Massimo vs. Julia, Round 2!

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 4, 2010 in Debates,Ethics

Earlier, I summarized a debate between Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef on the nature of morality.

Massimo’s route to moral realism was to define morality in terms of human flourishing:

I define ethics/morality as concerned with exploring the sort of behaviors that augment human (and possibly beyond human) welfare and flourishing. Since this is a definition, it cannot be argued for, only either accepted or rejected.

Julia protested, saying that Definitions Don’t Prove Anything. She reminds us:

A definition is simply the act of setting some symbol equal to some concept, so that you have an easy way of referring to that concept…

But you have to be careful when you establish that definition, the SYMBOL = CONCEPT relationship, that you’re not implicitly thinking of the symbol as having another, hidden concept inside it already. Because if you are, then what you’re doing is actually equating one concept with another, different concept. That’s not a definition, that’s a claim, and it can be incorrect.

…if you really, truly are just defining the word “moral,” then all you are doing is assigning a symbol (“moral”) to a concept (increasing human flourishing). You have not proven anything about that concept; you’ve just given it a new name. One has to wonder what the point is…

And if it feels like you’re doing more than just re-naming something, that’s probably because you haven’t sufficiently scrubbed the symbol “moral” clean of its other associations before you defined it.

…You can’t use definitions to prove a point, only to make clear what you mean by your words. You can’t use them to prove that something doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. You can’t use them to prove that people should behave in a certain way.

As usual, Julia has done a good job of clarifying a very common confusion. This one type of confusion goes at least as far back as Parmenides (5th century BCE) and his arguments that nothing ever changes, and has served as the basis for thousands of years of bad metaphysics.

Massimo replied: Proving things isn’t the point of definitions. Massimo says his definition of morality – his axioms of moral theory – are open to debate. But then, you could do the same thing with any axiomatic system. Induction, a long-standing axiom of scientific progress, is notoriously difficult to justify – and yet this does not move us to throw out science. Likewise, one cannot “prove” the axioms of logic or mathematics, and yet we do not throw out logic or mathematics. So just because the axioms of moral theory are open to debate does not mean morality is bunk.

Massimo’s reply calls into question the strength of Julia’s attack, but it does not yet give a positive case in favor of his axioms. As far as I can tell, his positive case can be found in an earlier post, where he discusses

the universal understanding of morality. People might not agree on the meaning of terms like “well-being” and “flourishing,” but perhaps they can agree that these concepts, however they are used, are the very concern of morality itself in its broadest sense.

…all moral systems, beliefs, and values – religious or secular – are generally about how to best treat other beings and how to form a better society.

If this is Massimo’s positive argument for using his definition of morality, then I simply disagree with it. The reason people might agree that “well-being” and “flourishing” are the concern of morality is because these are question-begging terms. They are “value-laden” terms. So are phrases like “how to best treat other beings” and “how to form a better society.”

But these words say nothing concrete about morality at all – they just serve to restate the problem with different words, as Julia pointed out. Or, as Alonzo put it:

“Health”, “flourishing”, “unnecessary suffering”, “harm”. These are all value-laden terms. These are all good (or bad, respectively) by definition because a value judgment is a part of the definition of the terms. Harm is always bad (in some sense) for the same reason that bachelors are always unmarried males.

But maybe the post I’ve quoted from is not meant to be Massimo’s argument in favor of using his definition of morality instead of some other.

Or, perhaps by saying the definitions of morality are open to debate, Massimo means to say there is no particular reason to accept his definition instead of another. We shall see!

Let us hope this does not devolve into a name-calling match, but instead rises to a debate that lives up to the header text of the blog on which Massimo and Julia publish, which reads:

Truth springs from argument amongst friends.

I, for one, have benefited from the debate already.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

G'DIsraeli September 4, 2010 at 5:43 am

Julia’s post was excellent.
For my thoughts on the issue…
Maybe trying to transcend our own biology is arrogant…morality isn’t an individual matter, but a social one. If a society cares for its own, which naturally we do, Massimo’s definition is plausible.
obviously the terms need clarification, which should be the next step.

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cl September 4, 2010 at 7:59 am

I would love to hear Julia Galef on desirism.

…if you really, truly are just defining the word “moral,” then all you are doing is assigning a symbol (“moral”) to a concept (increasing human flourishing). You have not proven anything about that concept; you’ve just given it a new name. One has to wonder what the point is…

I agree, and that’s why I wonder what the point of desirism is. All Alonzo is doing is re-defining good inaccurately. I say his definition of good is inaccurate because it is quite easy to come up with desires that “tend to fulfill other desires” that we would never otherwise call good unless we were already committed to Alonzo’s definition.

Induction, a long-standing axiom of scientific progress, is notoriously difficult to justify – and yet this does not move us to throw out science. Likewise, one cannot “prove” the axioms of logic or mathematics, and yet we do not throw out logic or mathematics. So just because the axioms of moral theory are open to debate does not mean morality is bunk.

I agree, and that’s the down-side to discussions on morality IMO. Anybody can quibble, and seemingly everybody does. Some of these people seem to think the fact of quibbling constitutes sound objection to a theory. I think there comes a point when something is just true, thus in no need of proof. For example, that a normal person with an apple in each hand is holding two apples. Who but a sophist would ask for proof there?

If this is Massimo’s positive argument for using his definition of morality, then I simply disagree with it.

I agree with you that best, better and well-being are value-laden terms. However, it sounds like you’re disagreeing with Massimo’s claim that moral systems are generally about how to best treat others and how to have a better society. Isn’t that true? If not, can you show an example of a moral system that does not generally aim towards best treatment of people and a better society? It would seem to me that even the Nazis believed they were pursuing such ends. In fact, isn’t moral a value-laden term?

..these words say nothing concrete about morality at all – they just serve to restate the problem with different words,

..just like desirism. To say, “people have reasons for action such as to fulfill the strongest of their desires” doesn’t say anything concrete about morality at all. It’s just an observation of human behavior, an observation that’s been made seemingly since culture began and can be stated simply as, “people tend to do what they want.”

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 8:41 am

I love the irony of someone who criticizes others for ideas that are admittedly in progress while having so many ideas that are so undeveloped and hidden behind obfuscation.

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Adito September 4, 2010 at 11:04 am

cl, you said “All Alonzo is doing is re-defining good inaccurately.”

To say this you must already have a definition of what the good is. I’m guessing you get this definition by trusting your intuition on the subject. What Alonzo does is redefine the good to refer to something that exists in the world (something that is). It’s true that you can reject his definition but you would have a harder time saying that desires don’t exist. If we assume that desires do exist and they are the only reasons for action then you’ve just failed to associate morality with reasons for action. Since it’s a very basic definition to say that morality is about reasons for action I’d say Alonzo makes a very good attempt to define what’s moral correctly.

“For example, that a normal person with an apple in each hand is holding two apples. Who but a sophist would ask for proof there?”

If we observe that desires are the only reason for action, and that morality is about reasons for action, then who but a sophist would ask for proof that desirism is about morality?

“It would seem to me that even the Nazis believed they were pursuing such ends. In fact, isn’t moral a value-laden term?”

I think you’re misunderstanding what value laden terms are. A term with value tries to associate one thing with another thing. In this case it could be that ‘best treatment of people’ tries to associate humans actions with the right way to treat humans. Notice that it says absolutely nothing about what the right way to treat humans is. It basically answers the question “what’s the best thing to do?” with “the right thing of course!” And of course this doesn’t explain anything. Morality itself tries to figure out what this right thing might be but so long as there are objective facts on the matter it’s not a value laden term even if we might value it.

“To say, “people have reasons for action such as to fulfill the strongest of their desires” doesn’t say anything concrete about morality at all. It’s just an observation of human behavior”

So long as we assume that morality is about reasons for action and desires are the only reasons for action we have then desirism says everything there is to say on the matter.

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cl September 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I love the irony of someone who criticizes others for ideas that are admittedly in progress while having so many ideas that are so undeveloped and hidden behind obfuscation.

That’s okay, I love the irony of someone who pretends to be committed to rationalism but simply exposes his or herself as another atheist with a personal agenda. I also love the irony of somebody who makes all this high talk about rational inquiry, then never once offers evidence for their claims [that I'm dishonest, that I have undeveloped ideas, that I hide things in obfuscation]. In short, beat it, troll.

Adito,

To say this you must already have a definition of what the good is.

Not really, I only need instances where we “tends to fulfill other desires” != what most people normally mean by good.

What Alonzo does is redefine the good to refer to something that exists in the world (something that is). It’s true that you can reject his definition but you would have a harder time saying that desires don’t exist.

If you’re under the impression that I say desires don’t exist, or that I reject Alonzo’s definition entirely, those are incorrect.

Since it’s a very basic definition to say that morality is about reasons for action I’d say Alonzo makes a very good attempt to define what’s moral correctly.

Poll any group of people, and ask them what they think morality pertains to. I guarantee you that hardly anybody will say, “reasons for action.” Rather, I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of people polled will say some variant of, “morality deals with what we should and shouldn’t do, what’s right and wrong.” Of course, Alonzo simply asserts that “right” and “wrong” don’t really exist [intrinsically]. I suppose that’s one way to make an argument, but certainly not the way I prefer mine.

…I’d say Alonzo makes a very good attempt to define what’s moral correctly.

I think he’s got a salvageable beginning, but that’s about it, because good – the moral good – is certainly more complex than, “tends to fulfill other desires.”

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Cl, I still laugh at you. You’re a ball of ignorance, and like any ball quite fun to play with.

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Adito September 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm

cl, you said “Poll any group of people, and ask them what they think morality pertains to. I guarantee you that hardly anybody will say, “reasons for action.” Rather, I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of people polled will say some variant of, “morality deals with what we should and shouldn’t do, what’s right and wrong.” Of course, Alonzo simply asserts that “right” and “wrong” don’t really exist [intrinsically]. I suppose that’s one way to make an argument, but certainly not the way I prefer mine.”

They might not explicitly say “reasons for action” but that’s certainly what they’ll be talking about. By saying it “deals with what we should or shouldn’t do” they are simply talking about what reasons for action they should use. And phrases like right and wrong presuppose some standard of defining morally good so they must have some reason for action to back it up.

Alonzo doesn’t just say that desires are the only reason for action. He tries to carefully dismantle every other moral theory and once he’s done so he observes that desires are the only reasons for action that actually exist. If you believe this is wrong then could you tell me what is intrinsically valuable and what makes it so?

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I am curious, though, Cl, why not promote your confident thoughts?

Why demand that everyone drag each piece out of you one at a time till the jigsaw pattern takes form?

If your thoughts are valid and supportable, then you should have no problem supporting them. With words. Not as weapons but as actual sane statements from someone with honest not intended to be militaristic dodges and deceptions?

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cl September 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm

..I still laugh at you. You’re a ball of ignorance, and like any ball quite fun to play with.

Good for you. Feel better?

If your thoughts are valid and supportable, then you should have no problem supporting them.

While I’m under no illusion that all my thoughts are valid, generally speaking, I don’t have any problem supporting them. It seems to me that it’s actually you who has the problem supporting their thoughts, as can be easily evidenced from all the vapid accusations you make. You said it yourself; you engage me to “play.” You show up and taunt, making baseless assertions every time. Grow up already. Or, keep trolling; everybody needs steam release, maybe it’s good for you.

Adito,

…phrases like right and wrong presuppose some standard of defining morally good so they must have some reason for action to back it up.

Yes, precisely, and since Alonzo simply declares that [intrinsic] right and wrong don’t exist, he’s obviously talking about something somewhat different than they are. Alonzo claims that desirism has nothing truthful to say to a moral agent at the time of decision-making. Hence, desirism proffers no “should” statements of any kind. It is simply a verbose description of the fact that people generally do what they want, and that we can use condemnation and praise to control the desires other people have. We’ve known this for thousands of years.

[Alonzo] tries to carefully dismantle every other moral theory and once he’s done so he observes that desires are the only reasons for action that actually exist.

I disagree. I feel that he makes reckless claims like,

Any theory that claims that it DOES have something truthful to say to an agent at the moment of decision can be thrown out because what it has to say is false. [‘Short List’ Theories of Morality, 9-3-2010]

IOW, any theory that doesn’t begin by sharing Alonzo’s assumptions about intrinsic value is bunk, no investigation needed. How is that not intellectually reckless?

By saying it “deals with what we should or shouldn’t do” they are simply talking about what reasons for action they should use.

I disagree. In the context of morality, the person who talks about “what should or shouldn’t be done” is talking about whether or not there is any reason to prescribe one type of behavior over another. Consider: should abortion be legal? Why or why not? Should pornography be banned? Why or why not? I see your point; yeah, in a roundabout way these people are asking, “what reasons for action exist pro or con?” My point is that the fact of reasons existing says nothing about morality. Reasons exist for a psychopath to chop up his boss. Reasons exist for the psychopath to not chop up his boss. That’s a description, not a prescription.

Since desirism rejects intrinsic value, then there is nothing we can point to that would justify prescribing one desire / behavior over another. The best we can do is to say something like, “X would tend to fulfill other desires,” but so what? That simply avoids the question of whether or not those “other desires” should be fulfilled.

…I go so far as to claim “people are or ought to be particularly concerned with the fulfillment of other desires” is false, for the most part. Instead, what I argue is that other people’s desires give them reason to cause the agent to be concerned with those things that tend to bring about the fulfillment of other desires. [Alonzo Fyfe, Massimo Pigliucci vs. Julia Galef on the Foundations of Morality, comment 8-30-2010]

Then, what should people do according to desirism? If the answer is “nothing” as it appears here and as Alonzo has stated before, how is it a theory of morality in your opinion?

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I’m still laughing. If you ever snap out of it, I’d be glad to be laughing with you, instead of how I laugh now when you jabber on. Till then, try and be less manipulative. It’s really transparent.

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cl September 4, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Do you have anything to say that actually relates to the current debates? I’m just curious.

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Hermes September 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Yadda

Yadda

Yadda

Anytime you want to do the same, go for it.

Seriously, people have asked you direct questions and you’ve avoided many of them in one way or another for weeks. You must know this. I mean, you must. Nobody thinks you are really are that stupid, so it must be your own little mind game war like the title of your blog. You’re only pissing people off, and I smelled it about you very early on even if others did not see it or gave you the benefit of the doubt.

Just stop. You have not and are not fooling me.

When you want to join the human race again, put away your gun, and take a stool. I’ll even buy the first round.

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Adito September 4, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Yes, precisely, and since Alonzo simply declares that [intrinsic] right and wrong don’t exist, he’s obviously talking about something somewhat different than they are.

He’s not ‘simply’ declaring anything. There is no reason to think that intrinsic values exist. None, nadda, zip. This does not mean that words like right and wrong are without meaning. It just means that we were wrong to assume they had a certain kind of meaning. If these people are referring to something that does not exist then it’s just foolish to say we should humor them and base all of morality on their misconceptions.

Again, can you describe some intrinsic morals that exist and tell me were they are coming from? Or at the very least give a conceptual account of were they could come from?

…How is that not intellectually reckless?

I can’t believe I’ve saying this but… You’re taking that out of context. Alonzo does not go around making such claims without backing them up. He’s been very careful to define were and why short-list moral theories fail so your characterization is simply unfair.

Since desirism rejects intrinsic value, then there is nothing we can point to that would justify prescribing one desire / behavior over another.

This has been covered in depth by Alonzo and you can find out how to derive an aught from an is from the following links.

http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2006/10/strangeness-of-ought.html
http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2009/04/descrption-prescription-and-reasons-for.html

Have you done much research on desirism? The questions you’re asking are good ones but they’ve been dealt with extensively. Until you understand it’s foundational concepts I don’t think you’re in a good position to describe how it’s invalid.

Then, what should people do according to desirism? If the answer is “nothing” as it appears here and as Alonzo has stated before, how is it a theory of morality in your opinion?

It does describe what people should do. Again, these are foundational concepts that have been well defined by both Luke and Alonzo.

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mojo.rhythm September 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Cl,

What moral theory do you hold? I remember asking you in another blog post but I forgot which one so I didn’t get your response.

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James Gray September 5, 2010 at 12:28 am

I don’t know what is going on with Massimo, but if the debate was described accurately, then his statements are absurd. Even an anti-realist can define morality as promotion of human flourishing. Moral realism is totally irrelevant to the definition proposed.

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James Gray September 5, 2010 at 12:35 am

Luke,

After looking over your original post, you didn’t actually mention moral realism. Instead, you were talking about moral reasoning. It is uncontroversial that moral reasoning is possible. Even anti-realists agree with that. Of course, it might be a little tricky to explain why moral reasoning is possible if moral realism is false. (It’s not so hard to explain it if moral realism is true.)

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cl September 5, 2010 at 2:27 am

Seriously, people have asked you direct questions and you’ve avoided many of them in one way or another for weeks.

Where? Show me one example. This is a criticism of yours actually worth listening to. I will say right upfront that I do a lot of commenting here, so you may be simply assuming that I “avoided” some question when in fact I forgot or lost interest. Still, show me questions you think I’ve avoided, and I’ll address them. Don’t just be a caustic troll about it, deliver, rationalist.

Adito,

There is no reason to think that intrinsic values exist.

Until recently, there was no reason to think the universe was expanding, either, so I’m unsure exactly what you think that fact proves.

This does not mean that words like right and wrong are without meaning.

I agree that those words retain meaning whether intrinsic values exist or not. I disagree that simply declaring intrinsic value non-existent has any rational basis.

…can you describe some intrinsic morals that exist and tell me were they are coming from?

No, I cannot, because I am unsure as to whether intrinsic moral value exists. It’s called skepticism for a reason.

Alonzo does not go around making such claims without backing them up. He’s been very careful to define were and why short-list moral theories fail so your characterization is simply unfair.

I’m afraid you’re simply mistaken. When I asked Alonzo to support his claim that the Greeks were “probably wrong” concerning pederasty, his only response was a vague allusion to an unspecified “venereal disease” that would seemingly make all non-monogamous sex “probably wrong” if one is to be consistent. Suspecting that he may be arguing from Western conditioning which tells us that middle-aged men getting it on with teen boys is intrinsically wrong, I asked for more evidence and/or support from Alonzo and he ignored me each time. In fact, I used to go around posting a partial list of all the questions Alonzo has [seemingly] ignored from myself and others. Dig around a bit before you jump to conclusions. If you can’t find anything, I’ll be happy to provide links.

Have you done much research on desirism?

Yes, I’ve researched it for the past year or so now, ever since I first heard Luke use desirism to justify his anti-creationist bigotry. In fact, I’ve done original research on desirism, too. Of all desirists I know of, not one has actually attempted an empirical evaluation of desires vs. aggregate. Apparently they’re content to simply talk about desirism’s objective nature, as opposed to any attempt to demonstrate it.

Until you understand it’s foundational concepts I don’t think you’re in a good position to describe how it’s invalid.

Enlighten me if you will: which of its foundational concepts don’t I understand? Please, don’t be like Luke: actually demonstrate my misunderstanding instead of merely asserting it, such that all might gain.

It does describe what people should do.

This is unclear and people have asked Alonzo to clarify. When I say that a moral theory should prescribe what people should do, I mean something like that it should tell somebody whether or not to commit a murder for the sheer thrill of it. Alonzo stated that,

Desirism has nothing to say to a moral agent at the moment of decision. [comment 9-3-2010, ‘Short List’ Theories of Morality]

Are you implying that’s only an apparent discrepancy?

mojo.rhythym,

What moral theory do you hold? I remember asking you in another blog post but I forgot which one so I didn’t get your response.

DCT ala the God of the Bible, and I also believe that something like desirism flows from there. As far as my response on that other thread, I’ll track it down for you. I’ve got it in my notes. I enjoyed the response that I came up with, though, re-reading it I recall that it felt rushed.

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vanlacrmcake September 5, 2010 at 9:45 am

One of the biggest problems with philosophy is that it allows cl to do what he does. All you have to do to ‘prove’ something is be extremely talented with word games. No evidence required.

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Kaelik September 5, 2010 at 10:44 am

Meh, Cl isn’t proving anything. He’s just steadfastly demanding evidence and arguments while ignoring evidence and arguments.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 10:45 am

Cl’s a she, but otherwise, yeah, that’s about it. No search for mutual understanding there.

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cl September 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Come on, you folks are supposed to be rationalists… don’t you have anything to say about the actual subject matter? Has it really gotten to this level? Stop trolling.

Cl’s a she,

I have never once identified my gender on this website. I have only challenged those who made baseless assumptions. Then again, ol’ Son of Zeus here has quite the penchant for baseless assumptions.

vanlacrmcake,

All you have to do to ‘prove’ something is be extremely talented with word games. No evidence required.

While I appreciate the compliment, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I’m not trying to prove anything in this thread, or in our ongoing discussions about desirism. I’m not the positive claimant: Fyfe is, and the positive claimant retains the burden of proof. If you have anything to say about the actual arguments, I’m interested.

Kaelik,

Meh, Cl isn’t proving anything. He’s just steadfastly demanding evidence and arguments while ignoring evidence and arguments.

You are correct that I’m not proving anything [in this thread or in our discussions about desirism]. As I explained to vanlacrmcake above, the burden of proof falls to the positive claimant. Since that’s you, pray tell: what “evidence” and “arguments” am I ignoring? Surely you can meet the burden of proof for the positive claim you just made, right?

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm

If you are or aren’t doesn’t matter, so then ignore it.

Why not get on with it then and stop bringing up narrow issues to support nonsense such as YEC — unless you don’t support YEC, in which case say that. If you ever say anything that isn’t a BS dodge and word war.

That drink is still on offer.

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Kaelik September 5, 2010 at 2:57 pm

“You are correct that I’m not proving anything [in this thread or in our discussions about desirism]. As I explained to vanlacrmcake above, the burden of proof falls to the positive claimant. Since that’s you, pray tell: what “evidence” and “arguments” am I ignoring? Surely you can meet the burden of proof for the positive claim you just made, right?”

Hey remember that time where I demolished you, and instead of facing up to it you said “I’ll get to that when I have time.” Then ran to a different thread, where you apparently have time to whine about how I’m not presenting evidence.

That was funny.

It’s also evidence of you running away from evidence and arguments to complain about evidence and arguments.

Any further evading you want to do?

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I know! I know! Cl will answer “YES”, even if it is in the form of an evasion.

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cl September 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Why are people bringing up accusations relating to other threads and not saying anything about the morality issues which this post and thread cover? That seems out of place. Nonetheless…

Hermes,

So, no evidence for your claim that I dodge? In the event you’re not a conscious troll, think about it: the one waging the word war is you. You follow me around like a kicked puppy, always taking jabs and never engaging on any relevant topic matter. Doesn’t that bother you at all?

Kaelik,

Hey remember that time where I demolished you,

No, actually I don’t. Refresh my memory, if you can. As I told the Son of Zeus, I do a lot of commenting here. You might be assuming I’m afraid of you when in fact, sometimes I simply forget about certain threads, or lose interest when I believe my opponent is beyond reproach. Although I haven’t updated it in a few months, on my own blog, I keep an index of every thread I make substantial comments on here at CSA. That might help you cut down your search time.

Although, your choice of words is revealing: apparently you perceive these engagements as conflicts, where one person “dominates” the other. I find that approach to be juvenile and unproductive to philosophy. Such approaches often stem from a frail ego that needs reassurance and avoids concession of error at all costs. That may or may not be you.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Cl, it’s not worth it to me to get into your war games. I’m now content to comment from the sidelines and am nonpulsed by your comments to me. The drink is still on offer if I see a substantial and sustained behavioral change. Hopefully, one day, you will come around, though I am a realist.

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Kaelik September 5, 2010 at 5:19 pm

No, actually I don’t. Refresh my memory, if you can. As I told the Son of Zeus, I do a lot of commenting here.

It was yesterday you spineless coward. I notice yesterday you were too busy to get around to it, and in your eight comments since, you still haven’t managed to get around to having the time to type “I was completely wrong, ‘No Creationist bases their belief on sound reasoning.’ is an accurate statement of all creationists.”

Because you are a spineless coward who runs away when you get called on your bullshit.

Although, your choice of words is revealing: apparently you perceive these engagements as conflicts, where one person “dominates” the other. I find that approach to be juvenile and unproductive to philosophy. Such approaches often stem from a frail ego that needs reassurance and avoids concession of error at all costs. That may or may not be you.

I like how you first accuse me of a bunch of bullshit, then pretend to hide behind “this may or may not be you” after you are done with your attempted character assassination.

My language can’t be revealing if the thing it reveals is false, so either man up and be clear about your insults, or don’t spout a bunch of trash character assassination in the first place and try to coward your way out of it.

I use domination because all I did was call you on your grossly false insults, and follow that up with a simple argument from definitions that forces you into saying one of two things which you are so afraid of you ran away to hide. It wasn’t a big deal to me, it’s just funny that you would demand evidence and argument so soon after running away as soon as it showed up.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Cl: “apparently you perceive these engagements as conflicts”

From someone who runs a blog that emphases mental warfare. Absolutely shameless!

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cl September 5, 2010 at 9:34 pm

You folks are turning Luke’s blog into your own personal battlefield, and I don’t see how that could be good for anybody.

Hermes,

Cl, it’s not worth it to me to get into your war games.

Yet, you show up to badger me on nearly every single thread I comment on, to the near-exclusion of any comments pertinent to the OP. For example, this thread. You’re just here to wage a personal war. You do the same thing, every single time. Are you trolling?

From someone who runs a blog that emphases mental warfare.

Read whatever you want through your rose-colored glasses. The intended meaning is that in the search for truth, there is a war on for our minds – and indeed there is.

But let’s cut to the chase: do you have anything pertinent to add to this thread?

Kaelik,

It was yesterday you spineless coward.

Does it make you feel good to puff your chest and dominate?

Nonetheless, now I know what you’re talking about. Which post was that on? Actually, nevermind, I’ll do the work for you and find it myself. Though, all you had to say was, “Hey cl can you get to my comment that you said you’d get to?” Like I said, I do a lot of commenting here, and since so many of y’all smarty-pants atheists feel the need to quip up, and I feel obliged to answer all who ask, it’s hard to keep track of everything. Also, I tend to give priority to commenters with tact and respect. In the thread you allude to, I recall that being MichaelPJ [for the most part].

I notice yesterday you were too busy to get around to it, and in your eight comments since, you still haven’t managed to get around to having the time to type “I was completely wrong, ‘No Creationist bases their belief on sound reasoning.’ is an accurate statement of all creationists.”

That’s because I’m not wrong at all. Luke, Fyfe, yourself, and all the others who spout anti-creationist bigotry are in the wrong here.

I like how you first accuse me of a bunch of bullshit, then pretend to hide behind “this may or may not be you” after you are done with your attempted character assassination.

I didn’t accuse you of anything, don’t be so sensitive! I simply noted that you used the phrase “dominated you” like this is some sort of UFC match or something. I then explained a mental state that such choice of words is often associated with. There’s no character assassination at all; you’re probably as decent a person as anyone else on here. When it comes to your debate strategy, however, well… it speaks for itself.

Anyways, unless you have something to say that actually relates to this post, can we agree to put this personal quibble of yours to rest, and pick back up on the other thread? I’ll gladly address the comments you accuse me of being a coward and avoiding.

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Hermes September 6, 2010 at 4:40 am

[ unread, uninterested ]

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Adito September 6, 2010 at 8:40 am

cl, you said “Until recently, there was no reason to think the universe was expanding, either, so I’m unsure exactly what you think that fact proves.”

And until we found evidence that the universe was expanding it was foolish to believe it was. In the exact same way it’s now foolish to believe in intrinsic values from that land of aughts until we have some evidence.

“..Suspecting that he may be arguing from Western conditioning which tells us that middle-aged men getting it on with teen boys is intrinsically wrong,…”

Desirism is very clear on what would make this situation wrong. This is why I suspect you do not really understand the theory. If the boy’s desires are being thwarted by the older man’s then it is wrong. If you mean to imply from this that a mutually loving relationship is impossible between a teenager and an older man then I believe both Alonzo and I would simply say that you’re wrong. A mutually loving relationship that benefits both parties without causing either any damage can appear in many different forms and your personal opinions on what is right or wrong about it don’t matter.

“Please, don’t be like Luke: actually demonstrate my misunderstanding instead of merely asserting it, such that all might gain.”

1. You claim desirism doesn’t have an answer for what makes pederasty wrong. It is in fact clear on what would make this kind of relationship wrong.

2. You claim that “Since desirism rejects intrinsic value, then there is nothing we can point to that would justify prescribing one desire / behavior over another.” This demonstrates a complete inability to move beyond intrinsic value to considering what reasons for action might exist in statements we commonly call descriptive. Alonzo clearly demonstrates how you might go from description to prescription. You’ll have to demonstrate that you understand what Alonzo’s getting at with foundational concepts like these before I can say you understand the theory. That you go on to say “The best we can do is to say something like, “X would tend to fulfill other desires,” but so what?” simply demonstrates further ignorance of the theory.

3. This is really more of an aside but if Luke is telling you that you don’t understand then it’s very likely that you don’t understand. He’s demonstrated over and over that he has no problem with facing difficult objections even if it’s to say “I don’t know.”

Until you can show that you understand desirism I don’t see the point in continuing this conversation. If you have any more questions/objections then I suggest you visit this page

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=776

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cl September 7, 2010 at 2:40 am

Desirism is very clear on what would make this situation wrong. This is why I suspect you do not really understand the theory. If the boy’s desires are being thwarted by the older man’s then it is wrong.

Yeah, but guess what? The boy’s desires weren’t typically thwarted in the traditional Greek arrangement. This is why I suspect you do not really understand the objection.

A mutually loving relationship that benefits both parties without causing either any damage can appear in many different forms and your personal opinions on what is right or wrong about it don’t matter.

That’s precisely what I’m arguing. That’s why I asked Alonzo why he claims the Greeks were “probably wrong,” because pederasty in Greek society was a mutually loving relationship, not the “desire-thwarting” one you misconstrued it to be:

Those who are inspired by this love turn to the male, and delight in him who is the more valiant and intelligent nature; any one may recognise the pure enthusiasts in the very character of their attachments. For they love not boys, but intelligent beings whose reason is beginning to be developed, much about the time at which their beards begin to grow. And in choosing young men to be their companions, they mean to be faithful to them, and pass their whole life in company with them, not to take them in their inexperience, and deceive them, and play the fool with them, or run away from one to another of them. [Plato's Symposium]

Alonzo says that’s “probably wrong.” You’re arguing my point here. Think about it.

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