starting points are wrong, or because the modeling we do that associates the logical structure to the real world is wrong.”

    —–“So StephenB is wrong about me, I think, and wrong to think that I am dissembling.”

    ——“So instead of questioning my honesty and trying to tell me what he thinks I really am, perhaps Stephen would like to discuss the more specific issues:So instead of questioning my honesty and trying to tell me what he thinks I really am, perhaps Stephen would like to discuss the more specific issues:”

    Actually, Jack, you really shouldn’t draw that conclusion. It may appear to you that I wrote those things about you, but that only happened in the real world. Your world of subjective logic, while internally consistent, can tell you nothing about the real world. So, it isn’t fair for you to make that leap from your world to the real world and assume that I question your sincerity.

    Actually, I don’t feel that way at all. I think that you are a paragon of sincerity. I am offended that you would make that leap of faith from your world of subjective logic to the outside world of reality and conclude that I question your intentions. I think that it is pure coincidence that you want to discuss the morality of war while avoiding the morality of abortion. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that there is any kind of politically correct bias involved. That you are so certain about Darwinian science and so skeptical about the usefulness of logic is just one of those things. I’m sure that it doesn’t really reveal anything about your willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue.

    In fact, the event that you allude to did not happen. I didn’t write that post— at least not in any sense that you can pin down. Your personal rationality may convince you that I did, but I can assure you, based on my personal rationality that I did not. Of course, in another sense, I did. In your subjective world of logic, the law of non-contradiction applies, but in the real world it doesn’t. In the real world, contradictions happen all the time. In fact, that is exactly what happened in this case; I wrote it, but I did not write it. Both of those facts are true.

    In any case, I agree with you that logic tells us nothing about the real world, and I am sure that you find that principle very liberating. Subjectively, you may think that if the streets are wet in must be raining, but in the real world, rainless conditions generate wet streets all the time. In fact, sometimes the reverse occurs. Sometimes, as it turns out, it rains and the streets do not get wet. Now I realize that your internal logic may tell you that this is impossible, but you ought not to make any such leap. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, the streets can be wet and not wet at the same time.

    In any case, if I were to propose to you that the streets really do get wet when it is raining, I am sure that you would start a new line of discussion on the definition of “wetness.” Or, we might have a little dialogue on the formal definition of “rain.” Are the streets really wet when it is sprinkling? What is the difference between a mist and a sprinkle? I look forward to the dialogue. I realize that you are not speaking to me right now, because you believe that I actually wrote that offensive post. But I feel certain that you will soon abandon that rigid position, when you finally come to realize that drawing such conclusions about the real world based on internal logic are unwarranted.

  146. 146
    kairosfocus says:

    Elaborating:

    Self-evident truths are:

    1] immediately known on insightful inspection, i.e once we properly understand what is being claimed about their terms and the relationships among the terms,

    2] this, in light of our constitution and experience of reality as conscious, intelligent verbalising agents.

    3] known without proof, indeed often they are the foundation of proofs.

    4] the are not true by mere arbitrary definitions of words, or being analytic, indeed, often the attempt to define one term ends up bringing out the whole cluster i.e. we have a rephrasing using the same core concepts. [Cf that a finite whole is greater than any of its proper parts. Try to define each term without dragging in the other concepts and their relationships.]

    5] they are truths about reality that we may refer to accurately and intelligibly in sentences.

    6] rejecting them leads straight to incoherence, absurdities and confusions

    The law of non-contradiction is a case in point. It is a law of reality before we put it into words, it is plainly so once we reflect on it, and it is a premise for proofs, indeed for all proofs.

    That comes out as soon as we open our mouths, even before we assert something is so to begin speaking and arguing.

    QED, yet again

    GEM of TKI

    PS: the existence of such self-evident truths does not require any a priori metaphysical commitments, beyond those we need to make to accept that we are having a conversation. It is the implications of such self-evident truths that are fatal to evolutionary materialism.

    PPS: you are right, JK to say “I don’t know what the physical nature of consciousness is . . . ” For, it — especially on rational thought and associated intelligent action — is radically different from what mechanical necessity plus chance can credibly deliver by acting on matter + energy on the gamut of the observed cosmos. Such is indeed, META-physical, beyond the physical.

  147. 147
    kairosfocus says:

    Stephen B

    PREZACTLY.

    QED again, per reductio ad absurdum.

    [JK as a math teacher will appreciate.]

    Okay, time to go out of this public library now . . .

    GEM of TKI

  148. 148
    Jack Krebs says:

    Hmmm. Stephen chooses to be sarcastic and insulting, so I think my discussion with him is over.

    Barry’s comment helps me understand something about this whole conversation that I hadn’t realized was so central to our disagreements. For Barry, vivid et al, all thought – all activity in the conscious mind, I guess – is metaphysical (and presumably in touch with the transcendent). Therefore, if we have a thought that appears to be self-evident, it is automatically a transcendent self-evident truth.

    Now I have questions about this, although I’m not sure anyone here is actually interested in discussing (rather than pontificating [Cf. 146 supra.]), but my first question is how does this immaterial mind interface with the physical body? Vivid faults me for not being able to describe the physical way in which thought is manifested, and uses this as an argument that thought is immaterial, but I think he has the reverse problem: Vivid, can you describe how the immaterial mind manages to affect the material body? And does your inability to answer this question count as an argument that thought is not in fact immaterial?

    I don’t believe that we know whether there is a non-material component to our consciousness, and if there is, to what kind of metaphysical reality it is connected, if at all. These are interesting philosophical questions, and as I have been pointing out, there are numerous possible answers, all speculative. (The idea that there are numerous possible answers doesn’t seem to be a subject any of you wish to discuss.)

    You guys, however, appear to be thoroughly convinced that you know that the transcendent exists and that our minds have some infallible (at least at times) connection with it, because you believe that we can know, self-evidently and in our hearts, what some of those transcendental truths are. I don’t believe that you are right to think that you are right about all that with such certainty, but obviously we disagree about that. You also think that my objections are faulty (in fact incoherent and absurd to some), and obviously we disagree about that also.

    But I do understand better why you guys think as you do, so that’s good, and I think I understand some of my own thoughts better, and that’s good also. Therefore there has been some value in the conversation for me – your mileage may differ.

  149. 149
    Apollos says:

    Jack, a quantum or sub quantum reality is a good candidate for ~where (not how) immaterial mind interacts with material brain.

    Quantum behaviors seem, at least, loosely detached from time and space.

    And please don’t mistake this wild speculation with any sort of dogma, but it’s not like there are no weird, consciousness-level paradoxes with quantum reality.

    My hunch is that the brain is a big quantum computer that provides a bidirectional interface between immaterial mind and physical reality. *dons tin foil hat*

  150. 150
    Daniel King says:

    BarryA #143

    Jack’s perception of the color blue is a metaphysical, not a physical experience, in that it cannot be reduced to the properties of any physical thing, such as his brain. It is a “qualia.”

    But the fact remains that Jack can never give an explanation of his perception of blue that can be reduced to the function of his brain.

    BarryA argues by assertion. These are empirical statements, so if he has evidence to back them up, he needs to provide it.

    How can he know that a perception cannot be reduced to physical properties? This is a subject for scientific investigation, is it not?

  151. 151
    Jack Krebs says:

    Hi Apollos. Yes, I’m aware of that, and of the whole idea that the quantum level might the interface between the physical and the non-physical. This is a an entertaining area for speculation, and something may come of it some time, or not: as a friend of mine once said, there may never be a way to peer behind the quantum curtain.

    Also, there have been several times in the above conversation where I thought about pointing out that the quantum world doesn’t seem to follow all the rules of logic that we are used to, and might in fact be a place where the law of non-contradiction (in some form or another) doesn’t apply.

    However, even if we were able to show that the brain had large and or small scale quantum effects I’m not sure that would explain the experience of consciousness.

  152. 152
    BarryA says:

    Daniel King, a tremendous amount of research has been done in the area of qualia. No material explanation so far.

    Here’s a more detailed post on the subject I did a couple of months ago. I challenge you to come up with a counter argument.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....e-that-is/

  153. 153
    Jack Krebs says:

    And how about the opposite question, Barry: how does the immaterial affect the material? Does this question require an answer, or at least some evidence that it is going on?

  154. 154
    StephenB says:

    —–Jack: “Hmmm. Stephen chooses to be sarcastic and insulting, so I think my discussion with him is over.”

    Desperate times require desperate measures. I tried to point out, at first, gently, and then, perhaps not so gently, that there are certain fundamental principles of reasoning that take logical precedence over science, communication, and our capacity to reason. It is one thing for someone to claim that these principles are not self evident; it is something else to dismiss them entirely and deny their reality. To state boldly that the laws of logic do not apply to the real world is to enter in to the theatre of the absurd. That this absurdity is common fare in the academy does not make it any less absurd. It is not the first time that I have been accused of insult and sarcasm for dramatizing the point, and strangely enough it always seems to happen when there is no answer to my point.

    Still, I am open to fraternal correction at any time, especially if I have violated reasonable standards of civility in my response@145. In this case, however, I would like to hear it from someone in my camp. If even one person thinks I went too far, I will apologize. No questions asked.

    In any case, now that JK and DK have successfully derailed the discussion once again and taken it out of the arena of first princples and into the arena of science, I will simply observe the irrelevant discussion at this point.

  155. 155
    Jack Krebs says:

    Stephen writes,

    To state boldly that the laws of logic do not apply to the real world is to enter in to the theatre of the absurd

    I didn’t say that. You appear to have no interest in actually trying to understand my points – that is why it is not worth my time to continue to discuss things with you.

  156. 156
    Jack Krebs says:

    Also, Stephen writes,

    In any case, now that JK and DK have successfully derailed the discussion once again and taken it out of the arena of first princples and into the arena of science, I will simply observe the irrelevant discussion at this point.

    I will point out that it was Stephen who brought up the subject of science in #118 when he wrote

    As I have pointed out many times, the metaphysical foundations of science, which, by the way constitute self evident truths, take logical precedence over the science itself and are far more reliable.

    and it was vivid who brought up the question of asking for the physical nature of an idea.

    So why exactly is it Daniel and I who have derailed the thread? Because we responded to your comments?

  157. 157
    vividblue says:

    “Now I have questions about this, although I’m not sure anyone here is actually interested in discussing (rather than pontificating [Cf. 146 supra.]),”

    Hi Jack,

    I hope to get somethig to you this evening if time permits.

    Vivid

  158. 158
    BarryA says:

    Jack asks: “And how about the opposite question, Barry: how does the immaterial affect the material?”

    Jack, I’m not sure I understand. Are you asking me by what physical mechanism the immaterial mind affects the material brain?

  159. 159
    StephenB says:

    —-Jack Krebs: “So why exactly is it Daniel and I who have derailed the thread? Because we responded to your comments?”

    Actually, I like your point. Everyone is, and has been, off the tracks in this discussion; I shouldn’t hold you accountable for that. So, now you and DK are exempt from having to face the point about first principles. Even so, you are right. I shouldn’t blame you for taking advantage of the opportunity to escape.

  160. 160
    StephenB says:

    To state boldly that the laws of logic do not apply to the real world is to enter in to the theatre of the absurd.

    —–Jack Krebs: “I didn’t say that. You appear to have no interest in actually trying to understand my points – that is why it is not worth my time to continue to discuss things with you.”

    I present your own words to you:

    “Logic itself can’t tell us anything about the real world. Logic is a tool, but once we apply actual content, we have statements that may be logically correct but factually wrong, either because the premises we use as starting points are wrong, or because the modeling we do that associates the logical structure to the real world is wrong.”

    Tell me how my characterization differs from your statement. If my misunderstand you, I will make the necessary adjustments—in a congenial way.

  161. 161
    vividblue says:

    “I shouldn’t blame you for taking advantage of the opportunity to escape.”

    Stephen I did not mean to get Jack sidetracked.

    “Now I have questions about this, although I’m not sure anyone here is actually interested in discussing (rather than pontificating [Cf. 146 supra”

    Jack you need to recognize your part in this.

    What got me involved really started with Stephens post #57. Go back and read it. Your response or should I say lack of response prompted me into the fray so to speak.

    As Stephen pointed out you are very reluctant to commit yourself to certain questions.

    You have yet to interact with my questions asked all the way back in #63 nor #99 nor 117. And you have done the same with Stephen as well as KF.

    This is not to say that you have not expressed your personal opinion but you have not interacted with the arguments put forth. aking pronouncements and statements are not sufficient.

    Vivid

    When you do you make pronouncements such as

    “But I am firmly convinced that it is not self-evident that transcendent moral standards exist.”

  162. 162
    Jack Krebs says:

    to Barry

    You ask, “Are you asking me by what physical mechanism the immaterial mind affects the material brain?”

    I am asking what your thoughts are as to how the immaterial (or metaphysical or transcendent or whatever you want to call it) affects the physical world. I did not use the phrase “physical mechanism.”

    To recap: Vivid says that the fact that I, nor anyone, can not describe the physical nature of a thought (or, I presume, any event of consciousness) is an argument that consciousness is an immaterial, metaphysical thing.

    My counterpoint argument is that I don’t think anyone can explain how an immaterial thing can affect the material world – how does this interface work? Clearly physical events are related to conscious events, in both directions. For instance, vivid gave a nice description of how the color blue, which starts as a property of the wavelength of light and proceeds to being the stimulus of nerve cells in the brain. How does the physical brain state make the jump, so to speak, to being a conscious perception. Conversely, I can think a thought and produce a bodily action. How does this happen?

    My argument is that your inability to explain this is as much of an argument against the mind being immaterial as my inability to describe the physical nature of consciousness is an argument against the mind being material.

    This is the question I am asking, and the point I am making.

  163. 163
    Jack Krebs says:

    to Stephen – OK, I’ll try again.

    You quote me, from 139:

    “Logic itself can’t tell us anything about the real world. Logic is a tool, but once we apply actual content, we have statements that may be logically correct but factually wrong, either because the premises we use as starting points are wrong, or because the modeling we do that associates the logical structure to the real world is wrong.”

    and you write,

    To state boldly that the laws of logic do not apply to the real world is to enter in to the theatre of the absurd.

    I am claiming that you badly misunderstand me. Let me quote 124, the post in which I first made this point, and in respect to which the summary in 139 referred:

    The law of non-contradiction, that something is either A or not-A, is a logical tool. However it, in and of itself, tells us nothing about the real world. Let me give an example.

    [snip example of how some things, such as whether a point on the earth is or is not on a mountain, don’t naturally divide into two neat subsets, and therefore can’t have the law of A or not-A applied without making some manmade and somewhat arbitrary distinctions>

    The more general point about both logic and math is this: their propositions are internally true, but in order to apply them to the real world we have to create a model in which the parts of the logical/mathematical system match up with parts of the real world. This second step – making the model – is not a purely logical operation: it is subject to various decisions on our part about how to name and categorize things.

    Furthermore, if we then draw logical conclusions about the model – a very powerful tool – we still have to test our conclusions against the real world because even though we trust the logic we don’t know for sure whether all the parts of the model are accurate.

    Now note well that I point out that logic and math are powerful tools for understanding the world. I teach calculus, and one of the things I emphasize is that application of calculus to the real world. I know very well, and appreciate the wonder of it, that math, including logic, is clearly applicable to the real world.

    What I did say was that logic, in and of itself has no empirical content, and cannot tell us anything about the real world: associations between the logical structure and the physical world must be modeled and tested before we can declare that we know something about the physical world.

    Let me give a couple of examples.

    1. Richard Feynman developed and perfected a very powerful and difficult mathematical tool, path integrals, to analyze interactions in quantum electrodynamics. This mathematical model predicts to value of certain constants to within 1/100,000,000 of their empirically measured values. This is a tremendous achievement, and proof that the model is accurate. Obviously math and logic can be applied to the real world as a tool for understanding.

    However, previous models didn’t work well at all. This was not because the math they were using was defective, but because the real world was not being correctly modeled. There would be no way to tell which model was correct just by looking at the math – only when the math was tested against the world could we tell which was the correct formulation of a model.

    2. A second famous example: it is well known that there are three different, entirely self-consistent geometries based on three different formulations of the parallel postulate, leading to spaces with positive, negative or zero curvature. Each is true in a purely mathematical sense.

    But the question of which geometrical model applies to a particular space (or section of space) is an empirical question that can only be answered by empirical investigation. (Gauss actually tried this using three mountaintops, but there was no way to take accurate enough measurements.) There is no way that logic itself can determine which of the three geometries is true about a particular area of space/

    So let me summarize:

    1. Logic and math are tools for manipulating symbols. They have an internally consistency which makes them true in respect to themselves.

    2. Logic and math cannot, by themselves, tell us anything about the physical world: they must have empirical content added via a mathematical model. After the model is made, math and logic can be used to draw conclusions which will be true within the model (assuming no mistakes are made in the math and logic), but those truths cannot be considered truths about the physical world without being empirically tested. If they don’t test out as true, the model must be adjusted.

    3. Mathematical models do work, as the Feynman example illustrates. Our physical world does demonstrate mathematical and logical order – that is not in question either. The trick is finding the correct model, which involves a back-and-forth interplay between doing the math and testing the results.

    So, as I said earlier, math and logic are tools – powerful and successful tools – for understanding the physical world. But math and logic themselves have no empirical content: you can devise perfectly logical systems that have no relationship to reality if you wish, but you can’t claim that just because something is logically true that it is also empirically true.

    Now I have taken quite a bit of time to explain myself. I hope you are willing to take all these points as a whole, and in context.

    And if you are so moved, you might reconsider your statement that I have “boldly stated that the laws of logic do not apply to the real world.”

  164. 164
    PaV says:

    Jack, sorry to horn in here on things, but I’m wondering about your example of Feynman. Are you confusing QED and path integrals with quantum description of the hydrogen atom? I don’t remember very well, but I believe it was it theoretically deriving the spin angular momentum of the hydrogen atom that they got accuracy to the level you’re mentioning, and they only got to this level of accuracy when they took into account the spin of the electron, which was an added quantum number. I don’t think this invalidates your point in any way, but I’m just wondering if this, in fact, is the example you’re thinking of.

    As to non-Euclidian geometry, a pertinent point involving your on-going discussion may need to be made. For both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry, axioms must be posited. These axioms represent intuitional thought. This kind of intuitional thought is transcendent. For example, Euclidean geometry would say that there is one, and only one, line that can be drawn through two points. But, now, what is a point? Can you point out a mathematical point for me? The answer is no. But the human mind can make abstractions and come up with axioms, and it knows how to apply it to real-life situations, but the former intellectual act is different in quality than the latter. But neither of these acts is material; they’re BOTH immaterial acts of the intellect/mind. Any sense we have of what is “real” is an intellectual act, not a material act. Don’t you agree?

  165. 165
    StephenB says:

    —–vividBlue: “Stephen I did not mean to get Jack sidetracked.”

    I see what you mean about responding to a tangential point. Further, I am certainly not the arbiter of truth on this or any other matter, nor can I claim the right to frame or reframe issues. Your humility if refreshing, especially from one who obviously has a great many relevant things to say on the subject. Your comments were in no way irrelevant, and there is no reason for me to think that you should conform to my agenda. I suspect that I may be taking my self a little to seriously, and I know exactly what to do about it. I think the word for it is “chill.” Thanks for the comment.

  166. 166
    StephenB says:

    Jack: I appreciate the time you have taken to lay it all out, and I will not abuse the overture.

    —–Jack: “And if you are so moved, you might reconsider your statement that I have “boldly stated that the laws of logic do not apply to the real world.”

    Yes, I accept the clarification to mean that logic without content can tell us nothing about the real world. So, I withdraw my comment as premature.

    I am going to stretch out a little bit myself. One key statement in your description reads as follows:

    —–“Our physical world does demonstrate mathematical and logical order – that is not in question either. The trick is finding the correct model, which involves a back-and-forth interplay between doing the math and testing the results.”

    Now think about what this means. It means that we live in a rational world, or a world which is ripe for investigation. Further, this is something that we must believe or assume to be true prior to the investigation. Otherwise we would not even have begun the scientific enterprise in the first place. The assumption that we live in a rational world PRECEDED any application of mathematics or scientific methodology as a means of understanding it. The great scientists of the past, for example, thought that God had revealed himself in nature and left “clues” for scientists to uncover. This was the original impetus for scientific research, and, while moderns tend to dismiss it, the fact remains. We look for correct models because we believe and understand that, properly applied, they will reveal some of this same order. In other words, historically and logically, faith in the order and reasonableness of the physical world precedes scientific discovery. This is, and always has been, a first principle of science. It is something to be assumed, not something to be proven.

    But it doesn’t end there. You mentioned that logic was a tool. Yes, it is, but, more to the point, it is a tool used by the “mind” (humor me with the term even if you reduce minds to brains). Further, the logic of the mind is internally consistent. One can reason in the abstract, without putting it to use in the real world, or one can reason about the real world. In either case, the mind has its own logic. Put another way, we are rational beings, and our faith in that fact precedes the investigation. If we didn’t believe that our minds were capable of getting us to our destination (truth) we would not risk taking the journey. This is yet another principle of science no less important than the first. Again, this is assumed, but not proven.

    Even at this point, we are still taking something for granted. In addition to assuming that we life in a rational universe, and that we have rational minds, there is yet a third question: Does the rationality of the mind correspond to the rationality of the world? Or, does the logic of one fit the logic of the other? Now, if you are a nominalist, or a Kantian you might raise the objection: Wait, doesn’t logic apply only to the mind? Well, no it doesn’t. The world has its logic, and the mind has its logic. If it were not so, the mind would merely be reflecting on its own order, which would be ridiculous. So, not only do we have to believe in the rationality of the mind and the world, we must assume that there is a correspondence between the two. Indeed, that is the formal definition of truth: The correspondence of the mind to reality. This is exactly what the great scientists meant when they said that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” Assumed but not proven.

    I was alluding to this correspondence earlier when I made the point about the objective world. If I make the following statement, “If the streets are wet, it must be raining,” I am saying something that is true about the world. But I am also saying something about the order of my own mind. Clearly, there are two things going on here, and they are both part of the same reality. In other words, we have a dualistic reality—a subject and an object—our mind and the world—an investigator and the object of the investigation.

    Are there cases in which we must construct and reconstruct models to put reason to use? Of course. Not everything is a simple as I made it out to be in the preceding paragraph. On the other hand, it often is just that simple. The models help with the precision and the texture of the research, but the basic realities remain fairly simple. I have used research methods in the hard sciences, and I know what it means to “yield results.” Still, the basic fact that the physical world is such that it will yield results in the first place is the primary principle in force.

    But it doesn’t stop even here. As both a practical and theoretical matter, the investigator must get the object of the investigation “in” his mind. This is a one way proposition, meaning that the reverse proposition is unthinkable, that is, the object of the investigation cannot get the investigator inside itself. Otherwise we would be the object of the investigation and the world would be analyzing us. What does it all mean? It means that the investigator is of a different substance than the object of the investigation. This is yet another principle that we must take for granted. Notice, that I haven’t really proved anything. That shouldn’t surprise us. None of these things can be proven; they must be assumed so that we can prove other things.

    The interesting part is this. Many scientists and philosophers seem scandalized by these obvious points because it reminds them of a concept that they have come to hate—design. The real irony is, that, thought they consciously deny it, unconsciously, and at an operation level, they believe it. In spite of what they say, they believe that the world exhibits reasonableness and that they are reasonable people. They may argue against the law of non-contradiction, but they assume it every day of their lives. Otherwise, they could not reason their way out of a paper bag, even in their own specialty. Still, they see fit to use the principles of reason to argue against design, forgetting that reason and design are two sides of the same coin. The orderliness of the world and its design simply will not submit to their agenda. How can it? It was already here before they arrived.

  167. 167
    kairosfocus says:

    Participants and onlookers:

    The following dismissive evasion, sadly, is ever so disappointingly predictable on JK’s unfortunate track record:

    JK,148: I’m not sure anyone here is actually interested in discussing (rather than pontificating [Cf. 146 supra.]). . .

    Of course, as a scroll-up will suffice to show, 146 is in the main a summary of what a self-evident – per se notum [“known through the instrumentality of oneself,” cf point 2 as cited just below] — truth is, per basic definition with illustrative examples:

    GEM, 146: Self-evident truths are:

    1] immediately known on insightful inspection, i.e once we properly understand what is being claimed about their terms and the relationships among the terms,

    2] this, in light of our constitution and experience of reality as conscious, intelligent verbalising agents.

    3] known without proof, indeed often they are the foundation of proofs.

    4] the are not true by mere arbitrary definitions of words, or being analytic, indeed, often the attempt to define one term ends up bringing out the whole cluster i.e. we have a rephrasing using the same core concepts. [Cf that a finite whole is greater than any of its proper parts. Try to define each term without dragging in the other concepts and their relationships.]

    5] they are truths about reality that we may refer to accurately and intelligibly in sentences.

    6] rejecting them leads straight to incoherence, absurdities and confusions

    The law of non-contradiction is a case in point. It is a law of reality before we put it into words, it is plainly so once we reflect on it, and it is a premise for proofs, indeed for all proofs.

    That comes out as soon as we open our mouths, even before we assert something is so to begin speaking and arguing.

    Has JK shown us that such a definition by discussion is mere appeal to dubious titular authority? Plainly, not. So, I find his protest above that Stephen B has been uncivil, distinctly hollow-sounding.

    Now, as touching the side-issue of interaction of mind and matter, the basic point has long been put in earlier threads, as well as in a PS to 146 in brief, but just as easily ignored or dismissed without serious reflection:

    1 –> We know, immemorial, that there are three major relevant causal factors: chance, mechanical necessity, intelligence.

    2 –> We can show fairly easily that we look for mechanical necessity when we see low contingency, i.e natural regularities: fuel + heat + oxidiser –> fire.

    3 –> highly contingent situations are dominated by chance or intelligence. And, where there is especially functionally specified, complex organisation and associated information, we see that the islands of functionality are so isolated in the sea of possible contingencies that the probabilistic resources of the observed universe are far too scanty to credibly get to the relevant FSCI.

    3 –> This is backed up by the observation that reliably when we see FSCI and independently know the source, it is intelligence. That is, the explanatory filter is known to be reliable per empirical test on discriminating chance and intelligence, when it rules intelligence. (It is deliberately conservative in so ruling, in fact, so it may rule chance as best explanation when we know intelligence is the cause, independently of the filter.)

    4 –> Further to this, we see that the characteristics of intelligent — mind based — action are radically different from what chance + necessity acting on matter + energy credibly do: neither direct characteristics nor interactions and known observed emergent results can make the leap from say voltages of neuronal pules to truth/falsity of propositions or the binding nature of moral duty [and a right is a claim to binding obligation on the part of others]. Indeed, as the Wales example discussed in app 6 the always linked [based on the exchange in an earlier thread here (note JK’s role in that exchange . . . )] shows, even if C + N credibly [per direct observation of the vastly improbable but logically and physically possible, say . . . ] produce an apparent message, we have no good grounds to see it as credible as accurately referring to the states of affairs in the real world. Thus, for instance Sir Francis Crick’s attempted reduction of mind to neuronal electro-chemistry and connexions plainly self-refers and reduces to absurdity.

    5 –> So [a] we know THAT mind (whatever its nature . . . ), [b] we know THAT mind interacts with our decisions, speech, thought and action, and [c] we know THAT mind acts into the physical world. Even if we have no idea of how, we credibly “know THAT . . . ”

    6 –> And, if we know that but not yet how, is that not simply an invitation to serious research as per say “The Spiritual Brain” highlights . . .? In short, the question in 148 is back ways around and begs the real issue at stake: we know — as a self evident/ per se notum fact — that mind interacts with the material world as a matter of FACT, so we need explanations adequate to account for that. FACTS TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER EXPLANATIONS THEREOF. And, factual inadequacy counts heavily against any theory or worldview.

    7 –> Chance + Necessity acting on Matter + Energy (for reasons outlined above and discussed onward in the linked and referenced] cannot credibly do so. So, since mind and related experiences are in fact “fact number one” — we interact with the world as intelligent, conscious, thinking and deciding agents — evolutionary materialism’s explanatory failure and associated persistent refusal to accept the relevant fact no 1, here are fatal. [Cf on this, the misconceived statements of the “hard problem of consciousness” — i.e the attempt to reduce it to neurological activity, as discussed in the referenced app 6.]

    8 –> Notwithstanding; how, then, can we model the interaction of mind and matter? As the said appendix and earlier discussions will show, I favour the Derek Smith model in which, on my view, we see two-tier control of the body acting as a living robot. In effect the brain is the mind’s i/o front-end processor, providing imaginative, insightful, creative supervision and guidance. The quantum gaps under the Energy-time form of the Heisenberg principle are, in this context, an interesting point for discussion. That is, loading the brain with intelligent information that guides it in controlling the body.

    In short, the distracting side-issue is evidently posed here again — having been previously seriously answered without effective response — as just that. Namely, yet another attempt to change the subject and/or shift the burden of warrant.

    So, let us get back on track, please. For, ad hominems and associated dismissals — such as using smear -words like “pontification” [cf 148 supra] –are unresponsive on the merits.

    Finally, I repeat: the law of non-contradiction has long been a law of reality long before it was recognised as a law of logic as stated by Aristotle et al. For instance, here is Paul speaking of the importance of intelligible distinctions that are prior to formalisation of logic:

    1 Cor 14:7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? . . .

    In short, apart form the distinction between A and non-A clear communication is impossible, starting with even music. Similarly, if that out-of control car careering down the road towards you is both there and not there in the same sense and time, and you therefore ignore the warning of your eyes and ears, CRUNCH. Similarly, the unwary post-modernist trout that on similar grounds of rejecting non-contradiction ignores the hungry pike that is there, is LUNCH.

    QED, again . . .

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Geometrical axioms are not self-evident/ per se notum truths [cf the above!], and the parallel lines axiom was precisely the most counter-intuitive. That’s why someone set out to propose and alternative hoping for a reductio, and then found himself facing a new geometry, non-Euclidean.

  168. 168
    kairosfocus says:

    CLARIFICATION: In effect the brain is the mind’s i/o front-end processor, providing imaginative, insightful, the mind providing creative supervision and guidance.

  169. 169
    kairosfocus says:

    Sigh:

    CLARIFICATION: In effect the brain is the mind’s i/o front-end processor, the mind providing imaginative, insightful, creative supervision and guidance.

  170. 170
    kairosfocus says:

    AN [After nap . . . ]:

    I have thought it helpful to look at the Euclidean issue by way of illustration of the difference between axioms and truths that are per se notum.

    Here, Wiki on Euclidean Geometry:

    Euclidean geometry is an axiomatic system, in which all theorems (“true statements”) are derived from a finite number of axioms. Near the beginning of the first book of the Elements, Euclid gives five postulates (axioms):

    1.Any two points can be joined by a straight line.

    2.Any straight line segment can be extended indefinitely in a straight line.

    3.Given any straight line segment, a circle can be drawn having the segment as radius and one endpoint as center.

    4.All right angles are congruent.

    5.Parallel postulate. If two lines intersect a third in such a way that the sum of the inner angles on one side is less than two right angles, then the two lines inevitably must intersect each other on that side if extended far enough . . . .

    To the ancients, the parallel postulate seemed less obvious than the others; verifying it physically would require us to inspect two lines to check that they never intersected, even at some very distant point, and this inspection could potentially take an infinite amount of time.[1] Euclid himself seems to have considered it as being qualitatively different from the others, as evidenced by the organization of the Elements: the first 28 propositions he presents are those that can be proved without it.

    In short, axiom 5 was known from ancient times to be anything but necessarily true on insightful inspection.

    Contrast to these the following common notions that Euclid also stated [including a very familiar-sounding one [albeit it omits the explicit statement of a whole being finite; though of course an infinite whole, per the related mathematics, is not at all an intuitive notion] . . .]

    1 Things that equal the same thing also equal one another.

    2 If equals are added to equals, then the wholes are equal.

    3 If equals are subtracted from equals, then the remainders are equal.

    4 Things that coincide with one another equal one another.

    5 The whole is greater than the part

    These notions come far closer to the concept of truths evident in themselves as I have noted on above, in short, than the five axioms as stated. In particular, inspect each of these and reflect on their contents. Are they true upon inspection? Are they necessarily true, and that based on the interactive nature of the concepts involved? Does rejecting them land you in absurdity? [So far as I know, apart form stipulating that the wholes in question be finite and the parts proper parts, they are true per se notum.]

    Going further, let us consider the geometry of perspective and its extensions. Namely, in our visual fields, parallel lines converge to a vanishing point.

    In the projective geometry article, Wiki observes:

    Projective geometry is a non-Euclidean geometry that formalizes one of the central principles of perspective art: that parallel lines meet at infinity and therefore are to be drawn that way. In essence, a projective geometry may be thought of as an extension of Euclidean geometry in which the “direction” of each line is subsumed within the line as an extra “point”, and in which a “horizon” of directions corresponding to coplanar lines is regarded as a “line”. Thus, two parallel lines will meet on a horizon line in virtue of their possessing the same direction.

    In short, our experience of vision itself is testimony that Euclidean Geometry is not the only possible one, especially in regards to parallel lines!

    Okay

    GEM of TKI

  171. 171
    Jack Krebs says:

    Hi PaV. Dropping into a thread isn’t “horning in” if the comments add to the discussion, which yours certainly do. Threads are lively, organic things which take their form from who chooses to comment about what, when.

    Anyway, the story I was thinking of is told on page 6 and 7 of Feynman’s little book QED, and it is about the magnetic moment of the electron, whose value was not accurately calculated by theory until Feynman and others developed the techniques for which they received the Nobel prize.

    Your second point is one that is under discussion, and is related to the pending question being discussed in posts 148 and 162. I do not agree that it is a foregone conclusion that thoughts – acts of consciousness – are immaterial, but I have come to understand through this discussion that this is one of the major philosophical points driving a lot of disagreement. You might read posts 148 and 162 and other related posts (if you haven’t already been following the conversation) to see some of what I think the issues are.

  172. 172
    Jack Krebs says:

    to Stephen:

    Thanks for the extensive reply. I intend to put some good thought and time into a reply, but I don’t know when today I’ll get it done. Stay tuned.

  173. 173
    StephenB says:

    Jack: One last point. When you deny that the foundational logic is not prior to science in importance, you are falling into the error of not distinguishing the “necessary” from the “sufficient.” You seem to be saying that because logic is not sufficient for science, it is not priot to it in importance. It is prior to it because it is “necessary, not because it is sufficient. In all you points, you are saying that logic is not sufficient for science, therefore it is not prior in importance. Sorry, but this is a strawman argument, and, excuse me, a logical error.

  174. 174
    StephenB says:

    kairosfocus: Once again, you have fulfilled a desperate need at 167. It rates as a headline item, especially, 167 […4,5,6] which should be required homework for all “mind-to-brain” reducers.

    Also, at 169:

    “In effect the brain is the mind’s i/o front-end processor, the mind providing imaginative, insightful, creative supervision and guidance.”

    Excellent.

  175. 175
    Jack Krebs says:

    I don’t believe that I have made any remarks comparing the importance of science to the importance of logic. Can you point me to a place where I have either affirmed or denied anything about the relative importance of science and logic?

    What I have said is that science would not be possible without logic, but logic without empirical content cannot tell us anything about the physical world. These statements do not rank the two in order of importance.

    I think you are drawing the conclusion that I am denying the prior importance of logic because from your view these laws are part of an immaterial, transcendent reality that is prior in importance. I am arguing against that point of view – I think logic has a different ontological status than you do – but from my point of view this doesn’t mean that logic is more or less important than science: this is for me just not a distinction to be made one way of another.

    But my point certainly isn’t a strawman argument or a logical error. You are ascribing errors to me that are not errors, but rather the product of disagreements about the nature of ideas, which is the big topic at issue here.

  176. 176
    StephenB says:

    Putting aside the question of transcendence, we can simply examine the issue of priority.

    Let’s put it this way: reason is more important than science in the sense that it is more basic. If there was no science, logic would still exist; if there was no logic, science would not exist.

    To be alive, for example, is prior to being productive. If there is no productivity, life can still exist; if there is no life, productivity cannot exist. Life provides countless opportunities for activity that have nothing to do with productivity, so it is more basic. Reason provides countless opportunities for understanding the world that has nothing to do with science. On the other hand, without reason, science can do nothing. Just as life is prior to productivity both in time and in importance, reason is prior to science both in time and importance.

  177. 177
    PaV says:

    jk (148):

    Now I have questions about this, although I’m not sure anyone here is actually interested in discussing (rather than pontificating [Cf. 146 supra.]), but my first question is how does this immaterial mind interface with the physical body?

    I recently had a conversation with someone who was dead for over thirty minutes and had an *out-of-body* experience. At the table, as we were having the discussion, was someone who knew someone who also had had an *out-of-body* experience.

    The man who had recently had an OOBE said that as he *died*, he could feel electricity flowing out of the nerve-endings in his hands. The person who knew someone who had had an OOBE, said that this is exactly what this person experienced as well. I know that, as kairosfocus brings up, that in “The Spiritual Brain”, by Mario Beuaregard and Denise O’Leary, OOBE are included in their examination of how the brain/mind works. So, maybe for all of us, that might be a good book to read. Nevertheless, perhaps what the one man (confirmed by another) says about nerve-endings, we can infer that there is some kind of electro-magnetic connection. And, of course, electro-magnetism is, strictly speaking, non-material—although it has the ability to ineteract with material—and, so, may be a way at getting to the connection between the material and the non-material. After all, there is machinery that can “read” minds; and what do they measure? Yes, that’s right, some form of E-M phenomena.

    Let me throw this into the mix. Personally, on two occasions in my life, I was able to “see” and “hear” without the use of my eyes and ears—meaning that I *saw* in a way that is everyway the same as you looking at your computer screen right now and everything around it. That is, in a completely normal way. I suspect this would qualify as “non-material”. In one such instance, what I *saw* and *heard* in a normal way took place about 14 seconds before it ACTUALLY took place. I know these are highly unusual experiences, and, if it’s never happened to you, it must seem completely foreign. Nevertheless, they happened. My experience was completely immaterial. But, of course, OTOH, I didn’t “cause” any of what happened to me. IOW, as this was happening, as far as I know, I was unable to do anything at all.

    Summarizing, you can have thoughts and world-like experiences while completely disconnected to the material world. On the other hand, you cannot “act” in this disconnected state. Lastly, when we “disconnect” completely, i.e., “die”, apparently some electro-magnetic phenomena is involved.

    Perhaps some of this is suggestive in some way.

    Lastly, when we talk about the transcendent, implicit in that talk is the kind of self-awareness that we humans have.

  178. 178
    Jack Krebs says:

    I think that in these philosophical discussions such as we are having in this thread electromagnetic radiation is considered part of the material world. Immaterial, metaphysical and transcendent are being used here to refer to things that are not part of the physical world of elementary particles and forces (which are mediated by particles, if we properly understand what “particles” are in the quantum sense.)

    If I am wrong, and any of you are meaning by the word immaterial things such as energy and forces as opposed to something metaphysical or spiritually transcendent please let me know.

    Also, PaV writes,

    Lastly, when we talk about the transcendent, implicit in that talk is the kind of self-awareness that we humans have.

    That is exactly the point in question. My claim is that we don’t know whether human awareness is transcendent – it might have a transcendent component, in my opinion, but I don’t think there is any way to tell: this is certainly not a self-evident fact, nor is it self-evidently implicit in the idea of, or experience of, self-awareness.

  179. 179
    BarryA says:

    Jack’s characterization of the law of non-contradiction as a linguistic convention may be addressed by approaching the subject from an ontological point of view. At it’s core, the law of non-contradiction is a statement about existence. Instead of saying “A cannot be true and not true at the same time and under the same formal conditions,” we could say “for any thing “A,” A cannot exist and not exist at the same time and under the same formal conditions.” This formulation of the law is clearly a statement about existence in the real world and cannot be dismissed as a linguistic construct.

  180. 180
    Jack Krebs says:

    Hi Barry. I spent some time in post 162 elaborating on my question to you about how the immaterial interacts with the material. Is this a subject that you have any thoughts about that you’d like to offer?

  181. 181
    Daniel King says:

    My goodness, these threads have a way of growing like a hydra. What with this and that in my life, including Mother’s Day, it’s almost impossible to keep up. Anyway, I hope StephenB will countenance my lateness and won’t mind if I stick my nose in at this point and follow up on his #123 of two days ago:

    —–Daniel King: “I say, The law of non-contradiction is a linguistic rule for keeping our discourse coherent. Without coherent discourse, neither deductive nor inductive reasoning are possible.”
    Aristotle, a philosopher not a linguist, discovered the principle and used it as a principle of logic. According to logicians, it is the standard for propositional logic.

    One may remember that this related to StephenB’s #118:

    It all starts with the self-evident truth that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time, a fact that is far more dependable than any scientific discovery you could ever point to.

    Now, I agreed (and still attest) that the law of non-contradiction is self-evident. But now StephenB said that it was discovered by Aristotle in the fourth century BC. What’s going on here? How can something self-evident and foundational not have been noticed by anyone in all the previous centuries of human history?
    StephenB went on to say,

    We also assume that the logic of our mind corresponds to the logic of the world. That is why you can say with confidence that if the streets are wet, if must be raining. We are constantly assuming that truth is the correspondence of the mind to reality.

    But assumptions are hypotheses, not first principles. So I take it that he is agreeing with my opinion in #122 that such correspondence is a sensible working assumption:

    DK—Why not simply propose that we can (with more or less success) apprehend elements of the universe? Looks like a sensible working assumption to me in any case. But not self-evident or metaphysical.

    Further agreement by StephenB about the utility of working assumptions in the pursuit of science followed the above (my emphasis):

    The whole scientific enterprise took off when scientists insisted that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” They assumed, (not proved) that the universe was the kind of place that could be studied systematically. It is not enough to say that “we can apprehend elements of the universe.” The question is, why did all those scientists believe that? It was because they were convinced that a Creator left clues and that we could find those clues if we looked for them. In other words, based on their religious faith, they concluded that the design in the universe was real, meaning that it must have been made with a purpose. Put another way, it is a rational place that can be understood using rational principles. Believe it or not, atheists operate on this assumption every day.

    I find all of these agreements satisfying. Thank you, StephenB.

  182. 182
    Frost122585 says:

    Jack if you don’t mind me interjecting, the Big Bang began with a first cause we therefore have two logicaly sound interpretations of what can account for the actions and existence of all things and their form. You have to believe* either some “non-thing” or “non-material” (what we call in philosophy the metaphysical) thing brought the universe into existence or you can believe what the empiricist would go by – that since all we know is that the universe has a first physical cause, that is all we can know and hence that is all that happened.

    Option 1 – the universe and all things/events in it are the product of a non-material cause or mover or

    Option 2- The universe came out of nothing.

    I find the idea that the universe “came out of nothing” to be quite impossible and unintelligent especially when I look around myself and think about all of the amazing things and experiences I have and am aware of. How could everything come out of nothing when on a daily basis (that is all of my experience in my life) I have never seen “anything” come out of nothing.

    I would assume that the non-material works through the material by a sort of proxy- a dialectic. Assume that there is a God- if X happens then y and z will happen but if A happens then B and C will happen. That is there is a law like encoding into the universe that was imparted into the Big bang – a natural but uncontrollable Law- that is the laws are not exactly predictable so no one can play the system dishonestly. All things and events such as thoughts are calculated into the proxy. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and General Relativity supports this kind of a world view. Science actually supports a theistic world view in this case. And of course God or no God there is plenty of room for law like design.

  183. 183
    BarryA says:

    Jack asks: “I spent some time in post 162 elaborating on my question to you about how the immaterial interacts with the material. Is this a subject that you have any thoughts about that you’d like to offer?”

    I will defer to GEM of TKI.

  184. 184
    BarryA says:

    Daniel King asks “But now StephenB said that it was discovered by Aristotle in the fourth century BC. What’s going on here? How can something self-evident and foundational not have been noticed by anyone in all the previous centuries of human history?”

    DK, you are equivocating on the word “discover.” StephenB used it in the sense of “artiulcated for the first time.” You are using it in the sense of “found that which was not there before.” Thus, your confusion.

    Newton “discovered” the law of gravity, but I am fairly certain things fell to the ground before then.

  185. 185
    Daniel King says:

    BarryA #152:

    Daniel King, a tremendous amount of research has been done in the area of qualia. No material explanation so far.

    Here’s a more detailed post on the subject I did a couple of months ago. I challenge you to come up with a counter argument.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com…..e-that-is/

    Yes, that is a fascinating thread, but in my #150, I asked for evidence regarding the reducibility of a perception to physical properties. Your post is not responsive, since you provided no evidence to back up your assertions that such an explanation is now and forever impossible.

    Asking for a “counter-argument” is pointless, because empirical questions cannot be settled by argument.

  186. 186
    BarryA says:

    Daniel King writes: “But assumptions are hypotheses, not first principles.”

    Again, an equivocation. StephenB is using the word “assumption” in the sense of that which is accepted a priori. To say that first principles are assumed is the same as saying first principles are accepted a priori.

    You are using the word “assumption” in the sense of an educated guess that may be tested and confirmed or falsified, i.e., an hypothesis.

  187. 187
    BarryA says:

    DK’s misunderstanding of StephenB is proof once again that Wittgenstein was right: “Philosophy is the struggle against the bewitchment of our minds by means of language.”

  188. 188
    Frost122585 says:

    I read both the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations and don’t remember that line in either of them.

  189. 189
    JunkyardTornado says:

    BarryA:

    “Qualia” is a conceit of philosophy, not something that has been verified or confirmed in anyway whatsoever. In some formulations it is merely defined as those aspects of experience that cannot be attributed to physical phenomena.

    On the subject of color, there are quite predictable innate human responses to specific colors that are well understood in for example the advertising industry.

  190. 190
    StephenB says:

    —–Daniel King: “I say, The law of non-contradiction is a linguistic rule for keeping our discourse coherent. Without coherent discourse, neither deductive nor inductive reasoning are possible.”

    Aristotle, a philosopher not a linguist, discovered the principle and used it as a principle of logic. According to logicians, it is the standard for propositional logic.

    —–DK: “One may remember that this related to StephenB’s #118:

    It all starts with the self-evident truth that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time, a fact that is far more dependable than any scientific discovery you could ever point to.

    —–Daniel King: “Now, I agreed (and still attest) that the law of non-contradiction is self-evident. But now StephenB said that it was discovered by Aristotle in the fourth century BC. What’s going on here? How can something self-evident and foundational not have been noticed by anyone in all the previous centuries of human history?”

    You have to think about a subject before it becomes self evident to you. The law of non-contradiction isn’t self evident to those who don’t consider what it means to reason in the abstract. When I say that Aristotle “discovered” the “principle,” I mean he formalized it and put it into words. He was the trying to explain the reasoning process in a systematic way. I was pointing out that Aristotle was a philosopher and not a linguist to disabuse you of your misguided notion that the law of non-contradiction is solely about language. That was the context of the discussion, a point you seem to have forgotten rather quickly.

    —–Daniel King: “But assumptions are hypotheses, not first principles. So I take it that he is agreeing with my opinion in #122 that such correspondence is a sensible working assumption:”

    No, that is not necessarily the case. In science, an assumption can be a hypothesis, but in philosophy, an assumption is a meta-world view that shapes perspective. The world is a lot bigger than you think. Once again, you miss the point about the philsopical world views that shaped the attitudes and actions of the early scientists.

    —–“Daniel King: “Further agreement by StephenB about the utility of working assumptions in the pursuit of science followed the above (my emphasis):”

    The whole scientific enterprise took off when scientists insisted that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” They assumed, (not proved) that the universe was the kind of place that could be studied systematically. It is not enough to say that “we can apprehend elements of the universe.” The question is, why did all those scientists believe that? It was because they were convinced that a Creator left clues and that we could find those clues if we looked for them. In other words, based on their religious faith, they concluded that the design in the universe was real, meaning that it must have been made with a purpose. Put another way, it is a rational place that can be understood using rational principles. Believe it or not, atheists operate on this assumption every day.

    —–Daniel King: “I find all of these agreements satisfying. Thank you, StephenB.”

    Why you would feel satisfied about not knowing that philosophy and science use the word “assumption” in different ways? Once again, you miss the major point about the PHILSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS of science.

  191. 191
    jjcassidy says:

    Stephen,

    Take for example these seemingly contradictory statements, that would both be true in certain contexts.

    The world is a ball. The earth is not actually a ball.

    That’s the thing about metaphor. It is both true and not really true (“straight”, or even “oak-like”) at the same time. Language works by metaphor and that metaphor colors the result to a large degree.

    “Contra-diction” literally means “speaking against”. It is a projection that we make into the cosmos. It is a best guess–and really the only way it seems comprehensible to us.

    It doesn’t matter that Aristotle was not a linguist, the issue can still be linguistic.

  192. 192
    BarryA says:

    jjcaddidy, I’m as big a fan of Wittgenstien and the linguistic movement as anyone, but I have to tell you, they fell off the edge when they started suggesting the law of non-contradiction is up for grabs. See my 179, which approaches the issue from an ontological perspective.

  193. 193
    StephenB says:

    —–jjcassidy: “Contra-diction” literally means “speaking against”. It is a projection that we make into the cosmos. It is a best guess–and really the only way it seems comprehensible to us.

    —–“It doesn’t matter that Aristotle was not a linguist, the issue can still be linguistic.”

    I guess the only thing I can do is to keep making the point in different ways until people get it.

    The law of contradiction works as follows:

    {A] We have rational minds and [B} We live in a rational universe.

    With respect to [A} a think cannot be true and false at the same time

    With respect to {B} a thing cannot be and not be at the same time.

    With respect to {A} it is subjective, appropriate to the mind, and true for the INVESTIGATOR

    With respect to {B} it is objective, appropriate for the reality outside the mind, and true for the OBJECT OF THE INVESTIGATION.

    {A} has to do with what we say about
    the things we talk about (language)
    [B} has to do with the things that we talk about

    Thus, if the streets are wet, it must be raining. This is true for {A} OUR PERCETION OF THE WORLD and {B} FOR THE WORLD ITSELF.

    It is not either or.

    To complete the formula, I will repeat it once again with the final loop. {A} We have rational minds, {B} We live in a rational universe, and {C} there is a correspondence between the two. Truth is the correspondence between the mind and reality. That means that unless mind and reality both exist, there can be no truth and no rationality. Two realms (duslism) are required for rationality. One realm (materialism/monism cannot accomodate rationality.

  194. 194
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm:

    Sigh – it seems a little harder to [semi-]retire than one thinks, when serious matters of grave import are in contention . . . at least, this AM I am a little less sleepy.

    First, thanks to Stephen B for some kind words [I was only summarising what we means by “self-evident truth and how it connects to the inference to design], and I will follow up BarryA on the mind-body interaction issue a bit. [Indeed, this morning in offline exchanges with a UD contributor soon to be credited co-author once the app 6 the always linked is revised, the very issue3 came up.]

    But lest we forget – and lest we forget the chaotic and tyrannical implications of rejecting such self-evident truths, the actual focus of this thread is acceptance/rejection of MORAL self-evident truth and implications for liberty. That brings Locke’s citation of Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity to the fore in Ch 2 section 5 of his 2nd essay on civil gov’t again:

    The like natural inducement hath brought men to know that it is no less their duty to love others than themselves, for seeing those things which are equal, must needs all have one measure; 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 weak, being of one and the same nature: to have anything offered them repugnant to this desire must needs, in all respects, grieve them as much as me; so that if I do harm, I must look to suffer, there being no reason that others should show greater measure of love to me than they have by me showed unto them; 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.” (Eccl. Pol. i.)

    This quote is of course the bulk of that section. Locke then immediately builds on this:

    6. But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of licence; though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions; for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign Master, sent into the world by His order and about His business; they are His property, whose workmanship they are made to last during His, not one another’s pleasure. And, being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of Nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorise us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours . . .

    Shades of Paul in Rom 2:14 – 15 and 13:1 – 10!

    Compare BarryA’s warning on what the evolutionary materialism-driven rejection of this Creation-anchored self-evident principle has done in US [and wider Western] Law:

    it is not an overstatement to say that the modern era of American law began with the publication in 1897 of “The Path of the Law” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. In this seminal work Holmes announced that it was time to jettison the notion that the law has anything to do with morality, because morality has no meaning. Holmes wrote, “For my own part, I often doubt whether it would not be a gain if every word of moral significance could be banished from the law altogether, and other words adopted which should convey legal ideas uncolored by anything outside the law.”
    With “The Path of the Law” Holmes had founded the school of “legal realism,” and this theory gradually came to be the predominate theory of jurisprudence in the United States. “Legal realism” should more properly be called “legal materialism” because Holmes denied the existence of any objective “principles of ethics or admitted axioms” to guide judges’ rulings. In other words, the law is not based upon principles of justice that transcend time and place. The law is nothing more than what willful judges do, and the “rules” they use to justify their decision are tagged on after they have decided the case according to their personal preferences. At its bottom legal realism is a denial of the objective existence of a foundation of moral norms upon which a structure of justice can be built.
    Why would Holmes deny the objective existence of morality? This is where the influence of Darwin comes in. It is one of the darker secrets of our nation’s past that Holmes, perhaps the most venerated of all our Supreme Court justices, was a fanatical – I used that word advisedly — Darwinist who advocated eugenics and the killing of disabled babies. In Buck v. Bell Holmes wrote “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” As Phillip Johnson has written, Holmes was a “convinced Darwinist who profoundly understood the philosophical implications of Darwinism.”

    It is but a step from such thought to Darwin’s Graveyards, I am afraid – outrage at such exposure of implications of dearly held beliefs notwithstanding. History is warning us, loud and clear, again and again, but are we listening?

    For, when “scientifically anchored” rejection of an intuitively obvious principle of morality leads to chaos, tyranny and absurdity, that immediately tells us that we are probably playing with the fire of rejecting self-evident moral truth. Something must be wrong with such science [probably including its core worldview level commitments asd Lakatos discussed] those and/or its applications and extensions. In the case of Darwinist evolutionary materialism, as I have repeatedly pointed out [of course, echoing many far more august voices than that of a mere humble blog commenter], something is drastically wrong with all three:

    . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that “Right” and “Wrong” are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

    “Truth is dead,” so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home.

    Further, since family structures and rules of sexual morality are “simply accidents of history,” one is free to force society to redefine family values and principles of sexual morality to suit one’s preferences.

    Finally, life itself is meaningless and valueless, so the weak, sick, defenceless and undesirable — for whatever reason — can simply be slaughtered, whether in the womb, in the hospital, or in the death camp.

    In short, ideas sprout roots, shoot up into all aspects of life, and have consequences in the real world . . .

    We have been warned – not least by the ghosts of over 100 million victims of regimes acting on such principles.

    [ . . . ]

  195. 195
    kairosfocus says:

    Now, on the issue of mind-brain interaction:

    First, I stand by the point that the first fact of all is that of the conscious, reasoning, understanding, deciding mind. This is the fact that is the premise on which all our other actions as agents is predicated. So, when we see allegedly scientific claims and associated worldviews that would entail that our minds are illusions and/or epiphenomena of material processes that reduce to chance + necessity acting on matter + energy in space-time, we must yell: STOP!

    For, we know that such things would put mind under the driving control of mechanical necessity of blind forces and associated chance conditions and circumstances. This would fatally undermine mind, which we have excellent reason to understand is sufficiently reliable for us to have viable intellectual lives.

    In short, we are looking at truths per se notum that cut across claimed scientific understanding, which in turn must inevitably rely on said truths they would dismiss!

    Now, while we know THAT there is mind-brain interaction beyond what can credibly be accounted for on the basis of C+ N acting on M + E in s-t, we are not so advanced in knowing how. But to have an explanation for a fact comes after we acknowledge the fact, and to deny a fact that in denying we must rely on is absurdity. So, let us start afresh on a humbler footing.

    Having said that, let us look in brief at the D-S model as linked above:

    The problem is that motor activity – efference – does not just induce movement, but also affects what is picked up by the senses. As soon as you start moving, proprioceptors will tell you about limb position and balance, cutaneous receptors will tell you about changes in touch, pain, temperature, and pressure, homeostatic systems will signal requests for blood pressure and blood glucose maintenance, and special senses (eyes and ears) will detect the changing visual and auditory shape of the world. The senses, in short, are involved every bit as much in motor activity as are the motor pathways.

    What efference copy systems do, therefore, is subtract what you expect your senses to tell you next from what they actually tell you next. This gives zero if things are going to plan, but a non-zero error signal if they are not. This comparison is achieved by momentarily storing an image of the main motor output – the efference copy – and by then monitoring what is subsequently received back from the senses – the reafference. The principal benefit, of course, comes when the two flows totally cancel each other out, because this leaves the higher controller free to get on with more important things. Every now and then, however, the system encounters some sort of external obstacle, or “perturbation”. This causes the reafference not to match the efference copy, and this, in turn, causes the higher controller to be interrupted with requests for corrective action. And because the sensors in an efference copy system thereby become capable of confirming for themselves that the effectors are working to plan, this is a highly efficient way of reducing unnecessary network traffic . . . .

    An even more advanced way to make use of past experience is to develop some form of predictive control system, that is to say, a system where the efference at every level of the control hierarchy is prepared well ahead of actual need (up to seconds ahead in many cases, but hours or even days ahead in the case of more “strategic” predictions). Indeed, there is considerable insight to be gained (even as non-technologists) by considering the problems faced by robotics engineers. Maravall, Mazo, Palencia, Perez, and Torres (1990), for example, are among the many research teams working in this area, and have obtained good results with robots capable of constantly making guesses at what is coming next . . . .

    There are also several important new modules (and important new memory resources to go with them). (1) a higher order controller (far left) replaces the external manual source of command information. This means that there is no longer any high-side system boundary, making the new layout self-controlling. That is to say, it is now capable of willed behaviour, or “praxis” . . . . The higher order controller “thinks ahead” (7), the device controllers deploy a repertoire of prelearned skills (8), and the peripheral systems know from their efference copy what is expected next (9). Note that this diagram, if redrawn to Yourdon notation and rotated 90o to the right (so that the system boundary is at the bottom), has many points of congruence with Frank’s organogramm and Smith’s (1993, 1996) six-module model of cognition. Note especially that Denmark Technical University’s Rodney Cotterill (eg. Cotterill, 2001) is building a convincing theory of consciousness based around the brain’s efference copy system

    In short the mind can beenvisioned as a supervising controller for the brain acing as i/o front end controller of the body and its various effectors and feedback elements.

    To get to the interaction we can for instance look at the possibilities of quantum gaps:

    Keith Campbell writes, “The indeterminacy of quantum laws means that any one of a range of outcomes of atomic events in the brain is equally compatible with known physical laws. And differences on the quantum scale can accumulate into very great differences in overall brain condition. So there is some room for spiritual activity even within the limits set by physical law. There could be, without violation of physical law, a general spiritual constraint upon what occurs inside the head.” (p.54). Mind could act upon physical processes by “affecting their course but not breaking in upon them.” (p.54). If this is true, the dualist could maintain the conservation principle but deny a fluctuation in energy because the mind serves to “guide” or control neural events by choosing one set of quantum outcomes rather than another. Further, it should be remembered that the conservation of energy is designed around material interaction; it is mute on how mind might interact with matter. After all, a Cartesian rationalist might insist, if God exists we surely wouldn’t say that He couldn’t do miracles just because that would violate the first law of thermodynamics, would we? [Cf also here — especially stuff on Penrose and related ideas on microtubules.]

    In short, serious stimulus to research – just the opposite of a science stopper.

    GEM of TKI

  196. 196
    Daniel King says:

    StephenB #190:

    In science, an assumption can be a hypothesis, but in philosophy, an assumption is a meta-world view that shapes perspective.

    So, we have two intellectual domains here, that of science and that of philosophy.

    And, the symbol “assumption” can be construed in different ways within each domain, so that the proposition “The world can be understood,” is a (non-metaphysical) working hypothesis for the scientist and part of a metaphysical world-view for the philosopher.

    Therefore, the claim that the proposition “The world can be understood” is a metaphysical foundation of science is not necessarily true.

    (If I recall correctly, Aristotle distinguished metaphysics from physics as a “theoretic” science, concerned with “being as such.” Meta – physics = beyond physics.)

    Once again, you miss the point about the philsopical world views that shaped the attitudes and actions of the early scientists.

    What is the point? That one must believe in the Christian God and/or Aristotelian metaphysics to do science?

  197. 197
    kairosfocus says:

    DK:

    Pardon a few direct words . . .

    At the core of scientific research programmes, as Lakatos pointed out, we find embedded core worldview level commitments, often tied to ideas of both epistemology and metaphysics proper. [Cf here the discipline known as phil of science, noting that “what is/is not science” and “how do we know, to what degree of warrant in science” and the like are a PHIL issues not scientific ones.]

    Second you full well know — or on long being referred to adequate documentation [e.g. cf here — again — for a start] SHOULD know — that it is a common allegation to day that the Christian worldview is hostile to science as such, when in fact it is also not well discussed in education and media circles — no prizes for guessing why — that in fact modern science and the scientific revolution were birthed in a Judaeo-Christian matrix, by men who sought to understand God’s order for the world, viewed as a revelation of God’s nature.

    “Thinking God’s thoughts after him.”

    Third, a basic fair-minded reading of the above will show that SB has emphasised that we must accept certain self-evident truths about e.g. rationality [not (A ANSD NOT_A)], before we can reason to do science.

    So, in the light of so much of such significant value from SB that has gone on above, claims like your:

    What is the point? That one must believe in the Christian God and/or Aristotelian metaphysics to do science? . . .

    now begin to come across as grating, frankly disrespectful strawman caricatures driven by objection for the sake of objection and dismissal without serious consideration of serious issues, not a constructive contribution to a serious dialogue.

    Pardon my directness.

    But, I am sure we can do better — a lot better — than the above quote!

    GEM of TKI

  198. 198
    StephenB says:

    —–DK: “What is the point? That one must believe in the Christian God and/or Aristotelian metaphysics to do science?”

    The point is that science, which normally investigates material realities, owes its existence and its practice to many non-material, philosophical realities, one example of which is the law of non contradiction. Science cannot survive without a metaphysical foundation. First principles are philosophical, not scientific. More importantly, these first principles are articles of faith. That means that it useless and irrational to ask for “evidence” or “proof” of their existence. They are to be accepted as given, so they can be used to prove everything else. It is not necessary to accept Christianity or Aristotelian metaphysics to do science, but it is necessary to accept a theme common to them both and one which can be found in few other places—belief in a rational, orderly universe.

  199. 199
    Borne says:

    So much complex talk for something so intuitively obvious is never a good sign of either our intelligence or our submission to reality.

    It is strange that those who are the most rebellious to reality are the materialists and agnostics – who claim we cannot know yet argue as though they do!

    Imo, Lewis still says it best because he states it most simply:
    “Those who would like the God of scripture to be more purely ethical, do not know what they ask…All men alike stand condemned, not by alien codes of ethics, but by their own, and all men therefore are conscious of guilt.” – CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain

    “If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. Similarly if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.”
    –The Abolition of Man

    “When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all.”
    “There is nothing indulgent about the Moral Law. It is as hard as nails…If God is like the Moral Law, then He is not soft.”
    –Mere Christianity

    “If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes…it cuts its own throat.”

    “Unless thought is valid we have no reason to believe in the real universe… A universe whose only claim to be believed in rests on the validity of inference must not start telling us the inference is invalid…” –Christian Reflections

    “First, and self-evident truths, the affirmations of reason, consciousness, and the testimony of God, can never conflict with each other.
    There is always a fallacy in whatever is flatly inconsistent with either of these.” – Charles G Finney

  200. 200
    Daniel King says:

    BarryA #179

    Jack’s characterization of the law of non-contradiction as a linguistic convention may be addressed by approaching the subject from an ontological point of view. At it’s core, the law of non-contradiction is a statement about existence. Instead of saying “A cannot be true and not true at the same time and under the same formal conditions,” we could say “for any thing “A,” A cannot exist and not exist at the same time and under the same formal conditions.” This formulation of the law is clearly a statement about existence in the real world and cannot be dismissed as a linguistic construct.(emphasis added)

    Spot on, BarryA. Ontology is the key concept that separates the linguistic analysts from the metaphysicians.
    As a logical principle, the law of non-contradiction is self-evident, correct, and useful. But as a metaphysical principle, it is useful only to metaphysicians. Why? Because non-metaphysicians (scientists) have no tools to investigate the properties of “being” or “existence.”

    You may say that non-metaphysicians implicitly operate under metaphysical rules of which they are blissfully unaware. Perhaps non-metaphysicians are invincibly ignorant. If so, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia,

    Invincible ignorance, whether of the law or of the fact, is always a valid excuse and excludes sin.

  201. 201
    StephenB says:

    —-DK: “As a logical principle, the law of non-contradiction is self-evident, correct, and useful. But as a metaphysical principle, it is useful only to metaphysicians.”

    It is useful for anyone who wants to live as a rational person.

    —–DK: “Why? Because non-metaphysicians (scientists) have no tools to investigate the properties of “being” or “existence.”

    As I pointed out @193, the law of non-contradiction is applies to both realms. It is no less self-evident in either case. No “tools” are needed to “investigate” a self evident truth, though a little reflection would certainly help.

    —–DK: “You may say that non-metaphysicians implicitly operate under metaphysical rules of which they are blissfully unaware.

    If they are rational, they will act according to that principle, whether they are consciously aware of it or not.

    —–DK: “Perhaps non-metaphysicians are invincibly ignorant. If so, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia,

    —–DK: “Invincible ignorance, whether of the law or of the fact, is always a valid excuse and excludes sin.”

    You might want to reread those last two sentences and ask yourself if they are relevant in any way.

  202. 202
    vividblue says:

    “As a logical principle, the law of non-contradiction is self-evident, correct, and useful. But as a metaphysical principle, it is useful only to metaphysicians. Why? Because non-metaphysicians (scientists) have no tools to investigate the properties of “being” or “existence.” ”

    Here is the problem, or at leat one of them. Many scientists and so called scientific types treat their empiricism as if it is not rooted in metaphysics. From this launching point they then take their metaphysical empiricism and claim a privileged position against all other forms of knowledge.

    One of the most eloquent spokesperson of this type of thinking was the late Steven Jay Gould where he articulated what I call the fact/faith distinction. That which can be and has been empirically confirmed is fact everything else is faith. Others have gone so far to apply this to rationality itself. Only those things we can empirically confirm conttutes what is rational and everything else is irrational.

    This why the subject of morals, reigion,etc, are said to be non factual and in the case of faith irrational.

    However science itself is based on several metaphysical presuppositions. Given this no metaphysical position is entitled to claim a privileged position or monopolize what is or is not knowable. This does not stop scientists from doing so but as KF and Stephen have shown and so far no one has refuted them their scientism is nothing but metaphysics.

    Those who fail to see this arrogantly tell those who understand that we all operate from certain first principles, that such and such cannot be because we cannot emirically confirm certain things.

    How else could Jack for instance make statements that certain people only deal with what is “knowable” and do not make assumptions. Or that the law of non contradiction is not metaphysical.

    It comes to a shock to many that what they so smugly think is some kind of objective knowledge is rooted in what they would call subjective, faith based, irrational, ie something that cannot be empirically conirmed!!

    Vivid

  203. 203
    StephenB says:

    —–“vividblue: “It comes to a shock to many that what they so smugly think is some kind of objective knowledge is rooted in what they would call subjective, faith based, irrational, ie something that cannot be empirically conirmed!!”

    Excellent point!

  204. 204
    kairosfocus says:

    DK:

    In re, 200:

    As a logical principle, the law of non-contradiction is self-evident, correct, and useful. But as a metaphysical principle, it is useful only to metaphysicians. Why? Because non-metaphysicians (scientists) have no tools to investigate the properties of “being” or “existence.”
    You may say that non-metaphysicians implicitly operate under metaphysical rules of which they are blissfully unaware . . .

    First, though, kindly note at 194 – 5 above on your remarks above in which you claim – incorrectly BTW, right from the outset of the discussion in the previous thread at 98, and especially once the Wales example was on the table at 112 there [disagreement on your part does not constitute lack of evidence on mine . . . as was said in that previous thread] – that no “evidence” has been put in the context of the reality of mind beyond the reach of matter + energy acted upon by chance + necessity. Do you still insist there is “no evidence,” given say 194 – 5 above, as you seem to wish to say; and if so, on what grounds? While you are at it, can you state your disagreement without implying the reality of the law of non-contradiction, etc as first and self-evident truths?

    Thence also, show us how since on your presumed worldview, your words presumably trace to chance + necessity acting on matter + energy, we should treat the apparent message as credible? That is, we are back to the force of the Welcome to Wales example:

    . . . suppose you were in a train and saw [outside the window] rocks you [credibly] believe were pushed there by chance + necessity only [i.e. you saw the actual rockslide . . . ], spelling out: WELCOME TO WALES. Would you believe the apparent message, why? [Onlookers, for more details cf here.]

    Similarly, we need to soberly reflect on the moral issues tied to the original post: self evident truths include certain moral truths and we reject such truths at our peril. As our civilisation seems ever hastening to do.

    But, the even more revealing issue is your idea that “scientists” are “non-metaphysicians.” It is worth the while to pause and address this, step by step:

    1 –> Metaphysics, proper, is best understood as analysis of worldviews [roughly: our key ideas on what the world is like and how it works and where we fit in, thence what we should do (vs. what we actually do . . ), why], and so the real issue is whether science is worldview-neutral, or more properly, whether individual scientists and schools of thought are worldview-neutral. (This last especially holds for evolutionary materialism, which commonly views itself as “science,” and the associated ideas of so-called methodological naturalism, which boil down to only allowing into scientific discourse entities and ideas that comport well with the idea of a wholly materialistic evolution from hydrogen to humans.)

    2 –> Immediately, it is plainly evident that evo mat is hardly worldview neutral, and that methodological naturalism only manages to shield the iron fist in a velvet glove. From this, too we see much of the reason for the stout resistance to evidence that points to design in ways that may be uncongenial to evo mat thought: much more is at stake than mere theories of science when some candidates for design may lend some credibility to theistic views in the minds of hoi polloi.

    3 –> Further to this, we come back to Socrates’ principle: the unexamined life is not worth living. One implication of which is that none of us fails to have a worldview, the question is whether we have seriously and critically reflected upon it and especially its core assumptions, assertions and warranting arguments. Thus the value of metaphysics as critical reflection on worldviews in light of comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory elegance and power. From that, it is but a step to the related issues of the unpopularity and sad fate of that founder of the Noble Order of the Gadfly. [He is the one who first used that metaphor on the record . . . ]

    4 –> Thus also, we come to the principle that we cannot but have metaphysical commitments, in a context where the most dangerous metaphysics is that which is unexamined, merely assumed “true” or “fact.” But, given Josiah Royce’s truth no 1 — “error exists” — to love wisdom [i.e philo sophia, in its basic sense] must among other things entail willingness to critically assess one’s own views; not just those of others. [For ALL worldviews bristle with difficulties; the issue is to compare and come to a mature view on the balance of the evidence and issues.]

    5 –> Further to this, we must see the implications of chains of warrant. Start with a claim, say A. Why accept it as well-warranted? Because of B. But then, why accept B? Well, C, then D, . . .

    6 –> In short, we face either infinite regress or we come to a point, F, where we acept things as so without further “proof.” F is our faith-point: first plausibles, presuppositions, axioms, intuitions, self-evident truths, accepted/trusted sense perceptions, etc. Thus, F defines the core of our worldview.

    7 –> Are we all then in the end inevitably irrational? Some indubitably are irrational or closed-mindedly question-begging, but that we start from core ideas etc and work our way out to account for the world, is to say that worldviews are EXPLANATIONS. As, by the way, are scientific hypothesies and theories.

    8 –> This brings us to the logic of abuction. In deductive proofs, we reason from premises to conclusions per logical inference: P => C. In induction, per principles of cogency, we reason from observations and experience to things that are made more credible or probable — however provisionally — based on the empirical data. In abduction [a species of induction] we argue by explanation. Namely, observed facts F1, F2, . . . Fn are puzzling but would at once be coherently explained if we were to suppose that an explanation E were so. E explains F1 to Fn, and is empirically supported by them. If it goes on to predict further expected facts P1, . . . Pm, . . . and we see that as we test, the P’s are confirmed, this lends more support. If E is also coherent and elegantly simple but powerful relative to live option alternatives E1, E2 etc, it lends even more support.

    9 –> But of course all of this is a balance of judgements, not a proof. Indeed there is a telling counter-flow between facts and implications. That is, empirical support is not proof. And indeed, the very premises of deductive arguments are arrived at by abduction or similar means. We must live by faith, the question is which one, why.

    10 –> And, closing the circle, among the first plausibles are self-evident truths. Those things which we see are and must be true on understanding what they are saying based on our core experience as conscious agents living in a real world. Such truths we can test by observing that they are often undeniably true [e.g. “error exists” — to deny is to instantiate its truth, and thus also that truth exists as what refers accurately to reality . . .], or are so at one remove: to deny them lands one in absurdities, incoherence and confusions [the law of non-contradiction – one cannot even state the denial without assuming what one tries to deny (and BTW, remember, language refers to reality, or at least attempts to do so) . . .].

    11 –> Similarly, there are moral first truths, and we should beware of any worldview that tries to subvert such. Citing Hooker from Locke again as he grounds principles of liberty [as opposed to licence] in Ch 2 section 5 of his 2nd essay on civil government:

    . . . 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.

    Plainly, much is at stake . . . [hence my willingness to make the effort to comment, even in semi-retirement . . . ]

    GEM of TKI

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