Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Concerning that anarchist friend of mine

Which raises an interesting question as to how far we can go in separating the legal and the moral questions when it comes to abortion. Is it inconsistent to oppose abortion morally but not legally? The tricky part is that if you consider abortion to be the taking the life of a person, and you think it unjustified, you've got some actions that fall with the class of murders (which by definition is the morally unjustified taking of human life) which you think should nevertheless not be legislated against. That does seem initially counterintuitive, but is there solid ethical reasoning backing up this intuition?

60 comments:

Jim Jordan said...

The "I think it's wrong but there shouldn't be a law against it" statement hangs by its own contradictions. If it is murder, and murder is impermissible, then it cannot be both murder and permissible.

If I said to someone, "I think credit default swaps are weapons of financial destruction but it's wrong for government to oversee them," they'd think I was crazy. And with strong evidence.

Anonymous said...

I can think of a lot of things that are wrong that shouldn't be criminalized. Adultery. Divorce. If you're a by-the-book Catholic, contraception. Abortion may fit into that category.

While I think abortion is morally wrong, I don't think it's murder. Not all instances of taking a life are murders. I don't think a person put to death by the state is murdered (though I'm against capital punishment) and I don't think a person killed in war is murdered. Murder, IMO, requires at least both forethought and malice. I don't think most abortions meet those criteria. But I'm open to be persuaded.

Clayton said...

I agree with anon. There's lots of stuff that's morally wrong that oughtn't be proscribed by law. I think teaching kids to adopt certain moral views is wrong, but parents ought to be given discretion to teach their kids to adopt certain aspects of Christian morality they morally oughtn't.

Believing abortion wrong is not the same as believing abortion to be murder. (I seriously doubt those who say that they believe this. Maybe they believe that they believe this, but they don't really believe this. Do people really think that a spontaneous abortion at early stages of development or the failure of a conceptus to attach is equivalent to a child who dies in her sleep? Do they really believe that if you had to choose between saving a pregnant woman at the very beginning of her pregnancy and two women neither of whom is pregnant we ought to flip a coin? C'mon. I'm pretty sure if you said you believed this stuff and we hooked you up to a lie detector, the needle would bounce all over the place.)

Anyway, apart from whether abortion is the equivalent of infanticide, there's the question as to how this could be established. If this could only be established by appeal to claims that can only be known on the basis of religious knowledge, I'd say that it's quite possible that both claims could be true:
1. Abortion is wrong.
2. There shouldn't be a law against it.

If 1. is true in virtue of reasons we don't have access to (i.e., essentially religious reasons knowable only through scripture or revelation), that's the reason why 2. is true. (Oh, and if you believe that abortion is murder you can't say that this is impossible. There's no such thing as murder the agent can't know to be murder.)

Jim Jordan said...

Hey, Clayton, why might abortion be wrong?

I might as well ask anon the question, If abortion isn't murder, what if it's manslaughter? Should that be legal?
Or is it self-defense?
You know, the little brat is going to eat you out of house and home, wreck your car, leave your laptop out in the rain, and all that.

So you kill 'em. What is it called?
Frankly, Clayton, you're playing dumb here. The temple priests who confronted Jesus used the same tactic. Were John's baptisms from Heaven or man? They debated amongst themselves then said, "Doh, we don't know." You and anon know abortion is wrong. You're playing the "Doh, I dunno" card. It won't work because God is kind of omniscient.

If you still feel the overwhelming desire to sniff Obama's throne, go ahead and vote for him, but also sing up for Democrats for Life. It's a great organization.

Anonymous said...

Should killing somebody in war be illegal? Should state execution be illegal? What if abortion is more like that than it is like manslaughter?

It's true God is omniscient, and if we were so lucky there wouldn't be any disagreement. But I'm sorry, I'm not omniscient. And honestly, abortion just doesn't seem like "murder" to me. Since the victim isn't conscious it *feels* more like depriving someone of the right to live rather than murder. I think both acts are wrong, but I don't think they're identical.

Do you believe women who have had abortions should be put in jail or executed for the act? Then I guess you don't think they're identical either.

Ilíon said...

Jim Jordan: "The "I think it's wrong but there shouldn't be a law against it" statement hangs by its own contradictions. If it is murder, and murder is impermissible, then it cannot be both murder and permissible. "

In reality, the dichotomy between "law" and "morality" -- a dichotomy most frequently asserted by persons who have a stake in twisting law into immoral directions -- is a false dichotomy.

Both law and morality are about the very same matters and questions, non-exhaustively:
1) how *should* we live together?
2) what behaviors *should* we encourage or discourage?
3) what behaviors *should* we forbid or command?
3) what behaviors *should* we punish or reward? and how?
4) what behaviors should we discourage, yet allow?
5) what behaviors should we encourage, yet not command?

Ilíon said...

Anonymous: "Should killing somebody in war be illegal? Should state execution be illegal? What if abortion is more like that than it is like manslaughter?"

This is not to be thought as an answer to Anonymous' questions, nor as as argument against (or for) the argument he wishes to make. This is a digression prompted by his questions.


The only sort of persons in this entire world who can *honestly* claim to be against the death penalty are anarchists -- and they're insane. By choice. Anarchists are against "state execution" and *for* private/personalized murder, followed by endless blood-feud.

Everyone else but the anarchists who claims to be against the death penalty has either not really thought about it (and can generally be expected to *refuse* to think about the matter rationally) ... or is lying.


Anyone and everyone who is *for* the existence of (human) (*) goverment is inherently *for* the death penalty. All (human) goverment is based upon compulsion and force, and ultimately is based upon imposing death upon those who are not "with the program." And, it cannot be otherwise.

The operating principle of (human) goverment is exactly the same as that of the Mafia -- "Do what I tell you to do or I will kill you!" And, it cannot be otherwise.

And, anyone who does not understand this fact either is incredibly stupid (there are so few to whom this might apply that we can effectively ignore the possibility), or is refusing to understand this fact about the reality in which we exist.



(*) "Human" government: I'm making a point of pointing out that I'm *not* talking about the divine government Christ will exercise. His government will be quite different from all "Adamic" governments which have ever existed, or even can in principle exist.

Clayton said...

Jim,

I'm guessing you don't read a ton of applied ethics. The people who do spend a lot of time thinking about abortion tend not to think that there's any obvious entailment from 'Abortion is wrong' to 'Abortion is equivalent to either manslaughter or murder'. They'd say that by declaring 'Either abortion isn't wrong at all or it's at least as bad as manslaughter', you really are drawing a false dichotomy.

Take any view on which it's not the case that the conceptus or early term fetus has the moral status of a full fledged person. This view people often come to when they realize that while development is taking place and psychological capacities are acquired a biological individual gains interests it didn't have earlier. With those additional interests comes a different kind of moral standing.

This is all pretty standard stuff. Are there people who consider the possibility that there's a significant moral difference between a conceptus and an infant and reject it? Sure, but anyone who thinks it's _obvious_ that there's no difference between a fetus and an infant isn't thinking hard enough.

Shackleman said...

anon: "I don't think a person put to death by the state is murdered (though I'm against capital punishment) and I don't think a person killed in war is murdered."

Ilíon:" "Everyone else but the anarchists who claims to be against the death penalty has either not really thought about it (and can generally be expected to *refuse* to think about the matter rationally) ... or is lying."

I can't understand how a person can be simultaneously supportive of the taking of an innocent life via abortion, and against the taking of a non-innocent life via Capital punishment. The inconsistency seems patently absurd to me.

Ilíon, I admit I'm still working my way through these things and haven't thought about them as deeply or for as long as many others, but one must remember that thinking through these things is a *process*. One that takes time. And in order to change one's conclusions, one must become convinced. Convincing seldom happens overnight, and requires a lot of education and acquired knowledge.

I'm not lying, and I'm not stupid, but at this stage of my journey, I can say I'm strongly against both Capital punishment and abortion. And not because I'm an anarchist, nor a stupid liberal. I'm against both because both place *fallible* and *sinful* human beings in the position of being the ultimate judge and jury on deciding whether or not a life is worth living. I'd rather leave such judgments to God, who creates both the lives of those that will become aborted, and those that will be put to death via Capital punishment. Can we not imprison for life the condemned? Does that not serve both the purpose of protecting the public interest and providing an opportunity for them to find redemption and repentance? Can we not place the child into adoption or foster care, allowing for God's plan for that life to have the opportunity to come to fruition? I do admit that for me there is moral ambiguity in cases of abortion involving the life of the mother, incest, and rape. I don't know yet how to think about those cases. But surely all others are morally repugnant and wicked, and should thus be outlawed?

Shackleman said...

clayton: "anyone who thinks it's _obvious_ that there's no difference between a fetus and an infant isn't thinking hard enough."

If one is an atheist there is no difference---both are bags of chemical goo. Nothing more, nothing less.

If one is a Christian there is no difference---both are human bodies imbued with a soul by God.

If one is agnostic or a deist, there *may* be a difference----one may have a soul while the other doesn't.

Am I missing something?

Jim Jordan said...

Clayton - "anyone who thinks it's _obvious_ that there's no difference between a fetus and an infant isn't thinking hard enough."

The argument is "the same body", not "no different". A caterpillar and a butterfly are the same body during different stages.

Sounds like you might like Peter Singer's take on ethics with this remark:
With those additional interests comes a different kind of moral standing.

You said that "Believing abortion wrong is not the same as believing abortion to be murder" (3:18 PM quote). This begs the question, Why is it wrong, if it's not because it's murder or something similar? Why don't you tell us what you think abortion is?

Anonymous said...

illion, you ever notice how EVERYONE who disagrees with you, on EVERY subject, is either "stupid or insane"?

You seem to be suggesting that stable government without a death penalty is impossible. How, I wonder, would you defend your stance from the obvious response: that societies without death penalties have less violent crime than societies that do?

Link: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/deterrence

Even within the US, states without the death penalty have consistently lower murder rates than states that do.

Link:

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/deterrence-states-without-death-penalty-have-had-consistently-lower-murder-rates#stateswithvwithout

But why let the facts get in the way of a good rant, right? Especially when you can just shoot from the hip, puff your chest, do your best imitation of Chesterton and expect the rest of us to be awed by your ancient, folksy wisdom.

Anonymous said...

shackleman, if you were referring to me when questioning how somebody could be for abortion and against capital punishment, you've misunderstood my position.

I think abortion is wrong, I'm just not sure it should be criminalized. As I said, I'm not sure I want to live in a country where young women are jailed or executed for having abortions. Do you? And again, if you don't, then you probably don't *really* think abortion is identical to infanticide. Because even with my general opposition to the death penalty, I wouldn't lose any sleep over the execution of somebody who had killed several newborns. But I don't see a woman who has had multiple abortions in the same way.

For the record, my opposition to the death penalty is based on the inevitable incompetence of the state in only executing guilty parties. I don't have any opposition in principle to the state killing a guilty person. But I am firmly against the state ever killing even a single innocent person. And it seems to me that any state with a death penalty will inevitably kill innocent people.

However, if our justice system were perfectly fair, and perfectly competent, such that all and only guilty people were ever found guilty, I'd be a card-carrying death-penalty supporter.

Charlie said...

Illion,

You write,

"In reality, the dichotomy between "law" and "morality" -- a dichotomy most frequently asserted by persons who have a stake in twisting law into immoral directions -- is a false dichotomy."

It is illegal to not wear a seatbelt. It is clearly not immoral. Counterexample complete.

Whew. That was easy.

Both law and morality are about the very same matters and questions, non-exhaustively:
1) how *should* we live together?
2) what behaviors *should* we encourage or discourage?...


Hello? The word 'should' doesn't always denote a moral fact. There are rational, epistemic, moral, legal, etc., kinds of 'should'.

Shackleman said...

anon: "For the record, my opposition to the death penalty is based on the inevitable incompetence of the state in only executing guilty parties. __snip__However, if our justice system were perfectly fair, and perfectly competent, such that all and only guilty people were ever found guilty, I'd be a card-carrying death-penalty supporter."

I agree with your first line of thought there. There are two arguments against Capital punishment---one secular, one religious. You've outlined succinctly the secular argument against it rather well and I agree 100%.

My point however was aimed at fellow Christians---a religiuos argument (if you will) against Capital punishment.

I'll try to frame my argument as succinctly as you have done. (Please keep in mind I'm no religious scholar---just a guy doing the best he can with what he's got and I hope that has some value here on this blog).

My argument is as follows: I was once an atheist. Assume for the sake of argument that Universalism was off the table, and instead, to put it bluntly, assume that the infidel spends eternity in hell, and the believer an eternity in heaven. If I had died (regardless the reason) while I was an atheist I'd be in hell right now. Forever.

That would suck.

Now, assume the executed would have eventually come to repent had they not been executed. I think you can figure out the rest :-)

Charlie said...

OK now seriously folks, who is this "Illion" character? I have never seen so many dogmatic declarations in a single post written by anybody. For fuck's sake...


The only sort of persons in this entire world who can *honestly* claim to be against the death penalty are anarchists -- and they're insane. By choice. Anarchists are against "state execution" and *for* private/personalized murder, followed by endless blood-feud.

Everyone else but the anarchists who claims to be against the death penalty has either not really thought about it (and can generally be expected to *refuse* to think about the matter rationally) ... or is lying.

Anyone and everyone who is *for* the existence of (human) (*) goverment is inherently *for* the death penalty. All (human) goverment is based upon compulsion and force, and ultimately is based upon imposing death upon those who are not "with the program." And, it cannot be otherwise.


wtf?

Illion, learn how to argue for your views instead of just asserting them. Don't be stupid.

BTW, it's government

Shackleman said...

anon first says: " I'm not sure I want to live in a country where young women are jailed or executed for having abortions. Do you?"

And then anon says:"I wouldn't lose any sleep over the execution of somebody who had killed several newborns."

Um, huh? I think this clearly reflects that you are not placing the same value on life outside the womb as you do inside the womb. My question is, why not? At what point in the pregnancy would it be considered murder? 8months, 29days? 8months? 7months? 3months? 1month? 1day?

If it's murder at 8months 29days, how do you personally justify it as non-murder at some arbitrary point prior?

Anonymous said...

shackleman:

I don't think my intuitions are that outside the norm. Do you think that an abortion and an infanticide are identical acts, which should be met with identical punishments (i.e. long prison sentences, executions, etc)?

If you don't then you've got the inconsistency, not me. Yes, I openly admit: I think destroying a fetus and killing a baby are both morally wrong acts, but they are not morally equivalent acts.

I'd like for a pro-lifer who thinks they are equivalent to openly commit themselves to jailing and or executing women who have had abortions. The fact that you're not indicates to me that, in your heart of hearts, you agree with me. I think the only people who REALLY think they are equivalent acts are the people who blow up abortion clinics, because they're the only people who act the way most of us would act if we REALLY thought a person was getting away with murdering hundreds of thousands of children.

Clayton said...

Shackelman,
I hope you were kidding. The only other person I've heard say what you've said is Dahmer.

Jim,
Sounds like you might like Peter Singer's take on ethics with this remark:
With those additional interests comes a different kind of moral standing.

You said that "Believing abortion wrong is not the same as believing abortion to be murder" (3:18 PM quote). This begs the question, Why is it wrong, if it's not because it's murder or something similar? Why don't you tell us what you think abortion is?


I don't agree with much of what Singer says, but I hope you're not denying that the capacity for consciousness confers additional moral status. You're not one of those nuts that would flip a coin if forced to choose between a frozen embryo and a child, right?

Anyway, on any view that takes potential personhood to confer a kind of moral value, there will probably be some pro tanto reason not to terminate a pregnancy. Since I think potential personhood does confer some sort of moral value, I wouldn't say that a fetus has no more moral value than just some mass of living tissue. But, I'd also say that there's a wide range of circumstances in which it's permissible to terminate a pregnancy. I'd agree with some of what Thomson says in her defense of abortion, too. Even if we were to say (as we shouldn't) that the fetus has the same moral status as a person, abortion and murder differ morally when pregnancy is due to rape, a threat to the health of the mother, and an accidental pregnancy.

Anyway, if you have a genuine interest in knowing what others think I'd say go read Thomson's "A Defense of Abortion".

Shackleman said...

anon: "I don't think my intuitions are that outside the norm. Do you think that an abortion and an infanticide are identical acts, which should be met with identical punishments (i.e. long prison sentences, executions, etc)?"

All I can be is honest, and when I'm honest I have to say I don't know. I'm still struggling with questions such as yours because I'm frankly still in the process of my conversion from pro-choice to pro-life. I appreciate the challenge in your question though and I need to think more on it. My struggle centers around the question of when it is that a human becomes human. How is human defined? As a new Christian, I have a new understanding of what that might mean. I share your intution that there's a difference, but I struggle to find the justification for it. I was hoping maybe you would flesh out your intuition and support it with sound reasoning and logic. Right now for myself it seems illogical to consider a fetus different from a human. A different stage in development, of course, but not different from a human.

Further, I await your response to my question. Would it be murder in your eyes to terminate a pregnancy on the 8th month, 29th day? (the law seems to think so---I remember reading that there have been cases where a woman in very late term of pregnancy was murdered, and the murderer was successfully charged with *double* murder.) If so, why the 9th month and not earlier? When and *why* does the intuition change from murder to a simple excising of a piece of living tissue? How could you tell where to draw that line of demarcation?

Again, I share your intuition, but I fear my and your intuition is *wrong*. It seems to me at the least if it's not wrong, it's illogical. Maybe you can show the logic in it? Because I can't.

As for executing mothers who have abortions well, obviously since I'm against Capital punishment as a whole, my answer would be no to that.

Shackleman said...

Clayton:"I hope you were kidding. The only other person I've heard say what you've said is Dahmer. "

Was it my option one that has you comparing me to Dahmer? That if one is an atheist there is no difference between a fetus and an infant because both are nothing more than bags of chemical goo? I admit I was flippant, but that doesn't mean the conclusion is illogical. If one takes a strong atheistic and materialistic stance (as I used to, and as I think the Churchland's do also) then one is left with no other option than to consider all of life nothing more than self-replicating chemical bags of goo. Ugly isn't it? I agree.....that conclusion is unlivable, but that's the only conclusion the strong materialistic atheist is left with if they have the courage and intellectual rigor to follow that line of thought to its logical conclusion.

Anonymous said...

I can't help you shackleman, except to say that in my experience not being able to find completely air-tight rationales for one's moral intuition is par for the course. I can't answer any questions about specific dates. I don't know anything about infant development or physiology. I can say I'm against partial-birth abortion.

I would say that consciousness seems as good a rationale as any.

legodesi said...

If abortion is wrong because of hurting something that is potentially is, or is, a person, it's a human rights issue. So I think it's politically and morally wrong.

Randy said...

I admit I was flippant, but that doesn't mean the conclusion is illogical. If one takes a strong atheistic and materialistic stance (as I used to, and as I think the Churchland's do also) then one is left with no other option than to consider all of life nothing more than self-replicating chemical bags of goo.

Being an atheist does not entail being a materialist.

Shackleman said...

Anon, you appear to be copping out. This stuff is difficult, maybe ambiguous, and unsettling to consider so you just give up trying and decide, quite arbitrarily, on conditions which satisfy your intuition? You should be bothered by that.

Randy, I agree, which is why in my less flippant response I was careful to qualify my statement saying "that's the only conclusion the strong materialistic atheist is left with". Now there's a whole rich debate on whether or not it's at all a defensible and logical to be a non materialist atheist, but that's a whole different discussion. For the record, I tried hard once to embrace and wrap my mind around non-materialist/reductionist atheism, but I always found the solutions illogical at best, or cop outs at worst. I disagree with the Churchlands, but I admire their courage to follow their conclusions to their logical necessities. Most atheists, in my humble opinion, haven't the stomach to do the same.

At this point I'm bordering on being redundant, so I'll step out and let others pick up the thread. Thanks to those who took the time to respond to my thoughts. I appreciate it.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "Everyone else but the anarchists who claims to be against the death penalty has either not really thought about it (and can generally be expected to *refuse* to think about the matter rationally) ... or is lying."

Shackleman: "I can't understand how a person can be simultaneously supportive of the taking of an innocent life via abortion, and against the taking of a non-innocent life via Capital punishment. The inconsistency seems patently absurd to me."

This inconsistency *is* absurd, it is indeed "patently absurd!"

And the refusal to abandon an absurdity (whatever the subject matter) *just is* intellectual dishonesty.

And intellectual dishonesty *just is* lying ... a specialized sort, a "worse" sort than normal, but lying nonetheless. "Normal" lying involves intentional deception about some specific fact or other; it's generally episodic. Intellectual dishonesty involves lying about the very nature of truth and/or reality themselves; it's pervasive and systematic. "Normal" lying is a moral blemish; intellectual dishonesty is moral rot to the core.

*ALL* anti-anti-abortion arguments depend upon intellectual dishonesty for their persuasiveness -- and, ultimately, such arguments depend upon intellectual dishonesty not merely on the part of the presenters, but also on the part of those persuaded by them. This is simply a fact of reality. And when some "pro-lifers" get into a holier-than-thou snit because someone like me refuses to play the game of let's-pretend-those-fellows-are-honestly-mistaken, the snit is worth exactly squat; and, in fact, said "pro-lifers" are actually allies of the pro-abortionists.

"Politeness" is frequently the ally of error and of moral evil.


Shackleman: "I'm not lying, and I'm not stupid, ... And not because I'm an anarchist, nor a stupid liberal. ..."

You've apparently not really paid attention to what I've (repeatedly) said in regard to the particular trilemma which explains in general terms why a person doesn't understand something.


Shackleman: "Ilíon, I admit I'm still working my way through these things and haven't thought about them as deeply or for as long as many others, but one must remember that thinking through these things is a *process*. One that takes time. And in order to change one's conclusions, one must become convinced. Convincing seldom happens overnight, and requires a lot of education and acquired knowledge."

Does this contradict *anything* I've ever said? No.

Does anything I've *done* contradict this? No. Contrary to the false assertion (and, when examined closely, self-contradiction) made in this thread alone by one of the Anonymice, I don't run around calling others liars because they disagree with me, much less *just* because they disagree with me.

Hell! I even frequently let pass statements that really are outrageous -- the person is in that post asserting the extremely risible notion that the (differentiating) positions and policies of the Democratic Party are more moral, and more in accord with the Gospel, than those of the Republican Party! If I really were the sort of person that our Anonymouse wants to pretend that I am, I could easily have let that person have it with both barrels.


If I do finally call someone a liar because of his behavior and/or continued erroneous arguments, it's because I can no longer explain his behavior and/or continued erroneous arguments as due to lack of understanding. If the behavior or continued erroneous argument is not due to lack of understanding, then there are only two other general categories of explanation left (because there are only three in total):

1) The person is *unable* to understand whatever-it-is (to put it very crassly, he's stupid). Now, if this is actually the case, then of course, the person cannot be held culpable for not understanding that which he simply cannot understand; that would be irrational and illogical. In which case, should such a case *ever* apply, it's logically impossible that he can ever "get it;" so one might as well stop pestering him with ideas forever above his head, and leave him to his ignorance. Such a hypothetical person's ignorance is just a fact or life and it can't be helped or alleviated. Though, depending upon the situation, perhaps one might take steps to protect oneself, or others, or society-in-general, from a potential danger.

But, at the same time, if a person is denying and/or denouncing something as being false, then he is asserting, explicitly or implicitly, that he *is* able to understand it, and that he *does* understand it, and that he knows it to be false.

But, if a one is asserting/arguing that the thing is not false (and why would one, assuming one is oneself intellectually honest, be asserting/arguing *for* a proposition which one knows or believes to be false?), then one still is left wondering why it is that the other does not seem to grasp that he's at error. This takes us right back to the "0th" possibility, that he's missing some critical information (he is in error, but the error is honest, however regretable); or to the last possibility, which is as follows --

2) The person, in one way or another, is declining to understand whatever-it-is. This *also* is not necessarily a moral failure -- for instance, it is not necessarily a moral failure to not understand quantum physics due to declining to make the enormous effort necessary to learn and understand all the prequisite knowledge.

But, at the same time, if a person is denying and/or denouncing something as being false, then he is asserting, explicitly or implicitly, that he *is* able to understand it, and that he *does* understand it, and that he knows it to be false. Now, either: 1) he is correct in those assertions; 2 he is in (honest) error on at least one of those assertions; 3) he is asserting what he knows to be false.

So, since the person is asserting, explicitly or implicitly, that he *does* understand the thing that he's denying, he's simultaneously asserting that he has made an adequate -- and honest -- effort to understand the thing. For, after all, it is absurd -- illogical and irrational -- to assert "I've made no honest and adequate effort to understand what I'm denying, but I understand it nonetheless."

And yet, the person is at error -- FOR if one does not honestly believe that the other's position is at error, then why is one dishonestly arguing that it is? Thus, once again, one still is left wondering why it is that the other does not seem to grasp that he's at error. This takes us right back to the "0th" possibility: that he's missing some critical information (he is in error, but the error is honest, however regretable); or to the 1st possiblity (which we can almost always discount, and which he himself is at least implicitly asserting doesn't apply): that he's not really intelligent enough to grasp some critical fact or idea; or to this present possibility: and ergo, his implicit or explicit claim to understand what he's denying is, in fact, false.

But, if his implicit or explicit claim to understand what he's denying is, in fact, false, then why is it that he doesn't understand? Is it because he's not intelligent enough? Is it because he's missing some critical prerequisite information or understanding? OR, is it because he's declining to put in the effort to understand (even as he is at least implicitly assert that he has made the effort and does understand)?


You'll notice that in trying to resolve the question of "Why does this person not *seem* to understand that he's at error?" the reasoning keeps circling back to the same three categories of explanation (or, to be more precise, to the same two, since we can almost always discard the "he's stupid" explanation -- that explanation can be a rational explanaton only if one can decisively rule out the other two). And, of course, I haven't touched upon the fact that one must make an honest evaluation or even re-evaluation of one's own position. For instance, may it be that one misstating one's own argument, such that one is oneself causing a lack of understanding in the other? Or *gasp*, is the other actually correct?

These categories of explanation are recursive, and between then they eventually cover all the possibilities. That the categories of explanation are recursive does not mean that the question is an infinite regress: one resolves the question by careful process of elimination. One does "root-cause analysis," if you're familiar with that concept and methodology.


Now, for instance, on the question of whether abortion is or is not immoral, the key point -- the only point -- is: "Is the human fetus a person?" If the human fetus [i.e. the human pre-born infant] is *not* a person, than an abortion has no more moral significance than an appendectomy or a tonsillectomy. But, if the human fetus *is* a person, then an abortion is not merely "a routine surgical procedure," but is rather the taking of a human life, and moreover, it is the taking of the life of a human being who is as "innocent" as it is logically possible for one of us ever to be.

In answer to the question, "Is the human fetus a person?" the *only* morally, logically, rationally sound answer is "Yes!" From which it follows that *all* elective abortion is exactly murder, however "impolite" it is to state the fact.

Now, the anti-anti-abortionists do not generally admit that the human pre-born infant is indeed a person (and thus that killing him is exactly murder). Some few may. Some others (Steven Pinker, for instance, as fine an "ethicist" as ever there was) have made the next logical step and explicitly deny that even actual post-born infants are persons.

One can spend the rest of one's life trying to argue with the pro-abortionists ... and one will get exactly no-where even as "abortionism" advances. The only even possibly correct answer to the key issue is not difficult -- it does not admit of *honest* misunderstanding: it someone claims to not understand that the human pre-born (or post-born!) infant is indeed a person, then his "misunderstanding" cannot be due to failing to understand some prerequisite knowledge. Therefore, is *has* to be because he is too unintelligent to understand something that even small children understand at once, or because he *refuses* to understand it.

We anti-abortionists can spend the rest of the life of the US (however long that may be) trying to rationally convince persons who have deliberately chosen to be irrational and supportive of a clear moral evil -- and we can continue supporting the political party which has deliberately chosen to champion a vast and clear moral evil -- and we can continue demonizing those "impolite" anti-abortionists (such as I) who refuse to go along with the game -- and nothing will change. Except the death toll. And the eventual price we all, as citizens of the US, will pay for the evil our nation is *deliberately* doing.

OR, we can stop participating in the charade -- which is to say, we can stop "politely" lying about what abortion is and what its supporters and advocates are. This is guaranteed to make one unpopular. This guarantees that persons such as our Anonymouse will lie about one. This guarantees that the "polite" "prolifers" will treat one much as the pro-abortionists will.

But, the only alternatives so speaking truth are: 1) repeat the popular lie(s); or, 2) remain silent (which in this particular case amounts to assent with the first option).


Shackleman: "I'm not lying, and I'm not stupid, but at this stage of my journey, I can say I'm strongly against both Capital punishment and abortion. And not because I'm an anarchist, nor a stupid liberal. I'm against both because both place *fallible* and *sinful* human beings in the position of being the ultimate judge and jury on deciding whether or not a life is worth living. I'd rather leave such judgments to God, who creates both the lives of those that will become aborted, and those that will be put to death via Capital punishment."

That *sounds* reasonable ... but I've shown in this thread -- and, after all, you are responding to the very post -- that such a position is frequently logically inconsistent. Which is to say, frequently absurd.

Capital punishment is terrible, certainly: and one should never be caviler about the taking of human life, in any circumstance; for that too, is a grave moral error.

BUT, to oppose capital punishment by asserting that it's inherently immoral, by asserting that it's essentially equivalent to murder (much less by asserting that it's *exactly* equivalent to murder) -- and for that matter, even to oppose it on the grounds that we cannot be sure that legal errors (whether intentional or not) are never made in capital cases (such that absent the legal error another verdict or punishment would have resulted) -- is illogical and even irrational. And that, in this circumstance, is immoral.

AS I'VE EXPLAINED: *all* laws which compel action -- all laws which command or prohibit this or that -- are always backed up by an implicit (and sometimes explicit) death penalty. And, this implicit death sentence, if it is executed (as it not infrequently is), is almost always imposed on-the-fly, generally on the decision of one or two persons acting as agents of the state, most frequently by a "low-level" agent of the state, and with no trial, no exculpatory evidence presented, and certainly no appeal.

*ALL* laws which command or prohibit this or that are always backed up by an implicit (or explicit) death penalty. No one, except the anarchists (and they're insane), imagines we can live together without such laws, much less advocates attempting it. Though, many people do refuse to acknowledge the fact that a death sentence is implicit is nearly all laws.

NOW, since everyone but the insane ... including you ... is *for* having laws, which is to say, everyone (but the insane) is *for* the death penalty which is implicit is nearly all laws, is follows that:
1) we are all at error, possibly even morally wrong, to be in favor or having government and laws, and therefore the death penalty implicit in nearly all those laws; or,
2) if we are all at error in this regard, then most opposition to explicit provisions for capital punishment as a judicial judgement is misstated or even misguided. Or dishonest.


Shackleman: "I'd rather leave such judgments to God, ..."

In the case of capital punishment, God does not leave us that option. *WE* must decide and act and impose death when it is merited -- or, we must watch as our winking at evil inevitably results in the destruction of our societies. Make no mistake, refusing to impose capital punishment when it is morally appropriate *is* winking at evil.

I'm not arguing *for* capital punishent -- I like it no more than you -- I'm arguing against the immorality of the false assertion that capital punishment is inherently immoral, that it is never justified, that it must be abolished.

And, I'm pointing out that the only way (short of Christ's Kingdom) to abolish capital punishment is to abolish all government -- such can, of course, never abolish murder and resulting vendetta, much less decrease violence; such can but result in chaos and continuous all-against-all warfare.

Look, in the end, all so-called arguments against capital punishent in the abstract, all opposition to it, is emotion-based. It's but squeemishness, not a hightened morality, which leads people to oppose it.

And, frequently, such are intellectually dishonest in their opposition ... Consider a hypothetical: the US Supreme Court "outlaws" capital punishment in the US. The State of Texas says, "Pound sand!" Now what? Will not the erstwhile opponents of capital punishment *demand* that the remaining States compel Texas to abide by the (anti-constitutional) decision? How will this be compulsion be accomplished without killing some number of Texans, perhaps even several millions of Texans?


Shackleman: "... I do admit that for me there is moral ambiguity in cases of abortion involving the life of the mother, incest, and rape. I don't know yet how to think about those cases. But surely all others are morally repugnant and wicked, and should thus be outlawed?"

There is no moral ambiguity here; you're still refusing to admit what you know to be true.

I'm pretty sure I understand, at least to a degree, why this is so. For instance, you know that you'll be called an "extremist." You know that others will spew their hatred and bile at you; perhaps personally-in-your-face, and certainly in any on-line context in which you state the truth. You know that others will lie about you (as is being done about me).

Facing this is not comfortable (Christ-the-King: "Thou didst maintain thy "social respectability." Come, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou the joy of thy Lord." Is that *really* how it's going to play out?).

And none of that changes the facts: the human fetus is or is not a human person. It is, of course.

But, if it is not, then you nor I nor anyone has a rational basis to oppose *any* abortion.

But, as the human fetus is a human person, then even the so-called "hard cases" are not at all hard: they are as much murder as killing it because it will have the "wrong" colored eyes.

When did it become OK to execute the person you know is innocent of the crime? In those rare pregnancies which result from either rape or incest is it *ever* the child who is guilty of the crime? Of course not! Yet they are the very ones who are put to death by the decision (advocated and/or) made in this "difficult moral dilemma."


Shackleman: "... I do admit that for me there is moral ambiguity in cases of abortion involving the life of the mother ..."

THAT is a whole different animal. Intentionally conflating that (extremely rare) situation with the rape and incest "exception" is one of the primary tools of the pro-abortionists to keep men of good will, such as yourself, from honestly looking at what we're talking about.

It's all about using your emotions to overpower your reason.

In those rare cases where the pregnancy does indeed endanger the life of the mother (notice the word! and you used it! You KNOW!), the objective is not a dead baby, but rather a live woman.

As in all things, *why* we do what we do must be taken into account.

If you kill another person defending yourself or another, you have not murdered. Even if you kill another person wrongly (though in honestly) believing that they threaten the life of yourself or another, you have not murdered. Murder is the deliberate killing (even accidental killing generally doesn't count) of another when you don't have a morally sound reason to do so.

When a pregnancy does indeed threaten to kill the mother, when we *honestly* have reason to believe that (even if absolute knowledge would show the belief incorrect), then, and only then, is abortion not murder.

Thank God this rare.

Ilíon said...
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Ilíon said...

Randy: "Being an atheist does not entail being a materialist."

Being a logically consistent 'atheist' -- so far as any 'atheist' can ever be logically consistent -- does.

Most 'atheists' are just playing at it (that's why I generally put quotes around the word). Most 'atheists' are into ad-hoccery -- which is to say, making it up as they go along, and damn the self-contradiction.

Ilíon said...

Here's a new entry I just now saw by the blogger "Deogolwulf" (The Joy of Curmudgeonry): Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes
“The human potential for evil and the propensity to abuse power are the bases for one of the strongest arguments against government” [1] - and the bases for one of the strongest arguments for it.

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” [2]

[1] Bob Koepp, commenting on William F. Vallicella, “Why I Call Myself a Conservative (2008 Version)”, The Maverick Philosopher (weblog), 24th September 2008.
[2] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1904), Pt.1., Ch XIII., p.84.
-------------

Be sure to check-out Mr Vallicella's essay.

Anonymous said...

shackleman says:

"Anon, you appear to be copping out. This stuff is difficult, maybe ambiguous, and unsettling to consider so you just give up trying and decide, quite arbitrarily, on conditions which satisfy your intuition? You should be bothered by that."

Well, I'm not. If I was bothered by every thorny, impregnable ethical problem I couldn't figure out I'd never sleep. I've realized long ago that at some point you just gotta follow the light of your own conscience to the best of your ability and trust God with the rest. If you're anything like me when I was first a Christian, you'll spend about ten years thinking it's up to you to figure all this stuff out, and then you'll come to the same conclusion.

Anonymous said...

illion says:

"But, the only alternatives so speaking truth are: 1) repeat the popular lie(s); or, 2) remain silent (which in this particular case amounts to assent with the first option)."

Actually, there's another option: you could make a forceful, persuasive, cogent argument that isn't 50% masturbatory, self-congratulatory preamble, 25% rambling incoherence, and 25% insults.

But I guess if you could do this, on any subject you chose to debate here, we'd have seen some evidence by now.

It's time to face the fact that if you're here to persuade people, rather than simply attack them, you need to seriously review your methods.

Clayton said...

Was it my option one that has you comparing me to Dahmer? That if one is an atheist there is no difference between a fetus and an infant because both are nothing more than bags of chemical goo?

Yes, Dahmer said essentially the same thing to 'justify' his evil acts.

I admit I was flippant,
So was I.

but that doesn't mean the conclusion is illogical.
That depends on the logic, doesn't it.

If one takes a strong atheistic and materialistic stance (as I used to, and as I think the Churchland's do also) then one is left with no other option than to consider all of life nothing more than self-replicating chemical bags of goo. Ugly isn't it? I agree.....that conclusion is unlivable, but that's the only conclusion the strong materialistic atheist is left with if they have the courage and intellectual rigor to follow that line of thought to its logical conclusion.

It's true that all life is self-replicating bags of chemical goo, unless you're a vitalist. Since no one's believed that life is a matter of elan vital in quite some time, so I think we'll agree that:

(1) All L is SRCG.

You try to draw some moral conclusion from this, and that's where I don't see the logic is getting you anywhere. Because it's also true that some bags of self-replicating chemical goo are capable of consciousness, have a will, have interests, etc...:

(2) Some SRCG is sentient.
(3) Some SRCG is capable of practical decision making.
(4) Some SRCG has interests grounded in desires.

Each of these claims is consistent with (1). Each of these claims seems inconsistent with the claim that no SRCG's have moral status:

(5) No SRCG has MS.

When people deny (2), (3), and (4), I suspect it's because they are just being fatuous (c'mon, we all believe that there is a pro tanto reason not to inflict suffering, to respect someone's preferences, desires, and uses of their will) or because they've adopted a bizarre metaphysic on which 'magic' is required for mental properties. So, which is it? Are you going to say that in a godless universe there are no mental properties or are you going to say the morally questionable thing that mental properties cannot give us pro tanto reasons to act or refrain from acting in certain ways?

You didn't give any logical reason for drawing nihilistic assumptions from atheistic assumptions, but I've just sketched the logical terrain. Granting that all is self-replicating chemical goo is perfectly consistent with saying that some bags of goo matter and some don't.

Charlie said...

Clayton,

capacity for consciousness confers additional moral status.

And how, precisely and metaphysically speaking, does this work in an atheistic world?

Charlie said...

I *suggest* that *ALL* of *Illion's* posts be *ignored* until he's ready to actually *argue* for his views rather than just *DOGMATICALLY* asserting them. Let us know *when* you're *ready* to *argue* *logically* *Illion*.

Disclaimer:
*Anybody* who disagrees with *anything* I say is being *intellectually dishonest*.

Charlie said...
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Charlie said...

Also Clayton,

(1) All L is SRCG.

You try to draw some moral conclusion from this, and that's where I don't see the logic is getting you anywhere.


Right, no moral conclusion can be derived from (1). That's exactly the problem. You're the one, as an atheist, who needs to show how a moral conclusion can be drawn. But before you try, have some logic. Treating 'permissibile' and 'obligatory' as modal operators, it follows from

(1) It's not obligatory that, for any action, that action is not performed,

that

(2) It's permissible that, for any action, that action is performed.

(2) is shorthand for 'anything goes'. That's the problem for you, only to be escaped once you give us a satisfactory story about how you get 'obligation' pumped out of nature.

Personally, I haven't read any naturalist -- even those with nonreductive and noneliminativist leanings -- who has been able to show step-by-step how natural descriptions of the world 'give rise to' or 'provide a subvenient base for' or 'cause' or 'constitute' (or whatever) the existence of intrinsically prescriptive properties or truths. But I'd be interested to see if you can.

Moving on:

(2) Some SRCG is sentient.
(3) Some SRCG is capable of practical decision making.
(4) Some SRCG has interests grounded in desires.

Each of these claims is consistent with (1).

Each of these claims seems inconsistent with the claim that no SRCG's have moral status:

(5) No SRCG has MS.


Let's leave aside for now how, precisely, you would account for each of the predicates above in your (2)-(4). You say those claims "seem inconsistent" with (5). But why this seems to be the case to you is never explained. So I'll wait for you to get jump into the specifics -- all the glorious metaphysical cogs and gears your naturalism is capable of producing -- before I proceed any further.

Charlie said...

as I used to, and as I think the Churchland's do also

They are still both eliminativists.

Clayton said...

Charlie,

I was responding to Shackleman's claim that _seemed_ to be that it followed from the materialist's metaphysics of persons (material properties and nothing further) that on materialism, persons lack moral value. It doesn't follow (as S seemed to suggest) from the fact that we're purely biological creatures (X) that we lack moral value (Y).

You can show that
(1) It's not the case that X --> Y.

By showing that there is some proposition, Z, where Z is consistent with X but:
(2) (X&Z)--> ~Y.

I offered some. If you are biological & sentient, you have moral value. If you are biological & a practical agent, you have moral value, etc...

Either, S has to show that sentience or practical agency are morally irrelevant (bad moral view) or show that there are no biological creatures that are thereby sentient or practical agents. If S's disagreeing with that, we have a metaphysical disagreement.

You asked:
Personally, I haven't read any naturalist -- even those with nonreductive and noneliminativist leanings -- who has been able to show step-by-step how natural descriptions of the world 'give rise to' or 'provide a subvenient base for' or 'cause' or 'constitute' (or whatever) the existence of intrinsically prescriptive properties or truths. But I'd be interested to see if you can.

Good question, but I don't think we can extract any metaphysical principle from this. We all know that there are conscious creatures in this world. Does this entail theism and the denial of naturalism? Maybe, but _not_ because this is true:
I haven't read any supernaturalist -- even those with nonreductive and noneliminativist leanings -- who has been able to show step-by-step how natural descriptions of the world 'give rise to' or 'provide a subvenient base for' or 'cause' or 'constitute' (or whatever) the existence of intrinsically prescriptive properties or truths.

The fact that you can't derive an 'ought' from an 'is' or an 'about' from an 'is' is true regardless of whether the 'is' is a natural fact or supernatural fact. So, rather than say there are no 'ought's or 'about's, I'd just go non-reductivist.

Charlie said...

Clayton,
It doesn't follow (as S seemed to suggest) from the fact that we're purely biological creatures (X) that we lack moral value (Y).
.

It doesn't follow that we do have moral value. As you conceded above, no moral conclusion whatever can be drawn. Straightforwardly, if no moral conclusion can be drawn about whether we ought or oughtn't perform some action, A, then performing A is completely neutral, anything goes -- and this quantifies over all actions, given naturalism.

This is a serious problem for your naturalism, and it will remain a problem until you can give us a purely naturalistic story about the source of intrinsic ought-to-be-ness. Saying it just 'confers' on the things you fancy is philosophically inadequate.

If you are biological & sentient, you have moral value. If you are biological & a practical agent, you have moral value, etc...

As you know, re-asserting your view does not count as an argument. You were questioned on this above. I am still looking forward to your answer.

I will not proceed further to a discussion on theism until we nail this issue. Let's stay focused.

Clayton said...

Charlie,

You wrote:
This is a serious problem for your naturalism, and it will remain a problem until you can give us a purely naturalistic story about the source of intrinsic ought-to-be-ness.

I think this is a distraction. No one, naturalist or supernaturalist, has such a story to tell. No one can 'derive' an 'ought' from an 'is', regardless of whether the 'is' pertains to arrays of natural properties or complexes consisting of both natural and supernatural properties.

If that's right (I invite you to prove me wrong), either there's a difference between:
(i) Deriving F's from G's
(ii) Facts about G's entailing facts about F's.

or,
(iii) There cannot be moral properties given either naturalism or supernaturalism.

I suppose you can show me wrong by deriving an 'ought' from a supernatural 'is'. If you can't, then you'll either have to adopt error-theory or you'll have to grant me the distinction between (i) and (ii). Maybe you think that supernaturalists can be non-reductivists when naturalists cannot, but I can't imagine what that reason might be.

There is, I think, one advantage of naturalism over supernaturalism in moral metaphysics. The moral principles we actually employ when doing ethics tend to have conditions of application stated in entirely naturalistic terms. I think this is suggestive. It suggests that we typically think that the natural properties we cite in formulating these principles are grounds of pro tanto reasons to act in accordance with these principles. (I can't tell whether you agree to that point but think that the naturalist owes us some account as to how pain can provide reasons to respond or think that naturalists cannot believe in pain.)

The one advantage I'd say that naturalism has in ethics over supernaturalism is just that the supernaturalist's moral metaphysics looks weird. If we judge that murder is wrong, I don't think we typically think that the wrong-making features include features far removed from the situation having to do with supernatural matters. It's sufficient to grasp the wrongness of murder that it causes the victim a great loss where that loss is characterized in naturalistic terms.

Anyway, forget about ethics and think about epistemology. Do you think that we need to first establish supernaturalistic conclusions before we start deploying judgments about what ought to be believed or oughtn't be believed? Or, do you think that in a godless universe everything is permissible to believe?

Anonymous said...

Obama on abortion

http://www.bornalivetruth.org/

Victor, you have a moral obligation to not vote for Obama

Ilíon said...

Poor, poor "Charlie." *sniff*

Randy said...

Shackleman,

For the record, I tried hard once to embrace and wrap my mind around non-materialist/reductionist atheism, but I always found the solutions illogical at best, or cop outs at worst. I disagree with the Churchlands, but I admire their courage to follow their conclusions to their logical necessities. Most atheists, in my humble opinion, haven't the stomach to do the same.


I know you’ve bowed out of this debate, but I would be interested in learning what ‘non-materialist/reductionist’ schools of philosophy you studied.

Can you refer me to some books and articles?

Shackleman said...

Hey Randy,

Paul Churchland's Matter and Consciousness would serve as a good introduction (to many views regarding mind/body, not just eliminative--ie reductionist--materialism) I'm not a philosopher nor scholar, and I found it to be pretty accessible.

For more serious works, I'd defer to the more expert opinions of those who frequent this blog.

For a very solid refutation of reductionism (even though that's not the express intent of the book), I'd look into Hasker's "Emergent Self". --one of my personal favorites.

Also, in a strange sort of way, it might help to read Brian Greene's very excellent "Elegent Universe".

It's not a work of philosophy, but a work of very modern physics (also written in a very accessible way for the non-expert). Any look into reductionism can be very well supplemented IMHO with a look into the modern hard physical sciences, and I found the one really compliments the other (or refutes it maybe even :-)

Randy said...

Shackleman,

Thanks for the detailed reply.

I do have to apologize for not making myself clearer.
You wrote above:
For the record, I tried hard once to embrace and wrap my mind around non-materialist/reductionist atheism, but I always found the solutions illogical at best, or cop outs at worst.

So I was looking for which non-materialist/reductionist atheistic (or non-religious) philosophers or philosophical systems you investigated during that period between when you transitioned from being a materialist/reductionist atheist to a theist.

Wouldn’t Green and Churchland fall into the materialist camp? And Hasker is a theist. From the reading list you provided it looks like you moved directly from a materialistic atheistic position to a non-materialistic theistic position.

Which non-religious books or articles did you read that were non-reductionistic and non-materialistic and whose solutions were so illogical that you had to move into the theistic camp?

An example of such a book would be John Dupre's "The Disorder of Things". It was not pro-theism or religious and yet very critical of reductionism and materialism.

Shackleman said...

Randy,

I see. I offer the briefest of lists, upon your request, thinking you're seeking some suggestions from a layperson and you take that to assume I moved from atheism to theism in 3 easy steps? Hmmm. It's clear that you're well versed on the topic and needn't any advice from me.

You're clearly familiar with the authors and titles, (Excepting maybe Greene, whom you lump in as a materialist--which while true to the best of my knowledge, the title I offered was not in any way a work of philosophy---just hard science), so since you're familiar, rather than play the charades, why not just share with me your suggestions on titles regarding naturalism (sans-strict materialism) that you think should sway me?

Randy said...

Shackleman,

Your statement that you couldn’t wrap your head around any atheistic philosophy that was non-reductive and non-materialistic piqued my curiosity. You explicity said that the best of it was illogical and the worst a mere cop-out. This doesn’t match my experience at all.

So I was and am really interested in knowing which books or articles you read that lead you to that conclusion. Personally I could care less if you went straight from being a reductive/materialistic atheist to a theist. But unless you really did seriously engage those non-theistic philosophies that are non-reductive/non-materialistic I don’t think you are entitled to call them illogical and cop-outs.

I will be glad to provide you with a few links to some excellent non-theistic philosophy books and articles if you are interested in reading them. Actually the other book I mentioned would not be at all a bad place for you to start. But before I do that I’d like to see which non-theistic, non-reductionistic, non-materialistic philosophy books or articles you read that you found to be so lacking in logic.

Shackleman said...

Randy,

I don't understand why you continue the charades. First I didn't say "the best of it...". I'm a layperson and wouldn't dare pretend to be an expert and am completely unqualified to comment on what is or is not the best of the best of much of anything. (Now, if you'd like to discuss computer networking technologies, then I can rightfully claim some measure of expertise).

Second, as a layperson, I have discarded non-reductionist materialism/atheism based on the cumulative reading and experiences of years of interest and study. Mind you, my interest is not of the same intensitity as a doctoral student of philosophy, but it is exponentially more so than an average Joe (or so I'd presume). So if you have suggestions on how I can broaden my horizons I'm all ears as I'm here to learn and to contribute my layperson's perspective. I'm not here to teach as any sort of expert, and have never claimed such status.

Now, it is true, that in the very brief list of suggestions I offered, there were both materialists and theists represented. How else would one compare two competing theories?

What I won't do is list for you, title by title, or work by work, all of the things I've studied. For one, I'm sure any list I could provide would be incomplete compared with those offered by an expert in the field (as *should* be evident by my clear statement: "For more serious works, I'd defer to the more expert opinions of those who frequent this blog". For two, I couldn't even if I wanted to as the list would be too volumounous, and unlike your implication, would not include a title or two offering any knock-out blows.

I've read many authors on the subject both in favor of and in dispute of, but I don't pretend to know "the best of..." as you say. From Plantinga and Reppert to Kant and Chalmers---from Functionalism and Behaviorism, to Dualism and Panantheism.

I do wonder why so many here on this blog, yourself included, treat rather unassuming and pithy blog entries with the analytic rigor normally reserved for doctoral dissertations.

It's as if you're trying to "trap" me. Consider me caught---willingly so--- because I have been careful to qualify my statements with notes to my utter lack of credentials.

Now, my playing this game of charades with you is done. If you have suggestions on things I should be reading---the "best of..."--- then provide them. Otherwise, you can relax knowing I remain unconvinced based upon what I've studied but readily admit my knowledge on the topic is not an exhaustive knowledge.

Now hopefully you can get some sleep knowing you've outed a *self-admitted* amateur as being, well, an amateur. Congrats to you.

Randy said...

Shackleman,


What I won't do is list for you, title by title, or work by work, all of the things I've studied.


Listing 2 or 3 articles or books would have been sufficient. I'm just trying to figure out why you found the few non-materialist/non-reductionist/non-thiest philosophers so wanting or lacking in logic.

If what you wrote earlier really is accurate:
For the record, I tried hard once to embrace and wrap my mind around non-materialist/reductionist atheism, but I always found the solutions illogical at best, or cop outs at worst.

I don't understand why you won't simply list a few of them here. I'm not asking for an exhaustive list; just a few samples of what you did find time to read.

It would certainly be easier than writing almost ten paragraphs trying to explain why you won't provide such a short list.

Charlie said...

Clayton,

The problem here does not have to do with moral motivation or knowledge of moral truths. (For the latter, I lean sympathize with Audi's intuitionism.) Let's not throw out red herrings, OK?

I asked you to provide an explanation for the existence of prescriptivity in a purely naturalistic world. What is this 'conferring' relation you speak of? How does that work exactly? Saying that you'd just "go non-reductive" is, of course, merely a re-assertion your view and not an answer. Even if you posit supervenience, you still need to explain the relation (as Kim has pointed out).

You basically concede the problem that you cannot pump prescriptivity out of natural descriptions, but then go on to complain that theism suffers the same problem. Even if it did, that doesn't excuse you (just by point of logic).

But it doesn't. Even divine command theorists (many, at least) would not say that the facts about God's commands give rise to prescriptivity. Rather, the commands (or certain divine attributes) themselves carry the prescriptivity. Some would also argue that intrinsic prescriptivity is joint-carving and irreducible. And Swinburne, I believe, would even argue that they're moral truths are necessary truths. On views like these no commitment to divine commandments as right-making features is necessary. And they would be more at home with theism than with naturalism. (On naturalism you run into austere queerness or, perhaps, some strand of platonism, each of which are severely problematic.)

It's an uphill battle for you if you want to go "non reductive" since at some point you're going to have to posit some relation to do your magic for you. And, as it's turned out, when you're pressed to explain the specifics, head-scratching and distractions are, apparently, the best you can offer in response. Not cool.

Clayton said...

I don't think that the problem has anything to do with moral motivation (granted), but you'll note that Audi (I'm a big fan of his, btw, it's why I lived in Nebraska for six years) thinks that the grounds of our obligations are typically natural properties and so I think he'd grant that the moral metaphysics that best fits his intuitionism is one on which most of our duties are grounded in facts that could very well be facts in a godless universe.

Anyway, I didn't expect the 'weird moral metaphysics' claim to do much work. It was merely to point out that there might be some advantage to naturalism in ethics over supernaturalism in ethics if all else is equal.

You seem to think that not all else is equal, however, but I'm trying to make sense of your view.


You basically concede the problem that you cannot pump prescriptivity out of natural descriptions, but then go on to complain that theism suffers the same problem. Even if it did, that doesn't excuse you (just by point of logic).


Right, I don't think an 'ought' can ever be derived from an 'is'. I'm not sure what I'm to be excused of. I think the following looks like a bad argument for error-theory:

(1) You cannot derive an 'ought' from a set of 'is' statements describing natural facts.
(2) You cannot derive an 'ought' statement from a set of 'is' statements describing any further non-moral facts.
(C) There are no moral facts.

I'd reject the implicit assumption:
(3) There can only be 'ought' facts if such facts can be 'derived' from some set of non-moral facts.

It seems that in attacking naturalism, you are asserting something akin to (3). It seems that in resisting error-theory, you are denying (2).

It would help me locate our debate considerably if you just told me whether I'm right about that thus far.

p.s., You are probably wrong, but it's just so much nicer talking to you than Ilion.

Charlie said...

Clayton,

I'm not committed to (3) (not even implicitly). And we've already conceded (1) and (2). The problem now is explanatory. If you include moral facts (properties?) in your ontology, you've got to give a purely naturalistic explanation for their existence. So far you haven't done anything beyond saying that you'd go nonreductive -- and this isn't really an answer, is it?

So what, precisely, is your explanation? I predict this will unfold in one of two ways. Either: you'll come up with some sort of relation ('conferring', or perhaps, as David Brink has tried, 'constitution') in terms of which the properties are supposed to be explained. When asked to talk about the specifics of this relation, the conditions under which it obtains, and how precisely it connects action guiding properties with natural properties, you'll end up with a sketchy metaphysic.

Or: you'll punt to some kind of platonism according to which the properties are just like platonic objects in need of no explanation, at which point I will provide you with (at least) four fatal objections.

I await your answer.

Charlie said...

And don't go Palin on me with something like "well these things just 'confer' on those things and there you have it!". Please be specific.

One Brow said...

Now there's a whole rich debate on whether or not it's at all a defensible and logical to be a non materialist atheist, but that's a whole different discussion.

That's one discussion I don't understand. An atheist disbelieves or denies the existence of supernatural entities called gods. A materialist denies the existence of all supernatural entities. If you accept that there are supernatural entities that are not gods, and that people can believe in these entities without believing in a god/gods, then they are atheists and not materialists.

Charlie said...

One brow,

That's true, but only because you're using the wrong term. More commonly the tension is between naturalism and non-materialism.

Naturalism is a stronger ontological thesis than atheism. To state it crudely, naturalism is the view that the world is made up entirely of natural objects. Most atheists are naturalists, even if they don't know it.

(Just a tip, don't ever ask what the precise definition of naturalism is when two or more naturalists are gathered together.)

One Brow said...

To state it crudely, naturalism is the view that the world is made up entirely of natural objects. Most atheists are naturalists, even if they don't know it.

Well, absent a poll, I can go along with that statement for now. Of course, there is a large difference between "Most atheists are naturalists" and "whether or not it's at all a defensible and logical to be a non materialist atheist", and my response was directed at the latter statement.

Randy said...

charlie,

(Just a tip, don't ever ask what the precise definition of naturalism is when two or more naturalists are gathered together.)


That tip seems to apply equally well to supernaturalists.

Charlie said...

Only it seems a tad bit more embarrassing for naturalists, since they're the ones who have typically and historically made such a huge deal about diverse supernatural beliefs. They can't even agree on a definition of their own worldview (or research program? or working hypothesis? or?), not to speak of their disagreements on what counts as natural (material? physical? posited by best scientific theories? or?).

Clayton said...

It's been a long thread and I'm not entirely sure I see what the problem is supposed to be any more. You wrote:
Straightforwardly, if no moral conclusion can be drawn about whether we ought or oughtn't perform some action, A, then performing A is completely neutral, anything goes -- and this quantifies over all actions, given naturalism.

This is, I think, mistaken. It's a mistake unless we assume something you later say we oughtn't, which is that all moral truths are 'derivable' from non-moral truths. Unless you assume the 'derivability' thesis, the fact that you cannot derive an 'ought' from the 'is's that would be true on the assumption of naturalism would give no support to the claim that if naturalism is true all is permitted.

Now, if I'm following you, you yourself say that the supernaturalist has to be a non-reductivist. But, if that's so, you either have to say that error theory is true or have to say that non-reductivism is true. If you say that non-reductivism is true, you can only say that non-reductivist moral realism requires supernaturalism if you can show that there's an argument from naturalism to error-theory. I don't know what that would look like, because I don't see why the prospects for moral realism (reductivist or non-reductivist) are better given the assumption of supernaturalism/theism/etc...

Sorry, I don't want to drag this out unnecessarily, but:

Q1: Are you a moral realist?
Q2: Are you of the opinion that moral realism requires supernaturalism?
Q3: If 'yes' and 'yes', why?

Ilíon said...

A Fool asserted: "It is illegal to not wear a seatbelt. It is clearly not immoral. Counterexample complete.

Whew. That was easy.
"

Of course, the fact remains that Our Fool's "complete counterexample" completely ignores what I said.


A Fool further asserted: "Hello? The word 'should' doesn't always denote a moral fact. There are rational, epistemic, moral, legal, etc., kinds of 'should'."

What a pathetic fool! The fact is that *EVERY* assertion of 'should' or 'ought' is a moral assertion. The assertion may or may not be valid, but it is nonetheless a moral assertion.