Sunday, February 16, 2020

Hard Determinism

The hard determinist doesn't say we don't make choices, but they just say that we don't know the causes of our actions, and if we knew them, we would realize that the ultimate reason why we did this and not that had to do not so much with a choice of our own, but instead has to do with a series of events going back to, say, the Big Bang. Once the Big Bang banged, whatever happened after that had to happen, given the laws of physics. If that is really true, are people still responsible for their actions? 

Sunday, February 09, 2020

No more punting to impeachment!

Unfortunately, the Justice Department punts to impeachment as a reason why a President can't be indicted. Given the partisan nature of the last two impeachments, I think this punt is a mistake. A free and independent Justice Department is our best defense against a truly rogue President (had Spiro Agnew become President, that would be an example we could all agree on). If there's a case to be made against a President, he should be indicted and go through the court system like any other citizen. It would be hard even for partisans in the House and Senate to avoid removing an indicted and convicted President.

The autonomy objection to religious morality

The autonomy objection to religious morality puzzles me. If you think there is a perfect being who loves you, and who has some clues as to how to live a better, more moral life, would you be foolish not to take them? On the other hand, if no such being exists, that would be another matter.

On hypocrisy

If there are high moral expectations on people, and people think they can benefit from appearing to others as if they meet those high expectations (whether they do or not), that of course opens the door for hypocrisy. The only sure cure for hypocrisy is to lower your standards to such an extent that most people meet the standard easily. But then, you have low moral standards. Is that a good thing?

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Nonconsequentialist moral theories

I think there is some connection to consequences in many nonconsequentialist ethical theories. For example, people who look to God's commandments typically think that God is pretty smart, and that the reason God commands what he does it that the consequences will be the best in the long (eternal) run.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Support for Trump: The Conservative Shibboleth

Nowadays, the shibboleth for conservatism is support for Trump.

Judges 12: 1-15 12, 4 Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites.

5 And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, art thou an Ephraimite? If he say Nay;

6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Any real convictions?

Does anyone doubt that Trump would support abortion on demand, open borders, and socialism if it benefited him personally to do so?

The simplest explanation for everything Trump does is in terms of his ego. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Are morals objective?

The question is whether, if you are asking whether something is right or wrong, whether claims about that can be correct or incorrect. It is true that everyone has their own views about what is moral and what is not. But people have their own views about things like whether there was really a moon landing, or about whether vaccines should be avoided because they cause autism, or whether Trump withheld aid to Ukraine because he was trying to obtain and advantage against Biden in  his re-election campaign. Nevertheless, i think we would all agree that some has to be right about these claims, and someone has to be mistaken. The same is true about the question of whether an omnipotent being actually exists. Some very reasonable and intelligent people take opposite positions on this question, but I think most of us would say that either there is one or there isn't. 
But what about questions of what is right or wrong. This can include vexed questions about whether abortion is justified, and under what circumstances, whether we ought to have the death penalty or not, whether animals have rights which give  us a reason to stop eating meat, whether premarital sex, or  homosexual sex, or extramarital sex is wrong, etc. But is also a moral question as to whether it is acceptable, was the case in America before the civil war, to bring people over to our country and keep them as slaves, or whether it is acceptable to allow discrimination in the area of restaurants or housing, or whether is acceptable to use sexual harassment as a way of maintaining male domination in the workplace, or indeed whether it is acceptable to invite someone over for dinner, shove them in the oven, and cook them as dinner. Unless moral objectivity is true, then all of these concerns are simply relative to individual preference of societal preference. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

How would you answer someone who questions the heart of ethics?

 According to the BBC guide to ethics, "At the heart of ethics is a concern about something or someone other than ourselves and our own desires and self-interest. Ethics is concerned with other people's interests, with the interests of society, with God's interests, with "ultimate goods", and so on. So when a person 'thinks ethically' they are giving at least some thought to something beyond themselves." But someone might question why we ought to give any consideration to anything beyond ourselves. How would you reply to someone who raises that question about ethics? 

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Explaining reasoning away

People rightly fear that we will interpose a God-explanation where a scientific explanation might be provided which would provide us with more prediction and control over the event in question. But in reasoning, if we interpose nonrational explanations to account for our reasoning, we are in fact explaining reasoning away. If we say that I believe in evolution because of the evidence, but then the explanation I provide for coming to hold this belief is a bunch of irrational neurons blindly following the laws of physics or acting on blind and brute quantum-mechanical chance, I am saying that in the last analysis I didn't really come to believe that evolution is true because there is good evidence that evolution is true. I cannot really say "I followed the evidence, and those creationists didn't." Both of our beliefs were caused in the same irrational way.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Need to impeach

The Democrats want impeachment, but the Republicans need it.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

The paradox of Dawkins' title


The title of one of Richard Dawkins’ books is entitled The Blind Watchmaker, but its subtitle is How the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a World Without Design. The subtitle, it seems to me, makes a paradoxical claim. On the one hand, it maintains we ought to draw the conclusion that the world lacks design. On the other hand, the subtitle suggests that he has reached this conclusion through examining the evidence of evolution, but examining the evidence is a process designed to discover the truth. In fact, Dawkins is fond of contrasting his own methods for reaching conclusions with methods based on faith, which to his mind involve a lack of design. But if the world really is without design, how is this possible? Of course, it could turn out that the paradox is resolvable. But the attempt to ban teleology from the bioverse, but then to insist that one’s own convictions are justified because a kind of teleological explanation can be given for these convictions, is a fact that, at the very least stands in need of explanation.