Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The value of free will does not end there. All sorts of relationships acquire special value because they involve love, trust, and affection are freely bestowed. The love potions that appear in many fairy stories (and the Harry Potter series) can become a trap; the one who has used the potion finds that he wants to be loved for his own sake and not because of the potion, yet fears the loss of the beloved’s affection if the potion is no longer used. For that matter, individuals without free will would not, in the true sense, be human beings at all, at least this is the case as seems highly plausible, the capacity for free choice is an essential characteristic of human beings as such. If so, then to say that free will should not exist is to say that we humans should not exist. It may be possible to say that, and perhaps even mean it, but the cost of doing so is very high. William
Consider a Star Trek I once saw. There was a man, who in the show was named Flint, who was born several thousand years BC, whose body was able to regenerate whenever it was damaged, granting him an virtually endless life. What that meant was that, over and over again, he saw his companions and wives die. He ended up on a planet in outer space where he decided to build the perfect companion, an android named Rayna. Rayna could converse with him on any subject imaginable, could be physically affectionate, but there was one problem. Its "love" for Flint was fully and completely determined by Flint's programming, and therefore was deficient as love. So Flint brought the Enterprise and Captain Kirk to the planet so that he could be a rival for Rayna's affections. (Fans of Star Trek will recognize Captain Kirk as the Intergalactic Bill Clinton). Anyway, since Rayna was an android, Rayna couldn't choose freely, and so fell over and became deactivated.
If God is love, then isn't there something deficient about love that is fully and completely determined by the one who recevies the love? If this is the case, then there is a good reason why a loving God might choose to give us incompatiblist freedom, even if this freedom results in sin and perhaps even eternal separation from God for some persons. In order for the choice to love to be meaningful, the choice not to love must also be given.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Debunking Christianity: It Truly Does an Old Atheist’s Heart Good to See Bible Christians Having to Eat Crow!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
1. Either we are persons, having the right to life from conception, or we acquire the right to life somewhere between conception and birth, or at birth.
2. If we acquire the right to life between conception and birth, the criteria by which we become persons is arbitrary. We end up picking a point where personhood commences without an adequate reason for placing the point there.
3. But the right to life is not to be decided arbitrarily. The beginning of personhood must occur at a principled, not an arbitrary point.
4.The only principled point at which personhood can begin is conception.
5. Therefore, humans in the fetal stage have a right to life from the moment of conception.
6. The right to life has priority over other rights, both our own and those of others.
7. Therefore, we have a right to life from conception that has priority over other rights (such as the right to privacy, or the right to do as one pleases with one's own body).
8. If we have a right to life from conception that has priority over other rights, then abortion, except in those cases where the mother's life is in danger, should be outlawed.
9. Therefore, abortion should be outlawed in all such cases.
What we do about that disagreement can be far from trivial. What people do about that disagreement is another matter. In America, we disagree about politics. What we do about it is that we hold elections for President every four years and make orderly transitions from one administration to another. In other countries they do it differently. They kill one another to get control of the government. It's not the disagreement, it's what we do about the disagreement, that matters.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Do I sound like an self-righteous, arrogant, dogmatic SOB? Actually, I'm just stating something that's trivially and boringly true.
But if it makes you feel better, I should add that disagreeing with me will not necessarily result in your everlasting damnation.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I suppose if you think fetuses aren't persons, then there are no fetal positions in the original position, so this doesn't work on that assumption.
Despite my unwillingness to accept what I think would be the disastrous consequences of continued Republican rule and vote solely on abortion considerations, this attitude indicates a profound moral mental block.
This is an extremely important argument, and explains to a large extent how I reply to people who say that the progress of science is evidently going to push in favor of materialism with respect to the philosophy of mind. It's my claim that modern science is grounded, in a important sense, in dualism. That is, science at the time of Galileo was able to treat the physical world as a machine because it could dump all the qualitative stuff into the mind. But if the mind is supposed to be physical, how did that work back then?
No one replied when I put this up before, so I am putting it up again, though we did get some debate on in on Dangerous Idea 2.
From Richard Swinburne’s The Evolution of the Soul (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986) p. 191.
There is a crucial difference between these two cases. All other integrations into a super-science, or sciences dealing with entities and properties apparently qualitatively distinct, was achieved by saying that really some of the entities and properties were not as they appeared to be; by making a distinction between the underlying (not immediately observable) entities and properties and the phenomenal properties to which they give rise. Thermodynamics was conceived with the laws of temperature exchange; and temperature was supposed to be a property inherent in an object. The felt hotness of a hot body is indeed qualitatively distinct from particle velocities and collisions. The reduction was achieved by distinguishing between the underlying cause of the hotness (the motion of the molecules) and the sensations which the motion of molecules cause in observers. The former falls naturally within the scope of statistical mechanic—for molecules are particles’ the entities and properties are not of distinct kinds. But this reduction has been achieved at the price of separating off the phenomenal from its causes, and only explaining the latter. All reduction from one science to another dealing with apparently very disparate properties has been achieved by this device of denying that the apparent properties (i. e. the ‘secondary qualities” of colour, heat, sound, taste, etc.) with which one science dealt belonged to the physical world at all. It siphoned them off to the world of the mental. But then, but when you come to face the problem of the sensations themselves, you cannot do this. If you are to explain the sensations themselves, you cannot distinguish between them and their underlying causes and only explain the latter. In fact the enormous success of science in producing an integrated physico-chemistry has been achieved at the expense of separating off from the physical world colours, smells, and tastes, and regarding them as purely private sensory phenomena. The very success of science in achieving its vast integrations in physics and chemistry is the very thing which has made apparently impossible any final success in integrating the world of the mind with the world of physics.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
One school of Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta, says the is one reality, and it is the spritual reality of Brahman. It is one. The idea that I am a distinct person from you is an illusion. If I go to prison tomorrow, it's not real. If I win the lottery tomorrow, it's not real. Brahman, the true God whom we cannot even define with our words, that's what's real.
If abortion is murder, does it make sense to let one of the murderers get off scot-free while punishing the other?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
One of the difficulties pro-life advocates have with the pro-choice position is the idea that once the right to life is denied inside the womb, there is no nonarbitrary reason for not denying it outside of the womb. Birth, after all, is going from inside to outside, and a law that makes being born the criteria for a right to life is like passing a law that there are certain buildings in which a person may freely be killed, but outside those buildings it's murder.
Peter Singer is one of those who has pushed the pro-choice argument outside the womb. He defends infanticide in cases where babies are disabled.
Of course, Christianity did not face the abortion issue in its early years, since only modern medicine has made abortion safe. However, early Christians (and early Muslims like Muhammad) opposed the exposure of children after they were born. Typically, of course, it was the female babies that got exposed in the ancient Roman world. So much for gender equality back then.
Is there a good way to defend abortion but not infanticide? Or is it only our sentimental attachment to born babies that keeps "choice" from extending outside the womb?
Is Kant right that it is irrational to be unethical?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Later on in 1994, another Muslim student came to class from Iran. She had no head scarf. I asked her about it, and told her about the previous Muslim. She said "Muhammad commanded us to cover ourselves so as not to call attention to ourselves. Now if I were to go around in a burka, what would that do? Call attention to me. So for the reason Muhammad told us to weara burka, I don't wear one.
This reflects two different ways of applying the same passage of the Qu'ran. But not just the Qu'ran. What do Christians do about "Women should not speak in church" out of I Corinthians?
Saturday, November 15, 2008
People who disagree with me are more likely to be ideologues than people who agree with me.
"The cat is on the mat."
"The cat is not on the mat."
Once you know which cat and which mat, one's got to be true and one's got to be false.
In the case of abortion,
1) All abortions where the life of the mother is not in jeopardy are morally wrong.
is contradicted by
2) Some abortions where the life of the mother is not in jeopardy are not morally wrong.
But all you need for 2 is at least one. If 2 is true, then some, indeed most abortions where the mother's life is not in jeopardy can be morally wrong. Just not all.
It's important to realize what a real contradiction is, and what it is not.
In ethics we sometimes accuse people of contradicting themselves when they really aren't. There is nothing about being pro-life, for example, that logically entails that you ought also to be against the death penalty. In one case you have fetuses who are not guilty of anything, in the other case, you have guilty capital criminals. On the other hand, there's nothing about pro-choice that guarantees that you should support the death penalty. In one case you have fetuses who are not given the legal rights of persons (whether they should be or not is a different issue) and on the other hand you have capital criminals who, whatever they have done, are considered to be persons by the law.
Friday, November 14, 2008
"No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the priviledges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
It seems to me that the Supreme Court has to decide whether the fetus has an overriding right to life or not. If it does, then it has to protect that right from coast to coast. If the fetus doesn't have that right, then the mother has rights that have to be protected. What would be a logical absurdity would be to say that a fetus has a right to life in Texas but not in California.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
god, only there were just nine and "Thou shalt not kill" was left out. How would we make a case for the value of life to them.
I once had an officemate who thought that the so-called value of life was just that: so-called. The real values were pleasure and pain, and being alive or not simply didn't count. "When death is, we are not, when we are, death is not." Another friend said "Based on your philosophy, I could kill you right now and it would be OK." He answered "Only if you could do it painlessly."
How would you defend the value of life to these people?
The Eastern Orthodox do not seem to have the sort of doctrine of original sin that is prevalent in the West, coming down from Augustine.
I'm going to be a terrific senator! And I'm gonna help people! Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggonit, people elected me! - Al Franken.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Is the graduated income tax (first proposed by Adam Smith) socialism? If you really think that "spreading the wealth around" is always and everywhere a bad thing, then shouldn't there be a flat tax?
And what about the $700 billion bailout? How can Republicans attack socialism if they participated in the bailout? Spread the wealth around? Isn't that what the Bush administration initiated, and McCain voted for?
From each according to his abilities, so long as you are in the middle class. To each according to his needs, if you are a big enough corporation.
When it comes to actual governance, the "conservatism" of Barry Goldwater is gone. What you get is corporate prostitution. Republicans follow conservative principles when it serves the interests of "the haves and the have mores." They trash those principles when it becomes convenient for the big companies.
I realize that my tone is a little cynical here. Perhaps someone can explain what the Republican Party today has to do with real conservatism.
And please don't tell me that at least this fake conservatism is better than liberalism. I just want to know what real conservative principles are, and how well you think the Republican party of George W. Bush reflects those principles.
Second, if the grounds for objecting to abortion is that it is murder, and there really is no moral difference between killing a fetus and killing a born infant, then shouldn't these acts be prosecuted under the statute against murder, which means that whatever mandatory sentences are in place have to apply. (No community service, in other words).
How were abortion laws written prior to Roe. Can abortion be regarded as a separate crime from murder if it is murder?
Now these are questions. Please treat them as such. There may be good answers to them.
I am quite sure that anti-abortion laws would result in an enforcement nightmare. This bothers the utilitarian in me. But the deontologist answer is, of course, that if something ought to be outlawed, difficulties in enforcing the law should not be a reason to keep it legal.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Here's my claim. If this argument goes through, then you have a Federal case against abortion based on the Equal Protection clause. What is wrong with this claim?
Sunday, November 02, 2008
I have trouble seeing Roe as an unjustified instance of judicial activism. The court had to adjudicate between the rights of the pregnant mother and the rights of the fetus. If you think that, since it was the fetuses right to life that was at stake as opposed to the mother's right to privacy, if you think that all fetuses possess this right from the moment of conception, if you believe that the right to life takes precedence over all quality-of-life considerations including the right of privacy, then the only logical thing to fight for is the application of the equal protection clause of the Constitution to life in the womb. Why wimp out and hand it back to the states? Frank??
Of course, the right to life from conception has to be provable. The Roe argument is that that right is in doubt, and hence a right that is in doubt should not take precedence over a right that is not in doubt. I think Roe is right, unless you can establish the right to life beyond reasonable doubt. But if you're pro-life, that's your position, right?
If I am right, judicial activism is a red herring in the abortion controversy. Everyone likes judicial activism when it gets the results we want. We hate it when it gets the wrong results. The SCOTUS had to act, one way or the other. The only question is whether the Court made the right call or not.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
But if pro-lifers are right in supposing that fetuses are person from conception and we can know that, then the conclusion should not be to remand the issue to the states. The correct conclusion would be to press a case on behalf of fetal life based on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, striking down all permissive abortion laws. That might be legislating from the bench, but wouldn't that be the correct for the court to make, on pro-life assumptions?
1) Abortion is always morally wrong, (except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger) but as a matter of constitutional law, Roe was correctly adjudicated.
2) Abortion is not always morally wrong, and Roe was correctly adjudicated.
3) Abortion is morally wrong, and Roe was not correctly adjudicated.
4) Abortion is not always wrong, but Roe was not correctly adjudicated.