Intelligent Design

Does “A Well-Lived Life” Have Meaning?

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Charles Murray recently recounted an experience in Europe: 

 

Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. After the speech, a few of the twenty-something members of the audience approached and said plainly that the phrase “a life well-lived” did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

 

It was fascinating to hear it said to my face, but not surprising. It conformed to both journalistic and scholarly accounts of a spreading European mentality. Let me emphasize “spreading.” I’m not talking about all Europeans, by any means. That mentality goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

 

Today’s class assignment:  Comments should start with one of two statements, either:  (1) “The mentality Murray describes is true, because . . .” or (2) “The mentality Murray describes is false, because . . .”  Obviously, what you write after “because” will the only interesting part of your comment. 

104 Replies to “Does “A Well-Lived Life” Have Meaning?

  1. 1
    On The Rock says:

    (3) The mentality of this exercise needs some improvement.
    Please define “Well-Lived”.
    I would expect residents of different parts of the world to have different mentalities, behaviours and lifestyles.
    All matter is a collection of chemicals.
    The only purpose of any form of life, is to exist and then to not exist. Some will pass genetic information along in the form of offspring.
    Meaning or purpose is irrelevant, it is a human construct.
    Does a “Not so well-lived” life have less meaning or purpose? It existed, then it didn’t, and may or may not have passed on its genetic information.

  2. 2
    DarelRex says:

    Four extra-credit questions, class:

    Are “while away” and “pleasantly” a little bit contradictory?

    What ever happened to, “This life rocks; let’s make the most of it!”

    Do we “while away the time” on a roller coaster? Or in a movie theater? Or while playing a video game?

    Could Charles Murray just be depressed?

  3. 3
    hazel says:

    Barry writes, “Today’s class assignment: Comments should start with one of two statements, either: (1) “The mentality Murray describes is true, because . . .” or (2) “The mentality Murray describes is false, because . . .” “

    As a teacher, I have to say this is a poorly worded question. The phrase in question contains a number of points – what if one thinks that part of it is true and part is not? And what do you mean by true? The truth of the first sentence can be investigated somewhat objectively, but the second is a value judgment. We might investigate whether it is true whether lots of people actually agree with that statement, but that is very different from investigating whether it is actually true that the “purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.”

  4. 4
    specs says:

    There are two problems here:

    The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

    I think the statement is poorly constructed. “While away…pleasantly” is constructed to give the impression of laziness or nihilism. I think it would be better worded as “The purpose of life is to go about our lives as peacefully as possible.” Constructed like that, I think it is a statement that doesn’t lead the listener to a particular judgement and would garner almost universal support.

    The second problem is that Murray was talking to 20-somethings. For all their pretensions, very few 20-somethings are really mature adults. Catch up with those same kids 20 years from now and ask them again. Life, in all it’s pain and glory, has a way of making you realize what really is important and it isn’t German engineering.

  5. 5
    bFast says:

    I also find it hard to use your starting phraise. Is “the mentality Murray describes” that of “who cares”, or of “a need for meaning?”

    Alas, I have studied Victor Frankel, author of “Logo Therapy”. He, a psychiatrist, was stuck in the Nazi consentration camps. In this environment, he chose to notice those who were able to survive the horror, and those who withered under its pressure. He found that those who found ways to be altruistic within that environment were best protected from the emotional damage of the event. He saw some prisoners even give up their scrap of daily bread to give to someone that they had grown to care about. The one who loved seemed to respond better than those who ate the food.

    I find the topic of altruism to be quite intriguing from an evolutionary standpoint. How, why, would a neo-Darwinian model ever develop true altruism. If true altruism exists, I think that it deeply challenges the Darwinian model. I find it very clear that altruism exists in humanity. I have heard of stories of altruism in the animal kingdom as well — porpoises guiding ships, human babies raised by wolves, etc.

    I also personally seek, and feel rewarded, to live a life of meaning, of altruism.

  6. 6
    Domoman says:

    “The mentality Murray describes is true, because . . .” if life is only chemicals simply activating and then deactivating, then life serves no true purpose. If this is all there is, whatever enjoyment we might get out of life, whether by helping the poor or molesting little children, is all pointless. And yes, you did read that right. I believe that, if atheism is true, then whether you get enjoyment out of, say, giving money to the poor, or raping somebody, both actions are of equal worthlessness and thus have no moral value. In fact, I believe that if atheism is true, then nothing matters at all and there can be no such thing as morals. All life, all human beings, will end in death, so everything is equal to just that: death. So all actions equal the same thing. There is no better, or higher way of life. Perhaps there is a way that prolongs life (the things that most consider “good”), but death is still inevitable, so nothing matters. So, “good” = death, and “bad” = death. You might as well do what you want, whether its deemed by society to be “good” or “bad”. This of course, does ultimately lead to the conclusion that such actions, such as those of Hitler, were not really bad or good, they simply just were. They were amoral.

    And yes, I absolutely believe, and have felt myself, that when life is looked upon as a mere fluke or accident, just about all of my joy is literally sucked away. So, if those Europeans happen to find themselves privileged, as far as their general life goes, but can find no justification for existing in the first place (that is, they view life as the result of an accident), I can surely see how they are not satisfied.

    Nihilism is lame. lol

  7. 7
    DanSLO says:

    Why is this being referred to as a “European” mentality? Epicureanism, which seems to be what the author is referring to, dates back to ancient Greece.

    Also, the question posed at the end is rather silly. I couldn’t tell if the author is talking about whether or not this mentality is prevalent or whether it has merit. If the latter, isn’t it an individual’s choice what the meaning of their life is, so what is the point of asking whether or not this philosophy is valid in a universal sense?

  8. 8
    On The Rock says:

    Domoman, by your reasoning, a good person who is moral and cares, cannot be an atheist, and is actually lying if they say that they are. Is this what you think?

  9. 9
    On The Rock says:

    .. or does it mean that if you lost your faith, you think that you’d lose your morals, and act completely differently?

  10. 10
    Clive Hayden says:

    Barry, would you like me to delete every comment that doesn’t start with your introductory directive?

  11. 11
    David Kellogg says:

    That would include deleting yourself, Clive.

  12. 12
    hazel says:

    Domoman, you added an “if” to the described “mentality” that isn’t there. The statement does not ask IF the second statement follows from the first. It asks if the two statements are true. And, as both DanSLO and I have pointed out, it is not clear at all what kind of “truth” the two statements are asking about. How do you go about determining whether someone’s “purpose” is true or not? If someone say this is what I believe my purpose is, in what way can you say that isn’t? You can say that you don’t think that they have a good purpose, which is a value judgment; or you might say you don’t think they really know what their purpose is, in which case you have a psychological issue about the person’s self awareness.

    So I still think that Barry’s issue, as stated, is unclear.

  13. 13
    Pendulum says:

    I googled the phrase “well lived life” in an attempt to answer the question. I got a book from House and Garden, Tuscan recipes, hynobirthing, great pastrami, gestalt therapy, and this post. So I’m going to have to ask for a little more clarity on what Murray thinks a well lived life is.

    (But I’m sure great pastrami is part of it!)

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    (1) “The mentality Murray describes is true, because . . .”

    …having great sex, driving one of the best cars in the world in one of the best climates in the world has a lot more going for it than most religions – and there are some televangelical so-called Christians who seem to agree, as well.

  15. 15
    Pendulum says:

    hypnobirthing

    dang, I have to type slower.

  16. 16
    Clive Hayden says:

    David,

    “That would include deleting yourself, Clive.”

    Yes it would, and I’m perfectly fine with that 🙂

  17. 17
    JT says:

    (Eccl 8:15) So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.

    Inspirational verses taken out of context and mounted on a plaque, for whatever your philosophy may be – that would be a lucrative business.

  18. 18
    JT says:

    And on the flip side, (with a justification for slavery as well I guess for those looking for it):

    (Luke 12:45-46) “But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

  19. 19
    Barry Arrington says:

    No, Clive. I knew when I wrote that getting UD readers to fall into line is like trying to herd cats. But hope springs eternal . . .

  20. 20
    PaulN says:

    My freaking word, is this exercise REALLY that hard to follow? Is there any need to make it more complicated than it’s meant to be? Domoman obviously has the right idea, and it’s not that difficult to follow suit, otherwise why post in this thread at all? Sheesh…

    Let me re-outline and hopefully highlight the mentality in question here:

    “That mentality goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.”

    Following this, I have to agree with Domoman, except due to a minor ambiguity in the grammar of the introduction sentences, my perspective leads me to begin with the false conclusion instead (But still ultimately agreeing with Domo):

    The mentality Murray describes is false, because purpose itself needs a higher essence from which to be derived than from pure material processes. Life is pointless and contains no higher purpose in the mindset of materialism because all material things will eventually perish, leaving no signature or history of ever having existed. So essentially any efforts to create our own purpose defined by materialism and/or each individual’s own set of relativistic ideals amounts to the same pointless end regardless of your chosen method of carrying it out.

    On The Rock @ 8&9:

    No, it just means that atheistic philosophy has no absolute standard from which to ground said morals. Atheistic philosophy involves materialism and relativism meaning that your life is defined by whatever you make of it, including your own set of morals. This is opposed to having an absolute standard of objective morality upon which to follow that never changes and always exists. According to the former, if molesting children is what gives you happiness then ultimately you are justified by your own means.

    Seversky @14:

    So-called is correct, I’m genuinely surprised by your ability to recognize those misrepresenting Christianity (Which by definition means following Christ). And I think that’s key to understanding what’s wrong with the point you were making.

  21. 21
    PaulN says:

    Whups, that block quote was supposed to be normal text in response to Seversky. Sorry!

  22. 22
    Clive Hayden says:

    JT,

    The parable that you mention is not a justification of slavery. By the way, are you at all familiar with Greek? The Koine Greek word for slave is doulos, the current word for “work” in modern Greek is douleia, which is essentially the same word. Modern Greeks will sometimes say, when translated into English, “What is your slavery?” meaning “What sort of work do you do?”
    Anyway, the context is certainly not justifying slavery, it’s about those folks who were not looking for Jesus’s return. Some people say it’s directed at believers who have become reprobate, and will miss out on the Kingdom, otherwise known as the Millennial Reign, the 1000 years in which Christ will rule the Earth. Those reprobate believers will be assigned a “place with the unbeliever” will be cast into the outer darkness for the duration of this Reign. This occurs at the Judgment Seat of Christ, otherwise known as the Bema Seat. After this Reign, there is the White Throne Judgment, in which either your name is in the Book of Life or it isn’t. This determines whether you go into Heaven for eternity or not. This is the final judgment, and what determines whether your name is in the Book of Life is whether or not you have ever trusted in the Atonement of Christ for your sins, provided that you were given the choice to believe or not, and freely accepted or rejected it.
    So, that is the context. No justification for slavery intended.

  23. 23
    JT says:

    The parable that you mention is not a justification of slavery.

    I was being glib.

    The Koine Greek word for slave is doulos, the current word for “work” in modern Greek is douleia, which is essentially the same word. Modern Greeks will sometimes say, when translated into English, “What is your slavery?” meaning “What sort of work do you do?”

    The verse talks about slaves being cut to pieces by their master, so my guess would be actual slaves – though I understand its a parable. 80% of the Roman population I’ve heard were actual slaves.

    Some people say it’s directed at believers who have become reprobate, and will miss out on the Kingdom

    That would be my guess – missing out on something for sure, what exactly I’m not sure is clear. I think it means they’ll miss out on the rapture.

  24. 24
    JT says:

    BTW – I don’t think there’s a literal “white throne” or a literal “book of life” except in a functional sense. No one knows exactly what the milleneal kingdom is either.

  25. 25
    mullerpr says:

    This assignment is to difficult for me and I would prefer to first immerse myself in the visions of the future that Nietzsche so vividly saw when he contemplated the consequences of absolute materialism.

    The answer I will be looking for is why would some call him the father of nihilism?

    The fact that the physical evidence is mounting against materialism coupled with Nietzsche’s visions for materialism being actually realized makes me think that humans DO have immaterial souls that has the ability to alter chemical (behavioral) states purely based on metaphysical suggestions (…like the ones made by all the materialist prophets of all the ages.)

    If Nietzsche was overwhelmed by the inevitable nihilist future he saw, then I am overwhelmed by the power our embodied souls have over the physical universe. (To think ourselves into nihilist behavior is truly an awesome feat of will power.)

    I don’t expect many materialists to grasp this because they reject this responsibility even though they do change the physical state of being constantly. I would also not expect any materialist to really understand what it means to act righteously within the full compliment of our reality.

    Therefore I can only witness to the fact that the experience of righteousness through Jesus Christ clears the mind completely and prepares it for perfect, harmonious engagement with ALL the wonders of reality.

    P.S. Sorry if I am that skeptical towards materialism, but I shared some of Nietzsches visions…

  26. 26
    iconofid says:

    bfast: Alas, I have studied Victor Frankel, author of “Logo Therapy”. He, a psychiatrist, was stuck in the Nazi consentration camps. In this environment, he chose to notice those who were able to survive the horror, and those who withered under its pressure. He found that those who found ways to be altruistic within that environment were best protected from the emotional damage of the event. He saw some prisoners even give up their scrap of daily bread to give to someone that they had grown to care about. The one who loved seemed to respond better than those who ate the food.

    I find the topic of altruism to be quite intriguing from an evolutionary standpoint. How, why, would a neo-Darwinian model ever develop true altruism. If true altruism exists, I think that it deeply challenges the Darwinian model. I find it very clear that altruism exists in humanity. I have heard of stories of altruism in the animal kingdom as well — porpoises guiding ships, human babies raised by wolves, etc.

    I find this subject interesting as well, bfast. Note that in your concentration camp example, which I find easy to believe, it was the altruistic individuals who gained the survival advantage. But those given food would also have gained a slight advantage.

    From the point of view of two “darwinist” schools of thought, this make sense. The altruistic actions were advantageous to the group (group selection), and to the individuals with the strong altruistic tendencies in their character, according to Frankel’s account.

    Altruistic behaviour can certainly be an advantageous trait and help to perpetuate “selfish” genes in social animals, and I agree with you that we’re not the only species to demonstrate its existence.

    Not only does an adult who has already had children sacrificing his or her life to save one of those children make genetic sense, but saving any child in the world would also do so. The “selfish” genes would have won out over an individual vehicle which was no longer any use to them!

  27. 27
    CannuckianYankee says:

    I believe the purpose in life is to understand the purposelessness of life apart from a revealed purpose. The atheists are right about one thing, and that is the purposelessness of life. Where they stray is the assumption that purpose has not been revealed from outside the natural world, but is rather self-evident from the individual.

    This post-modernism we are experiencing today, which is so loathed by naturalists and theists alike, is really of the naturalists’ own making. If life’s meaning is merely self-evident from the individual, then your meaning and truth is no more significant or valid than my meaning and truth – no matter how contrary they may be to each other.

    Someone mentioned love and altruism. I think it goes beyond that. In light of the meaninglessness of everything (I refer theists to Ecclesiastes), we still have a yearning for purpose. This is true for the theist as well as for the atheist. Our purpose appears to be in noticing this contradiction, and concluding that life must have meaning based on our yearning for meaning, and in the process, to understand that meaning comes from somewhere; it is not self-evident.

    Of course I come at this from a theistic / theological perspective, and can say for certain as the developers of Jewish and Christian theology have pointed out; truth is revealed – it is revealed twofold – in natural revelation and in special revelation. Purpose is apparent because in natural revelation as we are beginning to discover, living organisms in their whole and in their parts show evidence of purposeful design, implying a designer.

    It seems that the designer wants us to discover Him – and that’s where altruism and love have meaning. Apart from that they don’t appear to have any outside the highly inadequate self-evident stage.

    But natural or “general” revelation is not adequate to the specifics of our purpose, and as such, special revelation seems a rather logical need. There is a law-giver, who dispenses the specifics of our purpose. And in that, it’s no accident that everything points to our relationship with Him.

    I don’t know what this has to do with a “well-lived” life except that it allows a more refined definition of “well-lived.”

    This appears to be the conclusion of the writer of Ecclesiastes. All is meaningless except in light of the existence of God.

    “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utter meaningless! Everything is Meaningless.'” (Eccl. 1:2 NIV)

    “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Eccl. 2:24-26 NIV)

    Seversky:

    “…having great sex, driving one of the best cars in the world in one of the best climates in the world has a lot more going for it than most religions -”

    But those things are enjoyed temporarily, and when one approaches the end of life in old age, the less significant they seem (I’m not at that point, but have known many who can attest to this), and as the writer of Ecclesiastes points out, you only leave them for those who come after you – even the opportunities for good sex. It’s not really fulfilling to work all your life for things you enjoy only to leave them to someone else.

    Now I’m not assuming the existence of God for you – that’s something that you will have to decide (or perhaps you have decided already). I’m merely poingint out that religion – particularly in the Judeo-Christian tradition offers something far more significant than temporary pleasures.

    I believe He has placed “eternity in our hearts,” in order for us to yearn for something that is significant and lasting – nothing that Darwinism offers can do that. It’s an empty philosophy.

    And incidentally, many of the televangelists are just dumb. They use an obvious Christian cloak to justify their apparent materialism. It’s not spiritual, but carnal. Of course, we all have those tendencies.

  28. 28
    absolutist says:

    “The mentality Murray describes is true, because…” I lived in France and have witnessed it first hand. It is spreading because it is very much alive here in the United States, as well as in China, India, Russia and other places. What is described is what JP Moreland calls the “empty selves.” The empty selves are overly individualistic, childish, narcissistic, passive, sensate, hurried and busy. For them a “well-lived life” has become an exterior appearance focused on self rather than a virtuous interior life lived for something greater than themselves. And JP was describing people in the church.

    As human beings we are all moral agents as John Warwick Montgomery exposes, there is a “law above the law” that all are under, atheists and IDists alike. Without it, Nazis after the war could never have been prosecuted.

    But since the comments above are just philosophical assertions not scientifically testable or quantifiable in the lab, it will be difficult for some to believe them as true or rational.

    The moral relativist will hopefully see the inconsistency of this thought process and turn toward truth. The ID movement needs people who love truth and strive to pursue it, at any cost, sooner than later.

  29. 29
    FrankH says:

    Hello all,

    I am indeed confused about why one needs a “higher authority” outside of humanity to have a well lived life.

    I do not believe in any “higher authority” and yet I feel great. I am more than able to give myself a purpose, and if I fail I’m sure the wife has a whole list of purposes for me to do, so why again do I need something that most likely doesn’t exist?

    As to absolutist’s take:

    As human beings we are all moral agents as John Warwick Montgomery exposes, there is a “law above the law” that all are under, atheists and IDists alike. Without it, Nazis after the war could never have been prosecuted.

    Which higher law are they talking about? If one says a law passed down from some deity, I most strenuously disagree. As humans are by our evolved nature, social animals, we have instincts that show those groups that stick together, help each other and take steps to address wrongs that others do live better and are more successful. No gods are needed.

    So I know what I need to do and I have a purpose. That is to love my wife, my kids and help them and their offspring survive and thrive. That is best done through cooperation with others to make everyone’s life better.

    I didn’t need any supernatural agency to tell me differently.

  30. 30
    hazel says:

    OK, I’ll play. Human beings are made up of atoms organized into chemicals – there is no doubt about that. Perhaps human beings also have something else that is not made of atoms, but whether that is true or not is not clear.

    As to purpose, I have lots of purposes in life, none of which would I consider as “whiling away” time: my time as a human being is too valuable of an opportunity to just while away.

    Also, the word “pleasure” implies a basically hedonistic emphasis on sensual experiences. For me, most of my major purposes: making a positive contribution to the lives of others, trying to learn as much as I can about how the world works, taking care of my responsibilities, etc. bring me deeper satisfactions than just sensual pleasure. I don’t think the problem is that human beings strive for satisfaction. The issue at hand is what things satisfy one – there is a spectrum of satisfactions that range from the purely sensual to the most deeply giving.

  31. 31
    hazel says:

    Let me make my answer much more succinct:

    1. “Human beings are a collection of chemicals …” True

    2. “… that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate.” Poorly stated. Human beings are born, and later die: that is true.

    3. “The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.” False for me, and false for most people.

  32. 32
    Joseph says:

    The mentality Murray describes is true, because if we are just a collection of atoms there isn’t any purpose other than surviving and reproducing.

    And how we do that is totally up to the individuals as each individual would have a differing view of “pleasant”.

  33. 33
    mullerpr says:

    Hi absolutist,

    In #28 you mentioned:
    “But since the comments above are just philosophical assertions not scientifically testable or quantifiable in the lab, it will be difficult for some to believe them as true or rational.”

    I made mention of the fact that “metaphysical suggestions” (ideologies) has a profoundly testable physical impact on the human race. Then there is the various “mind over matter” experiments that proof physical effect without any chemical agent. This includes the well researched placebo effect, the changes observed in the brain states of patients that was only counseled on how to successfully overcome obsessive compulsive disorder, the study that showed that male subjects can consistently suppress sexual responses when only asked to do so and the list goes on. (Read more in “The Spiritual Brain”)

    The point I make in my post #25 is that everything shows us that that our thoughts have a profound effect on the testable physical world. Denying this part of science as “only philosophy” effectively stops any chance we have in successfully studying the impact of human thought on our living environment and our condition as humans.

    Point is that materialism has derelicted this duty of science because it reduced human nature to meaningless chemistry that has no free will.

    P.S. The thoughts of humans usually manifest physically in the form of design.

  34. 34
    Rude says:

    “The mentality Murray describes is false, because …” it epitomizes the falseness of the age. You sees it on the hollow faces of vacuous celebrities which, if you can remember when causes larger than the personal colored our countenances, it will make you weep. There was a time when a politician could say and mean,

    “… I will say that he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below of which we have the honor to be the faithful servants.”

    How many European leaders—and now even the American—could say that even for political expediency?

  35. 35
    dgosse says:

    Hi Hazel #30 – 31

    I think your comments are a profound expression of the idea that there is a hierarchy of values which we humans distinguish and by which we order our lives. I am curious, given the assumption that human life is complex chemistry that comes into being and later ceases to be, do you consider your hierarchy of values objective or subjective?

    For me, most of my major purposes: making a positive contribution to the lives of others, trying to learn as much as I can about how the world works, taking care of my responsibilities, etc. bring me deeper satisfactions than just sensual pleasure.

    Would you consider an hierarchy of values that places sensual pleasure as the highest good equally valid for the person professing it?

  36. 36
    vjtorley says:

    The mentality Murray describes is false, because:

    (i) if we are nothing more than a collection of chemicals, then the terms “true” and “false” have no meaning when applied to our lives, which is absurd. Chemical processes could certainly be described as “well-adapted” or “badly adapted” (relative to their environment); and they could also be described as “successful” or “unsuccessful” (relative to some goal that promotes the survival of the organism); but it would make absolutely no sense to describe them as “true” or “false”, any more than it would make sense to describe the number two as green. To call a chemical process “true” is to commit a category mistake. However, the elimination of the terms “true” and “false” from everyday discourse is self-refuting: for it would then follow that the sentence “We are nothing more than a collection of chemicals” is not true either;

    (ii) if we are nothing more than a collection of chemicals, it follows that our behavior is determined by circumstances beyond our control. But the very knowledge that our every thought, word and deed (including my typing this) is determined by circumstances beyond our control makes it impossible to enjoy anything, which means that pleasure itself becomes an impossibility.

    The certain knowledge that we are all puppets would be enough to drive me quite literally insane. It would also cause me to self-destruct, as a final act of rage at the very thought of living in such an absurd cosmos. Only someone who was as silly and unreflective as a sheep could continue to enjoy themselves, in a world where materialism, reductionism and determinism were all true.

    I have respect for those materialists who reject reductionism and/or determinism, and who continue to believe in freedom. Existentialists, libertarians and objectivists would fall into this category. I feel as if I can at least talk to them, despite our profound philosophical disagreements. However, I would feel absolutely no urge to even bother arguing with materialists who think that every action of theirs (including arguing with me, if they feel inclined to do so) is a chemical process, and that every opinion of theirs (including their disagreement with me) is determined by circumstances beyond their control.

  37. 37
    Borne says:

    The question needs reformulating or clarifying.

    Nevertheless:
    The atheists are certainly out posting here today, spouting their usual self-refuting rhetoric.

    If matter and energy is all there is then no objective values exist.
    “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”.

    If no objective values exist then there is no right or wrong.
    Collective cultural agreement included.

    It’s all meaningless in the end for all matter and energy are ultimately doomed to thermodynamic oblivion.

    The atheist may pretend to invent values, or do as usual and borrow them from whatever metaphysical belief they choose (generally Judeo/Christian values), but ultimately they are still no values at all.

    Atheism is devoid of foundations for any moral values whatsoever.

    The atheist will often claim self as the origin of his own values. Yet that self will perish into nothing forever with all its pretense and electro-chemical movements that it ‘thinks’ are real thoughts.

    Or to quote Crick, “You are nothing but a pack of neurons”

    But why should anyone care what a pack of neurons does or verbalizes? There is no reason to believe on pack or multiple packs of neurons have any bearing on reality for reality itself is determined by the same pack of neurons.

    As Darwin would have it, “why should I trust a monkey brain?”

    Therefore, in the end, atheism is an idea that doesn’t matter.

    So why then are they so adamant at trying to convince deists and thesits of error, when their own perception of reality is determined only by stimulated electro-chemical movements of matter?

    If matter and energy are all there is then all thoughts whatsoever are the consequence of a long series of accidental causes with no purpose. Thus trying to find meaning as an atheist is futile.

    Thus what they will find is merely self-invented pseudo-meaning. Nothing real at all. Just matter in motion.

    Yet they are always the first to pretend to be using logic and reason!

    In fact, the logical consequences of atheism reasoned to the root, is that there can be no logic and no reason! For these are conceptual, not material.

    Logic and reason are not properties of matter and energy. Logic is not a property of mineral, vegetation or blood.

    Unfortunately, most atheists are simply too dull to figure this out; or too intellectually lazy or simply too wicked to want to.

    Bing an highly educated fool (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Moran et al.) changes nothing of that fact.

  38. 38
    hazel says:

    to dgosse:

    In general, I agree with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, starting with our most basic physical needs and moving up to emotional, psychological and spiritual needs (in whatever way one understands that.)

    I also agree with the well-documented idea that people grow and change during life, shifting their emphasis from the physical to the others as they age. I like the idea from one of the Eastern traditions that says we go through four stages of life: youth, which is basically self-centered and prone to being focused on personal pleasure; family; which focuses on raising children and participating in the economic health of one’s society; community, which focuses on making larger contribution to society as a whole; and old age, which focuses on the bigger picture, moving the focus once again inward to the state of one’s self, but this time in search of wisdom and peace. Of course, these, like Maslow’s hierarchy, are gross generalizations: all people, to some extent or another, are involved in all levels and stages all the time.

    A third idea related to all this is the idea that there is a spectrum of variation among people. In all societies there is a small percentage of people who just don’t get social norms and who don’t have empathy for others. On the other hand, these is also a small percentage who seem to be interested in the issues of wisdom from an early age, and devote themselves to that all their life. And, of course, there is the large percentage of people in the middle who emphasize different aspects of the two spectrums I have described above.

    So yes, I do believe that “there is [are] a hierarchy [hierarchies] of values which we humans distinguish and by which we order our lives.”

    Also, you ask “do you consider your hierarchy of values objective or subjective?” Well I think the hierarchies I mention are good models based on lots of observations of human beings: they are productive generalizations that help me understand myself, and people in general. Everyone’s values are subjective in that they are what the person himself experiences internally, subjectively. However, just as one gains objective knowledge about the physical world by comparing one’s experiences with other’s observations, one can look to the overall body of knowledge about living well and gain some objectivity about what values seem to most suited to realizing the potential of human nature. If one looks at the world’s religions, the works of people recognized as wise human beings, the core values of one’s society, and societies in general, etc., one can find, I think, some objective knowledge about the spectrum of human values.

    Last, you ask, “Would you consider an hierarchy of values that places sensual pleasure as the highest good equally valid for the person professing it?”

    I’m not sure what you mean by “equally valid.” If such a person were close enough to me that I could have some influence on the person, I would certainly make the case that a different perspective would, in the long run, be better for that person. And I would not be shy about explaining how, and why, my values were different. (Actually, as a teacher of young adults, I do this all the time. For instance, students sometimes lie in order to try to stay out of trouble, but I’m pretty good at catching them. At that point not only do they have to pay some consequence, such as detention after school, but they also have to listen to me lecture them a bit about the value of honesty.)

    Hope that answers some of your questions.

  39. 39
    QuadFather says:

    The mentality Murray describes is true, because:

    We are all trying to enjoy life as much as possible; Even altruism is practiced for the sake of some psychological comfort. The only difference between a spiritual approach and a non-spiritual approach is whether there is an afterlife to be enjoyed as well. This may cause some theists to forgo present happiness, but only because they are confident in an enjoyable spiritual future.

    But what does one do once they get to heaven? That’s right: They enjoy it.

    And what the heck was God’s purpose for humanity? If you believe the bible, it seems that God created the world for it to be enjoyed by humans.

    So whether you are a materialist or a non-materialist, it all comes down to enjoying your life (and/or afterlife).

    What is the meaning of life, if not this?

  40. 40
    Tim says:

    The mentality Murray describes is false, because . . . the mentality of the twenty-somethings may have been explained using materialist jargon (the “chemical explanation”), but their experiences (current sex partner, new BMW, and vacation home in Majorca) give them away.

    Avoiding relationship (temporarily partnering with someone for sex), playing with toys (BMWs), and pretending to escape to paradise on a permanent basis (vacation home in Majorca) are nothing more than filling the voids instead of living a full life (for those of you with a more “Maslowian” bent, a self-actualized life). Do I need to explain what those voids are?

    A man may claim that his yard has no weeds, but as proof he should not go out every weekend and pull weeds. Pulling weeds each weekend merely proves that he wishes that his yard had no weeds.

    It is facile to claim that such behaviors are morally equivalent to some of the others mentioned on this thread. What we are talking about here is the “will to power” in defining our lives. The key is that it is a matter of “will”.

    Such willfulness is in response to desire, and divergent and corrupted desires are not adequately addressed by the “chemical explanation”, so they are ignored. However, the question remains; if these young adults do not feel voids in their lives, then why are their behaviors designed to fill voids, if only temporarily?

    It is distressing that those twenty-somethings could have considered what “a life well-lived” might be and come up with no meaning for that term. Their “chemical explanation” allows them to justify narrowing the focus of what the human experience could be all about.

    I suppose the debate is to what extent the “chemical explanation” actively participates in that narrowing. One thing is for certain, the “chemical explanation” puts definition to “intervening time”, a key phrase in the overall claim.

    This is not only true in terms of ultimate purpose, but works itself into daily living in redefining inter alia ideas of forgiveness, hope, striving, loss, meaning, redemption, and joy. A willful narrowing of life, or ignoring aspects of life, is exactly that: ignorance. Therefore, Dawkins gets rephrased, “Darwinism allows us to be myopically emptied hedonists.”

  41. 41
    Tim says:

    Quadfather, in the context of this discussion, your statement, “God’s purpose for humanity . . . seems that God created the world for it to be enjoyed by humans,” is heterodox at best. When you speak of God’s purpose for humanity, consider the short Westminster Catechism. “What is the chief end of man . . .”

  42. 42
    QuadFather says:

    absolutist [28],

    The people you describe sound selfish. However, I don’t think that “whiling away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible” is necessarily selfish. Am I selfish for wanting to have a pleasant Christmas holiday with my family? Am I selfish for wanting to spend a pleasant saturday afternoon with my wife? Am I selfish for wanting to have a pleasant time at my son’s soccer game?

    Gosh, of course not. Otherwise, we would all be “selfish”.

    You see, there is absolutely nothing evil about wanting to have an pleasant life. The problem is when one individual is disregarded, or even harmed for the sake of another individual’s pleasure.

    But to seek a pleasant life … Is this not what we all do, atheists and theists alike?

    Thus, if the mentality that Murray describes is not selfish, then I think it is fundamental to how we all conduct our lives. If it is selfish, then it is harmful to others and I do not agree with this lifestyle.

    But I don’t think that Murray described something that necessitates selfishness. Not at all.

    And if you ask me, these europeans sound a lot more happy and satisfied with life than religious folk who always seem to be waiting for something.

    Better to be an atheist living his life than to be a theist and missing it. That’s what I say, anyways.

  43. 43
    QuadFather says:

    Tim [40],

    I did not carefully read the “context”, only the blog post. What context did I miss that contravenes what I said? I would like if there could be some elaboration so that I could have something more to respond to.

  44. 44
    vjtorley says:

    QuadFather

    We are all trying to enjoy life as much as possible…

    I respectfully submit that trying to enjoy anything interferes with the very act of enjoying it. When you try, you look inward; when you enjoy something properly, you look outward, focusing on the thing itself. A true bon vivant is someone who can do just that: engage in a pursuit wholeheartedly, be it skiing or sampling fine wines.

    This may cause some theists to forgo present happiness, but only because they are confident in an enjoyable spiritual future.

    Not quite. A theistic bon vivant does not live for the future; rather, he/she has simply managed to escape our all-too-common preoccupation with time, by locating his/her sense of self in a frame of reference which is beyond time: eternity.

    Materialism causes us to obsess about our own mortality: the shadow of death hangs over every pleasure we partake in. The beauty of theism is that it liberates us from all that. Belief in God helps us to forget about ourselves. That’s much more conducive to a healthy enjoyment of life.

  45. 45
    QuadFather says:

    Tim [39],

    I think you have made a jump by concluding that a pleasure-seeking life comes from “a narrow focus of what the human experience could be all about.” What things, in your judgment, lie in the peripheral? Quality time with family? A deep romantic relationship? Giving to charity? Did I miss anything?

    All of these things can be accomodated by a pleasure-seeking life – in fact, if you seek this things, are you not pleasure-seeking in some sense or another?

    I do acknowledge that the described pleasures may betray a narrow view of the human experience. But this mentality is described as a life conducted as pleasantly as possible, and that does not necessitate a narrow view of life or the evils associated with “pleasure-seeking”. Therefore, I cannot say that the described mentality is false or harmful, particularly when I see no evidence that anybody conducts their lives any other way.

  46. 46
    QuadFather says:

    vjtorley [43],

    So, the beauty of theism is that we can forget about ourselves, which results in a greater capacity to enjoy ourselves, and that is why it’s nice to be a theist.

    This seems like a strange point to make when arguing that theists do not bother trying to live life as pleasantly as possible.

    I think there is a fundamental contradiction here.

  47. 47
    Clive Hayden says:

    MimsChristian,

    Barry didn’t delete your comment, I did.

  48. 48
    Tim says:

    THEOLOGY TANGENT ALERT:

    Quadfather, the context was one of hedonism. You wrote that our goal is the enjoyment of God’s creation as man’s (ultimate) goal. (my inference). That is why I reminded you of the shorter catechism. I was just saying that a Christian worldview does NOT put enjoyment of God’s creation first; that is why I said your views were heterodox.

    QF, it is not a matter of dividing up behaviors according to some predesignated list. An afternoon at the beach can be like heaven or hell. My immediate (typical?) response to the twenty-something’s comments was that I assumed that their behaviors were not part of the abundant life that Jesus would have for us. They (almost) claim that much themselves.

    QF, please don’t take this as a personal attack, but when you write about theists (by which I take you to mean Christians, at least in part), either you are writing without enough precision or rigor, or you don’t actually know what distinguishes a Christian worldview from “being nice”.

    I have quoted you extensively below, not exactly quote-mining as quote-strip-mining. In each statement, you display a misunderstanding of orthodox Christianity.

    “Altruism is practiced for the sake of some psychological comfort.”

    I disagree. For the disciple, altruism is practiced in obedience to God.

    “Some theists to forgo present happiness, but only because they are confident in an enjoyable spiritual future.”

    I can think of no right-thinking theist who would say that. You get a little wiggle room using happiness, but not enough. The apostle Paul would have a field day with it.

    “So whether you are a materialist or a non-materialist, it all comes down to enjoying your life (and/or afterlife).”

    No. For a Christian, it certainly does not come down to enjoying your life. Enjoying life is an outcome of a Christ-centered life, but not the central goal.

    “You see, there is absolutely nothing evil about wanting to have a pleasant life. The problem is when one individual is disregarded.”

    Perhaps you could have gotten away with, “there is nothing absolutely evil about wanting to have a pleasant life,” but not that’s not what you wrote. The problem is that there is some evil in wanting a pleasant life; it does not lie in “when one individual is disregarded,” but when God is disregarded.

    “But to seek a pleasant life … Is this not what we all do, atheists and theists alike?”

    I think it is impossible that theist and atheists are alike in this. Consider what Christ followers are to do first, “Seek first the kingdom . . .” and in that seeking here on earth we “will know trouble.”

    “And if you ask me, these europeans sound a lot more happy and satisfied with life than religious folk who always seem to be waiting for something.”

    Religious folk? Christianity is not a religion; it is a revelation.

    “Better to be an atheist living his life than to be a theist and missing it. That’s what I say, anyways.”

    You have been entitled to your opinion, perhaps that entitlement has not been helpful to you. That is for you to consider.

    Sorry about the tangent, people, but I did follow the initial instructions.

  49. 49
    Arthur Smith says:

    Barry didn’t delete your comment, I did.

    Ah! Have you deleted any other comments, Clive?

  50. 50
    Clive Hayden says:

    Frank H,

    “Which higher law are they talking about? If one says a law passed down from some deity, I most strenuously disagree. As humans are by our evolved nature, social animals, we have instincts that show those groups that stick together, help each other and take steps to address wrongs that others do live better and are more successful. No gods are needed.”

    Either the preservation of society, as your first principle of morality, which just has to be accepted without argument, as a premise, and not as a conclusion, in which case it is just “right” to do it, and not just right because you or any group affirms it, for no one would have any “duty”–which is not the first principle by your scheme–to accept another’s first principle, and by this it would be a relative thing, invented by man; or it is an Instinct, one that we “ought” to obey.

    If it is the first principle of morality that just “ought” to be obeyed because man says so, (then it is not a real and objective moral principle outside of partisan preference), in the teeth of other and contrary principles of morality, then it is a relative thing between men, and has no basis for being accepted when in contradiction to other moral principles. And we cannot set up any one principle to always be followed in every circumstance, for if we do we will be shirking other moral principles.

    And if we say that it is based on some instinct, C.S. Lewis refutes that argument in The Abolition of Man:

    “This he will probably feel that he has found in Instinct. The preservation of society, and of the species itself, are ends that do not hang on the precarious thread of Reason: they are given by Instinct. That is why there is no need to argue against the man who does not acknowledge them. We have an instinctive urge to preserve our own species. That is why men ought to work for posterity….In reality we have not advanced one step. I will not insist on the point that Instinct is a name for we know not what (to say that migratory birds find their way by instinct is only to say that we do not know how migratory birds find their way), for I think it is here being used in a fairly definite sense, to mean an unreflective or spontaneous impulse widely felt by the members of a given species. In what way does Instinct, thus conceived, help us to find ‘real’ values? Is it maintained that we must obey Instinct, that we cannot do otherwise?…Why this stream of exhortation to drive us where we cannot help going? Why such praise for those who have submitted to the inevitable? Or is it maintained that if we do obey Instinct we shall be happy and satisfied?…It looks very much as if the Innovator would have to say not that we must obey Instinct, nor that it will satisfy us to do so, but that we ought to obey it.

    But why ought we to obey Instinct? Is there another instinct of a higher order directing us to do so, and a third of a still higher order directing us to obey it?—an infinite regress of instincts? This is presumably impossible, but nothing else will serve. From the statement about psychological fact ‘I have an impulse to do so and so’ we cannot by any ingenuity derive the practical principle ‘I ought to obey this impulse’. Even if it were true that men had a spontaneous, unreflective impulse to sacrifice their own lives for the preservation of their fellows, it remains a quite separate question whether this is an impulse they should control or one they should indulge. For even the Innovator admits that many impulses (those which conflict with the preservation of the species) have to be controlled. And this admission surely introduces us to a yet more fundamental difficulty.

    Telling us to obey Instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people’. People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. If it is held that the instinct for preserving the species should always be obeyed at the expense of other instincts, whence do we derive this rule of precedence? To listen to that instinct speaking in its own cause and deciding it in its own favour would be rather simple-minded. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of all the rest. By the very act of listening to one rather than to others we have already prejudged the case. If we did not bring to the examination of our instincts a knowledge of their comparative dignity we could never learn it from them. And that knowledge cannot itself be instinctive: the judge cannot be one of the parties judged; or, if he is, the decision is worthless and there is no ground for placing the preservation of the species above self-preservation or sexual appetite.

    The idea that, without appealing to any court higher than the instincts themselves, we can yet find grounds for preferring one instinct above its fellows dies very hard. We grasp at useless words: we call it the ‘basic’, or ‘fundamental’, or ‘primal’, or ‘deepest’ instinct. It is of no avail. Either these words conceal a value judgement passed upon the instinct and therefore not derivable from it, or else they merely record its felt intensity, the frequency of its operation and its wide distribution. If the former, the whole attempt to base value upon instinct has been abandoned: if the latter, these observations about the quantitative aspects of a psychological event lead to no practical conclusion. It is the old dilemma. Either the premisses already concealed an imperative or the conclusion remains merely in the indicative.

    Finally, it is worth inquiry whether there is any instinct to care for posterity or preserve the species. I do not discover it in myself: and yet I am a man rather prone to think of remote futurity—a man who can read Mr Olaf Stapledon with delight. Much less do I find it easy to believe that the majority of people who have sat opposite me in buses or stood with me in queues feel an unreflective impulse to do anything at all about the species, or posterity. Only people educated in a particular way have ever had the idea ‘posterity’ before their minds at all. It is difficult to assign to instinct our attitude towards an object which exists only for reflective men. What we have by nature is an impulse to preserve our own children and grandchildren; an impulse which grows progressively feebler as the imagination looks forward and finally dies out in the ‘deserts of vast futurity’. No parents who were guided by this instinct would dream for a moment of setting up the claims of their hypothetical descendants against those of the baby actually crowing and kicking in the room…The truth finally becomes apparent that neither in any operation with factual propositions nor in any appeal to instinct can the Innovator find the basis for a system of values. None of the principles he requires are to be found there: but they are all to be found somewhere else.”

    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/aug.....ition2.htm

  51. 51
    mullerpr says:

    QuadFather,

    In general “forgetting about oneself” is the term for shedding the “fallen self” that has no chance of happiness. I am not sure that you might even want to understand it if there is no concept of mankind being in a fallen state and in need of redemption. (I can tell you practically how wonderful it feels to experience complete righteousness from the only true Judge… All experiences are wonderful without even trying… it just is!)

    An alternative is self righteousness which is a powerful and reassuring feeling. There are a lot of people trying to rationalize this feeling as having substance within a specific world view that is carefully designed to foster self righteousness. This makes me understand why so many people fight so hard to maintain this religious stance under the guise of science.

    But from personal experience and the experience of millions of witnesses over the ages, I can assure you that “forgetting our own attempts to achieve righteousness” and accepting Christ’s redemption is truly “a well-lived life”. (The nice thing is that it comports with reality and pure rational analysis of all the data.)

  52. 52
    Clive Hayden says:

    Arthur Smith

    “Ah! Have you deleted any other comments, Clive?”

    Lets not go off on rabbit trails.

  53. 53
    Tim AJ says:

    First thank you, this is a wonderful question.

    “a life well-lived” did not have meaning for them.

    “The mentality Murray describes is true because . . .”

    People make all sorts of wild boastful comments like these guys, because they are using clouded judgments. They are not being rational. They are wildly disillusioned.

    Put one of these kids on an island by themselves with their show toys and then wait. Would their attitudes not change? Or have their friends die because of their careless driving behavior in the BMW.

    Let me state further (for those that are disillusioned like these guys), the primary purpose of life is found in the relationship. I would even go so far as to say “the relationship is the final cause“ (sorry Aristotle but you should have taken the argument to the natural conclusion). The purpose we make a “chalice” or jump onto a land mine to save our buddy, is because of the relationship. Whether we deny it or not life has purpose. Whether we see the blessings nor acknowledge our greed for popularity. The reality still remains “a life well-lived” does have meaning for everyone.

  54. 54
    mtreat says:

    The mentality Murray describes is false, because…when faced with a choice between living life as though it has no purpose versus a life that has purpose, it seems best all around to do the former.

    Clearly, it cannot be objectively or empirically proven that life has purpose; I can only suggest that we as individuals and society as a whole benefit from living as though it does. Even that conclusion is admittedly debatable. Some will say that more harm than good has been done by those that live life with purpose. I will admit that the committed fanatic (with a purpose) sometimes commits horrific acts out of some combination of misguided sincerity, ignorance, and evil intentions. However, it is also clear that much good is left *undone* by those that have chosen to live life without purpose (not to say that those that live without purpose never contribute to the welfare of others). How do you measure the pluses and minuses of one versus the other? It simply can’t be quantified. Therefore, my position is more opinion than fact and I would never force my position on others.

    Hedonism, as originally formulated, stipulates that which increases the sum of pleasure as “right” and that which increases the sum of pain as “wrong.” Pleasure, as originally defined by hedonism, is not limited to the sexual but also includes the mental, domestic, cultural, familial, musical, and artistic – not to mention the base senses of touch, smell, taste, etc. Increasing the sum of pleasure also includes finding pleasure in bringing others pleasure. Logically, this *requires* that we allow others to please us (if we don’t allow others to please us, we deny them the pleasure found in pleasing others). Ironically, it is possible to be so “unselfish” that you are in fact selfish. Jesus allowed His feet to be washed. It was a giving act on His part for it brought pleasure to the foot washer. The foot washer gave selflessly and Jesus gave by receiving the act selflessly. I say live life as though it has purpose and let that purpose be to increase the sum of pleasure and decrease the sum of pain. I am, by faith, a Christian that believes that all have been saved by the selfless act of the cross. Just as all were in Adam irrespective of individual choices, all are now in Christ irrespective of individual choices (what I call Christian Universalism). From that perspective, I am free to love and accept others as they are while living my life in a way meant to increase the sum of pleasure and decrease the sum of pain.

  55. 55
    hazel says:

    That’s a nice post, mtreat.

  56. 56
    Domoman says:

    On The Rock,

    Domoman, by your reasoning, a good person who is moral and cares, cannot be an atheist, and is actually lying if they say that they are. Is this what you think?

    […]

    .. or does it mean that if you lost your faith, you think that you’d lose your morals, and act completely differently?

    No, absolutely not. Neither of your assumptions follow from what I stated. I am simply saying that if atheism is true, then no true objective morals exist. That does not by any means suggest that an atheist cannot be moral, and I definitely do not mean to say that. For instance, I gather that Bill Gates is an atheist, and he has spent much of his time helping the poor and the sick. So, I don’t mean to say that being an atheist makes it so that you cannot lead, what most people would consider, a moral life. I’m just trying to make the point that there is no grounding, or firm foundation for such morals in an atheistic universe. Morals simply do not truly exist if atheism is true, but that does not mean that atheists cannot do what most consider to be moral.

    Nor am I suggesting that if I lost my faith that all my morals would go down the drain. I certainly consider it a possibility, that if I lost my faith, I would act much different then I do now, as I would see very little reason not to do certain things. Why shouldn’t I bother to not do certain things if I can get away with them (such as stealing)? It might make sense, from an atheistic perspective, to not do certain things for my own benefit. I might even do things that do not benefit me. But I do not have any real reason not to steal etc. if I can get away with it. Nor do I really have any reason to respect others and be unnecessarily kind to them if I do not wish to. Nothing matters anyway. But, in the chance that I lost my faith, I may be kind to others simply because it makes me feel good.

    So, to sum up: I’m not saying that atheists cannot be moral. I am also not saying that if I lost my faith my morals would go down the drain. I am simply stating this: if atheism is true then nothing matters, so living morally does not matter (although you might be moral to benefit yourself, or simply for the sake of feeling good, if it does indeed, make you feel good). Yes, atheists CAN be moral. But given an atheistic worldview, “morals” do not truly exist because everything equals death, and so nothing truly matters.

  57. 57
    Domoman says:

    Hazel,

    Domoman,

    […]

    How do you go about determining whether someone’s “purpose” is true or not? If someone say this is what I believe my purpose is, in what way can you say that isn’t? You can say that you don’t think that they have a good purpose, which is a value judgment; or you might say you don’t think they really know what their purpose is, in which case you have a psychological issue about the person’s self awareness.

    So I still think that Barry’s issue, as stated, is unclear.

    Having a purpose requires that: something exists for a reason, and furthermore to cause a certain effect. But if atheism is true, then mankind is an accident and exists for no reason, therefore not existing to cause any specific effect. So, with atheism, no matter what a person may think their purpose is, no purpose truly exists.

  58. 58
    Domoman says:

    BTW,

    I’m not saying the the mentality described by Murray is true, that is, the idea behind the mentality is true. I’m simply saying that that mentality does exist. But as far as whether or not I believe that the idea behind that mentality is true, I would have to say: no, it is not true. I definitely believe life has meaning.

    So, PaulN, me and you might have actually meant the same thing. I think I was trying to say that the mentality described by Murray does actually exist amongst Europeans. But the mentality itself, that life has no meaning, I would say is false.

  59. 59
    Domoman says:

    Mtreat,

    I’m not going to debate this with you, as I don’t want to, but I am curious as to your reasons in believing that all men will be saved by God through Christ? I’m guessing you referred to verse in Romans somewhere between and/or 5:11-15. Note: I’m not suggesting that nobody will be saved through Christ, I’m just wondering why you think everybody will be.

    I don’t believe that Hell is a place of eternal torment, but rather, eternal annihilation (for info on why I believe this, you could read the chapter found on this website: http://www.biblicalperspective.....tion/6.htm). But I wouldn’t mind universal salvation. 🙂

  60. 60
    Oramus says:

    “That mentality goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate”

    This notion is false and I believe suicide and addiction are evidence that we are more than the sum of our parts.

    If all there is are chemicals working together, then how can decisions made in the cerebral cortex fly in the face of evidence brought to bear by various parts of the body signaling furiously that those actions authorized by the brain are in fact killing the body?

    If as proponents of the MES believe, that organisms are geared for survival through competition and other mechanisms, then why do some members of the human species work against themselves?

    Is it for the greater good of the group? If so, how does damaging or terminating what was originally a fit body (i.e.:

    –A stock brocker living the high life, making millions, sees the ‘success’ go up in smoke in a matter of days (think ponze schemes) then suddenly jumps off the 99th floor.

    –a doctor with multiple degrees, working long hours due to the pressures of the business, starts poppin valium and whatall, can’t stop using, sees a successful medical career unravel, and is later found passed out in the vicinity of a homeless shelter )

    ..add to the success of the group?

    Like a host of other real life issues, none of these experiences seem explainable from an evolutionary standpoint.

    Rather, something acting on the brain, above and beyond the mundane interactions of chemical compounds, seems more plausible in the light of glaring contradictions the observations interpreted from an evolutionary perspective present.

  61. 61
    Seversky says:

    Domoman @ 56

    So, to sum up: I’m not saying that atheists cannot be moral. I am also not saying that if I lost my faith my morals would go down the drain. I am simply stating this: if atheism is true then nothing matters, so living morally does not matter (although you might be moral to benefit yourself, or simply for the sake of feeling good, if it does indeed, make you feel good). Yes, atheists CAN be moral. But given an atheistic worldview, “morals” do not truly exist because everything equals death, and so nothing truly matters.

    …to which the obvious response is: matters to whom?

    Whether or not a God or Intelligent Designer exists, what we do know – if we know anything – is that we have this life to live now. What matters to me and, I suspect, most other people is that this life should be as long and as personally enjoyable as possible.

    As an individual human being I recognize that I am weak and vulnerable. I stand a much better chance of enjoying a long and happy life within the shelter of a stable and secure society. That stability and security arise from the willingness of the members of that society to respect the desire of all other members to enjoy a long and happy life and to act accordingly. The principles behind the rules or laws which regulate human behavior in society are what we call morals. In fact, they all arguably reduce to one simple guideline known as the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

    Whether or not they can be said to have an “objective” existence is more a question of semantics. They have no existence beyond the confines of the subjective human mind. On the other hand, I believe they also exist in the minds of other human beings beyond myself who have an objective existence so you could say that to that extent they exist objectively.

    Whether or not they have any special warrant if they are prescribed by a god is also questionable. In the first place, unless you can convince us your god exists your claim for divine authority is without merit. In the second place, even if we accept, for the sake of argument, that your god exists, it doesn’t help. Either your god is a capricious being who conjured these moral prescriptions on a whim or it is a rational being and these morals are the outcome of a process of reason. In the first case, what makes divine whimsy any better than ours and, in the second case, if this god worked out these morals rationally what is to prevent us, as rational creatures, from doing exactly the same thing for ourselves?

  62. 62
    Oramus says:

    On the rock,

    Domoman, by your reasoning, a good person who is moral and cares, cannot be an atheist, and is actually lying if they say that they are. Is this what you think?

    Actually, I think atheists are theists in denial. They aren’t lying so much as not understanding their own irrationality.
    ———————————

    Grasshopper: Master, show me God.

    Master: God is everywhere.

    Grasshopper: But master, how can I know God if I cannot see him.

    Maser: See this apple? How does it fall?

    Grasshopper: Oh, that is so easy, Master. Gravity make the apple fall.

    Master: Show me gravity, grasshopper.

    Grasshopper: Master, I just did. When you drop the apple, it always goes down. It never goes up. Thats because of gravity.

    Master: But where is this gravity, grasshopper. I cannot see it. Why does gravity hide so?

    Grasshopper: Master, I don’t know.

    Master: Then why do you ask me to show you God.

    Grasshopper: Master, I’m hungry. Can I eat the apple?

  63. 63
    mullerpr says:

    Saying a particular world view is “irrational” without substantiating your claim is nothing more than juvenile name calling.

    Making a point about the fact that God does not have to be seen to be real is a good beginning. But there should be much more than that.

    I would like to add the fact that claiming to be atheist based on the evidence is a good rational position. That is exactly what Antony Flew did and he proofed himself to be rational when he embraced the evidence to the contrary.

    If anyone then claims to be an atheist based on the evidence then their claims are as rational as their analysis of that evidence. The way in which anyone approach the modern scientific evidence of cosmology and the origin of life place a profound burden on or rational faculties.

    There is always the “cop out” available that claims that we have no rational capability in any event. That is fine as long as you can live according to that conviction when you try to execute the golden rule.

  64. 64
    QuadFather says:

    Tim [48],

    I think the difficulty you are having is with the strong association between “pleasure seeking” and selfishness. This is a very difficult thing to articulate, but …

    I believe we may be dealing with a definitional conundrum here. On the one hand, we believe it is possible to forfeit one’s own pleasure-seeking in lieu of some “greater” purpose. On the other hand, any choice we make is “preferred” by definition; that is, this choice in some way or another is more pleasureable than the competing choice.

    It’s not that I don’t think we can put others “first”, per se, it’s just that I don’t think we can make choices that we do not prefer. It’s not so much a question of morality, or whatever, as it is a question of logic.

    Consider the examples used. Altruism is the act of accepting pain for the benefit of another, but it is not the act of making a less pleasurable choice. The one making the altruistic decision has weighed the options and found altruism to be preferable to the alternative. For example, the idea of a suffering child is more painful for the mother than the idea of her own suffering. Thus, she accepts suffering to avoid a suffering child, and the net result is less suffering overall for the mother than in the alternative scenario.

    So you see, pleasure seeking is not just about material gain, as in hedonism.

    Consider another example: Why would a Christian seek a Christ-centered life? Because it is preferable. Because the outcome of a Christ-centered life is “better”. It is a more “positive” experience overall. In other words, a Christ-centered life is chosen because is results in the greatest net “positive”, ie: pleasure.

    I did not communicate very well before, but I hope now you can see that my argument is much more about logic than about the human condition. To make a choice, I believe, is pleasure-seeking by definition.

  65. 65
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr [51],

    It sounds like you get a great deal of joy and elation – and dare we say, pleasure? – from shedding your fallen self.

    Now I understand what you are saying, truly I do. Studies have shown that the act of giving generates more happiness than receiving. There is something about putting others first, about serving a purpose greater than yourself, that is far more fulfilling than seeking one’s own material gain.

    At the same time, notice how difficult it is to make that point without saying things like “is better”, “is more enjoyable”, or shoot, “is more fulfilling”. It seems that no matter how much we sacrifice our experience, Well darn it, we always end the sentence with some form of “it’s just more pleasureful that way.”

    I think it’s just that a “choice” is pleasure-seeking by definition. It is a problem of logic and language, not of morals and worldviews.

    However, the danger for Christians, as this seems to have become our example, is that they risk coming across as the miserable sort who deny all pleasures and blessings that God has given them in the present. And that is something that people like me have come to despise. The joy and elation that you experience via your faith requires maintainence. Without that maintainence, I think miserable self-loathing Christianity is inevitable. I hope that you are more successful in this than many other Christians I know.

  66. 66
    QuadFather says:

    mtreat [54],

    Exactly.

    Except for the first sentence: Murray described a lifestyle that is “pleasure-seeking”. By choosing the option that “seems best all-around”, are you not seeking pleasure, and thus validating the worldview as described by Murray?

    I whole-heartedly agree with everything after that first sentence. I especially appreciate your broad treatment of hedonism. Or perhaps it would be better to say that the concept of hedonism is generally treated very narrowly?

  67. 67
    vjtorley says:

    Seversky

    Either your god is a capricious being who conjured these moral prescriptions on a whim or it is a rational being and these morals are the outcome of a process of reason.

    The two alternatives you describe do not exhaust all possibilities. Both alternatives assume that morality is something that God constructs – either on a whim or as a result of rational deliberation. There is a third possibility, argued for by C. S. Lewis and defended by Steve Lovell in an article entitled “C. S. Lewis and the Euthyphro Dilemma” at http://www.theism.net/article/29 – namely, that God is essentially good. As Lewis himself put it in “The Poison of Subjectivism” [1943] in Christian Reflections (London: Fount, 1981), pp. 107-8:

    When we attempt to think of a person and a law, we are compelled to think of this person either as obeying the law or as making it. And when we think of Him as making it we are compelled to think of Him either as making it in conformity to some yet more ultimate pattern of goodness (in which case that pattern, and not He, would be supreme) or else as making it arbitrarily … But it is probably just here that our categories betray us. It would be idle, with our merely mortal resources, to attempt a positive correction of our categories… But it might be permissible to lay down two negations: that God neither obeys nor creates the moral law. The good is uncreated; it could never have been otherwise; it has in it no shadow of contingency; it lies, as Plato said, on the other side of existence. [But since only God admits of no contingency, we must say that] God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.

    These may seem like fine-spun speculations: yet I believe that nothing short of this can save us. A Christianity which does not see moral and religious experience converging to meet at infinity… has nothing, in the long run, to divide it from devil worship.

    Lovell comments:

    Lewis seems to be claiming that we must avoid the false dilemma of either putting God above morality or morality above God. In some way, the two must be on the same plane. Lewis’ suggestion is that God is goodness or, more precisely, that God is identical with the property of goodness.

    Lovell’s essay is well worth reading, and I would strongly recommend it. Lovell anticipates objections that could be raised against the “Divine Nature Theory” as he calls it (i.e. the theory that God is essentially good) and (in my opinion) successfully rebuts all of them.

    The other matter you raised, Seversky, was that if morality is rational, why do we need God to figure it out?

    [I]f this god worked out these morals rationally what is to prevent us, as rational creatures, from doing exactly the same thing for ourselves?

    Good question. First, God didn’t “work out” morals; God is essentially moral. Second, although humans can often work out what’s right and what’s wrong, our reason is notoriously fallible. God is perfectly intelligent by nature; we are not.

    You are right to say that we do not need to explicitly assume the existence of God in order to derive a moral code. However, ethics cannot guarantee what ethics presupposes. Ethics presupposes the reliability of human reasoning when treating of speculative questions relating to “right” and “wrong” (as opposed to merely practical issues, such as getting my next meal, where the alternatives are simply “success” and “failure”).

    What kind of Being could guarantee the reliability of human reasoning when the goal is truth rather than mere success? Only a Being who: (a) made us and (b) is both essentially rational (or more precisely, intelligent) and essentially good. In the absence of such a Being, it would be unwise to place too much trust in our speculative moral reasoning, as it could easily lead us astray. I for one would take it with a very heavy grain of salt, if I were an atheist.

    Of course, you might well ask why individuals and cultures often disagree about morality, if God is the author of our rational faculties. To answer this question properly, I would have to talk about the Fall of the first human beings, and also about individual human sinfulness, both of which can cloud the intellect. Neither of these things were originally intended by God, although both were foreseen. But that is another story.

  68. 68
    vjtorley says:

    QuadFather:

    I think we are finally getting to the nub of the matter. You write:

    I don’t think we can make choices that we do not prefer.

    I agree. But I would disagree with the assertion that we neccesarily make a choice because we prefer it.

    That may sound odd. What I am saying is that sometimes, when we make choices, we do not introspect. I maintain that at least on some occasions, we can make a choice without even attending to how we feel about making it. Later, we may realize that we feel great after having made it – however, that feeling of pleasure was not why we made the choice in the first place. Thus I would disagree with your thesis about choice:

    To make a choice, I believe, is pleasure-seeking by definition.

    Such an account of choice is too introspective, in my opinion. On the contrary, I would assert that moral goodness in its purest form is unreflective, either because it is natural (in God’s case) or because it has become an ingrained habit (in the case of a virtuous human being). The mother who willingly accepts suffering for the sake of her child does not do so because she prefers to do that, but simply because she cannot imagine doing anything else. The habit of putting her child’s needs first has become part of her personal identity, as a moral agent. She does not stop to think about her own preferences when she puts her child first; rather, it is “second nature” to her.

    Likewise, I would wholeheartedly agree with your comment:

    There is something about putting others first, about serving a purpose greater than yourself, that is far more fulfilling than seeking one’s own material gain.

    Very true; but you are unlikely to discover this personal fulfilment if you ask yourself, after every choice you make: “How did that feel? Was it more or less pleasurable than the alternative?” No; the trick is to somehow stop introspecting and forget about your feelings. For what Christianity really teaches, on an ethical level, is that only when you “lose yourself” can you really find yourself. And that’s when the pleasure of leading a good life starts.

  69. 69
    QuadFather says:

    vjtorley [68],

    I am not arguing that decision-making requires deep introspection; That is but one way to weigh the options. Other times, we intuit this information on the basis of vast experiential data and make a choice subconsciously. Sometimes, it is instinct. In the case of the altruistic mother, her instincts further generated an illusory absence of choice.

    There are many ways to make choices, but I believe that all of them have developed in such a way as to arrive at the greatest net pleasure. Simply look at the results of these methods. You have an itch, you scratch it without thinking, and you feel better about it. You get the munchies, you instinctively reach inside that bag of chips, and it feels good to have tamed your growling stomach. There is no option but to put a bandaid and neosporin on your child’s scrapped knee, and you feel relieved once the kid is all patched up.

    So, we may not think about it very deeply all the time, but I maintain that decision-making is fundamentally pleasure-seeking.

    I know that this seems to spoil the selflessness of a “Christ-centered life,” but I think that this is an illusory consequence of language. I think it’s extraordinarily important for Christians to remember that the virtue of a Christian life is not in denying one’s self the pursuit of happiness, but in serving a purpose beyond the self. Shouldn’t that be the thing that Christians are focused on, rather than denying themselves the pursuit of happiness?

    I also have to point out that I as much as predicted that you would have to “end the sentence with some form of ‘it’s just more pleasureful that way.’”:

    For what Christianity really teaches, on an ethical level, is that only when you “lose yourself” can you really find yourself. And that’s when the pleasure of leading a good life starts.

    Thanks for taking the time to understand an opinion that is very difficult to articulate.

  70. 70
    mullerpr says:

    Hi QuadFather #65,

    I have to agree that it takes a lot of maintenance to experience the elation of the choice to accept righteousness through Christ. The reason is that of all the choices we always have to make so very little turns out to produce lasting or even immediate pleasure. All the choices that ends up in a mess has the tendency to completely remove our righteousness whether it is when we convict ourselves or being convicted by other people or God himself… Bad choices leads to unrighteousness (In its simplest form it simply means “To miss the mark”), that is the inevitable part of our fallen state that came about through our free will. (I will refrain from arguing that we actually do have a free will.)

    What I am adding to your view that all choices are aimed at pleasure, is that it is universally not acceptable to accommodate failure to achieve that objective. When people start to attribute failure to achieve the golden rule to our so called inherent lack of free will, the road to nihilism becomes almost inevitable.

    It is therefore logical that the God who gave us the free will should supply us with a way to achieve pleasure in the truest form possible. I prefer to relate pleasure to my state of righteousness from which I can find true pleasure in everything no matter how simple or unimportant it might seem. My strategy is certainly not to find happiness just in the exotic consumerist fetishes that are available in the market place.

    In closing I have to admit that since I have a very deep understanding that Christ’s righteousness did not came cheap and is not at all a blanket pardon to a complete licentious life, I make very sure about the consequences of my actions. Because I might be inadvertently place a judgment on someone who does not accept Christ’s redemption. I even find true pleasure in this responsibility.

  71. 71
    mullerpr says:

    QuadFather,

    I am suspecting that your issue with expressing definitions of pleasure as being more than the ordinary or even the highest form there is, might be because you want to moderate your pleasure in relationship with your failures to reach that pleasure.

    That is OK if you don’t want the full burden of responsibility for your actions or pleasure seeking choices. But can you truly live in such a state of mediocrity with no certainty about anything?

  72. 72
    mullerpr says:

    I have to add that I relate all forms of certainty to something like the uniformity of nature and certainly not some post-modern/skeptic subjectivist claptrap.

  73. 73
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr [70],

    I’m not entirely clear on what it is you wish to add to my view. Can you provide some sort of example?

    Also, it’s hard for me to tell whether or not you agree with what I’m saying. Can you clarify and explain?

    In closing: I also believe in free will. Does this affect your understanding of my arguments? If so, how?

  74. 74
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr,

    It appears that we are online at the same time, and I missed your other posts before responding.

    I take full responsibility for my failures. I recognize them as failures, and I seek to maximize net pleasure by learning from them.

    Some people may use reductionism to excuse bad behavior. Well, I am not sure that I am a reductionist. Even if I were, I will always believe in freewill (another discussion altogether) and individual responsibility.

    In the end, it appears that we may have more in common than you initially suspected. But none of that means that we are not fundamentally pleasure-seeking.

  75. 75
    mullerpr says:

    QuadFather,

    I agree that we have a lot in common, that is why I don’t even disagree with our pleasure-seeking hypothesis. What I propose is regarding the method.

    I have simplified it to 1.)a method from the righteousness attained through Christ that I explain in enough detail or 2.)what seems like a plethora of methods that all actually boil down to seeking pleasure from a state of self righteousness.

    Call it the “preparedness for pleasure” method. Without it pleasure has no certainty and depending on the method of preparedness your level of certainty is determined.

    I have to admit that some of the people using the “self righteousness method” sometimes are very convincing to the point that I don’t judge their method as flawed. But since God presence in our reality is very real to me I personally stick to the “righteousness through Christ” method – it works just fine for me. (Myself and other Christian are prone to divert to the “self righteous method” with all its consequences of which you have already mentioned that your observed. I admit that it is a very sorry sight to see someone professing to use the one method while in fact using the other. It is almost as bad as someone professing that he/she has no free will and yet act according to it and expect people to respect that free will.)

  76. 76
    mullerpr says:

    Glancing over the discussion it starts to look like a typical scenario from the movie “The bucket list”… and I did not even intended it to be so, since my method is much older that the “The bucket list”. Maybe there is something universal about this discussion?

  77. 77
    CannuckianYankee says:

    QuadFather: “So whether you are a materialist or a non-materialist, it all comes down to enjoying your life (and/or afterlife).

    What is the meaning of life, if not this?”

    So what do we do with those who are not enjoying life, but suffering? In the materialist philosophy don’t they have anything to look forward to beyond suffering?

    Christianity offers hope. People don’t need just enjoyment, but hope. Materialism does not offer hope for those who suffer. It only offers pleasure and enjoyment to those who can afford it. I suspect that the majority of the world’s poor or suffering are much more religious than the wealthy, for they yearn for hope, relief, light out of darkness, and materialism doesn’t offer that. Are you saying then that there really is no meaning to life if we suffer? I would beg to differ.

  78. 78
    QuadFather says:

    CannuckianYankee [77],

    The fact that we are pleasure-seeking does not preclude suffering. The poor and suffering desire hope, and hope is pleasureful, is it not? Therefore, it seems to me that your own example reinforces my point.

    I agree that religious faith can offer more hope than materialism. My point is that by seeking this hope, we are seeking pleasure. And if we are pleasure-seeking, even in our religious faith, on what grounds can we say that the pleasure-seeking lifestyle described by Murray is wrong, or “false”?

  79. 79
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr [75],

    I make a distinction between selfishness and selflessness, though I consider both to be pleasure-seeking. In the former, a person puts his own desires first as a rule, and sometimes at the expense of others. In the latter, a person’s own desires are secondary to others’, and sometimes at his own expense. The former is more self-centric; The latter is less self-centric.

    So you see, just because we are fundamentally pleasure-seeking does not mean that we are fundamentally selfish. It’s difficult to separate selfishness from pleasure-seeking, and I think that’s the biggest problem that folks like CannuckianYankee have with this interpretation of human behavior.

    Anyways, I’m a little off point. I originally brought up selfishness and selflessness because I suspect that it is similar to the distinction that you are making. Do you agree?

  80. 80
    mullerpr says:

    Hi QuadFather #79,

    I don’t think the selfish and selfless distinction you made is at all similar to “righteousness through Christ” vs. “self righteousness”.

    Again I agree that both your concepts are in fact compatible with pleasure seeking. If you “prepare” or base your actions on your state of righteousness then I suppose the you can act selfless of selfish regardless of your state of righteousness. The only question is which of the two approached of pleasure seeking is going to keep you well prepared for the next action?

    I would suspect that selfish action will lead to pleasure but it might erode away your state of righteousness and leave you ill prepared for the next attempt to find pleasure. From experience selfishness even erode most “self righteous” people’s ability to achieve righteousness. If Christ is your source of righteousness then selfishness is just as lethal or even more lethal to “Christ righteousness” in your life.

    It should be clear now that the “preparedness models” available is not similar to selfless and selfish approaches in our search for pleasure.

    The only selfish people that I know that consistently act selfishly without any regard to their state of righteousness are called psychopaths or sociopaths.

  81. 81
    absolutist says:

    FrankH [29]:

    “I am indeed confused about why one needs a ‘higher authority’ outside of humanity to have a well lived life.”

    “I am more than able to give myself a purpose”

    “That is to love my wife, my kids and help them and their offspring survive and thrive.”

    The SS in Nazi Germany felt the same way you do. I’m sure they went home and hugged the kids at night, kiss the wife, probably drove something German too…

    Their defense for their atrocities was that they were doing what was right in light of German society’s rules. The international tribunal saw it differently, as we are all subject to a universal moral law. This is the same type of law that tells you that helping your wife around the house is a virtue not a vice. This type of moral law cannot emerge from mere atoms and molecules coming together by chance or for the sake of keeping society together. This type of universal moral law can only come from a universal moral law giver. Without a universal moral law, the outcome of the Nuremberg trials would have been drastically different.

    FrankH [29]:
    “I didn’t need any supernatural agency to tell me differently [that surviving and thriving is best done through cooperation with others to make everyone’s life better].” and

    hazel [38]:
    ” In all societies there is a small percentage of people who just don’t get social norms and who don’t have empathy for others.”

    Fortunately, the rules are already in place and universal moral law does not care whether we get it, cooperate with it or contribute to it.

    mullerpr [33]:
    “our thoughts have a profound effect on the testable physical world.”

    Indeed.

    When I say: “But since the comments above are just philosophical assertions not scientifically testable or quantifiable in the lab, it will be difficult for some to believe them as true or rational.”

    I am bringing up the irony that those who argue against ID are themselves, more often than not, making philosophical assertions not scientifically testable or quantifiable in the lab.

    Philosophical assertions are indeed valuable and necessary if we truly want to know the origin of man. Why would we throw away all other knowledge when doing science? We don’t do that in any other discipline. Anthropology is glad to make philosophical assertions. For instance, an anthropologist finds an arrowhead and asserts that an intelligent agent made it at some point in the past to fulfill a purpose. The assertion is itself not scientific.

    QuadFather [42]:
    “The people you describe sound selfish […] Am I selfish for [enjoying life?]”

    No you’re not. Loving one’s wife, kids and cars are all fine things. I enjoy them myself and yes I do drive a fine German 337. But it’s self-centered and self-serving. No one leans over their kids’ crib and says “I hope you grow up to be a self-centered, self-serving, pleasure-seeking, childish, human being.”

    To get back to the question, if “Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate” then, where do morals come from? We couldn’t answer “Is loving my wife a virtue?” or “Is selfishness a vice?” It is whatever floats your boat, whatever society dictates at that particular time. Comments at Domoman [6] are helpful here.

    Again, our lives should focus more on finding out whether there is in fact a universal moral law and by implication a universal moral law giver. That life would have more meaning than playing with the kids and loving the wife or driving the car. Again, all these other things are fine, but on their own, they just come short.

  82. 82
    QuadFather says:

    absolutist [81],

    I would not teach my kids to be selfish, but I would teach them to live life to the fullest. Does that mean I’m teaching them to be self-centered, selfish, and childish? What is so wrong with seeking pleasure, anyway? Particularly when I find benevolence to be pleasureful?

    Like a few others I’ve responded to, it sounds like you’re responding to the connotations of certain words and phrases rather than to what I’m actually saying.

    I think you’re changing the question by getting into the origin of morality. My understanding of the question has been: Is the purpose of life to seek pleasure? I think this is far more easily derived from the original post than questions about the origin of morality. And I have seen no evidence from anyone that the purpose of life is anything but to seek pleasure.

    As I already explained, I’m starting to believe that this is because we’re dealing with a definitional conundrum. On the one hand, we like to think that we can forget about our own pleasure by putting God and others first. On the other hand, a choice that we make is preferred by definition over the competing options. To prefer means to derive more pleasure from.

    With that, I would ask you why our lives should be focused on finding a universal moral law or law giver?

  83. 83
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr [80],

    I think that if you explore my view more deeply, you will see that it results in something similar. But I’m having a hard time relating morality to the topic of the original blog post.

    Can you tell me why you and some others in here are so preoccupied with morality in the context of this discussion?

  84. 84
    mullerpr says:

    QuadFather #83,

    From this response from you I am conclude that you don’t want to engage the argument I was discussing with you. Morality never entered any part of my argument. Then you avoid the question about righteousness… Why???

    I was trying to discuss the card house of pleasure you are trying to erect by pointing out what better ways there might be of achieving what you profess as the ultimate objective.

    Not engaging the glaring issue of righteousness is dangerous because it might guide you or someone under your influence to the wrong side of the law, what ever law that has rightful jurisdiction over you, me and all humans.

    Righteousness is ultimately a legal term and it applies to all obligations not just the moral ones. All obligations you choose for yourself or that is forced onto you by your environment/society etc., will inevitably influence your state of righteousness. Even if you are in a complete selfish state and act to maximize your pleasure… if you fail this self imposed obligation you loose your righteousness, then you are unrighteous according to your own law.

    Ignoring this can only hypothetically be achieved within a nihilist world view and that you can digest for yourself.

    It might therefore be a good place to end my discussion by prompting everyone again to have a look at the visions that Nietzsche saw for a pure materialist world.

  85. 85
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr [84],

    I would be glad to humor you on the subject of “righteousness”. It’s just that “righteousness” is a moral category, and I don’t think a clear connection has been made between this and “the purpose of life”, which is the topic here. I ask you to help me out, and your otherwise mild-mannered tone suddenly explodes all over the forum … that’s a little weird.

    In any case, here is my challenge to all who answered “false”: Explain to me what life’s purpose is in a way that does not involve the maximization of pleasure.

    As for your righteousness, it is strange to think that a fallen world operates within divine moral standards. A materialistic interpretation of moral behavior easily accounts for moral universals, while a spiritual interpretation must also wrestle with moral diversity. This begs the question: Why are some morals universal while others are not? A materialist view is not troubled by such things. There is nowhere else to find support for a spiritual explanation for moral behavior other than the Bible or some other sacred text. And here, we find a great variety from which to choose.

    So in my humble opinion, it appears that the spiritual view of morality so common in these forums is on far more shaky ground, rationally, than a materialistic view.

    But that is beside the point, as far as I can tell, so let’s get back to the topic: What is the meaning of life?

  86. 86
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr [84],

    After re-reading your posts a few times, I think I might have a better idea of what you’re trying to say. Are you trying to say that:

    A person’s righteousness determines their ability to maximize pleasure?

  87. 87
    Seversky says:

    vjtorley @ 67

    The two alternatives you describe do not exhaust all possibilities. Both alternatives assume that morality is something that God constructs – either on a whim or as a result of rational deliberation. There is a third possibility, argued for by C. S. Lewis and defended by Steve Lovell in an article entitled “C. S. Lewis and the Euthyphro Dilemma” at http://www.theism.net/article/29 – namely, that God is essentially good.

    As I read it, that does not escape the Euthyphro Dilemma, it simply cleaves to one horn. It chooses the option of assuming that good is anything that God does and justifies it by the tautological argument of claiming that God cannot do anything but good.

    Also, to say that God is goodness is like saying the sky is ‘blueness’. It is confusing a property of a model in the mind of an observer with a property of the object being observed.

    In the case of ‘blueness’, light from the Sun is scattered and absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere in such a way that certain wavelengths predominate when they reach the planet’s surface. Our visual system represents those wavelengths in our mental model of the outside world as what we perceive as blue. The sky is not blue or ‘blueness’ outside of our mind.

    As for the case of good or goodness, again, they are descriptions of judgments made in the minds of observers about observed actions or behaviors. There is no reason to think that good or evil inheres in anything other than the predicate structure of the English language.

    Guns are thought by some people to be inherently evil and certainly a gun in the hand a criminal who shoots dead innocent bystanders could be so described. But would that same gun in the hands of a policeman who shoots the gunman dead before he can kill others also be evil? I would say not. Again, I would say good and evil reside in the mind of the observer. They are properties of our mental model of the world not the world itself.

    Good question. First, God didn’t “work out” morals;…

    Lovell would seem to disagree:

    We responded to the Euthyphro dilemma by pointing out that the commands of an omniscient, loving, generous, merciful, patient and truthful being would not be issued without reason,

    God is essentially moral. Second, although humans can often work out what’s right and what’s wrong, our reason is notoriously fallible. God is perfectly intelligent by nature; we are not.

    The only documentary evidence we have for God’s morality is the Bible and that is notoriously contradictory if the Old Testament is taken into account.

    As for the fallibility of human reason, it may be viewed, not as a fatal impediment to any search for a ‘universal morality’ but as a virtue in that it constrains us to be humble in the light of our obvious imperfections and wary of any claims to Absolute Truth which can lead all too easily to complacency and arrogance.

  88. 88
    Clive Hayden says:

    Seversky,

    “Also, to say that God is goodness is like saying the sky is ‘blueness’. It is confusing a property of a model in the mind of an observer with a property of the object being observed.”

    Or like saying that what you say is “rightness” :). Just kidding Seversky. Really though, Lewis’s explanation is sound, it removes the categories of a law and a law giver when we are talking about God. To say that this is not sound, means that you have positive knowledge of the real relations of goodness and Godliness.
    God has to be good all the way through; that is, after all, one of the defining attributes. What we call good and what we call God must converge at an infinity. Considering goodness and Godliness to be two separate categories was our mistake in the Euthyphro Dilemma to begin with, and the mistake has now been seen, and should stop being repeated.

  89. 89
    mullerpr says:

    QuadFather

    #86:
    “A person’s righteousness determines their ability to maximize pleasure?”

    Yes, righteousness in its fullest sense. You cannot achieve pleasure without it or you have to try to revert to nihilism. That is because all obligations to act that ever cross your path will inevitably affect your state of righteousness.

    From here you can approach it with either an internalist epistemology that thinks there is no external knowledge to be gained (everything is subject to an individual’s brain chemistry) or you can approach it from an externalist epistemology that confirms the existence and interaction with objective external knowledge.

    Indecently, internalist epistemology only has materialism to support it. If you find a successful non-materialist support then let me know. If you manage to mix the two approaches… I would like to see the rational defense of such a point as well.

    Now… you have “self righteousness” that comports only with internalist epistemology and you have “external righteousness” that only comports with an external source of knowledge. You have to choose and accept the consequences.

    I can argue that “external righteousness” only has a single logical binding value in Christ who claimed and proofed himself to be God… the Creator of all objective knowledge that we possibly can observe. This is simply because all other religions and ideologies claim a “self righteous” approach to happiness or truth, in effect internalist in its logical outcome.

    Don’t get too emotional if I claim that all scientific knowledge supports this “Christ righteous” view. Show me where it does not. You can be sure that there is evidence that would convince me other wise, like a mechanism for life to arise from energy… or some proof that internalist epistemology comports with reality. Subjective religious stereotypes brings nothing to the argument, so don’t use it.

  90. 90
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr [89],

    I actually agree that “righteousness” increases our ability to experience pleasure. But let me ask a question: What is righteousness?

    I would like to see how your answer compares with mine.

    Now, whether the source of our knowledge about “righteousness” is internal or external is immaterial to me. Either way, we all seek pleasure, and either way, it seems inevitable – to me, at least – that man can discover the sort of behavior that maximizes pleasure. The only difference is how fast.

    If a person uses some external source of knowledge, such as the Bible, then the value of self-sacrifice is revealed to them.
    If a person uses some internal source of knowledge, such as trial and error, then the value of self-sacrifice is figured out.
    So in the one case, righteousness is revealed; In the other, it is figured out. And here is why I think the difference between internal and external are largely immaterial: They are two different ways of arriving at the same conclusion.

    We could think of it another way: God reveals righteousness to us in order to maximize pleasure, and righteousness maximizes pleasure whether or not God reveals this to us. In other words, God reveals a truth to us that is true regardless of whether God reveals it to us. And if this thing is true with or without revelation, then perhaps it is possible to discover at least some semblence of this truth independent of revelation.

    I believe this to be true. And indeed, is this not how Christians often justify the decrees of the Bible? When asked, “Why does the Bible say not to do this or that?” does the Christian not respond that there is some material benefit? Think about it. When I ask why the Bible says not to eat blood, it is because blood is an unhealthy thing to eat. When I ask why the Bible says not to be homosexual, it is because human physiology was not designed to operate in that way. And so on. These are a few real-life examples from conversations that I have had with Christians.

    So now, I think we can start to recognize the benefits of both internal and external methods:
    The benefit of external revelation, let’s say, is that it eliminates a lot of the grunt work; the answers are given to you.
    The benefit of internal revelation is that you are able to more easily justify your behavior without invoking a simon-says explanation; this is because you’ve figured it out for yourself.
    And naturally, the down side of external revelation is that many Christians – our example here – are not able to justify many of their moral beliefs. I experience this first hand – gosh, it is awfully irritating!
    The down side of internal revelation is that a person may very well get stuck in an excessively self-centric mentality; Also, it takes much more work and time to discover the value of self-sacrifice.

    So, I think that this is a very fair view of two very different methods of a) living righteously, and b) maximizing pleasure. An external method gets a person behaving righteously now, and they figure out why they should later. An internal method gets a person figuring out why they should behave in certain ways now, and this results in righteous behavior later (please see footnote).

    Your thoughts?

    footnote: Please do not get caught up on the fact that not all people who “figure it out” arrive at righteousness. I am only saying that it is possible; I am only saying that it is inevitable when the logic is followed through to its conclusion. But I want to focus more on external and internal as two methods to arrive at the same truth about reality.

  91. 91
    mullerpr says:

    QuadFather,

    I have given my working definition of righteousness in more than enough detail, so excuse me if I feel that asking again for a definition is very patronizing.

    The rest of your discussion concludes that your do prefer your Christian or religious stereotypes over the well established concepts of internalist or externalist epistemology. If you want to have a discussion based on the accepted definitions of these two views in epistemology then we might have a fruitful interchange. (Again my condensed definitions are sufficient and you interpreted it wrongly.)

    What is important for me is that you might not even understand the full consequences of your “pleasure philosophy”. I know this is a very patronizing tone to end, but I have given you all you need to contemplate in regards to your certitudes on this matter. Whether you digest it is up to you. Please accept this not as patronizing but as a sincere attempt that will end with the ball in your hand. I know the “dish” I placed before you might not look tasty, I can only give your my word that it is truly wholesome.

    P.S. If you want to delve into the internalism vs. externalism aspects of epistemology please read more than the Wikipedia paragraphs that only position Descartes’ version of internalism and no real view on externalism. Wikipedia even create the impression that materialist philosophy is critical towards internalism. If you want a true scholarly view you need to consider someone like Alvin Plantinga’s Warrent series.

    # Warrant: the Current Debate, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford, 1993. ISBN 0-19-507861-6 (1987-1988 Gifford Lectures, online)
    # Warrant and Proper Function, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford, 1993. ISBN 0-19-507863-2 (1987-1988 Gifford Lectures)

    see introduction to Plantinga at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Plantinga

  92. 92
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr [91],

    Fine then. Let’s examine your comments and see if you really did define your terms:

    I would also not expect any materialist to really understand what it means to act righteously within the full compliment of our reality.

    Therefore I can only witness to the fact that the experience of righteousness through Jesus Christ clears the mind completely and prepares it for perfect, harmonious engagement with ALL the wonders of reality.

    I can tell you practically how wonderful it feels to experience complete righteousness from the only true Judge

    But from personal experience and the experience of millions of witnesses over the ages, I can assure you that “forgetting our own attempts to achieve righteousness” and accepting Christ’s redemption is truly “a well-lived life”.

    I have to agree that it takes a lot of maintenance to experience the elation of the choice to accept righteousness through Christ.

    All the choices that ends up in a mess has the tendency to completely remove our righteousness whether it is when we convict ourselves or being convicted by other people or God himself

    I prefer to relate pleasure to my state of righteousness from which I can find true pleasure in everything no matter how simple or unimportant it might seem.

    In closing I have to admit that since I have a very deep understanding that Christ’s righteousness did not came cheap and is not at all a blanket pardon to a complete licentious life, I make very sure about the consequences of my actions.

    I have simplified it to 1.)a method from the righteousness attained through Christ that I explain in enough detail or 2.)what seems like a plethora of methods that all actually boil down to seeking pleasure from a state of self righteousness.

    But since God presence in our reality is very real to me I personally stick to the “righteousness through Christ” method – it works just fine for me.

    If you “prepare” or base your actions on your state of righteousness then I suppose the you can act selfless of selfish regardless of your state of righteousness.

    Righteousness is ultimately a legal term and it applies to all obligations not just the moral ones.

    That is because all obligations to act that ever cross your path will inevitably affect your state of righteousness.

    I can argue that “external righteousness” only has a single logical binding value in Christ who claimed and proofed himself to be God…

    Among these comments about “righteousness”, you explained:
    1) That you wouldn’t expect certain people to understand it: materialists.
    2) Its effects: how it makes you feel; how it affects actions.
    3) How it is affected: removed by messy choices; affected by obligations to act.
    4) What it requires: maintainence.
    5) How it is attained: “through Christ”
    6) That it was costly, at least “Christ’s righteousness”
    7) Its category: legal term.
    8) Its source: Christ.

    It looks like you’ve said an awful lot about righteousness, but you have not actually said what it is. Unless you can provide a single example that I may have overlooked.

    I have tried very hard to understand your arguments and to correct myself when I don’t feel like I’m understanding you. I do feel that your addition to my opinion was valuable. You, on the other hand, refuse to define your terms. How can we resolve our points of view if you refuse to define a term that is apparently so critical to your argument?

    I’ll have you know that I was raised in a Christian family, and even though I hesitate to associate myself with the term, I do consider myself to be a “Christian”. You are not describing anything that I myself have not also experienced first-hand. You, however, have not given me any reason to believe that you understand the experiences that I have described. My father drove my sister away from Christianity with his huffs and snide remarks he would make when my sister would watch a particular tv show or listen to certain music. No explanation of why he was responding that way was ever given, except the standard simon-says appeal. So forgive me if I get a little irritated with Christians who can’t do anything but smack people in the head with the ten commandments.

    I have witnessed first hand how a strictly “external” source of knowledge about righteousness has led to grievious emotional, familial, and spiritual damage (a net loss of pleasure). If you deny that this is a problematic result of an overly anti-materialist Christian mentality, then you are denying reality, probably because your view is limited to your own experience.

    It is quite a shame that you have refused to engage my questions and observations about common Christian responses, as I had anticipated a fruitful exchange. I think I have been fair, and have offered a balanced view of competing approaches to “righteousness”. By ending this discussion on grounds that you already defined your terms, when you clearly have not, is unfair.

    The problem, as far as I can tell, is that you have not communicated clearly.

  93. 93
    QuadFather says:

    Seversky [87],

    You argue that “good” and “evil” reside only in the minds of the observers. In the same breath, you acknowledge and even exercise your own ability to distinguish “good” from “evil”.

    I am curious: What, for you, is the basis of these judgments? And what, in your opinion, is the value of morality derived from religious inclinations?

  94. 94
    absolutist says:

    QuadFather [82]

    “What is so wrong with seeking pleasure, anyway?”

    “I have seen no evidence from anyone that the purpose of life is anything but to seek pleasure.”

    Neither does Jeffrey Dahmer. You and I would probably say to Jeffrey that he ought not to fulfill the kind of pleasure that comes from killing other human beings. But if the purpose of life is nothing other than seeking pleasure, who are we to tell Jeffrey, who is just another pleasure-seeking collection of chemical in the great scheme of things, that he can’t fulfill his own wishes? Pleasure for you and I but not for organism Jeffrey seems very selfish. Who are we to set limits? Where do we set them? Who has the authority to say what is a good pleasure and a bad pleasure?

    Enters: universal absolute moral law and the origin of ought tos.

    You ask, “why our lives should be focused on finding a universal moral law or law giver?”

    If you knew there was the possibility of a universal moral law, shouldn’t you try to know the giver of the moral law? Blaise Pascal might say it is “a matter which is of so great consequence to us and which touches us so profoundly that we must have lost all feeling to be indifferent about it.” He was talking about the immortality of the soul but I think it’s fair to say his words apply to other important matters, such as the existence of ought tos and absolute moral law.

    First, I would shy away from anyone who tells you that you can’t enjoy life to the fullest. I do. You and your family should too. In fact, the world around us appears rigged, so that we can enjoy our surroundings to the fullest. Fruits, for example, are truly simple amazing things that just happen to be there for our enjoyment. Snowflakes are another.

    That said, the very fact that you “would not teach [your] kids to be selfish” says a lot about you. It says that you believe in moral absolutes. You’re also essentially saying that selfishness is wrong, that it is a vice, that we ought not to be selfish. That’s an absolute. The problem is now that moral absolutes and ought tos don’t arise out of clumps of matter. If humans evolved, the existence of absolute moral values is a problem for the materialist. Survival of the fittest encourages selfishness. As a materialist, you do not want to start being inconsistent in your worldview and claim that you are not selfish for the sake of your safety within your society. So on the one hand you claim unselfishness but on the other, in order to ensure the survival of you and your family, you would do anything, place yourselves first ahead of other families for example. The Jews during WWII were really inconvenienced by this. Preferring that others die for our benefit is wrong and instead we find that giving our life for another is a virtue.

    Ought tos do not sprout out of thin air or collections of chemicals. We should strive to know where they come from.

    PS: make a list of things you think are right or wrong and present it to a kid (I did this with mine, 5 and 8). Ex: Is it OK to take someone’s life if they killed an innocent person? Is it OK to murder a baby while it is in mommy’s belly? Is courage a virtue or a vice? Is goodness a vice? You will find that universal moral law is palpable that its real and that you better know it, if not for you at least for your kids’ sake.

  95. 95
    CannuckianYankee says:

    QuadFather:”The fact that we are pleasure-seeking does not preclude suffering. The poor and suffering desire hope, and hope is pleasureful, is it not? Therefore, it seems to me that your own example reinforces my point.

    I agree that religious faith can offer more hope than materialism. My point is that by seeking this hope, we are seeking pleasure. And if we are pleasure-seeking, even in our religious faith, on what grounds can we say that the pleasure-seeking lifestyle described by Murray is wrong, or “false”?”

    Well, nothing makes it false from a materialist perspective, I suppose. But that’s the point. No moral code can be true or false from a materialist perspective, because all morality is relative to the individual. Therefore, laws are really meaningless if we take materialism to the extreme.

    From a theist perspective, however, the designer is also the law giver. Morality is then solely from the perspective of the law giver. So the character of the law giver forms the basis for all morality, and that character is not self-seeking, but concerned with the welfare of others.

    More refined, from a Christian perspective, that character is illustrated in the concept of Trinity. Three persons as one because each person is other-directed – and not self-seeking. If you read the gospels, this relationship is explicit: The Son lays down his life for the sheep. It is the other-directed choice of the Son to lay down his own life.

    So the character of the designer is the goal of the Christian. It is not the Christian’s goal to seek the rewards of this life or the next, but to be transformed and to reflect the character of the designer: to be completely other directed.

    Now I would have to agree with you that ultimately even the Christian seeks the rewards, and as such, can never attain perfection in this life as the designer is perfect, but this is because of the sinful nature – and the gospels are also explicit on this point.

    And this is why humans should worship the designer, because He is the only being who is perfectly other-directed. We can’t hope to be like him although we strive. There is a humility in that. If all persons truly strived to be other-directed, then we wouldn’t be in the mess we find ourselves.

  96. 96
    mullerpr says:

    QuadFather #92,

    Then I concede that I have not communicated clearly, even though I really tried. From the personal experience you shared it becomes even more clear that I have not communicated clearly because I also had to find Christ’s righteousness also for its own value and not for the value forced onto me by external factors (nothing to do with externalist epistemology), like the church and my society in general.

    English is not my first language so I will use this as a clumsy excuse for my inadequacy. Looking at externalism the why you seem to think of it would mean that I should now conclude that my effort was unrighteous because of what you concluded. That is not at all what externalist epistemology is all about.

    Then I hope you accept my apology if I caused you any displeasure and trust that it was not my intention. I take full responsibility for my actions, which has nothing to do with internalist approach to knowledge even though you might see it like that.

    From #89 “From here you can approach it with either an internalist epistemology that thinks there is no external knowledge to be gained (everything is subject to an individual’s brain chemistry) or you can approach it from an externalist epistemology that confirms the existence and interaction with objective external knowledge.

    I can sympathize with someone who lose their faith because of people’s judgments, because I know how much it means to be righteous. It is for that reason that I place such high premium on righteousness attained from the most objective source who clearly created all objective truths and pleasures.

  97. 97
    Seversky says:

    Quadfather @ 93

    You argue that “good” and “evil” reside only in the minds of the observers. In the same breath, you acknowledge and even exercise your own ability to distinguish “good” from “evil”.

    I use the words “good” and “evil” because they are convenient shorthand and a common reference point. Some people believe they refer to objective phenomena like forces or even purposive agents that exist in external reality. I believe that they are simply value judgments that we make about what we observe – evil is as evil does.

    I am curious: What, for you, is the basis of these judgments? And what, in your opinion, is the value of morality derived from religious inclinations?

    When considering the source of such views I believe we should try to discern what purpose they appear to serve. A common view, and one that I share, is that they serve to regulate the behavior of human beings towards one another in society so that the interests of individual members are protected. That moral codes from different cultures have some common features is evidence only of certain basic interests that all human beings have in common, not of some universal morality.

    I believe that a moral code developed by a truly atheist culture might differ in some details from that of a religious culture but that, in terms of basic tenets, they would be essentially the same. The only significant difference would be that believers could claim a divine warrant for their views while secularists could only argue a common interests justification for theirs.

    The difference is significant because, for believers, divine authority provides an unshakable foundation for the structure of their beliefs while, for atheists, the is/ought problem precludes the possibility of anchoring their beliefs to any such axiomatic certainty.

    I would not object to being described as Epicurean to some extent. I believe that society should be arranged so as to allow all members to do whatever pleases them up to the point at which such activity harms the interests of others. Of course, the pursuit of pleasure should not be limited to just ‘sex, drugs ‘n’ rock’n’roll’ as critics of the belief usually imply. It could mean painting pictures, composing music, performing a work of art before an audience, exercising handicraft skills, playing sports, thinking about the world, investigating the world, healing and caring for the sick, caring for stray animals or just about anything else that people do just because they enjoy it. If we can break free of that lurking Puritan suspicion that anything remotely pleasurable is inherently evil, where is the harm?

  98. 98
    QuadFather says:

    absolutist [94],

    Simply ask “Why?” to all of your conclusions, and I think you will see that all of your examples are instances of pleasure-seeking.

    Why would we tell Jeffrey Dahmer not to kill people? Because we are seeking to maximize pleasure, and we recognize murder as an impediment to that goal. You ask a number of questions that seem unanswerable within a strictly materialist mindset, but that does not mean we are not pleasure-seeking; that is my first point. Also, there may be no material basis on which to judge the behavior of others, but we still impose limits on others’ behavior in order to maximize pleasure. And, in a materialist mindset, there are no grounds for making moral judgments about behaviors limited to the individual. But when behavior affects others, it is this interaction between individuals that serves as the basis for materialist morality: If you seek your own pleasure at the expense of others, this is selfish. IE, you can do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody. In this way, individuals and society operates in such a way as to maximize pleasure.

    That is the materialist view. A non-materialist view may justify moral judgments by way of authority rather than the weighing of positive and negative consequences. But note what I said in my earlier comments: Is it not true that revelation is the revealing of things that are true even without the revelation? And if these things are true regardless of whether or not they have been revealed, perhaps revelation is not the only way to ascertain this truth.

    Again, we must ask the question, “Why?” Why does God tell us not to murder? Why does God tell us not to steal? In my experience, the Christian response is almost invariably that these decrees result in some material benefit. Do you not see this? The only other sort of answer is an appeal to simon-says: God says it, I go with it; I do not consider that to be much of an answer. And there you have the sum total of Christian responses that I have ever seen to the question of “Why does God say this or that?”

    So yes, there are obvious differences between a materialist and a non-materialist approach to life’s purpose and morality, but I am not convinced that the difference is that one approach seeks pleasure while the other does not. It seems to me that both are pleasure-seeking, while the real difference is that one is experiential and the other is revelatory.

    As to the moral dilemmas you’ve presented, these are moral dilemmas for both approaches. And they are moral dilemmas precisely because it is difficult to determine which option will maximize pleasure.

  99. 99
    QuadFather says:

    CannuckianYankee [95],

    If the goal of our actions is fundamentally to maximize pleasure, how can this not be the purpose of life? All other iterations of the purpose of life seem to be an instance of pleasure-seeking. Is it not more appropriate, then, to simply say that life’s purpose is to maximize pleasure?

    I will not get into your comments about morality, though I do find this interesting. But I will point out, as I have in previous comments, that even altruism is pleasure-seeking: While the individual is choosing to experience pain, the alternative has been deemed even less pleasureful. Jesus would hate to see his creation burning in hell even more than he would hate to be nailed to a cross. Therefore, even the altruistic individual is seeking to maximize pleasure.

    I know that this will make a lot of people uncomfortable, but this discomfort is immaterial. We have already established that there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking one’s own pleasure. It is only when one seeks pleasure without regard for others that pleasure-seeking becomes problematic.

    I don’t think anybody has shown me that we can make choices that are not pleasure-seeking. And if all of our choices are pleasure-seeking, how can this not be the fundamental purpose of life? I know it’s not as eloquent as a life of self-sacrifice and what-not, but I’m just thinking logically. And logically, it seems to me that the lifestyle described by Murray is a correct understanding of life’s purpose, for materialists and non-materialists alike.

  100. 100
    QuadFather says:

    CannuckianYankee [95],

    If the goal of our actions is fundamentally to maximize pleasure, how can this not be the purpose of life? Consider the Christian: Why does the Christian choose to take on God’s character? Because God’s character is “better” than the alternative, yes? And if God’s character is the “better” choice, and that is the reason that we select this option, are we not making a decision based of the maximization of pleasure? All iterations of the purpose of life, even religious ones, seem to provide instances of pleasure-seeking, not alternatives to it. Is it not more appropriate, then, to simply say that life’s purpose is to maximize pleasure?

    I will not get into your comments about morality, though I do find this interesting. But I will point out, as I have in previous comments, that even altruism is pleasure-seeking: While the individual is choosing to experience pain, the alternative has been deemed even less pleasureful. Jesus would hate to see his creation burning in hell even more than he would hate to be nailed to a cross. Therefore, even the altruistic individual is seeking to maximize pleasure.

    I know that this will make a lot of people uncomfortable, but this discomfort is immaterial. We have already established that there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking one’s own pleasure. It is only when one seeks pleasure without regard for others that pleasure-seeking becomes problematic.

    I don’t think anybody has shown me that we can make choices that are not pleasure-seeking. And if all of our choices are pleasure-seeking, how can this not be the fundamental purpose of life? I know it’s not as eloquent as a life of self-sacrifice and what-not, but I’m just thinking logically. And logically, it seems to me that the lifestyle described by Murray is a correct understanding of life’s purpose, for materialists and non-materialists alike.

  101. 101
    QuadFather says:

    mullerpr [96],

    You should know that I am speaking almost entirely from the top of my head; I am not familiar with “externalist” or “internalist” epistemology, though I can guess at their meaning.

    If you would care to elaborate at all about the significance here, or at least how this presents a conflict with the ideas I’ve expressed, I would be very interested. Up to now, however, I do not see that there is any conflict.

    Sorry for the double post above! If anybody wants to delete one, please delete the fist one.

  102. 102
    QuadFather says:

    Seversky [97],

    We are in agreement.

    I would add that even a religious approach begs the question of “why” divine decrees exist. If this questioning is followed, I believe that the answer is invariably that there is some material benefit undergirding these decrees.

    Thus, we see that the difference in approach is not that one is pleasure-seeking while the other is not, it is that one is experiential while the other is revelatory – two approaches to arriving at the same conclusion.

    For the religious theist, we might say that God has revealed how we might achieve maximum pleasure as individuals and as a society, but that this only reveals a pre-existing reality. This pre-existing reality is the materialist observation that pleasure is affected by social interaction.

    It seems to me, therefore, that the materialist view is far more fundamental to the human experience than the religious view. The religious view, it seems, merely elucidates the materialist view.

    A lot of detail is missing from that opinion, but that’s very basically it.

  103. 103
    absolutist says:

    Quadfather [98]:

    “you can do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody”

    But you’re hurting me, so that statement doesn’t work. Hitler believed he was not hurting others. He was making the world better. But we know he wasn’t.

    Is killing an embryo hurting somebody? Some try justifying the act of killing by making the personhood of the individual subjective to their own beliefs, their own pleasure. They may say I will have more pleasure not having children at this time.

    It’s wrong but they justify it by saying “this isn’t hurting anybody.”

    Maximizing pleasure is not what we should strive for. Adulterers do this kind of mental gymnastics all the time. Kids get hurt.

    Practicing homosexuals (getting way off the UD subject here and I’ll stop here…) always justify their actions by saying no one is getting hurt. What about their parents? What about the nurse who really would rather not know what anal warts are? What about the father who lost his son to suicide because he was so promiscuous he couldn’t live with AIDS?

    You absolutely have no ability when it comes to the “weighing of positive and negative consequences.”

    The idea that things aren’t the way they ought to be, and the concept that things ought to be a certain way should be evidence enough for the existence of universal moral law.

    When you keep asking “Why?” you start sounding like the skeptic who keeps on asking why. You give him a valid answer and instead of a valid argument against he says “yes but why is that?” You answer that and he goes on this infinite regress of “yes but why is that?” There are things we know are wrong. We simply know them to be wrong and don’t need to keep justifying why we know them.

    With that said we need to know what we believe and why, and be able to answer others.

    So in that vein, I admire you for taking the time to think through this and answering everybody.

  104. 104
    QuadFather says:

    absolutist [103],

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. I think my previous posts respond to your arguments.

    Thanks for taking the time to engage my thoughts.

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