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Mung to SB: What about Laws of (human?) Nature . . .

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SB is one of UD’s treasures, who often puts up gems as comments. Accordingly, I headline his current response to Mung on laws of (human) nature:

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>>Mung

SB,

Can you explain why the natural moral law requires a lawgiver?

ETA: I don’t believe in natural laws, I believe in natures/essences. So keep that in mind.

[SB, reply:] Very interesting comment. Let me try to say something that might bring us together.

I assume that we agree that a physical “law,” is really just a human paradigm that describes a “law-like” regularity that is observed in nature. So, ontologically, we are referring to an event that happens over and over again, trying to make sense of it and giving it a name. It is the “nature” of matter to be moved in this way. So, the question becomes, who created matter with such a nature?

If you attribute that regularity or movement to a final cause or something that explains the

Aristotle's four causes (HT: VPC courtesy Google)
Aristotle’s four causes (HT: VPC courtesy Google)

ordered regularity from a philosophical perspective, all well and good. I am just as comfortable with first cause as lawgiver. The philosopher calls it one thing, the scientist, another. Since truth is unified, there can only be one truth. The philosopher studies one aspect from one perspective, the scientist, another. The former is nobler because it probes the why and not just the how.

The point being that order, regularity, and the reasons for it, require an orderer, a regulator, and a reasoner in the same way that any effect requires a cause. I gather that you would agree. Order, regularity, and the nature of matter cannot be brought into existence or be sustained except through some outside power or cause. A nature requires a nature giver, so to speak.

With respect to the moral law, we are really discussing the morality of human nature. What does it mean for a human to be good. Philosophy has already answered that question as well. Anything is good if it operates the way it was designed and intended to operate. (Aristotle, Aquinas).

A good can opener is one that opens cans. A good pencil is one that writes. A good pencil cannot be a a good can opener and it will destroy itself if it tries. So it is with a human being. A good human being is one that operates the way he/she was designed to operate. Humans were designed to practice virtue and avoid vice so that they can be with God someday. It is their nature. Anything that is consistent with their nature is good for them; anything that is not, is bad for them.

Some of us call it that natural moral law to emphasize its binding nature. Break it, and you (and others) will suffer. So, in that sense, I think the word “law” has some merit. If you prefer to dispense with the word “law,” we can call it the morality proper to human nature. Naturally, it applies only to humans, not animals. Like the pencil that destroys itself by assuming the nature of a can opener, a human will destroy himself by assuming the nature of (and acting like) an animal. He will never fulfill his destiny, which is to love and be with God. In the end, he will not be a good person, he will be a bad person. He acted against his nature and his reason for being. If, on the other hand, he has no final purpose of reason for being, then he cannot be good or bad since it is impossible for him to frustrate a purpose that doesn’t exist.

These conditions did not simply appear from out of nowhere. A Creator had to set them up. So, too, in this sense the “law of human nature” or, if you like, the morality of human nature, requires a lawgiver or, if you like, a first cause, — or nature giver.>>

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Well worth pondering, especially in light of the necessary balance of rights, freedoms, duties and responsibilities that marks the distinction between liberty within the pale of the civil peace of justice, and the abusive, ill-advised and ultimately ruinous chaos that results from license . . . the abuse of freedom. END

84 Replies to “Mung to SB: What about Laws of (human?) Nature . . .

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Observe, the charter of modern, representative democracy as it speaks to laws of our nature:

    >> When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 – 21, 2:14 – 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions [Cf. Judges 11:27 and discussion in Locke], do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.>>

    More food for thought.

    KF

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: Locke, grounding what would become modern liberty and democracy, cites Hooker; in his 2nd Treatise on Civil Gov’t, Ch 2:

    >>. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. [–> Thus, we most easily perceive and regard this duty when owed to us, now we must see that others of like duty are owed the same . . . where our evident natural constitution, our surrounding world and our interior life join together in speaking to us through heart, mind and conscience, but are we inclined to listen?] From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80]>>

    More foundational food for thought in the face of chaos and confusion.

    KF

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 3: Locke again, on the candle set up in us, in the intro to his essay on human understanding:

    >> Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2, Ac 17, etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.>>

    Again, let us think afresh.

    KF

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 4: Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765:

    >>Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being . . . consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker’s will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws . . . These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himself in all his dispensations conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly [NB: cf. Exod. 20:15 – 16], should hurt nobody [NB: cf. Rom 13:8 – 10], and should render to every one his due [NB: cf. Rom 13:6 – 7 & Exod. 20:15]; to which three general precepts Justinian[1: a Juris praecepta sunt hace, honeste vivere. alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere. Inst, 1. 1. 3] has reduced the whole doctrine of law [and, Corpus Juris, Justinian’s Christianised precis and pruning of perhaps 1,000 years of Roman jurisprudence, in turn is the foundation of law for much of Europe].>>

    Again, we need to think afresh.

    KF

  5. 5
    Box says:

    StephenB: The point being that order, regularity, and the reasons for it, require an orderer, a regulator, and a reasoner in the same way that any effect requires a cause. I gather that you would agree.

    I agree when you refer to things.

    StephenB: A good can opener is one that opens cans. A good pencil is one that writes. A good pencil cannot be a a good can opener and it will destroy itself if it tries. So it is with a human being. A good human being is one that operates the way he/she was designed to operate.

    I don’t agree that here we can disregard the obvious category difference between can openers and human beings. I believe that morality is intrinsic to human beings and not a law imposed on him from the outside. I also hold that morality is a ‘work in progress’. Step-by-step we grow and are on our way to personal enlightenment, freedom and morality.

    IOW ethical behavior is only ethical behavior if it stems from within and if it’s done consciously. Obeying an incomprehensible external law is fitting for a can-opener, but degrades human beings. Moreover, obeying external laws we don’t understand don’t make our behavior moral.

  6. 6
    Brent says:

    Box, doesn’t this mean that nobody ever does anything against (their) morality???

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    Box, As Locke highlighted, we have a “candle” within; shining the light of conscience on heart and mind. The core precepts of morally governed life are in significant part intelligible on reflecting on our nature and how we feel when our legitimate rights are violated . . . though we tend to confuse things, imagining that license is liberty. KF

  8. 8
    harry says:

    kairosfocus

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. … it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security …

    First, I believe establishing governments according to the principles proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence is the best hope for humanity in securing its “Safety and Happiness,” in so far as governments are able to do that. (There are other factors in our securing “Safety and Happiness” that are definitely not within the purview of government.) It is impossible to establish a utopia in this life, but the application of the principles of the DOI will bring us much nearer to one than any government established on other founding principles.

    Having said that, allow me to reconcile the phrase “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” with Christian belief. Why does it need to be reconciled with Christian belief? The Scriptures and Christian tradition both affirm that the authority of government comes from God, not from the consent of the governed:

    By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles govern the earth.
    — Proverbs 8:15-16

    Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above …”
    — John 19:10-11

    Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
    — Rom 13:1-2

    Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.
    — 1 Peter 2:13-14

    … we do not attribute the power of giving kingdoms and empires to any save to the true God …
    — Augustine, City of God

    The just power of government comes from God. Exactly who exercises that authority coming from God, and within what form of government it will be exercised, is what is derived from “the consent of the governed.”

    Since only the just power of government comes from God, government’s unjust use of power has no genuine authority. When government pretends to have the authority to withdraw inalienable rights from a segment of humanity, such as the right to life itself, we have not only the right, but also the duty, as the Founders proclaimed, to alter or abolish such government.

    When government mandates compliance with that which violates the “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” and tramples upon the God-given, inalienable rights of humanity, is when Christians must say with Peter and the Apostles: “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

  9. 9
  10. 10
    harry says:

    kairosfocus,

    Thanks for the links. I read at the “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” link:

    Consequently Daniel chs 1 – 6, which the key facts show dates to C6 BC rather than the C2 BC often argued by those who a priori assume that prophecy (as a miracle) is impossible …

    Which reminded me of a book of which you are probably already aware, but just in case you are not: On the Reliability of the Old Testament by K. A. Kitchen, who is

    Personal and Brunner Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, University of Liverpool, England. He is one of the leading experts on the Egyptian Third Intermediate Period, having written over 250 books and journal articles on this and other subjects since the mid-1950s. He has been described by The Times as “the very architect of Egyptian chronology”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Kitchen

    Kitchen, a world renowned Egyptologist, makes a convincing case for the historicity of the Old Testament and reveals the absurdity of much of modern Scripture scholarship in an extremely scholarly manner and sometimes with a caustic tone that I found delightful (some reviewers criticize him for this). I am guessing you would enjoy this book.

  11. 11
    StephenB says:

    kairosfocus, thanks for providing a forum for further discussion.

  12. 12
    StephenB says:

    Box

    I don’t agree that here we can disregard the obvious category difference between can openers and human beings. I believe that morality is intrinsic to human beings and not a law imposed on him from the outside. I also hold that morality is a ‘work in progress’. Step-by-step we grow and are on our way to personal enlightenment, freedom and morality.

    IOW ethical behavior is only ethical behavior if it stems from within and if it’s done consciously. Obeying an incomprehensible external law is fitting for a can-opener, but degrades human beings. Moreover, obeying external laws we don’t understand don’t make our behavior moral.

    Box, thank you for the comment. It was obviously well thought out. Yes, I agree that morality is practiced “from the inside.”

    My emphasis, though, is on the source of the good to which the moral life strives. Who decides what the nature of that good will be? Who decides what our ultimate (not temporal) goal or destiny is supposed to be? Obviously, that purpose cannot come from the creature. It can only come from the Creator.

    It is in this sense that we resemble the can opener. Just as the can opener cannot decide why it was made, we cannot decide why we were made. Just as the can opener cannot decide what it means to be a good can opener, we cannot decide what it means to be a good person.

    (Of course, Christians hold that the practice of the natural virtues is not enough to attain the ultimate goal (union with God). Our virtues and our (wounded) nature, must be supernaturalized through grace. We cannot save ourselves. All the power to attain our final goal comes from above, but that is another story. [Not all Christians agree on how this works exactly, but all recognize the substance of the Goal and the fact that we cannot attain it on our own power.)

    The key point is this: If we do not have a destiny or a purpose then we cannot be good or bad. Purpose and morality are inseparable. If we have no purpose, then morality cannot exist.

    Short of our ultimate destiny, humans can, with knowledge and discipline, still do good things on their own and in a natural way. We have an intellect to know what is good for us and a will to guide our behavior in that direction. Yes, these faculties are on the inside and we use them from the inside.

    But where did these faculties come from and who decided what they should be used for? Not from us, I would argue. Even the natural goods that these faculties help us attain were determined by the Creator. We didn’t decide that air and water are good for us, God did. We didn’t decide that sex has a unitive and procreative purpose, God did. We didn’t decide that love is better than hate, God did. Most importantly, we didn’t decide that we were made to be with God, God did.

    In truth, the moral law is the owner’s manual for a human being. It tells us which kinds of behavior promote unity, health, and life, and which ones promote disunity, pathology, and death. We can find it in our heart, in nature, and, most profoundly, in God’s Divine revelation. Yes, we practice virtue and experience happiness from the inside, but the meaning of virtue and the source of happiness come from the outside.

  13. 13
    Box says:

    StephenB,

    Thank you for your reply.

    StephenB: Who decides what the nature of that good will be? Who decides what our ultimate (not temporal) goal or destiny is supposed to be? Obviously, that purpose cannot come from the creature. It can only come from the Creator.

    I don’t see the necessity for a set of laws. Allow me to explain. Suppose the creator made us so that our core content is ‘love’. Now love, as I use the term here, refers to something that, by its very nature, strives for harmony. Harmony with oneself, parents, children, friends, society. However this striving constitutes a constant struggle. You cannot do all at once. Choices have to be made. Priorities have to be set. Mistakes, confusion and frustration abound, but sometimes a moment of harmony.
    It’s a learning process.
    Now, this ‘love’ doesn’t need laws to tell it that it needs to strive for harmony, because that is the nature of love, as I see it.
    What is ‘absolute morality’? It is not, I would argue, the following of an external set of laws, but it is a loving person succeeding in his goal of being in harmony with himself and (if possible) with his surroundings. If there is a lack of harmony in one’s surrounding then the most ‘harmonious’ behavior is the behavior that advances harmony the most, which paradoxically can be overturning the tables of the money changers.
    So, in my view, it’s an internal drive, a learning process, that takes us to harmony and morality.

    The key point is this: If we do not have a destiny or a purpose then we cannot be good or bad. Purpose and morality are inseparable. If we have no purpose, then morality cannot exist.

    I would say that our innate destiny is to be in harmony with ourselves and others (one day). And the purpose of harmony is harmony.

  14. 14
    Mung says:

    And StephenB, thank you for addressing my question.

    I’m currently reading a chapter on moral arguments for the existence of God and how they rely on our innate intuitions about morality.

    A quote from that chapter:

    Across cultures, humans have spontaneous evaluative dispositions toward the actions or character of other people. Such attitudes include feelings of liking or disliking a particular person, and evaluating actions as praiseworthy or blameworthy. Moral psychologists have demonstrated that these evaluations occur rapidly and unreflectively. For instance, many Western participants think it is morally wrong for two adult siblings to have a single instance of protected, consensual sex (Haidt 2001). However, when asked why they feel such actions are wrong, many people cannot articulate reasons or arguments. In spite of this inability to justify their moral intuitions, people feel strongly about them: they are not just judgments of taste or matters of individual preference.

    I’ve always wondered how the atheists who come here always manage to find their morality when it suits them.

  15. 15
    Brent says:

    Box @13,

    I would say that our innate destiny is to be in harmony with ourselves and others (one day). And the purpose of harmony is harmony.

    Pardon, but in reality this relies on an assumption of an ultimate “law” to tell us what is harmonious. I.E., we assume that what we now think is harmonious relates to some objective something. If not, whence our confidence of what constitutes harmony? If, however, that objective something was other than what we now believe it is, then what is harmonious might actually be beating your neighbor.

    There is no reason to believe that harmony deserves a capital “H”, but if you should like to do so, then know what that means.

  16. 16
    StephenB says:

    Box

    What is ‘absolute morality’? It is not, I would argue, the following of an external set of laws, but it is a loving person succeeding in his goal of being in harmony with himself and (if possible) with his surroundings. If there is a lack of harmony in one’s surrounding then the most ‘harmonious’ behavior is the behavior that advances harmony the most, which paradoxically can be overturning the tables of the money changers.
    So, in my view, it’s an internal drive, a learning process, that takes us to harmony and morality.

    Again, very interesting. Truly.

    So, for you, the final “good” is personal, social, and cultural harmony. To attain that goal, you must work through a slow and difficult process with many successes and failures along the way.

    A few Questions: Is there such a thing as a morality proper to the attainment of harmony? Can it be predicted which behaviors will take you closer to that goal and which ones will take you further away? Does a person who has reached the ideal stage of harmony consistently behave in ways that a person who experiences disharmony would not? Can those behaviors be identified and classified? Could any of the aforementioned trends be loosely characterized as a “rule” or “law” for the attainment of harmony?

    What about the state of harmony itself? Are there rules attendant to that psychological condition, if we can call it that? Would certain mental states immediately disqualify one from harmony? Wouldn’t there be a law against conflict, or strife, or dissent?

    What about the problem of identity? Would there be room for individuality? Or would it consist of a kind of merger into being? If it is one of these, would there not be a law against the other? Would there be diversity in unity, unity without diversity, or diversity without unity? Logically, only one of these three conditions is possible, ruling out the other two.

  17. 17
    anthropic says:

    harry 8

    Thanks for the scriptural listing. I’d also point out that Romans 12 states that we are to leave revenge up to God, which is usually taken to mean in the afterlife. However, Romans 13 goes on to say that the government has been given the sword to act as God’s servant in punishing evil and rewarding good. Thus, leaving it up to God does not mean doing nothing. Rather, it means leaving the punishment on this Earth to those who have God given authority to punish on this Earth, plus God in the life to come.

    This logical connection is often ignored because of the rather arbitrary designation of chapters 12 and 13 in Romans. Chapters were inserted later to make references easier, but were not in the original manuscript.

  18. 18
    anthropic says:

    SB 16

    Good points. I’d add that if harmony on a personal, social, and cultural level is the ultimate virtue, the abolitionists were evil. What, after all, could be less harmonious than the bloodbath of the Civil War?

    Folks who objected to giving their babies up for a fiery death to placate Molech violated harmony in their culture. So were the people who hid Jews from the Nazis. And so are the people who give of their time, money, and energy to oppose abortion.

  19. 19
    Box says:

    StephenB,

    Thank you for your questions.

    A brief note:
    In my worldview God has designed the universe and the earth specifically to advance our learning process towards enlightenment. We are purely spiritual beings who can pop in and out bodies—consistent with NDE experiences—which in fact we do, many times (reincarnation). Reincarnation guarantees that we can all exhaustively experience every stage of the learning process.
    IOW everything is aimed at our spiritual growth, which includes morality.

    StephenB: So, for you, the final “good” is personal, social, and cultural harmony.

    The final good (harmony) comes into view when one is enlightened and surrounded by others who are also enlightened. Here on earth, in the midst of our learning process, there can only be imperfection and some sparkles of good.

    StephenB: To attain that goal, you must work through a slow and difficult process with many successes and failures along the way.

    A few Questions: Is there such a thing as a morality proper to the attainment of harmony?

    I take it that you are asking if the end justifies the means. I think so. Whatever is necessary to attain our enlightenment will happen. I hold that Auschwitz happened because it was an essential lesson.

    StephenB: Can it be predicted which behaviors will take you closer to that goal and which ones will take you further away? Does a person who has reached the ideal stage of harmony consistently behave in ways that a person who experiences disharmony would not? Can those behaviors be identified and classified? Could any of the aforementioned trends be loosely characterized as a “rule” or “law” for the attainment of harmony?

    Suppose that the only lesson God wants us to learn, during our multiple stays on earth, is the ‘Atheist vs. Theist Debate’. Now obviously atheism is absolutely wrong (and very disharmonious) and theism is absolutely right. However to get a perfect understanding of this debate it is necessary to be on the wrong side—at least during several lifetimes—since a perfect understanding implies looking at a thing from all angles. This is illustrated by the fact that some theists bring exceptional insight to the table partly due to the fact that they used to be atheists. Moreover we cannot learn enough if everyone is on the right side from the start.

    Is there a rule or law to this? Maybe: “look at something from all angles”.

    StephenB: What about the state of harmony itself? Are there rules attendant to that psychological condition, if we can call it that? Would certain mental states immediately disqualify one from harmony? Wouldn’t there be a law against conflict, or strife, or dissent?

    The state of being in perfect harmony with oneself is actually my definition of freedom. Is freedom bound by rule?

    StephenB: What about the problem of identity? Would there be room for individuality? Or would it consist of a kind of merger into being?

    Individuality is top priority. Being in harmony with oneself is the very definition of individuality.

    StephenB: If it is one of these, would there not be a law against the other? Would there be diversity in unity, unity without diversity, or diversity without unity? Logically, only one of these three conditions is possible, ruling out the other two.

    Would you care to elaborate? I’m not sure I understand your question.

  20. 20
    Box says:

    Brent: Pardon, but in reality this relies on an assumption of an ultimate “law” to tell us what is harmonious. I.E., we assume that what we now think is harmonious relates to some objective something. If not, whence our confidence of what constitutes harmony?

    We simply sense (feel) it within, or rather learn to sense it. Similarly, how do we know that something is true? We understand it. We don’t need an external authority ( or we shouldn’t) to tell us what is true and what is not—while being completely oblivious/neutral to the truth ourselves.

    anthropic: What, after all, could be less harmonious than the bloodbath of the Civil War?

    Harmonious behavior, as I use the term, is not necessarily being in harmony with one’s environment—not at all. If being harmonious with one’s environment precludes being harmonious with oneself it is not harmonious behavior.
    Like I said in #13:
    If there is a lack of harmony in one’s surrounding then the most ‘harmonious’ behavior is the behavior that advances harmony the most, which paradoxically can be overturning the tables of the money changers.

  21. 21
    Brent says:

    Box @20,

    I think there are some real problems here, but I didn’t/don’t understand your position fully so I’ll go back to lurking . . .

  22. 22
    StephenB says:

    Box @19

    Thanks again for your comments. What I was getting at is this: For me, a good or moral act is one that leads one to his destiny (union with God) and a bad or immoral act is one that pulls him away from that destiny. In that sense, there is a law of morality that dictates which behaviors are consistently successful for putting one on the right path and which ones are not.

    Is it also the case for you that a good act is one that predictably and consistently leads to a goal (which is, for you, harmony) and a bad act is one that predictably and consistently does the opposite? If so, why would that not be a law. If not, what do you mean by a “good” act? Or, does your model even recognize such a thing as good and bad behavior?

  23. 23
    Carpathian says:

    anthropic:

    Rather, it means leaving the punishment on this Earth to those who have God given authority to punish on this Earth, plus God in the life to come.

    This is a very frightening statement.

    This is the type of thinking that leads fundamentalist groups to believe they have a right to kill infidels.

    No one has a right from God to punish anyone.

    No one has a right from God to tell anyone else what to do.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Carpathian,

    I think you owe an apology to to anthropic and others too, for twisting and attacking the man through guilt by invidious association:

    [a:] Rather, it means leaving the punishment on this Earth to those who have God given authority to punish on this Earth, plus God in the life to come.

    [c:] This is a very frightening statement.

    This is the type of thinking that leads fundamentalist groups to believe they have a right to kill infidels.

    Have you ever heard of courts, police, laws with sanctions, the power of the sword in justice — as in those statues with blindfolded Justice with scales in one hand and the sword in the other — and the rightful power of civil magistrates to punish wrongdoers?

    That, in context is what Anthropic was talking about and Harry was talking about. Indeed, it is what I was talking about.

    Let me cite the main classic scriptural text that is at stake here:

    Rom 13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. [–> note this controlling context, just gov’t is being discussed, here actually in the days of Nero’s tutelage when Seneca and Burris delivered on good government] But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

    5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

    6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. [ESV, cf discussion here on.]

    The next several vv. are just as telling as they turn to citizenship in society:

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

    11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

    It is utterly, sadly revealing that you jumped immediately to a scare-mongering slanderous conflation of the proper power of the state under God to defend the civil peace of justice from its enemies foreign and domestic, with Islamofascist terrorists and the like.

    You have some serious walking back to do.

    KF

  25. 25
    Carpathian says:

    kairosfocus,

    You missed this part: No one has a right from God to punish anyone.

    No one has a right from God to tell anyone else what to do.

    This includes Christians, Muslims and anyone who believes God chooses sides in the affairs of humans.

    You have some serious walking back to do.

    Religion is a serious topic that can lead to serious consequences.

    For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

    It is simply not acceptable to take any teachings from any specific holy book and claim that they are applicable to those who do not hold that specific holy book as being a true representation of God’s intent.

    I do not bow to the authority of any religion and no one should be expected to.

    Should a Christian in a non-Christian country bow to government laws derived from a non-Christian holy book when those laws are in opposition to Christian teachings?

    This applies in both directions as no laws based on Christianity should be forced on non-Christians.

    Religion should stay in churches and in the minds of men and women. It has no business in the laws of man.

    Freedom of religion allows people to believe anything they want, not to act on those beliefs.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    Carpathian, that is just the point: the civil authority is God’s servant to do good; particularly bearing the sword of justice. That is, the civil authority under God has a solemn duty of bearing the sword of justice in defence of the civil peace of justice; where as the proverbial scales and blindfold remind, justice rests on an impartial understanding of the truth and of the right — which can only properly be founded in the IS who grounds OUGHT . . . the inherently good Creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. As, the US DoI of 1776 and other historically pivotal cites above . . . which you so studiously, willfully ignored in your haste to accuse, demonise, stereotype and taint . . . so stoutly remind us. Your remarks, on fair comment, by sad contrast reveal a deep want of reasonable understanding, rabid secularist indoctrination, and unsurprisingly conclusion-jumping then doubling down on an extreme, hostile and even bigoted conflation and invidious comparison of a straightforward point that every reasonable person should understand with islamofascist terrorists or the like speak volumes. I think you need to take a sober reassessment of your visceral hostility to the Judaeo-Christian tradition and its contribution to the now fast-fading heritage of modern liberty and democratic self-government, and you still owe a very serious apology. KF

    PS: Before you go on and on about “religion” which you seem not to understand, I suggest you examine the historic context of the Ep Rom, which was speaking to Christians living under a pagan roman regime, in the capital of that empire, in the early days of Nero’s reign. At that time, Seneca [a stoic thinker] and Burrus led just government and were directly implied as God’s servants to do good. Several years later, the apostle Paul peacefully submitted to judicial murder at the hands of the demonically mad nero who had tossesd aside his tutors. As, before him his Master had stood in witness of truth and being found innocent submitted to politically expedient judicial murder as in I wash my hands of this man’s blood. The martyrs’ and confessors’ blood and tears cry up from the ground against what you have tried to do. For shame!

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Later, when there is a moment, I will take up the twisted talking points C has echoed above, to speak to the ethical and governmental foundations of the civil peace of justice and its defence as informed by the foundational Judaeo-Christian tradition of our civilisation that ever so many in our day have been taught to despise. Moretime, KF

  28. 28
    Carpathian says:

    kairosfocus,

    I am not hostile to any religion but I am very much against anyone who would take his religion’s teachings and believe they apply to people outside of that religion.

    Muslims can’t make laws based on Islam and apply them to anyone .

    Christians can’t make laws based on Christianity and apply them to anyone .

    The world does not belong to the followers of any specific religion.

    You are as wrong in the eyes of someone else’ religion as they are wrong in yours.

  29. 29
    Carpathian says:

    kairosfocus:

    Carpathian, that is just the point: the civil authority is God’s servant to do good; particularly bearing the sword of justice.

    This is where the problem starts; the idea that someone else’s holy book defines laws that govern me .

    If I want to join a church and obey it’s teachings, I should be allowed to.

    On the other hand, if I don’t want to follow a church’s teachings, I shouldn’t have to do it via church influenced laws.

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    carpathian, your slander and doubling down above suffice to expose the hollowness of your bland denial. On seeing a locus classicus on the status of the civil authority as the swordbearer of justice, you leaped straight to scare-mongering and slanderous invidious association with islamofascist terrorists and the like, precisely because the term “religion” has been so tainted in your mind — you plainly don’t realise the patent bigotry fully equivalent to racism in what you just did. On being corrected, you doubled down. I doubt you even realise that above you appealed to might and manipulation make ‘right,’ the nihilist’s credo. And more. I suggest, for now, that you pause and rethink what you did above. KF

    PS: For the moment, I clip to invite you to ponder in light of Locke, Hooker, Blackstone, Justinian and the Jurisconsults who synthesised Corpus Juris Civilis and the 55 of 1776:

    the civil authority is God’s servant to do good; particularly bearing the sword of justice. That is, the civil authority under God has a solemn duty of bearing the sword of justice in defence of the civil peace of justice; where as the proverbial scales and blindfold remind, justice rests on an impartial understanding of the truth and of the right — which can only properly be founded in the IS who grounds OUGHT . . . the inherently good Creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. As, the US DoI of 1776 and other historically pivotal cites above . . . which you so studiously, willfully ignored in your haste to accuse, demonise, stereotype and taint . . . so stoutly remind us.

  31. 31
    Carpathian says:

    kairosfocus:

    The martyrs’ and confessors’ blood and tears cry up from the ground against what you have tried to do. For shame!

    This sort of rhetoric is part of the problem.

    You make an emotional appeal that your religious beliefs are more valid than mine.

    They’re not.

    You’re free to follow any religion you want but that doesn’t give you the right to infuse your religion into the laws of the land.

    God has given no one the right to use the law to promote their religious views.

    God cannot be blamed for the stupid laws man has come up with.

  32. 32
    Carpathian says:

    kairosfocus:

    the civil authority is God’s servant to do good; particularly bearing the sword of justice.

    And I disagree.

    Do I have a right to?

    Do you have the right to make laws that would forbid me from disagreeing with you?

  33. 33
    Carpathian says:

    kairosfocus:

    I doubt you even realise that above you appealed to might and manipulation make ‘right,’ the nihilist’s credo.

    And what about your claim about the sword of justice?

    How is that not might makes right?

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    Carpathian, have you not understood what you have done? That it full well merits a rebuke? And, have you taken even a moment to truly ponder the IS-OUGHT gap and what it implies in terms of worldview-foundation issues antecedent to the “religion” that you so patently despise to the point of ill-informed bigotry, effectively instantly equating it to Islamofascist terrorism and the like? I suggest that you pause and think again about how many millions you have slandered by that invidious comparison. G’day, later I will deal with issues. KF

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    Carpathian, Do you realise the blunder in equating the sword of justice wielded in defence of the civil peace of justice by duly authorised agents, with the nihilist’s credo, might and manipulation make ‘right’? That, too speaks volumes, exposing just how insidiously destructive the errors of our time are. Again, to be followed up. KF

  36. 36
    Carpathian says:

    kairosfocus:

    to the “religion” that you so patently despise

    I’m going to say something that you won’t understand right off, so I’ll try to say it in a few ways so that you will finally get it.

    1) I don’t despise “the religion”.

    2) I don’t despise any religion.

    3) Religion is a great tool in the hands of mature people.

    Now to make sure that we understand each other, do you believe that in 1) where I say I don’t despise “the religion”, that I actually mean that I do despise “the religion”?

    If so, why?

  37. 37
    Carpathian says:

    kairosfocus:

    Carpathian, Do you realise the blunder in equating the sword of justice wielded in defence of the civil peace of justice by duly authorised agents, with the nihilist’s credo, might and manipulation make ‘right’?

    Do you not understand what the term “might makes right” means?

    It means if that if I don’t agree with the wielder of that sword, it is completely irrelevant what I think or whether or not I am right.

    If a Christian in a land where the laws are derived from a non-Christian holy book has problems with a law, and the Christians do not wield the sword, then that law is going to apply, regardless of whether it flies in the face of Christian teachings.

    The same applies to non-Christians here.

    Religion has no business in law-making.

  38. 38
    groovamos says:

    A few posts back:

    God has given no one the right to use the law to promote their religious views.

    really are we that stuck in the bush league? I happen to be so fortunate to live in the first civilization in history whose founding documents include one that declares that natural rights come from the Creator. These rights are spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. including the First Amendment which clearly is a law which I can use to promote my religion as I please. Wherever I want, but with respect to property rights as they may apply.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    C, there you go again. Later — at minimum as an object lesson on a good slice of what is going wrong. KF

    PS: As a clue, what is the difference between revenge and justice?

  40. 40
    Box says:

    StephenB #22,
    Thank you for your questions.

    StephenB: For me, a good or moral act is one that leads one to his destiny (union with God) and a bad or immoral act is one that pulls him away from that destiny.

    In my model, in the end, we all find harmony with God, in perfect freedom.

    StephenB: In that sense, there is a law of morality that dictates which behaviors are consistently successful for putting one on the right path and which ones are not.
    Is it also the case for you that a good act is one that predictably and consistently leads to a goal (which is, for you, harmony) and a bad act is one that predictably and consistently does the opposite?

    We are all on our way to enlightenment. The things we do are necessary steps in that context. We learn, whether we want it or not. It’s an airtight system—no escape. IOW there is no act that doesn’t fit the learning process. We are all on our way.

    StephenB: If so, why would that not be a law?

    Our essence is freedom. There are no laws for free beings. Freedom is not bound by law.

    StephenB: If not, what do you mean by a “good” act? Or, does your model even recognize such a thing as good and bad behavior?

    Yes, there is good and bad behavior. This is determined by the faculty ‘love’ (see #13)—the experience of harmony and disharmony.
    There is, however, no behavior that doesn’t lead to enlightenment and God. God sees our behavior for what it is: steps towards enlightenment.
    Even the most gruesome behavior? Yes, even the most gruesome behavior.

  41. 41
    StephenB says:

    Carpathian,

    Do you not understand what the term “might makes right” means?

    Yes, and it should be avoided at all costs. In keeping with that point, the role of religion can be overplayed or underplayed. Both radical theocracy, which you rightly fear, and radical secularism, which you don’t seem to fear enough, are to be avoided.

    The Declaration of Independence explained it in just the right proportions: Natural rights come from the “Laws of Nature” and “Nature’s God.” Not from any individual expression of religious beliefs, at one extreme, and not from a secular state, at the other extreme

    With that standard, everyone, including leaders of the state are bound to, and accountable to, the “natural moral law,” which defines which laws are just and unjust. Accordingly, the civil laws are supposed to be informed by that same natural moral law, which holds everyone accountable, including the lawmakers.

  42. 42
    StephenB says:

    Box

    Yes, there is good and bad behavior. This is determined by the faculty ‘love’ (see #13)—the experience of harmony and disharmony.
    There is, however, no behavior that doesn’t lead to enlightenment and God.

    So, ultimately, there are no bad consequences to bad behavior?

  43. 43
    anthropic says:

    C 23

    “No one has a right from God to tell anyone else what to do.”

    This isn’t a college dorm bull session, C, where you try to justify cheating on an exam — or a girlfriend.

    As any grownup knows, society absolutely depends upon people respecting the laws. Yes, those funny things that tell people what to do. Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t murder, for instance. They apply to everyone, including those who don’t believe that God gave the Ten Commandments — that’s where they came from.

    Yes, our society historically does claim a right from God to prohibit people from doing these things. Plus slavery, rape, and child abuse.

    If these prohibitions are simply man-made constructions, then they can be changed willy-nilly, as they have no basis that must be respected. As the late Yale Law Prof Arthur Leff put it, man-made law is always subject to the grand “Sez who?” Divine law is not.

    Professor Leff, an agnostic, had no theological ax to grind. He just pointed out that, without an ultimate Lawgiver, laws have no basis beyond the cultural consensus of the moment. We might feel that torturing babies for entertainment is wrong, but that’s just our opinion.

    Leff ultimately concludes that good and evil really do exist. However, he is frustrated because, without an “unevaluated Evaluator”, there is no ultimate basis for that knowledge.

    Ironically, you end up sawing off the branch you are sitting on. Your claim to individual freedom to do as you please only has traction in a society that has a high regard for human dignity & worth. Historically that’s pretty rare.

    In fact, historically it has arisen only in Judeo-Christian cultures which regard mankind as being made in the image of God. Without that God-based idea, no one has any reason to honor your choices.

    Just ask any North Korean.

  44. 44
    StephenB says:

    Carpathian

    Freedom of religion allows people to believe anything they want, not to act on those beliefs.

    Quite the contrary. If you cannot act on your religious beliefs, you are not free? It is, after all, called the freedom of "religious expression." Or, it is your opinion that only secularists should be free to express themselves and that Christians should be forced to keep their mouths shut?

  45. 45
    Box says:

    StephenB: So, ultimately, there are no bad consequences to bad behavior?

    No consequences over and beyond the experience of disharmony. No eternal hellfire.

  46. 46
    anthropic says:

    Box 45

    “No consequences over and beyond the experience of disharmony. No eternal hellfire.”

    Well, that’s a relief. Abolitionists, civil rights activists, Muslim feminists (girls get an education? Outrageous!) and other troublemakers will only suffer the consequences of their bad behavior on this planet.

  47. 47
    Box says:

    Anthropic,

    anthropic:

    Box: “No consequences over and beyond the experience of disharmony. No eternal hellfire.”

    Well, that’s a relief. Abolitionists, civil rights activists, Muslim feminists (girls get an education? Outrageous!) and other troublemakers will only suffer the consequences of their bad behavior on this planet.

    Everyone will become perfectly aware of the disharmony caused by her/his actions—enlightenment includes perfect knowledge/awareness/understanding of oneself—on this planet or in the hereafter.

  48. 48
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Box

    Our essence is freedom. There are no laws for free beings. Freedom is not bound by law.

    Interesting thought. How about this …

    If there is no possibility of choice, then there is no freedom.
    For free beings, laws provide opportunities to choose.
    If there were no laws, then there would be no choices, and therefore no freedom.

    If a being had no boundaries to its freedom, it would be God.

  49. 49
    Box says:

    Silver: If there is no possibility of choice, then there is no freedom.
    For free beings, laws provide opportunities to choose.
    If there were no laws, then there would be no choices, and therefore no freedom.

    If (external) laws are foundational to freedom, then God is not free.

  50. 50
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Box

    If (external) laws are foundational to freedom, then God is not free.

    I’m not sure what you mean by external laws.

    God possesses both the ultimate and maximum freedom, and God is also bound by laws. Did he create the laws that he is bound by? No, because by his nature, laws (rules, order, coherence, rationality) exist.

    God is what is. Therefore, God cannot be what is not.

    That’s a primal law that is an aspect of ultimate being. So the law, like power, intelligence, presence is a necessary aspect of total being, which is God.

  51. 51
    sean samis says:

    I see this topic has moved to a new thread. I replied to StephenB on the original thread where this was first posted (comment 289); so it is appropriate to repost my response here. I apologize if I missed some edit I should have made to make this fully appropriate to this thread. I’m assuming StephenB’s comment was posted in the OP without edit.

    StephenB begins with:

    I assume that we agree that a physical “law,” is really just a human paradigm that describes a “law-like” regularity that is observed in nature. So, ontologically, we are referring to an event that happens over and over again, trying to make sense of it and giving it a name. It is the “nature” of matter to be moved in this way.

    I can accept that.

    So, the question becomes, who created matter with such a nature?

    Wrong at the outset. Where matter comes from is a reasonable question; it’s an important question, and getting it right is Very Important.

    Asking “who” presumes the answer; that someone created it. That is an unwarranted assumption that gets in the way of truth-seeking.

    If you attribute that regularity or movement to a final cause or something that explains the ordered regularity from a philosophical perspective, all well and good.

    I can agree with most of this. It’s preferable to explain ordered regularity by some kind of empirically testable phenomena. Philosophical perspectives are too vague or ambiguous to be reliable.

    I am just as comfortable with first cause as lawgiver.

    I thought we were looking for the truth, not for “comfort” If we all just pick the answer we are comfortable with, then the small matter of TRUTH gets lost.

    Since truth is unified, there can only be one truth.

    Truth is not a thing, it is not a unified thing. Truth is just what is or what happens. There are many truths; one being that we only presume all truths are “compatible”; Gödel’s theorem makes that uncertain.

    The philosopher studies one aspect from one perspective, the scientist, another. The former is nobler because it probes the why and not just the how.

    The former is unreliable because it assumes what it sets out to prove. Before we can reasonably probe the why we need to prove the why even exists. That remains undone.

    The point being that order, regularity, and the reasons for it, require an orderer, a regulator, and a reasoner in the same way that any effect requires a cause. Order, regularity, and the nature of matter cannot be brought into existence or be sustained except through some outside power or cause. A nature requires a nature giver, so to speak.

    A claim for which there is no evidence except that it’s a comfortable idea. In fact, it appears to be the opposite: disorder and irregularity demand explanations were order and regularity appear to be just an attribute of existence.

    Certainly, if as you say above, that …truth is unified, there can only be one truth then order and regularity are built into truth.

    With respect to the moral law, we are really discussing the morality of human nature.

    Complete change of topic. Natural and moral laws are categorically different.

    Natural or “physical” laws (as you wrote above) are …really just a human paradigm that describes a “law-like” regularity that is observed in nature . Natural laws cannot be violated. One ignores them at their peril, but they CANNOT be violated. It is physically impossible to do so.

    Moral laws are rules of conduct which humans can obey or ignore at their discretion, and whose violations can totally escape consequence.

    What does it mean for a human to be good. Philosophy has already answered that question as well. Anything is good if it operates the way it was designed and intended to operate. (Aristotle, Aquinas).

    You must be aware that Philosophy has numerous, contradictory answers to every question. Aristotle and Aquinas are not Philosophy, they are just a couple of guys; one who died 23 centuries ago; the other who appears to have repudiated his life’s work.

    Philosophy does not speak with one voice except if you cherry-pick it.

    A good can opener is one that opens cans. A good pencil is one that writes.

    Here the word “good” is sloppy. A FUNCTIONAL can opener is one that opens cans; a FUNCTIONAL pencil one that can be used for writing. (Pencils don’t write; sometimes people use pencils to write).

    A good pencil cannot be a a good can opener and it will destroy itself if it tries.

    This is foolish. Pencils don’t attempt to do anything, much less to act as different objects. A foolish person will destroy a pencil using it as a can opener, but they might succeed if they try hard enough. But there’s no fault on the pencil. The pencil tried nothing.

    A good human being is one that operates the way he/she was designed to operate. Humans were designed to practice virtue and avoid vice so that they can be with God someday.

    Here is the crux of the matter: are humans even designed? Much less were they designed to do certain things? Says who? This is a perfectly fine religious theory, but like all religious theories, there is no rational or moral obligation to agree with it. If this is the import of your “natural moral law” then again you are making it religious.

    Anything that is consistent with their nature is good for them; anything that is not, is bad for them.

    Since we haven’t established what the nature of humans is, I have to again ask: says who? Some religious persons will agree, but they will disagree among themselves about what actual behaviors are good or bad.

    Some of us call it that natural moral law to emphasize its binding nature.

    Again you connect your “natural moral law” to religious concepts. Either way, It’s not binding on anyone who does not believe in it or agree with the details you propose for it. It is your “comfortable” opinion; nothing more.

    Break it, and you (and others) will suffer.

    Sometimes. Maybe. People DO get away with murder.

    If you prefer to dispense with the word “law,” we can call it the morality proper to human nature.

    Changing the name does not make it more rational or true or less religious. It remains only another religious opinion, one of many, none of which bind those who do not believe in them.

    .Naturally, it applies only to humans, not animals.

    Why? We know animal are in fact capable of generosity and cruelty; why are they not bound? They are capable of volition, why are they not bound?

    Like the pencil that destroys itself by assuming the nature of a can opener, …

    Pencils cannot do this. Pencils cannot act; they cannot choose; they cannot assume.

    If, on the other hand, he has no final purpose of reason for being, then he cannot be good or bad since it is impossible for him to frustrate a purpose that doesn’t exist.

    Unless, of course, there’s valid meaning to “good” and “bad” unconnected to any religious dogma about supposed “purposes”. I’ve proposed one on this site. It’s not even difficult.

    These conditions did not simply appear from out of nowhere. A Creator had to set them up.

    Something had to cause things, but a Creator-Person is not required. This is just another of your “comfortable” opinions.

    I’ll have to read the preceding 50ish comments to see if there’s anything interesting among them.

    sean s.

  52. 52
    Box says:

    Silver #50,

    Silver: I’m not sure what you mean by external laws.

    My discussion with StephenB has to do with the question whether or not there must be an external objective law of morality.
    My position is that there is no such thing. A free person makes her/his own laws of morality. I have argued that we have the tools and that this is work in progress—part of a learning process which leads each and everyone of us to enlightenment.

    Silver: God possesses both the ultimate and maximum freedom, and God is also bound by laws. Did he create the laws that he is bound by? No, because by his nature, laws (rules, order, coherence, rationality) exist.

    I argue that the same goes for us. Laws are not imposed on God by someone else—externally. No one tells God what to do. It is likewise for us. We too are free.

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    sean samis @51,

    If it was your goal to get the last word by strewing out 20 dubious and disconnected claims (I counted them) as a response to a single and unified answer I provided to a specific question asked by someone else, the context of which you are not even remotely aware of, your mission was accomplished.

    If, on the other hand, you would like to enter into a rational discussion either on the theme itself, which you appear not to grasp, or one subsection of the theme, I am available.

  54. 54
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Box

    Sorry I didn’t read the previous posts and I just jumped into the middle of the discussion.

    I argue that the same goes for us. Laws are not imposed on God by someone else—externally. No one tells God what to do. It is likewise for us. We too are free.

    Laws are not imposed on God because nothing can be external to God and nothing can be imposed. Order (laws) is essential to being, which is God.

    But for us, we’re obviously dependent on many things for our existence. Order is imposed on us because we are not self-created. We haven’t achieved fullness of being – we have potential that can be fulfilled or not.

    Plus, since we can choose evil as well as good (which God can only choose good) our freedom is a lot different.

  55. 55
    StephenB says:

    Box

    A free person makes her/his own laws of morality.

    If person A is free to make up a morality such that sex with children is good, and person B is free to make up a morality such that sex with children is evil, how can these conflicting notions of freedom be reconciled in harmony?

  56. 56
  57. 57
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    Quite the contrary. If you cannot act on your religious beliefs, you are not free? It is, after all, called the freedom of “religious expression.” Or, it is your opinion that only secularists should be free to express themselves and that Christians should be forced to keep their mouths shut?

    Anyone is allowed to do what the law allows, the problem is whether those laws favor certain elements of society.

    Any law that favors any religion should not be binding to those who don’t practice that faith.

    As far as keeping our mouths shut, I have no problem if a church has a membership drive and asks people to come and hear their message.

    I have a big problem though when churches become political and try and shape public policy with their religious views.

    I see religion as a way of understanding the world, not running it.

    Anyone who thinks religion should influence government policy should have no problem accepting a non-Christian government promoting a non-Christian religion.

    If

  58. 58
    StephenB says:

    Carpathian

    Anyone who thinks religion should influence government policy should have no problem accepting a non-Christian government promoting a non-Christian religion.

    Inasmuch as you did not read what I wrote with sufficient care, much less respond to it, I will leave you to your own thoughts.

  59. 59
    StephenB says:

    Carpathian

    Anyone is allowed to do what the law allows, the problem is whether those laws favor certain elements of society.

    If you don’t understand that religious liberty means the free exercise of religion and the freedom of religious expression, and not simply the right to believe something, then I cannot help you.

  60. 60
    mjoels says:

    He doesn’t understand that that right comes from God and not the state… so sad.

  61. 61
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    If you don’t understand that religious liberty means the free exercise of religion and the freedom of religious expression, and not simply the right to believe something, then I cannot help you.

    As soon as religion expression becomes an action then there is a risk of a collision of “freedoms”.

    If A’s religious expression is an action that forbids B’s, who decides which one prevails?

    The problem with religions is that they are not identical and thus their actions come into conflict with each other.

    That is why religions should be kept private, not public.

  62. 62
    Carpathian says:

    mjoels:

    He doesn’t understand that that right comes from God and not the state… so sad.

    Everyone has the right to say this, “My rights come from my god, not yours”.

    This of course leads to a collision of religions.

    Your opinions about rights are just that, opinions.

  63. 63
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    Anyone who thinks religion should influence government policy should have no problem accepting a non-Christian government promoting a non-Christian religion.

    You seem to have a problem with this statement.

    Why?

  64. 64
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    If you don’t understand that religious liberty means the free exercise of religion and the freedom of religious expression, and not simply the right to believe something, then I cannot help you.

    You are certainly not free to exercise your religion in any way that forces me to accept that exercise.

    Laws are such an example.

    Any law with a religious component is trampling on the rights of those who reject that religion.

  65. 65
    StephenB says:

    Carpathian

    Anyone who thinks religion should influence government policy should have no problem accepting a non-Christian government promoting a non-Christian religion.

    You seem to have a problem with this statement.

    Why?

    The second clause does not follow from the first. The Christian religion, because it teaches the inherent dignity of the human person, provided much of the rational foundation for religious freedom in the United States. That doesn’t mean that I should have no problem if Islamists want to install Sharia Law, which is the mortal enemy of political freedom.

  66. 66
    StephenB says:

    SB: If you don’t understand that religious liberty means the free exercise of religion and the freedom of religious expression, and not simply the right to believe something, then I cannot help you.

    Carpathian

    You are certainly not free to exercise your religion in any way that forces me to accept that exercise.

    I think you are confusing the content of my religious ideas, which you may reject all day long, with my right to express them and even use them to persuade others, which you are legally required to respect.

  67. 67
    sean samis says:

    StephenB @53

    If it was your goal to get the last word by strewing out 20 dubious and disconnected claims (I counted them) as a response to a single and unified answer I provided to a specific question asked by someone else, the context of which you are not even remotely aware of, your mission was accomplished.

    That was not my goal.

    Your “single and unified” answer cobbled together unrelated claims and topics. I’d give you a unified and single answer if I could, but when you argue disparate things, my response must be disparate also.

    I’m sorry if my habit of dissecting your comments is disconcerting, but when I encounter a Gordian knot of thoughts like your comment #289 was (and the OP here), some careful dissection is required. If my statements seemed “disconnected” it’s because they were in response to tangled claims by yourself.

    I realize you are growing tired of my comments, but my comments are on point. Perhaps they are unwelcomely so, but they are on point. You can of course withdraw from the conversation, or just ignore me. But that contradicts your claim to want a rational discussion.

    BTW, I do want a rational discussion, but I will not let you control the terms of the debate no more than you should allow me to. You reply to my points in your way; I reply to yours in my way; and so forth. That’s how rational discussions happen.

    If you don’t know how to respond to my points, that does not mean my points are invalid nor disconnected. It just means you don’t have an answer. If that’s the case, that is a telling fact.

    sean s.

  68. 68
    sean samis says:

    Silver Asiatic @54

    …since we can choose evil as well as good (which God can only choose good) our freedom is a lot different.

    If God can only choose good, God has NO freedom. Did God give us an ability even God lacks?

    BTW, if every choice God makes is necessarily good, then that would mean either God has no freedom or ‘good’ has no meaning.

    For God to have freedom, God must be able to choose to do ACTUAL EVIL. Perhaps God never does, but God must be able to.

    sean s.

  69. 69
    sean samis says:

    Carpathian @62

    If A’s religious expression is an action that forbids B’s, who decides which one prevails?

    The problem with religions is that they are not identical and thus their actions come into conflict with each other.

    That is why religions should be kept private, not public.

    There’s been an extended discussion of a topic with an obvious answer. Religious Liberty must include the free exercise and expression of religious beliefs. But NO RIGHT IS ABSOLUTE. When one person’s religious exercises causes harms to others, that religious exercise is properly prohibited.

    We also cannot keep religious exercises “private” because some religious exercises are necessarily public (ex: evangelization). The controlling factor must be harms to others, not public versus private.

    sean s.

  70. 70
    Box says:

    StephenB #55: If person A is free to make up a morality such that sex with children is good, and person B is free to make up a morality such that sex with children is evil, how can these conflicting notions of freedom be reconciled in harmony?

    IOW how can person A and person B reach an agreement? Obviously in the short term they cannot. However when person A and B both have reached enlightenment and are able to look at the problem from all angles, chances for mutual understanding will improve enormously.
    Does it follow that, according to my philosophy, everybody should have sex with children in order to reach enlightenment? I don’t think so. However I do believe relationships with extreme power imbalances are part of a set of essential lessons.
    As I said in post #5 ethical behavior is only ethical behavior if it stems from within and if it’s done consciously. That last conditional is crucial. An act has only true value when done with full understanding and fully awareness. God doesn’t take our acts and opinions seriously. Why should he?
    IOW only if person has finished his learning process, reached enlightenment and finally knows what he talking about her/his morality wrt sex with children can be taken seriously.

  71. 71
    StephenB says:

    sean samis

    Your “single and unified” answer cobbled together unrelated claims and topics. I’d give you a unified and single answer if I could, but when you argue disparate things, my response must be disparate also.

    If it makes you feel better to think so, I am happy for you. The person that I answered thinks my thesis hangs together. So does the person who converted it into this thread. Meanwhile, if you have one or two things to say, I will respond to them. If you have 25 things to say, I am not interested.

  72. 72
    Carpathian says:

    sean samis:

    But NO RIGHT IS ABSOLUTE. When one person’s religious exercises causes harms to others, that religious exercise is properly prohibited.

    Very true.

    The problem with allowing religion to influence government is that the beliefs of that religion are enforced to varying degrees on people outside of that religious group.

    As I said, I have no problem with religion asking for acceptance, but that isn’t typically where it stops.

  73. 73
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    I think you are confusing the content of my religious ideas, which you may reject all day long, with my right to express them and even use them to persuade others, which you are legally required to respect.

    You may express and persuade but you may not pressure or mandate.

    That is what happens when government and religion are not kept separate.

  74. 74
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    The Christian religion, because it teaches the inherent dignity of the human person, provided much of the rational foundation for religious freedom in the United States. That doesn’t mean that I should have no problem if Islamists want to install Sharia Law, which is the mortal enemy of political freedom.

    You have just compared two religions which is the problem.

    A lot of Muslims believe Sharia Law to be acceptable.

    You and I don’t believe it acceptable, but any system that would allow religion A must grant religion B the same rights otherwise one of the two cannot express their faith.

    If these rights extend to making law, then you have to accept the other side of the sword.

  75. 75
    sean samis says:

    Box @70

    As I said in post #5 ethical behavior is only ethical behavior if it stems from within and if it’s done consciously. That last conditional is crucial. An act has only true value when done with full understanding and fully awareness.

    Can’t agree. Even if you commit an act with less than full understanding and awareness, you are almost certainly partially aware of your incomplete understanding and awareness. Given that, an ethical person is obligated to proceed with caution regarding those who might be affected by their actions. Failing to do so renders the reckless act unethical even in the absence of full understanding and awareness.

    …if person has finished his learning process, reached enlightenment and finally knows what he talking about her/his morality wrt sex with children can be taken seriously.

    Given my prior comment, persons who have not achieved enlightenment are still culpable for their reckless and harmful behavior. Sexual acts with children are INTRINSICALLY wrong because they are never actually consensual.

    Carpathian @72

    As I said, I have no problem with religion asking for acceptance, but that isn’t typically where it stops.

    Asking for acceptance is not typically where anyone stops, so why should the religious be especially suspect? We just have to remember that we don’t have to give them everything they want. If we give in inappropriately, that’s on us.

    sean s.

  76. 76
    sean samis says:

    StephenB @71

    Good for you, you’ve pleased two people predisposed to agreeing anyway.

    Huzzah! Preaching to the converted is a piece o’cake.

    sean s.

  77. 77
    Box says:

    Silver #50,

    Silver: Laws are not imposed on God because nothing can be external to God and nothing can be imposed. Order (laws) is essential to being, which is God.

    I agree.

    Silver: But for us, we’re obviously dependent on many things for our existence.

    I don’t agree. We are free eternal beings.

    Silver: Order is imposed on us because we are not self-created.

    Consciousness is freedom. Freedom cannot be externally caused. Maybe this a discussion for another day.

    Silver: We haven’t achieved fullness of being (…)

    I agree.

    Silver: (…) – we have potential that can be fulfilled or not.

    I argue that it is guaranteed.

  78. 78
    mugwump3 says:

    Briefly, as a typical lurker for many years, I usually see my possible contributions to dialogue in the words of others. I breathe my sigh of relief, and I move on. Without responding to any one particular contribution, I’d like to answer a couple of, as yet, unanswered challenges.

    I paraphrase: “Because all religions derive and arrive at different opinions and conclusions, all ought to be regarded as equally true and equally false. Therefore, one is not obligated to submit to any religiously motivated system of laws.

    The above paraphrase is, in and of itself, a religious and moral imperative of the relativistic secularist and the universalist. And yet, it goes unquestioned. To wit: All theological belief systems are not equal in content, philosophical underpinnings, nor historical justification. I believe many here are implicitly stating this in their answers to the dissenter. IOW, my belief in the historical and philosophical underpinnings of Judeo-Christianity is grounded and defensibly so. All others are not. This is not a statement of arrogance or of ignorance; just the opposite. A former “Big A” Agnostic, I relented and studied the major religions. I compared and contrasted their truth-claims against the data available in the sciences and known history. Comfort had no bearing whatsoever, unless one meant I wasn’t comfortable remaining in a lazy state of ignorance, aware my days were numbered…an awareness itself grounded in the evidenced certainty that everyone dies.

    To sit at a table of representatives of all major belief systems and then to judge them all as being equally non-authoritative is (again) an absolute claim of truth made by our posting relativist/secularist. All religions, indeed, all beliefs are believed to be universally true…even the universalist wishes we all agree with his dogma.

    The difference, the main and entire crux of dispute, lies in verification of one’s beliefs. Historical evidences, perfect compatibility with laws of nature, real science based in a self-aware system of presuppositions derived from metaphysics and philosophy….theology over religion. Universalizing one’s own understanding of the world can be the only true harmony…to cite another contributor’s ill-used term. If that understanding is easily proven to be incompatible with history, logic, etc…nothing binds me to treat that individual or organized view of the world as equally valid and, therefore, worthy of my respect, especially with regard to determining a government of laws predicated on reality.

    I would have much more to say on these matters….the illogic of reincarnation given the number of “new” souls necessary to justify the exponential population increases, the necessity of retention required of learning from “past lives”… or the categorical error that results in a failure to understand God’s freedom in His eternal, omniscient Goodness, that God is free and outside of the darkness of future uncertainties that necessitate human moral choices in the first place…that Christian “faith” has nothing to do with whether God exists or that Christ is the Messiah; those are grounded certainties. The faith to which the bible refers is a faith in future promises of resurrection and deliverance, again a result in living within linear time, blind to the certainties of the future.

    I guess I’m appealing to other more patient, more articulate contributors to extrapolate these counter-points so I can go back to my lurking! Thank you all for fighting the good fight of truth and its natural consequences.

  79. 79
    StephenB says:

    Carpathian

    You have just compared two religions which is the problem.

    It is important to compare religions because some are more conducive to political freedom than others. Did you know that many of the political processes that you cherish were derived from the Christian world view? Did you know that the Book of Judges inspired the concept of “consent by the governed?” Did you know that the Christian principle of “inherent dignity” influenced the legal principle of “due process?” Did you know that it was the “natural moral law” the served to define what we now call “inalienable rights?” Without Christianity, there would be no such thing as political freedom. It sure didn’t come from atheism or Islam?

    A lot of Muslims believe Sharia Law to be acceptable.

    Perhaps, but the fact remains that Sharia Law does not promote the principles of freedom or support the inherent dignity of the human person?

    You and I don’t believe it acceptable, but any system that would allow religion A must grant religion B the same rights otherwise one of the two cannot express their faith.

    Right. Let a thousand flowers bloom. Let everyone express his or her religious faith. Christianity says yes. Islam says no. (So does atheism).

    If these rights extend to making law, then you have to accept the other side of the sword.

    We must always be careful when we pass laws that involve religious sensibilities. Agreed. However, there is a great misunderstanding about the relationship between God and government. There are two extremes to be avoided:

    [a]Radical Union of Church and State (Theocracy)

    [b]Radical Separation of Church and State (Secularism)

    What the founders established was the intersection of Church and State, such that both existed independently but each was permitted to influence the other. It is only that optimal combination that will support basic freedoms. Insofar as one takes power at the expense of the other, freedoms are compromised, and eventually lost. That is what is happening at the moment. Secularism has the upper hand. That is why your concerns about too much religion are misplaced.

  80. 80
    Box says:

    Sean Samis #75,

    sean samis:

    Box: ethical behavior is only ethical behavior if it stems from within and if it’s done consciously. That last conditional is crucial. An act has only true value when done with full understanding and fully awareness.

    Can’t agree. Even if you commit an act with less than full understanding and awareness, you are almost certainly partially aware of your incomplete understanding and awareness.

    Okay, let’s assume that one is partially aware of incomplete understanding. How does that help?

    sean samis: Given that, an ethical person is obligated to proceed with caution regarding those who might be affected by their actions. Failing to do so renders the reckless act unethical even in the absence of full understanding and awareness.

    Even if a person proceeds with caution he can still make mistakes. Suppose that I have to do a physics exam, I don’t know much about physics and I’m aware of my lack of knowledge. I’m also more than willing to proceed with caution during this exam, but I’m pretty sure it won’t help much.

    sean samis:

    Box: …if person has finished his learning process, reached enlightenment and finally knows what he talking about her/his morality wrt sex with children can be taken seriously.

    Given my prior comment, persons who have not achieved enlightenment are still culpable for their reckless and harmful behavior.

    In the same sense that I’m culpable for flunking my physics exam.

    sean samis: Sexual acts with children are INTRINSICALLY wrong because they are never actually consensual.

    I agree. Your morality and mine are in perfect harmony at this point.

  81. 81
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    Carpathian: A lot of Muslims believe Sharia Law to be acceptable.

    StephenB: Perhaps, but the fact remains that Sharia Law does not promote the principles of freedom or support the inherent dignity of the human person?

    I agree with you but the problem is that those deep in a faith believe or let’s say in some cases, grudgingly bear the demands of their faith.

    To them it is not an objective decision they can make to exclude some portion of their teachings and because of that they will support that loss of freedom as being a necessary component of their faith.

    How do you now decide which faith has the right to influence the governing of everyone else?

    By simply making that decision, you have stripped one faith the rights that you demand for yours which is to be an influence on government and law.

    Carpathian: You and I don’t believe it acceptable, but any system that would allow religion A must grant religion B the same rights otherwise one of the two cannot express their faith.

    StephenB: Right. Let a thousand flowers bloom. Let everyone express his or her religious faith. Christianity says yes. Islam says no. (So does atheism).

    Here our difference lies in what we each mean by “expressing your faith”.

    I have no problem accepting the rights of people to relate to the world via their religion, but I draw the line at the point where their faith trumps my beliefs.

    I don’t believe that any religion should pressure government into enacting legislation that enforces some component of their religion’s beliefs.

    As an example, if two people come to a bakery to order a cake for their wedding, the government has no right to enact legislation that allows the bakery to discriminate against that couple because of the religious beliefs of law-givers.

  82. 82
    sean samis says:

    Box @80

    Okay, let’s assume that one is partially aware of incomplete understanding. How does that help?

    It corrects a mistaken impression about what constitutes ethical behavior. It puts them on notice to take care.

    Even if a person proceeds with caution he can still make mistakes. Suppose that I have to do a physics exam, I don’t know much about physics and I’m aware of my lack of knowledge. I’m also more than willing to proceed with caution during this exam, but I’m pretty sure it won’t help much.

    Sure. Mistakes are inevitable, but they are often avoidable.

    If you knew you had to take a physics exam and you knew you didn’t know much about physics, you should have prepared. Your awareness of that problem should have told you to prepare. Your unwillingness to prepare means you did not proceed with caution. Caution would have helped a lot.

    In the same sense that I’m culpable for flunking my physics exam.

    If you recklessly took the exam without preparing for it, you are responsible for the consequences. Sure. Is there a problem with that?

    sean s.

  83. 83
    Box says:

    sean samis: Sure. Mistakes are inevitable, but they are often avoidable.

    That doesn’t make sense.

    sean samis: If you knew you had to take a physics exam and you knew you didn’t know much about physics, you should have prepared.

    Obviously there are great books to prepare oneself for a physics exam, however there are no books that can prepare you for the exam called life. IOW a book is not real life.
    These “solutions” you come up with (“caution” & “be prepared”) tell me that you are a young person who hasn’t faced many crises in his life.
    Trust me on this one: one day you will find out that ‘caution’ and ‘being prepared’ have very little meaning when one is faced with the real problems in life.

    If you recklessly took the exam without preparing for it, you are responsible for the consequences. Sure. Is there a problem with that?

    So what do you propose? Don’t take the exam called life? Or didn’t you get the metaphor?

  84. 84
    sean samis says:

    Box @83

    sean samis: Sure. Mistakes are inevitable, but they are often avoidable.

    That doesn’t make sense.

    Umm, well, that’s pretty straight forward; hard to see what your problem with it is.

    Obviously there are great books to prepare oneself for a physics exam, however there are no books that can prepare you for the exam called life. IOW a book is not real life.

    Looks like you are repudiating your own metaphor. OK, what’s next?

    These “solutions” you come up with (“caution” & “be prepared”) tell me that you are a young person who hasn’t faced many crises in his life.

    LOL! Literally LOL! Actually Literally! You know nothing about me, Box. Nothing.

    Trust me on this one: one day you will find out that ‘caution’ and ‘being prepared’ have very little meaning when one is faced with the real problems in life.

    Chuckle. So Box, ever have to shove someone’s guts back into their belly? Ever hold a beating human heart in your hand? Ever pull a stranger’s baby into the world? Ever have to talk a suicider out of it? Ever give CPR to someone you came across in a park? I have, all these and more. Caution and preparation are the tickets.

    So what do you propose? Don’t take the exam called life? Or didn’t you get the metaphor?

    It’s your metaphor; if it’s defective, that’s on you.

    sean s.

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