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Seversky is My New Hero

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Finally, an honest materialist. In comment 93 to my last post a materialist finally admits the obvious. Why is that so hard for the rest of them? I don’t agree with everything Seversky says, but the general thrust of his comment is spot on from a materialist perspective.


Materialist premises lead ineluctably to the following conclusions. There is no such thing as “good.” There is no such thing as “evil.” There is only my personal preferences competing with everyone else’s personal preferences, and all of those personal preferences can be reduced to the impulses caused by the electro-chemical processes of each person’s brain.

My challenge to materialists was to show how any of the conclusions I’ve reached based on materialist premises are not in fact compelled by those premises.

I agree. There are no such things as ‘good’ or ‘evil’. There is nothing like The Force in >Star Wars with a Light and a Dark Side. There is no Satan or demons or any of the other supernatural horrors that human beings have been scaring each other with since we first began telling stories. Not that we need them. Human beings are quite capable of behaving appallingly on their own. That doesn’t mean I can’t describe acts – mostly done by humans – as being good or evil, meaning I approve or disapprove of them. The words can be used as both nouns and adjectives.

As for personal preferences being “reduced” to to electro-chemical impulses in the brain, yes, they can. So what? The powerful calculations carried out by a computer can be “reduced” to electrons being shunted around inside a plastic box full of parts made of silicon, copper, gold etc. Does that make the computations worthless?

The point of the OP is to get reductive materialists to admit that they don’t get to use words like “morally wrong,” “evil,” “bad,” “immoral,” or “wicked,” in any sense other than “that which I personally do not prefer, which personal preference can be reduced to the impulses caused by the electro-chemical processes of my brain.” Until the reductive materialist understands this, he has not understood the first thing and nothing he says will make the least bit of sense.

From what I can make out, we subjectivists are not using the words in any other sense when it comes right down to it.

The thing is, Rosenberg notwithstanding, subjectivism does not entail nihilism and materialism is not the same as determinism.

The third way between objective morality and subjective morality is what I called collective morality and others have called “inter-subjective agreement”. If we can all have a subjective opinion about a particular moral issue what is to stop us from having the same opinion? Since we all have pretty much the same basic needs and interests then it shouldn’t be too hard to agree on rules of behavior that are intended to protect them. Granted that doesn’t give you the certainty of an objective standard but it’s a lot better than the alternative.

As a materialist, I don’t have any answer to the hard problem of consciousness. I don’t know how the world of ideas is created by the electrochemical activity in the brain. I could call it an emergent property or an epiphenomenon but those are really placeholders for an explanation we don’t have yet so it’s simpler to say that I don’t know.

What I do know, and so does everybody else if they’re honest, is that we don’t have any instances of a conscious mind existing apart from some sort of physical matrix or substrate like the brain. We also know that if the brain suffers damage through injury or disease, depending on the areas affected, there can be observable changes in the behavior and capacities and abilities of that mind. We also know that if the brain dies or is destroyed the conscious mind associated with that brain disappears, never to return. Whatever we might wish it to be, at the level we normally experience it, this is very much a material world and treating it as such has proven very fruitful for science

Obviously, I think practically everything Seversky says is dreadfully wrong. The point is that he is the first materialist to step up and admit the obvious entailments of materialism. RDFish are you listening?