Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The paradox of utilitarianism

Can an argument be made  that focusing on consequences produces worse consequences overall than other reasons? For example, the consequences of lying for all concerned might give worse results than our egotistic thinking patterns are bound to recognize. Hence, a general rule "don't lie" might produce more happiness overall than saying "lie if and only if it will maximize happiness."

Social Utility, Sympathy, and Reasons for Being Moral

Why would someone be moral if they didn't believe in God? For example, it is possible, if there is not God, to literally get away with murder. If there is a God, then it is literally never true that no one is looking. If there is no God, then it can sometimes be quite literally true that no one is looking. If you are never caught by humans you will die and reach the same condition as your innocent victim, after having reaped all the benefits of wrongdoing. Why wouldn’t an atheist commit a murder if he were to benefit from doing so and was reasonably confident that he or she would never be caught.
The philosopher David Hume suggested two reasons for being moral that don’t have anything to do with religion: social utility and sympathy. But are these enough to keep us moral, or, more importantly, to insure that it is always rational to be moral? It might depend on how good we are at sympathizing, and whether we stand to benefit, not benefit, from behaving morally. Given some set of desires and states of character, and on the assumption that to act rationally is to maximize the satisfactions of one's desires, the immoral person can be perfectly rational, and it can even be irrational to be moral. Does this mean that you can be moral without God if you have good circumstances for doing so, but if you aren’t so lucky, then you won’t be so moral?

Monday, February 25, 2019

What is repentance?

Repentance means walking back the states of mind the led you to sin. It means setting yourself the task, in Christianity with the aid of the Holy Spirit, of ceasing to be the kind of person that committed that immoral act in the first place. That is no fun. Sinful acts are attempts to satisfy sinful desires, and repentance involves undercutting the grip of those desires on you. It's supposed to be painful. The idea that "Oh, I can sin, and then just repent later" is a self-defeating one. It's something that will make your life tougher in the long run.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Martin Luther King

 How do you think religion affected Martin Luther King? Was it an accident that he was a reverend, as well as a civil rights leader? 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The real debate is over legal immigration

 The bipartisan bill that Trump turned down had, I think 1.7 million for border security including fencing. But it was considered no good because it was a fence instead of a wall. But there is more to Trump's position on immigration than just the wall. He wants to keep LEGAL immigration limited for, in particular, lower class workers, and in fact make it harder for such people to enter our country. Hence the comment about not wanting people to come in from "shithole" countries. (Whether this reduces to a desire not to let more black and brown people into our country can, I am sure, be questioned). But if we worked harder to let as many noncriminals as we can enter our country legally in an orderly manner, wouldn't it cut a significant portion of the market out of the illegal immigration racket? Everyone wants border security to keep bad people out of the country, even if they don't think a wall will provide best bang for the buck. (Emperor of China: We're going to build a big beautiful wall, and the Mongols are going to pay for it). But wouldn't we need less border security if we didn't put so many restrictions on legal immigration? Whatever happened to "Give me your tired, your poor?"

Gotta Serve Somebody

One commentator of Facebook implied  that in accepting the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity in Jesus Christ, Christians are more vulnerable to giving undue adulation to a political leader, such as Donald Trump. And my answer is, nothing could be further than the truth. Christians know what it takes for a human being to be worthy of the devotion that we give to Jesus, and no one human living or dead comes anywhere near that standard. But godless nations have historically given a kind of adulation to their human leaders that no Christian would ever dream of giving even to a divine right monarch. No American leader, even one as benighted and corrupt as Donald Trump (and as you know I have absolutely no use for him) has the record of butchery and cruelty that Mao Zedong (dubiously) achieved, yet the Communist government in China encouraged this kind of attitude toward their leader.

 The east is red, the sun is rising.
From China comes Mao Zedong.
He strives for the people's happiness,
Hurrah, he is the people's great saviour! 
(Repeat last two lines)

Chairman Mao loves the people,
He is our guide
to building a new China
Hurrah, lead us forward!
(Repeat last two lines)

The Communist Party is like the sun,
Wherever it shines, it is bright
Wherever the Communist Party is
Hurrah, the people are liberated!
(Repeat last two lines)
(Repeat first verse)

There is a temptation, when God is rejected, to replace devotion to God with devotion to some human leader. As Bob Dylan said, you gotta serve somebody. 

Thursday, February 07, 2019

An argument for why death is not a bad thing

Here.  It is based on this statement of Epicurus.  The Epicurean argument was an argument against fearing death. This is the quote: “Death is nothing to us. When we exist, death is not; and when death exists, we are not. All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fear of death arises from the belief that in death, there is awareness.

 From this it is easy to derive a Epicurean defense of abortion. 

1. Where the fetus is, death is not. 
2. Where death is, the fetus is not. 
So, why oppose abortion? 

One of my office-mates was a protege of Rosenbaum. When he explicated his position, another office-mate of mine asked, "So, on your view, why shouldn't I just kill you now?" His answer was "Only if you could do it painlessly." 

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Shoving democracy down people's throats

Democracy is supposed to reflect the will of the people. What if the people get together and vote on it, and decide that they want a dictatorship. Does some greater power have the right to come in and say "No, the people have a right to a democracy, so we're going to shove one down everyone's throat, whether they want it or not?

Isn't this a description of American foreign policy in many cases? 

Sunday, February 03, 2019

My right to my opinion

I have always been puzzled by the phrase "I have a right to my opinion." What does it mean? 

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Are human rights fictions?

I wonder if people are clear on the idea of what human rights are. The idea of human rights is that I am entitled to something in virtue of being human independent of what the people with the biggest guns decide. What this means isn't as easy as it seems to get clear on. It seems to imply the existence of a moral fact.

If it's a human construct, then it seems to be a purely fictional concept. Unless there is some reality that makes it true that I have certain rights, then it is false that I "really" have them even though people with the biggest guns are denying it to me?

What was the UN declaring when it made the human rights declaration. Was it saying we wish countries would treat their citizens this way?

When is religious involvement in our political life inappropriate?

The movements supporting the rights of women, and the civil rights movements, were started within religious groups. It is not an accident that the Civil Rights movement was led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. The Declaration says that we were endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights (so, no creator, no rights?) Are these instances of the inappropriate intrusion into our democratic life? If not, what constitutes an appropriate, as opposed to an inappropriate insinuation of religion into our political life? If religion motivates some to oppose abortion or gay marriage, people think that's inappropriate. But when Jefferson makes a religious appeal to defend inalienable rights, or when King organizes the Montgomery bus boycott, or when religious groups organize for women's suffrage at Seneca Falls, this is OK? I'll bet the segregationists wished the King would stay in his pulpit and preach Jesus instead of getting involved in a political issue like civil rights. Is religious involvement in politics bad just in case I agree with it?