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Clarifier
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04 Feb 2009, 1:36 am

I repeat:

Clarifier wrote:
Rather than try to chase you all over the abstract universe, I want to know where you stand before continuing. In your opinion:

  1. Does morality/justice exist or not? If you say it doesn’t exist, you have no business talking about the nature of it.
  2. If you say morality/justice does exist, what criteria do you propose by which it can be determined?
  3. If you have no criteria to offer, what objection do you have to my criteria: a consensus of "normal" minds?

If you want me to revise these questions with morality and justice separated, I will do so. I only merged them because you equated them. If you don't present a coherent epistemological identity you are not worth responding to.


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04 Feb 2009, 10:01 am

Clarifier wrote:
I repeat:
Clarifier wrote:
Rather than try to chase you all over the abstract universe, I want to know where you stand before continuing. In your opinion:

  1. Does morality/justice exist or not? If you say it doesn’t exist, you have no business talking about the nature of it.
  2. If you say morality/justice does exist, what criteria do you propose by which it can be determined?
  3. If you have no criteria to offer, what objection do you have to my criteria: a consensus of "normal" minds?

If you want me to revise these questions with morality and justice separated, I will do so. I only merged them because you equated them. If you don't present a coherent epistemological identity you are not worth responding to.

I already made an objection, it seems ad hoc as the mechanism has no necessary existence, and thus what you propose seems to have terrible epistemic foundations. As I stated, you just seem to be making stuff up, and then going with it because it follows your pre-chosen conclusion. That eliminates your epistemic right to believe what you say.

I think I have presented a reasonably clear one. I mean, not believing in ethics does not prevent me from talking about it just as being an atheist wouldn't prevent me from talking about theology and philosophy of religion, this is a matter of a branch of knowledge. I have also made the argument before that you are just making stuff up, so really, yeah, you are making stuff up.



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06 Feb 2009, 1:25 pm

Clarifier wrote:
If that person's future welfare for the duration of his existence will be significantly affected by whether or not X exists, then it is, or should be, important to him that he bets correctly.

Not necessarily as long as one is prepared for the consequences of guessing (or betting, as you put it) wrong.

You need to consider the character of the person making this guess. To a just person, the promise of a just afterlife would be far more enticing than it would be to an unjust person. Conversely, to an unjust person, the price of giving up injustice in the hope of obtaining that promise would be far worse, if the promise proved false, than it would to a just person.

In the end, where the truth in unknowable yet some belief must be held, we are all going to choose to believe what we would like the truth to be.


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06 Feb 2009, 4:26 pm

Clarifier wrote:
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Carl Sagan

"A witty saying proves nothing." -Voltaire
The Sagan quote is true, but pretty much meaningless. It is generally used to lend credence to beliefs that are otherwise unjustifiable or that the adherent of those beliefs does not feel like justifying. Absence of evidence could also be considered evidence of absence if we have reason to expect that there would be evidence of presence. For example, if there is no evidence of extensive accounting fraud, this would typically be taken as evidence that such fraud were absent.

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If there is no conclusive evidence for the existence of X, and no conclusive evidence against the existence of X, then it cannot be known if X exists. It is stupid to claim to know that X exists or doesn't exist. The question, "Does X exist?" becomes irrelevant. Even if the welfare of all of humanity depends on whether or not X exists, the question, "Does X exist?" remains irrelevant, because it can't be answered. Any pretense of answering it remains pretense.

Hm. Conclusive evidence is required before claiming X does or does not exist? I disagree. I'm studying to be a microbiologist, and biologists never have conclusive evidence for anything. But they still eradicated smallpox, eliminated most of the nastier diseases in the developed world, and produced a variety of surgical techniques and medical advances to dramatically improve human lifespan and quality of life. And they did this on the basis of things they could not absolutely prove. There can be no conclusive proof that DNA is the material responsible for heredity. We do have some evidence for it, but if you ever study molecular biology you will be astounded at the amount of stuff that is largely guesswork.

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However, if a person's life-decisions will be significantly different if he thinks X exists than they will be if he thinks X doesn't exist, then that person must place a bet as to the existence of X in order to make those life-decisions. Even if the bet is not placed consciously, it is still placed, and is made evident by those decisions.

What if one's world-view places the search for truth and an insistence on correctness as the highest values? Then one would be unable to make any variant of Pascal's Wager, preferring instead to try harder to find out what is true or to acknowledge ignorance.

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Other than the existence of an afterlife, the most relevant value of X is generally considered to be the existence of a particular version of God. I disagree. I say the most relevant values of X are afterlife and justice.

We touched on this in the other thread, but I think morality would be up there, since notions of justice are typically contingent on beliefs about morality.

And I would say the question of God's existence is quite important. Though since you seem to be interested in the concept of a just afterlife, I would say that whatever agent is responsible for producing such an afterlife would be called "God."


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07 Feb 2009, 12:07 am

Orwell wrote:
Absence of evidence could also be considered evidence of absence if we have reason to expect that there would be evidence of presence. For example, if there is no evidence of extensive accounting fraud, this would typically be taken as evidence that such fraud were absent.

I disagree. I think it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that the person perpetrating the fraud did such a good job of it that he didn't leave any evidence that you can find.

A better example to make your point might be that there is no evidence that hobbits do not exist; yet considering the fact that all the accounts of them we know are filed under "fiction" in your local library it is a pretty fair guess that J.R.R.Tolkien made them up. Nevertheless, it is theoretiacally (though admittedly remotely) possible that Tolkien was inspired by having met a hobbit some time in his youth and he is the only human being to have ever done so.

Orwell wrote:
And I would say the question of God's existence is quite important. Though since you seem to be interested in the concept of a just afterlife, I would say that whatever agent is responsible for producing such an afterlife would be called "God."

I agree and I think that would define justice; for if God exists, justice is whatever He says it is, and if God does not exist, we are all free to define it however we like. We can even believe that justice is whatever is good for me and injustice is whatever is bad for me. In fact, I know people who define it exactly that way. :)


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07 Feb 2009, 12:28 am

NobelCynic wrote:
I disagree. I think it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that the person perpetrating the fraud did such a good job of it that he didn't leave any evidence that you can find.

I realize it was not a perfect example, but I think you get my point. Although anything could theoretically exist and we can never prove that X does not exist, there are a number of things which we assume do not exist and are fairly justified in doing so.

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I agree and I think that would define justice; for if God exists, justice is whatever He says it is, and if God does not exist, we are all free to define it however we like. We can even believe that justice is whatever is good for me and injustice is whatever is bad for me. In fact, I know people who define it exactly that way. :)

Well, that's Divine Command Theory in the case of God's existence, and egoism in the final case you offered. Economics tends to assume a degree of egoism to be more or less universal.


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07 Feb 2009, 1:06 am

Orwell wrote:
I realize it was not a perfect example, but I think you get my point. Although anything could theoretically exist and we can never prove that X does not exist, there are a number of things which we assume do not exist and are fairly justified in doing so.

well, I believe the phrase "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" was something Carl Sagan said to support agnosticism, which illustrates the metaphysical view of that philosophical position, and he was probably making the point against atheism, at least against the certainty some atheists have. Which I believe it could be said like this: absence of evidence does not necessarily lead to the certainty of factual negation of a given hypothesis.

About the 'anything could theoretically exist' thing, I'm not sure of that, I think that can be tricky, and I assume that a given hypothesis has to be reasonable and be able to pass some rules of logic, be consistent, etc. in order to be considered valid, wouldn't it?

An example related to the existence of aliens.
The existence of aliens seems to be a valid hypothesis.
The lack of evidence, does not necessarily lead to refute their existence.
Can we safetly deny the possibility of other intelligent beings existing in other places in the vast universe other than earth given the lack of evidence?

Even though the existence of a supernatural god doesn't seem to be a scientifically valid hypothesis, but philosophically, it seems to be. And.. Dawkins' God hypothesis, seems to be limited depending on the nature of God, which is something to add besides the issue about the existence.


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07 Feb 2009, 1:51 am

I find it most peculiar that people indicate that if something could exist one is justified in acting as if it did exist. Human imagination is exceedingly fertile in devising unvalidated possibilities and a good many of these possibilities have proved, under investigation, to have perceptual phenomena that have proved that they do exist. Equally, a good many of these exercises in fantasy have found no physical validation. What is important is what one finds rewarding in action. If there is no validation ( or definite indication that a supposition does not exist) for a supposition then it should not be sensible to act as if it were real.

Lives are not lived in a world of absolutes. We live and act on probabilities. Each of us more or less calculates, either unconsciously or consciously, the probability of possibilities. And, of course, we come to individual conclusions. The existence of gods, fairies, and monsters in my kitchen cabinets is pretty nearly nil in my estimation. Gravity and electromagnetism seem extremely probable. Whether it rains today or not, even though the possibility is always there, depends on various factors and the probability changes over time. That it could rain does not motivate me to always carry an umbrella.

People who act as if there were gods or God on the evidence presented strike me as psychotic. That most of the world does hold these beliefs does not deter me in my appraisal of humanity and I am terrible sorry that a potentially bright and capable species is so terribly disabled by its own imaginative abilities. The incessant horror and brutality and vile stupidity exhibited by the species throughout recorded history and into the present is a major tragedy for such a potentially intelligent and capable mass of animals but it looks very likely that things will end badly and reasonably soon.



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07 Feb 2009, 6:59 am

Sand wrote:

People who act as if there were gods or God on the evidence presented strike me as psychotic.


Wishful thinking is not necessarily psychotic. Most people believe in their gods and an afterlife because they cannot reconcile themselves to death. This is understandable, even if it is not rational.

As long as a person does not lay his religious trip on you, be charitable.

ruveyn



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07 Feb 2009, 7:18 am

ruveyn wrote:
Sand wrote:

People who act as if there were gods or God on the evidence presented strike me as psychotic.


Wishful thinking is not necessarily psychotic. Most people believe in their gods and an afterlife because they cannot reconcile themselves to death. This is understandable, even if it is not rational.

As long as a person does not lay his religious trip on you, be charitable.

ruveyn


It's not a matter of charity, it's a matter of my speaking the truth as I see it. If you don't agree, there is nothing I can do about it, but we all fear death and I prefer to look it straight in the face. It is not a comfortable perception but that's the way I see it. To cheat yourself of the total tragedy of death is to devalue life itself.



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07 Feb 2009, 7:43 am

Sand wrote:

It's not a matter of charity, it's a matter of my speaking the truth as I see it. If you don't agree, there is nothing I can do about it, but we all fear death and I prefer to look it straight in the face. It is not a comfortable perception but that's the way I see it. To cheat yourself of the total tragedy of death is to devalue life itself.


Brave words from someone who is not a Death's Door. Compare your performance with your declaration when your moment is at hand.

As I said, if a person does not inflict his religion on me, I am willing to cut him some slack.

ruveyn



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07 Feb 2009, 7:59 am

ruveyn wrote:
Sand wrote:

It's not a matter of charity, it's a matter of my speaking the truth as I see it. If you don't agree, there is nothing I can do about it, but we all fear death and I prefer to look it straight in the face. It is not a comfortable perception but that's the way I see it. To cheat yourself of the total tragedy of death is to devalue life itself.


Brave words from someone who is not a Death's Door. Compare your performance with your declaration when your moment is at hand.

As I said, if a person does not inflict his religion on me, I am willing to cut him some slack.

ruveyn


My wife is, at this moment, dying of cancer in the Meilahti Helsinki cancer clinic where the cancer has metastasized throughout her body and neither she nor I can tolerate the disgusting nonsense that religious people tend to push our way. I watched my son die of kidney failure after I spent 30 years keeping him alive as a quadriplegic on a respirator and neither he nor I could stand religious tomfoolery. I watched both my mother and father die horribly of cancer and none of us could stand the baloney of religious people. I expect to die in the near future as I am reaching the age where that is highly probable. I have been intimate with death of people and animals that I have loved and the religious horse manure of religion has always disgusted me.
Please don't try that old crap of atheists in foxholes.

I am tired of tolerating fools.



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07 Feb 2009, 11:50 am

Orwell wrote:
I realize it was not a perfect example, but I think you get my point.

I did; I just thought that calling the Sagan quote meaningless was going a little too far for reasons that Greenblue explained and Sand provided an example of.


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07 Feb 2009, 11:56 am

NobelCynic wrote:
Orwell wrote:
I realize it was not a perfect example, but I think you get my point.

I did; I just thought that calling the Sagan quote meaningless was going a little too far for reasons that Greenblue explained and Sand provided an example of.

I think the typical applications of the Sagan quote are somewhat dishonest. (And this is coming from a Christian, mind you)


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08 Feb 2009, 6:39 am

Clarifier wrote:
In order to assert that my bet is reasonable, I only need to assert the possibility of a god that likes justice as I do, and whose purpose is best served by maintaining a just system. If I lose the bet, I’ve passed up a lot of pleasures in this life, but after death, I’m no worse off than anyone else.

If I am reading this correctly, the currency you are placing this bet with is you are willing to give up the pleasure injustice could bring you, in this life, in the hope of gaining entrance into this just afterlife. Have you considered the possibility that if you are not willing to do that anyway, without promise of reward, you don't qualify?


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