News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 23, 2009 in News

My third letter to Mark van Steenwyk is here.

Vox’s 4th letter to me is here.

Miracle Muslim baby.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

chub October 23, 2009 at 7:38 am

Have been watching the exhange and have to say that I am curious why you tried to engage someone like Vox in a friendly dialogue.

Reading the comment section on his latest response, he apparently considers himself a “cruelty artist.” I think that sums him up nicely, and it also sums up why this back and forth between the two of you is probably not worth the effort.

You have an interesting site, your time could definitely be better spent.

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Reginald Selkirk October 23, 2009 at 8:51 am

Miracle Muslim baby.

See the comments here for links pertaining to dermatographia.

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ayer October 23, 2009 at 9:52 am

lukeprog to Mark: “That’s why theologians and philosophers envy scientists and try to borrow their methods as much as possible into their own practices.”

That statement is simply absurd. And the entire letter’s naive scientism (see http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/books/review/19wieseltier.html?ex=1141880400&en=ea271e1339f7423d&ei=5070)

reads like it written in the 19th century (or maybe by Dennett or Dawkins, throwbacks to that era of scientistic faith).

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WillieG October 23, 2009 at 9:53 am

I just wanted to say that I began reading this exchange in earnest thinking that it would be a discussion of substance that would be beneficial both to my knowledge base and personal search for truth.

Having said that I must say that I am truly disappointed in both of you. You both obviously possess knowledge and the intellect necessary to formulate clear and cogent arguments. However, the constant sniping, name-calling and condescending insults and innuendo leaves me uninterested in digging through the clamour to find whatever nugget of useful information may be hidden there.

I had high hopes, but alas they have been shattered. Good day to you both.

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 9:53 am

I was wondering if Vox was going to call your bluff on the insults, and I see that he did so. It would be interesting to see if you can provide a single example of an insult, but since you might not want to pursue that tangent in your next letter, perhaps you, or any of the regular readers here, could just provide an example in these comments.

I thought that Vox’s argument against this desirism concept was a little ham-handed, because he longed to play gotcha on the Nazi racism example.

But the main problem I have with your moral system as I have seen you explain it is that there is no apparent way to calculate a proper balance of desires, to see how to answer any moral conundrum. Perhaps I’ll go check your FAQ to see if you handle this objection there…

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Lee A. P. October 23, 2009 at 10:15 am

As I wrote in the comments section of the post about the 4th letter, Vox seems to me to be the typical type of extreme, paranoid, fundamentalist supernaturalist that I grew up around in middle TN.

Everyone and everything is either a part of Jesus’ plan or it is Satanic. Demons are everywhere and they are engaged with angels in supernatural, invisible wrestling matches for our souls.

The entire world is Satanic except for the stuff Yaweah is pleased with and the stuff that has to do with Jesus. Virtually everything of this Earth is a disctraction that keeps us from glorifying God. Even his beloved NFL is ultimately a Satanic distraction to keep people away from churches on Sundays and to keep peoples attentions towards games rather than on God. I guess his enjoyment of the NFL is a chink in his faith armour.

Movies, TV, sports, non christian music, non christian art, all other religions, all philosophies — Satanic, Satanic, Satanic.

The influence of Satan and evil is all encompassing. Good thing Vox is on the right time.

I think you misunderstand just how pathetic and credulous this mans world view is. Thats why he is so confident. Its a wrap. Supernaturalism exists and he is on teamo supremo. He doesn’t care about reason. reason. Reason is satanic. You, Luke are a crypto Satanist.

Vox is a loon. Vox’s daddy is a loon too (google him).

The only thing we have left to do Luke, is to call upon all powers of the dark, all the evil demon monsters that we apparently are in cahoots with an have them wage warfare with Vox and cause him great physical and psychological harm. I saw we do this on Halloween when our dark lords power is at his peak.

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 10:26 am

Yeah, I don’t really see that your faq covers this objection. You provide some examples of how desirism comes up with the common sense answer to moral dilemmas, but it seems that you are just fitting the explanation to the desired (no pun intended) result.

The number of conflicting and interconnected desires in a single person’s head is difficult enough to assess and prioritize… the idea of doing this calculation for all parties affected by any given moral decision is nonsensical. And the idea that you, me, or anyone is capable of coming up with a legitimate assessment of the “objective” standard that should apply to everyone is bizarre, to say the least.

What am I missing, Luke?

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dbassett October 23, 2009 at 10:29 am

I think Vox needs to add the word “bloviate” to his cumbersome vocabulary.

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 10:31 am

Lee, A. P., I take it that was not a response to my request to provide an example of Vox using insults in his 3rd letter…

But it is a good example of using many insults to say pretty much nothing substantive about the discussion. Why not call Luke here a “daft dork” for even bothering to engage in a discussion with Vox the loon? You didn’t actually insult Luke directly, but it is implied. Was that the purpose of your comment?

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Chuck October 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

That desirism may be difficult to understand or apply has no bearing on whether or not it is true.

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 11:00 am

Hi Chuck,

I’m not quite sure what to think about your answer. I’m not sure that an ethical system can be “true” or “false”. We’re not talking about number theory here.

We’re talking about a system by which an individual can make judgments about what she ought to do. And perhaps we are talking about a system that should inform our legal system, which I hope we can all agree should be created and maintained by the legislators and duly elected or appointed judges and executives.

It isn’t about truth; it is about efficacy. And I submit for your consideration that desirism entirely fails to be efficacious.

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Scott Scheule October 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I wonder if the most productive course is not to simply identify the insults, defend one’s self a bit, and pass on to other topics, but simply to ignore them altogether. Neither Vox’s continual denial of what others call insults, nor Luke’s snarky rejoinders — e.g., “one of our sides presented evidence and the other did not” — is relevant to the topic or interesting. It’s merely waving a red cape in front of the other’s eyes.

Of course, were I involved in the discussion, I can’t say I would be any better behaved.

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Hi Scott. I’ll repeat my question: what insults?

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Penneyworth October 23, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Vox appears to be correct about the knob-turning. Since you would not engage me on this issue with any rigor, perhaps you will engage vox.

Also, vox brought up the totalitarian implication of desirism which I tried to bring up with the idea of the desirism-enforcing machine. Perhaps now you will deal with this as well.

It pains me to agree with a narcissist like vox, but when it comes to morality, you two are in the same boat in the following sense: you both project what you feel is moral onto your respective moral theories of choice, and after the fact, you do mental acrobatics to try to show that your theory has provided the correct answer to some moral problem.

The theist thinks “Oughts” are substantiated largely by “cuz gawd sed so.” Do you accept oughts because desirism derives them? I doubt it, because if desirism ever showed that you ought to do something terrible, you would abandon it for not yielding the correct moral result. How did you know it was incorrect? Your feelings. Moral statements are simply expressions of a person’s feelings. Oughts are simply expressions of a person’s perception of probable consequences.

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Chuck October 23, 2009 at 1:10 pm

thimscool:

Desirism can be expressed in the form of a logical argument. If this argument is both valid and sound, then it also must be true.

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Beelzebub October 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Desirism can be expressed in the form of a logical argument. If this argument is both valid and sound, then it also must be true.

Your answer to “the intrinsic calculation problem” is in the spirit of what I tried to state on Vox’s blog (before getting deleted, of course). I don’t endorse desirism yet since I haven’t thought about it enough, but the pragmatics of bringing it into action have as much pertinence as does knowing perfectly the will of God has to practicing Christian morality. Somehow they seem to get along quite well with a finite collection of prescriptions and proscriptions tallied in a book. To claim that it encompasses the entirety of the will of God, their morality, would be startling. A general consensus on the basic desires of human beings would be at least as pragmatic as drawing commandments out of a hat — I mean a book.

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Beelzebub October 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm

My other, more amusing, deleted observation was that I finally resolved the nagging sense of familiarity I had with the self appellation “cruelty artist,” but I can’t make up my mind who plays it better, Vox Day, Heath Ledger, or Jack Nicholson.

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lukeprog October 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

thimscool,

Can you state your objection in one sentence? Then I will add it to the FAQ.

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 5:26 pm

I can try, Luke. How about this:

Given the virtually infinite complexity and interconnectedness of human desires (and their consequences when acted upon), how can one unambigously ascertain what desirism would proscribe for any practical ethical conundrum?

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Chuck, please link to where Desirism can be expressed in the form of a logical argument.

Is it an axiom that desires are the only causes of action?

Because reflexes and instincts can both cause actions of great consequence and neither is related to desires of the individual organism. (But perhaps desires of their genes… does that count?)

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 5:53 pm

If you want to rule out instincts and reflexes because they cannot be part of a moral calculus (which requires agency), then you are on a slippery slope because we do not really understand how such agency emerges from the irreducible complexity of the the mechanism that makes our minds. What you call an ethical decision, could just be the abstraction of your primate neural programming, and does not necessarily depend on agency or careful consideration.

As an example, let’s say that your best friend’s hot girlfriend wants to get it on, and you have every reason to believe that the tryst would remain secret. Should you “jump on” the opportunity, since we’re talking about two consenting adults? Or should you take the better part of valor? Well, if you make the first choice, how much did your horn-dog instincts play a role in that decision? And if you make the second choice, how much did your beta-dog instincts play into the decision? In either case, did you sit down over a scotch and smoke to think it through, and apply desirism and “what if” modeling to guide your decision? Probably not.

So don’t dismiss instinct or reflex cavalierly when constructing a moral system. And note that these factors undermine what I presume is an axiom of your chosen system.

Am I wrong?

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Lee A. P. October 23, 2009 at 6:26 pm

A full account of morals is irrelevant to the case here which is naturalism vs. supernaturalism (aka magic). Luke, even if he were to come up with a full account of morals, would be the FIRST person in world HISTORY to do so–theist or non-theist.

Vox must show that evil invisible hidden monsters under the rule of Satan, the supreme daddy of invisible monsters, actually exists. This exchange is exceedingly simple. One guy accounts for shit that is proven to exist and another guy insists that invisible, hidden, supernatural entities actually rule everything behind the scenes. Including, possibly, Adrian Petersons per carry average as well as his bowel movements.

One person is a pathetic superstitious moron — a person with mental health issues probably geneticaly inherited from a daddy with mental health issues (Google, Vox Day’s dad) and the other guy is a young man attempting to account for reality, doing the best he can.

Perhaps Luke acted in a niave manner in dialouging with Vox (God that sounds so silly and to say and tpye time and again. Vox?). It all hinges on what he hoped to accomplish by the whole thing.

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Chuck October 23, 2009 at 6:30 pm

The statement, “Desires are the only reasons for action that exist,” isn’t an assumption. It’s an empirical claim.

As far as I know, Desirism has never been written down in the form of an explicit argument (a list of numbered propositions and conclusions). That doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

For a primer on Desirism, a.k.a. Desire Utilitarianism, see Alonzo Fyfe’s book, A Better Place: Essays on Desire Utilitarianism.

As for reflexes and instincts, I don’t see how they are reasons for action. If you disagree, please explain.

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 6:53 pm

OK Chuck. First you said that desirism can be written as a logical argument, in answer to my objection that ethical systems are not true/false, but rather about coming to an agreeable, repeatable conclusion about what ought to be done.

Then you say that you are not aware that it has actually been written that way, but “that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.” This is what we call a naked assertion. If you or anyone else here (Beelzebub?) can lend more credibility to your statement, I’d be interested to hear it. Until then, I’ll continue to go about my business of thinking that truth and proof is best left to mathematicians, and everyone else is just evaluating and estimating.

Next you state the you can’t see how reflexes or instincts are a reason for action. How many men have been shot in the heat of the moment when all the shooter did was to act on instinct or reflex? After wards, they may feel great remorse and truthfully state that they did not desire to harm the victim, but nevertheless, they acted, with grave consequences.

Another example: a deer runs out in front of your car while you are driving down the highway. Purely based on reflexes, you swerve and slam on the breaks. Your car plows over a nun, in her wheelchair, who was inexplicably feeding deer by the side of the highway. Have you behaved immorally? Probably not, but you certainly acted without desire.

So if the idea is that moral actions are only caused by desire, I guess that is more defensible. But it still suffers from the slippery slope problem I mentioned above when you declined to nail your best friends girlfriend due to insufficient serotonin in your primate brain.

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lukeprog October 23, 2009 at 7:01 pm

thimscool,

I have added a space in my desirism FAQ for presenting desirism as a logical argument. I will do it when I have time.

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thimscool October 23, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Luke, I must compliment you on your open minded and documentary approach to your philosophy. This site is most excellent.

I can’t say that I agree with you about what I have read here, but I can say that I admire your spirit and I think you’re destined to do great works. Keep it shining, brother.

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Hermes October 23, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Chub, interesting. Almost every link is something slimy;

http://www.google.com/search?q=“cruelty+artist”+“vox+day”

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Beelzebub October 24, 2009 at 12:22 am


I had high hopes, but alas they have been shattered. Good day to you both.

WillieG, you’re being a little too hard on Luke. Having an enlightening conversation with the execrable Vox Day is like having a shit fight with a monkey and coming out clean. It’s really not possible, and the conversation was probably doomed from the start. It’s especially frustrating when you consider that lowering the dialog to a string of insults is really what VD wants and wanted from the beginning. That is his natural element. My advice to Luke is to simply end the charade before any more time is wasted. He gave it the old college try.

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Silas October 24, 2009 at 1:00 am

I think the problem with desirism is that desires don’t exist.

What exactly is a desire when you look at it in the brain?

I think the brain is physical. Electrons in the brain will flow to positively charged areas, all according to the laws of physics. ALL molecules and atoms in the brain rearrange themselves according to the laws of physics.

Let’s look at a murderer’s desire to murder. How does it look when you look at the brain? The chemical processes in the murderer’s brain will go on, as always. The chemical processes will somethimes result in him murdering someone.

How could he have desired differently? If he had desired differently, then that would have been a product of his brain’s chemistry being different – nothing that he can change. He can’t just desire for his brain to break the laws of physics.

Are desires neural pathways that the electrons are more prone to travel through, or is it the feeling of “This thing I’m thinking about now would be fun doing”?

I don’t “desire” to move my fingers when I type this. Somewhere in my brain there has been an inbalance of some sort which has resulted in the sending of electrical impulses to my finger muscles. It just happened. There was no “desire” floating around in my brain that discharged itself at my will.

When you look at it this way, Alonzo’s “praise and condemnation”-thing becomes bizzare. How does Alonzo know what set of behaviours changes the brain chemistry of another person best? Has he calculated that when you praise someone, that input will result in the brain being more prone to the moral choices?

So what happens when someone gets raped? The brain chemistry changes. NOTHING in the brain gets “thwarted”. All the atoms and molecules and electrons are there. Energy doesn’t disappear.

What happens when someone sees a flower? The brain chemistry changes. The laws of physics act on the brain. There is no center for desires in the brain that gets fulfilled or thwarted in the brain.

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Silas October 24, 2009 at 1:19 am

Physics is the only reason for action that exists.
All “physics” change all “physics”.
No physics can be fulfilled or thwarted.
Physics just is.

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Beelzebub October 24, 2009 at 3:08 am

Silas, that is a reductionist view that I think has very limited practical value. Even strict materialists can accept that higher level phenomenon are so abstracted from base physical principles that they are essentially divorced from them. It is like saying that the full spectrum of modern day computer and network technology is based only on electronics and cannot transcend it. While strictly true, it is a conceptualization so primitive as to be useless. This is the same mistake theists make when they attempt to pin the charge that murder should be no more significant than a rearrangement of atoms to the materialist. While true in an absolute sense, the statement commits such a category error that stating it becomes self-refuting.

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one more clay figurine October 24, 2009 at 3:25 am

But Beelzebub, surely you are postulating something that can’t be scientifically proven. It is outside the realm of science.

The problem is that you are trying, as Dawkins says, to have your cake and eat it. If we are to begin to use other fields of knowledge besides science to affirm the existence of things, then God is still up for grabs. The desiristic atheist is relying on the existence of something outside of science for a moral basis, while at the same time saying that God is an impossibility due to lack of scientific evidence.

Once you start taking into account that there are other ways of knowing besides science, postulating that there are things other than the physical world, God gradually becomes a possibility again.

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Reginald Selkirk October 24, 2009 at 5:11 am

Does Vox Day think he is going to heaven? Will God surround himself for all of eternity with cruelty artists?

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Evan October 24, 2009 at 7:29 am

List of insults in Vox’s 3rd letter, as requested by thimschool:

1. “The mere existence of Rule #10 shows how your attempt to turn a discussion about Christianity into one about evolution and/or Creationism is tiresomely predictable in addition to being exactly the pointless sort of thing that this discourse was proposed to avoid.”

INSULT: Luke is tiresome and pointless.

2. ” … you had no idea what I was talking about.”

INSULT: Luke is ignorant.

3. “I had assumed you were merely ignorant about Christian theology, but if you are not being disingenuous in asserting your failure to understand something as simple as C.S. Lewis’s metaphorical explication of it in the form of science fiction for children, then it will be very difficult for me or anyone else who did understand the metaphor to draw anything other than the obvious conclusion”

INSULT: Luke’s failure to understand the deep import of children’s fiction is ignorant.

4. “I can certainly feel some sympathy regarding your frustration at my claim that you have misunderstood what I have written at almost every turn, but in this particular case, it doesn’t change the fact that you have clearly failed to understand what I wrote. More importantly, it doesn’t change the fact that most of the people reading our letters had no trouble understanding what you did not.”

INSULT: Luke is more ignorant than the cruelty artist’s readers are.

5. “Granted, it is not my custom to explain what I consider to be the obvious.”

INSULT: Luke is unable to function at a level capable of comprehending the obvious; condescension oozing from VD here.

6. “Most of my regular readers are intelligent enough to draw logical conclusions and refusing to spell out the obvious serves as a surprisingly effective means of weeding out the less intelligent critics whose specious and petty critiques are of no interest or benefit to me.”

INSULT: Luke is less intelligent.

7. “Contrary to your fallacious claim to be “too familiar with Christian theology – or rather, Christian theologies”, you demonstrated your ignorance of not only conventional Christian theology, but philosophy in general, when you claimed that you could not possibly have predicted that I would hold the view that God’s goodness is arbitrary. In fact, it is apparent that your level of knowledge does not even rise to the level of Wikipedia …”

INSULT: Vox is generally ignorant.

8. “The problem, rather, is that you simply don’t know a damn thing about them. You may not think I can charge you with ignorance of Christian theology, but given your confirmed failure to understand my predominantly orthodox beliefs as well as mainstream Narnia-level theology, it is perfectly clear that I or anyone else can not only charge you with it, but convict you.”

OK … I’m done. You get the point by now I hope.

I find it hilarious that VD spends so much time chiding Luke for his ignorance, yet his proof texts for the demonic control of the earth are fantasy fiction and football games and a clearly mythical gospel story. Is there nothing from mainstream theologians or the Bible to support this?

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lukeprog October 24, 2009 at 8:20 am

Evan,

Thus far, Vox Day has merely been trying to explain what his views ARE, not why he believes they are warranted.

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thimscool October 24, 2009 at 11:42 am

You know, Evan, I can certainly see that Vox’s tone was a bit caustic, but none of those things you mentioned is actually an insult.

Vox actually noted that he was disappointed by Luke’s tone in his third letter, which provoked his response. He was challenged on this point by a reader named Leon in one of his comment threads. Here is how he responded:

~~~
>> Leon 79: 10/16/09 12:03 PM: Please provide citations for the allegedly negative, condescending, or rude tone?

VD: Of course.

Luke: You repeat many common distortions.

VD: A false and negative assertion. He didn’t have the foggiest idea what I was talking about, as he even admitted in part.

Luke: Well I have investigated the matter, and have found your statements about evolution to be thoroughly discredited.

VD: A blatantly false and negative assertion. Especially given his admission on the third point. “I have no idea what you’re talking about here.” Actually, he had no idea what I was talking about on any of the three points and his claim to have investigated the matter is provably false.

Luke: I know you consider evolution a tangent, but I can’t let you get away with all that, especially considering your conclusion.

VD: Oh, he can’t? As I mentioned in my second letter, it’s not up to him. Keep in mind, this is related to the irrelevant tangent that he brought up in the first place.

Luke: You write as if Christianity is the only worldview that has an account of evil, but this is absurd.

VD: A false assertion demonstrating his reading incomprehension. And obviously, if it is rude for me to describe his statements as incorrect or ignorant, it is just as rude for him to describe mine as absurd. Especially when I haven’t made them.

Luke: But perhaps you’d like to figure out for yourself how your beliefs can be justified.

VD: And there’s your passive-aggressive condescension. Do you think he really believes I haven’t ever thought about my beliefs, especially considering that I wasn’t even a Christian until I was several years older than he is now?

VD: Now, Leon, do you agree that the tone was negative and condescending? And if not, why not?

~~~

Leon agreed.

Note however that Vox did not accuse Luke of insulting him. If he used your method of analysis, he would have said that Luke was calling him absurd in the fourth point down, for example. Instead he simply noted the tone was unpleasant, and I would agree that he responded in kind, and perhaps even escalated.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, none of these were actually insults by either Vox or Luke.

Do you disagree?

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drj October 24, 2009 at 12:07 pm

You know, Evan, I can certainly see that Vox’s tone was a bit caustic, but none of those things you mentioned is actually an insult.

I can’t believe how much energy has been spent in these repeated, back-and-forth, blow-by-blow recounts of insults and accusations (you’re not the first one). What a useless (and boring) topic of discussion.

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thimscool October 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm

How insulting, drj!

I tend to agree, however I did find it interesting that Luke offered to begin this discussion and made it clear that he wanted to avoid the vitriol all too common to internet discussions between atheists and theists.

The point I am trying to make is to congratulate both Luke and Vox for keeping to that pledge, for the most part. I don’t really see any insults, but more the type of back and forth that is often necessary for opposing views to be properly heard and expressed.

I have certainly seen many insults hurled by commentators, but I think that the participants are to be commended for avoiding the lowest common denominator on display here or at Vox’s blog.

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thimscool October 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm

On the other hand, I do think that the conversation has been a bit blustery, and I was relieved to see that Vox’s latest letter is starting to cut some wood.

While I find the conversation about Desirism to be an interesting tangent, the issue is that Luke does indeed believe in evil, and presumably understands that everyone is susceptible to becoming ensnared by evil, which in his understanding would be a deliberate thwarting of good desires.

So leaving aside the tangent of whether desirism could justify totalitarianism, the relevant issue is why does Vox believe that the existence of evil, and its form, justify Christian belief, assuming that there is a God. The issue at hand is, given theism, why Christianity?

Personally, I am fascinated by that issue and I was delighted when I saw that was how Luke opened the discussion in the first place. So I am hopeful that Luke will ask Vox some pointed questions to flesh out the concept (so that Vox can start answering and stop posturing).

I will note that CS Lewis was not chosen by Vox at random, but because he progressed from theism to Christianity and famously wrote about the experience. It is precisely relevant to the question posed by Luke in his first letter.

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Evan October 24, 2009 at 2:13 pm

One thing you can be sure of. CS Lewis was not present at the founding of Christianity. If Vox is as scholarly as he presents himself to be, he should be able to justify his position with primary source documents, subject to modern criticism. He should not use fairy tales as primary sources.

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Beelzebub October 24, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Clay Figurine,

Once you start taking into account that there are other ways of knowing besides science, postulating that there are things other than the physical world, God gradually becomes a possibility again.

I don’t really need to postulate anything beyond materialism unless you believe things like thought and emotion are non-material beyond the function of neurons. My single claim is that appreciating the works of Shakespeare are not best pursued through neurochemistry, though it is reasonable to believe that is the base of the material pyramid (and actually atoms and molecules are below it).

Let’s take the familiar theist charge that life without God is meaningless because that would mean we’re all just collections of atoms. Category error, pure and simple. Physicists don’t speak of the “meaning” (in the psychological sense) of two particles colliding. Why should we take the theist casuistry with any more seriousness? If you want to speak of meaning, you must insert it at the proper level of abstraction, which is way above atoms.

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Hylomorphic October 24, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Let’s take the familiar theist charge that life without God is meaningless because that would mean we’re all just collections of atoms. Category error, pure and simple. Physicists don’t speak of the “meaning” (in the psychological sense) of two particles colliding. Why should we take the theist casuistry with any more seriousness? If you want to speak of meaning, you must insert it at the proper level of abstraction, which is way above atoms.

I would not call it a category error. Looks more to me like the fallacy of composition–that is,because meaning cannot be found in individual atoms and molecules, it therefore cannot be found in any groups of atoms and molecules. Which is a fallacious argument, if some buttress can’t be found. (Which I think might be possible.)

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Beelzebub October 24, 2009 at 6:56 pm

You may be correct in ascribing it that error, but either way the argument as it stands is a logical fallacy, and it’s one that can be found very frequently. The irony is, it’s often used to demonstrate the inherent illogic in atheist optimism in the face of godlessness. I’m open to hearing whatever buttress you can come up with. However, unless it has the power to convince an atheist that she does not, in fact, find meaning in a painting when she insists that she does, I don’t think it’s going to be very convincing.

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one more clay figurine October 24, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Your atheist is deluded; pure and simple. The entirety of aesthetics is based on magic anyway; subjective experience, very very unscientific. It’s almost as silly as theology!

Of course, your atheist might moan and plead and insist she finds all these fascinating and wonderful experiences and meanings in the painting. But unfortunately, she can’t face the facts that her ideas, went sent to the laboratory, call up negative.

I wish this atheist the best of luck, however. I, on the other hand, wish to rid the world of such willy-nilly new-age junk, and I hope that, in the next two thousand years, we can move on as a species.

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Beelzebub October 24, 2009 at 11:14 pm

I’m not sure what you intend to move on to, a species that doesn’t find meaning in art? Sounds more like you yearn for collective brain damage. There’s nothing silly about subjective experience, and the reason it is perhaps as yet unscientific is due to the fact that science has not formulated a convincing model of consciousness and emotion. If you jump from that to asserting subjectivity is nonsense you cede the territory to theists and their truly magical idea of the soul. Meaning can be purely subjective and remain “meaningful.” There’s no reason to go beyond the subjective here than there is to seek objective value in love or hate or envy.

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oliver October 25, 2009 at 3:28 am

Silas, I think ‘desire’ is something like ‘hunger’ – it is a state, rather than a ‘thing’.

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chub October 25, 2009 at 4:29 am

Chub, interesting. Almost every link is something slimy;

http://www.google.com/search?q=“cruelty+artist”+“vox+day”

To paraphrase Dawkins, Vox is crueler than we can suppose

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Cecilieaux Bois de Murier October 27, 2009 at 9:26 am

Why does this guy Vox use vox poPOli, when the correct Latin is vox popUli (popoli is Italian, but vox is Latin)?

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