News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 5, 2011 in News

New Less Wrong post: Pluralistic Moral Reductionism. (Along with Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory, this is my central post on metaethics.)

Ivory Tower Metaphysics lists its 11 favorite posts on Common Sense Atheism.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Adito June 6, 2011 at 10:47 am

Craig vs TheoreticalBullshit (youtube atheist) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRn-mVPIl60&feature=channel_video_title

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Dudest June 6, 2011 at 11:41 am

Yo, what happened with your Mini Rationality Camp? Any write ups?

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Garren June 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm

That was interesting, Adito.

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Luke Muehlhauser June 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Dudest,

It was pretty awesome.

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MarkD June 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm
Martin June 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Craig posted a response to the latest on TheoreticalBullshit. I won’t post the link because it changes when it gets archived. It’s the current one as of this writing, or question 216 if its archived.

My short reaction: I despair that there is any hope in ever curing Dunning-Kruger syndrome.

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Adito June 7, 2011 at 11:22 pm

I’m not sure that this is what TBS intended but here were my thoughts as I watched his video.

1. Specific physical forms comes into existence at specific points in time

2. Specific physical forms are caused by previously existing physical things to take their form at Tx

3. These previously existing physical things take their form from further physical things at T(x-1)

This regression continues and it is the sum of our possible knowledge about causality. The Kalam uses intuitions generated by our observing this process to say that “all that begins to exist has a cause.” As the above points out, this is misleading. These things beginning to exist are wholly dependent on things that already exist AND these already existing things have the same sort of causal ontology that the beginning-to-exist thing has. We have no knowledge or relevant intuitions about things that do not have this sort of causal ontology and these are exactly the sort of thing the Kalam demands we have knowledge or intuitions about.

I wouldn’t say that all causes are physical though. Instead I’d just say that we have no knowledge about what might have started the universe or whether the universe is the sort of thing that needs something else to start it. What possible source of knowledge could we have on such things?

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Martin June 8, 2011 at 10:14 am

We have no knowledge or relevant intuitions about things that do not have this sort of causal ontology and these are exactly the sort of thing the Kalam demands we have knowledge or intuitions about.

But Kalam is based on Ex Nihilo, Nihilo Fit, a basic metaphysical principle.

And quite honestly, I agree that this is a bad objection. It is basically saying: “Well, we have no experience of things being created ex nihilo, so if something was created ex nihilo, then maybe it doesn’t need a cause.”

???

If something was created ex nihilo, then maybe it doesn’t need a cause?! I say it needs a cause all the more! I completely agree with Craig that this is silly and just exposes the opponent as someone who is working backwards from their a priori conclusion that God doesn’t exist.

I think a much better objection is to dispute that the universe began to exist in the first place. Aquinas didn’t think it could be proven that the universe began to exist. And from cosmology there is some contention about what exactly the singularity means. I think that all that’s needed to defeat Kalam is to point out that its second premise is contentious and not clearly true. Without true premises the argument fails.

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Adito June 8, 2011 at 11:40 am

If something was created ex nihilo, then maybe it doesn’t need a cause?! I say it needs a cause all the more!

I’m not saying something was created ex nihilo. Eventually our regression of causes is going to terminate in a fact (or set of facts) that simply are and there will be nothing more to be said about them. For theists this basic fact is God but there’s no possible answer for questions like “why is reality such that creative God’s are fundamental?” It makes much more sense to me to not even bother asking questions about what fundamental facts reality consists of. I don’t see what source of information we have about it. This approach does not assume apriori that no god exists and it does nothing to favor an ultimate physical explanation from a merely efficient one (whatever that might mean). In my opinion, it just draws a reasonable boundary on human knowledge.

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Reginald Selkirk June 8, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Massimo Pigliucci says he has debated William Lane Craig twice.

Pigliucci: I think it is fair to say that the first debate (on the existence of god) was a draw (it was my very first). During the second (on the existence of the Christian god) I wiped the floor with Craig’s ass, repeatedly.

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Rondawg June 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm

If “from nothing nothing comes” is a basic metaphysical principle, it cannot be violated by any being. How can a potential will exerter exert his/her will upon the absence of stuff and get stuff if that principle is true? Theists cannot have it both ways. They cannot say something like, “From nothing, nothing comes except for when my beliefs call for it.” In other words, if it is not possible for the absence of stuff to become stuff, how does that change just because a potential will exerter wishes it? Am I missing something?

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Yair June 10, 2011 at 1:58 am

I liked your metaethical post, Luke. A lot. It makes me hopeful that you’ll one day escape from the clutches of desirism.

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Garren June 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Looking forward to a discussion of Pluralistic Moral Reductionism with this crowd.

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Luke Muehlhauser June 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Yair,

For the record, desirism (as I see it) fits within pluralistic moral reductionism. Desirism is one particular reduction of moral terms – perhaps an unusually useful one, but only one of many.

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Yair June 11, 2011 at 10:19 am

Luke,

As I understand it, desirism is not substantially different from following the Will of God, in regards to how “useful” it is. In both cases you construct an artificial Will (set of desires) that doesn’t really exist as-such (and it doesn’t matter that desirism’s desires all exist – the specific set it extols doesn’t exist as the will of an individual), and seek out to fulfill it. That’s not “useful”. So either I’m misunderstaing desirism (quite possible; you never did explain it to my – and other’s satisfaction, and the series that tries to hasn’t reached that point), and I’ll find out that it is useful – or you hopefully will, by following the chain of logic of your aforementioned post, discover that it isn’t useful after all. Just like virtually any other reduction ever attempted.

Yair

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