Homosexual Desire

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 9, 2010 in Ethics,Guest Post

brokeback

The ethical theory I currently defend is desirism. But I mostly write about moraltheory, so I rarely discuss the implications of desirism for everyday moral questions about global warming, free speech, politics, and so on. Today’s guest post applies desirism to one such everyday moral question. It is written by desirism’s first defender, Alonzo Fyfe of Atheist Ethicist. (Keep in mind that questions of applied ethics are complicated and I do not necessarily agree with Fyfe’s moral calculations.)

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In my last post, I answered the question of whether torturing a child can be considered good merely because enough people liked (desired) to torture children. I granted that if people had a desire to torture children then they have reason to act so as to realize a state in which, “I am torturing a child” is true. However, morality is not primarily concerned with whether there is reason to act given a particular set of desires, but whether there is any reason to have those desires to begin with. There is no good reason to have a desire to torture children. And there are a lot of reasons not to have such a desire.

Those points are directly applicable to the issue of homosexuality – or, a desire to have sex with somebody who is the same gender as oneself.

There seem to be a great many people in this world who have an aversion to the desire to have sex with somebody who is the same gender as oneself. This aversion to homosexuality, in desire utilitarian terms, would provide reason to act so as to make it the case that homosexuality did not exist.

On the issue of torturing children, I looked briefly at what the effect would be if there were a desire for the desire to torture children. To the degree that people have a desire for the desire to torture children, then to that degree they have reason to act so as to realize a state in which, “People have a desire to torture children” is true. This would make the desire to torture children a virtue, would it not?

It would not.

We would then have to take a step back and ask if there was any reason to promote this “desire for a desire to torture children.” I dare suggest that we would find none. This desire for a desire to torture children would be a desire we had more and stronger reason to condemn than to praise. Those who had such a desire would have reason to realize a state in which people desired to torture children, but they would be evil people, not good.

On the issue of homosexuality, then, we can ask a similar question about this aversion to the desire for sex with somebody of the same gender. Certainly, this aversion to homosexuality gives some people a reason to act so as to eliminate homosexual desire. However, to determine whether these are good people or evil people, we have to ask whether there is any reason to praise or condemn this aversion to homosexual desire.

One thing to point out in this issue is that many people think they have a reason to oppose homosexual desire when, in fact, they do not. There are people who have a desire to serve God, and they have been taught to believe that serving God means eliminating homosexual desire. However, these attitudes do not give these people any reason to condemn homosexual desire. Even if successful, their desire to serve God will go unfulfilled, because the proposition, “I have served God” can never be made true.

To understand what I am talking about, assume that your niece died. You very much would like to talk to your niece. As it turns out, I am a psychic of some sort – or, at least, I claim to be – and I tell you that I help you to talk to your dead niece.

Before our session, I do all sorts of research to find out everything I can about your niece. I even find some recordings of her voice and train an accomplice of mine to speak just like she does. Durring our session, I have the lights turned down low and go through the motions of summoning your niece. Of course, it is my accomplice doing the talking from the shadows of the room.

In doing this, I have not, in any manner, fulfilled your desire to talk to your niece. If you have a desire to talk to your niece, this can only be fulfilled by realizing a state in which, “I am talking to my niece” is true. However, I cannot make that proposition a true proposition, so I cannot fulfill your desire to talk to your niece. The closest I can come is to trick you into believing that you are talking to your niece – feeding you the delusion that you have talked to her.

Many of the people who celebrate stands taken against homosexual marriage – who contribute money and time and effort to the cause – are like those who celebrate having talked to their dead relatives. They haven’t really accomplished what they wanted to accomplish. They have only been made to believe that they had done so. The difference is that the person tricked into believing he has talked to his niece is the victim. In the case of taking a stand against homosexual marriage, the people with the false beliefs victimize others. They lower the quality of life for others so that they can feel good about realizing a state that is actually a lie.

So, in making an evaluation of homosexual desire, we must distinguish between those who actually have a real reason to inhibit homosexual desire (a genuine aversion to homosexual desire itself) from those who falsely believe that they have a reason to inhibit homosexual desire (a desire to please God or to avoid realizing a state that is intrinsically bad and a belief that homosexual desire is displeasing to God or intrinsically bad).

Then, of those who actually do have an aversion to homosexual desire, we have to ask whether this aversion makes them good people or bad people. This is the same as asking whether there are real-world reasons to promote such an aversion to homosexual desire, or to inhibit or weaken it.

In the real world, the aversion to homosexual desire is like the desire to torture children. It causes those who have it to act in ways that thwart the desires of their victims. Yet, there is no good reason to have the desire (or aversion) that causes these people to act as they do. At the same time, the fact that this desire or aversion motivates those who have it to do real-world harm to others gives us real-world reason to condemn that desire or aversion.

That is to say, those with a genuine aversion to homosexual desire may be justifiably classified as evil, and condemned for their sentiments, as a way to inhibiting or weakening the aversion to homosexual desire, just as we inhibit or weaken the desire to torture children.

- Alonzo Fyfe

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{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

Aeiluindae March 9, 2010 at 7:12 am

I read somewhere an article that homosexuality was bad for sociological reasons, however, I haven’t find it to double check it. If I can find it, I’ll link to it to see what people think. I have no personal opinion on the subject.

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Lorkas March 9, 2010 at 8:11 am

Aeiluindae: I read somewhere an article that homosexuality was bad for sociological reasons, however, I haven’t find it to double check it.

Luke wrote a post earlier about some of Craig’s claims on this subject:
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=4378

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Michael March 9, 2010 at 9:07 am

This is an interesting post. It is rare to hear atheist condemn homosexuality, and even being a Christian I can at least somewhat agree with the logic.

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lukeprog March 9, 2010 at 9:43 am

Michael,

I’m confused. Fyfe did not condemn homosexual desire. He condemned the aversion to homosexual desire.

Perhaps you meant to say that you agree with (what you thought was) the conclusion, not with the ‘logic’ (which you apparently misunderstood)?

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Michael March 9, 2010 at 10:19 am

Ha! I did get a little confused. But I would still say I can partially agree, at least in the sense that disliking or condemning the homosexual is wrong. The person who attacks homosexuals is evil, just as a person who attacks anyone else for similar reasons. But I guess I would say that the action of homosexuality, however, is hazardous, for various reasons. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be nice to them and love them.

Having thought about it, his logic is actually a bit question begging. He says that the person who condemns homosexuals, or at least the act, is wrong because he does so because they think they are pleasing God. This assumes that they aren’t in fact pleasing God, which is at least possible. For if they were pleasing God, then it could be considered a reason.

Going back to his original assertion, that there are no good reasons to torture children, and some good ones not to, I would say that the same is true of homosexual desire. There is no good reason other than personal preference (it is not serviceable in other manners), and there are good reasons not to, such as heterosexual desire leading to reproduction. This is what i thought it was saying originally, (I was reading on my iPhone as an RSS feed) and so got confused.

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svenjamin March 9, 2010 at 10:19 am

I honestly get a little lost when Fyfe runs through desires, reasons to act, desires for reasons to act, desires for desires for reasons to act as to actualize a state and so on..

So here is a test question for a defender of desirism (Luke). Consider an attractive female celebrity, say Angelina Jolie (because I think she would understand if I use her as an example here). Angeline Jolie has a desire not to be raped. But I am also sure there are possibly millions of young men and women with a desire to have sex with Angelina Jolie. Her desire not to be raped then, seems to thwart many desires. Furthermore, if no women had a desire not to be raped, there would be a great many more desires fulfilled. It seems to follow, from my admittedly poor understanding of desirism, that the desire not to be raped is then a bad desire, and so desires to rape women are good desires, and should be actualized.

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Michael March 9, 2010 at 10:43 am

Ha that’s pretty good. I guess the defense would be rape vs. sex, but I don’t know how much that would help, because I’m sure Jolie doesn’t want to have sex with most other men anyways.

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cl March 9, 2010 at 11:37 am

I’ll give it a more thorough objection later, but for now, I’ll say this is just the same old laundry re-washed: since Fyfe can’t or hasn’t conceived of a reason to promote the desire to torture children, or aversion to homosexuality, he launches into his own condemnation of other peoples’ desires based off of his own values. Honestly, I see Fyfe’s condemnation of Christians as parallel to Christians’ condemnation of homosexuals (for reasons that extend beyond this post, too). I was unimpressed that Fyfe chose to frame those with an aversion to homosexuality in exclusively Christian theist terms, as if “the desire to please God” is the only possible reason one might object to homosexuality. I also object to Fyfe’s assertion that those with such reason do not “truly” have their desires fulfilled when homosexuality is condemned, but that’s a minor objection.

Personally, when I’m evaluating act X to decide if I think it’s morally good or not, I’ll consider how the world would be if every person did act X. Mind you, this is not my sole criteria for moral evaluation of act X, but it certainly comprises a large part of it. In the context of homosexuality, if every person was homosexual, our species ends. In such a case, the desire for homosexuality would thwart the desire for the proliferation of homo sapiens. Whether that’s “good” or “bad” I’ll leave for each reader to decide. Speaking for myself, I can see valid arguments for both conclusions.

I honestly get a little lost when Fyfe runs through desires, reasons to act, desires for reasons to act, desires for desires for reasons to act as to actualize a state and so on.. (svenjamin)

I understand Fyfe’s delineation of desires and reasons to act, but I, too, got discouraged when he added “desires for desires” into the equation. The way I see it, there are desires and lack thereof, and I don’t see that desires even need identifiable reasons. Also, to echo my primary objection to desirism, whether or not there is a reason to have desire X remains subjective.

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MattC March 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I’m not sure that there is any particular relevance between having a desire fulfilled (talking to your niece) or THINKING you had a particular desire fulfilled – insofar as thinking a desire is fulfilled ACTUALLY fulfills said desire. In fact, discerning between what is thought to fulfill and what actually fulfills a desire is not possible. Your niece could very well be alive and in good health, while you, on the other hand, have sustained massive head trauma and are actually in a coma dreaming that your niece is dead.

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TaiChi March 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

MattC: I’m not sure that there is any particular relevance between having a desire fulfilled (talking to your niece) or THINKING you had a particular desire fulfilled – insofar as thinking a desire is fulfilled ACTUALLY fulfills said desire. In fact, discerning between what is thought to fulfill and what actually fulfills a desire is not possible.

I guess that depends upon your view of mental states – are they wholly internal to the subject, or do they incorporate elements of the external world? Here’s a quick argument for the latter..
1. Knowledge is a mental state.
2. Truth is one of the conditions of knowledge.
3. Truth depends upon the objective character of the external world.
4. So knowledge depends upon the objective character of the external world.
5. So at least one mental state depends upon the objective character of the external world.
6. So mental states are not essentially internal to their subjects.

.. and I guess that Fyfe takes the mental state of desire to be like that of knowledge, so that there is a difference between thinking it obtains (which demands nothing of the external world) and its actually obtaining (which does demand something of the external world).

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MattC March 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm

@TaiChi

I see that there is a difference. I do not, however, see how the difference is relevant. Whether or not truth is contingent upon the external world notwithstanding, there is no way to ACTUALLY know. Knowledge is wholly dependent on what we think. We can THINK such and such about reality. We can even THINK that knowledge is dependent upon certain truisms about the external world. What we know to be true is wholly based on premises that we think to be true – inasmuch as what you “know” to be true is based wholly on an epistemology that you THINK to be true.

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svenjamin March 9, 2010 at 2:50 pm

TaiChi: 1. Knowledge is a mental state.

I think I disagree. Knowledge is a property of a mental state, not a mental state itself.

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TaiChi March 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm

MattC: Whether or not truth is contingent upon the external world notwithstanding, there is no way to ACTUALLY know. Knowledge is wholly dependent on what we think. We can THINK such and such about reality. We can even THINK that knowledge is dependent upon certain truisms about the external world. What we know to be true is wholly based on premises that we think to be true – inasmuch as what you “know” to be true is based wholly on an epistemology that you THINK to be true. 

But knowledge is not wholly dependent upon what we think, and this is what you believe too. For otherwise your despair about the prospects of our attaining knowledge doesn’t make sense – if all it took to know something was to merely think you knew it, then knowledge would easy and plentiful.
So why are you offering a definition of knowledge which must be, by your own lights, false? I can only think that you are offering a revision to the concept of ‘knowledge’ – perhaps you think that skepticism is so problematic for the concept that it renders ‘knowledge’ incoherent, and that we should therefore reinterpret it as something non-traditional. In that case, I want to know what grounds you have for thinking that ‘knowledge’ as traditionally conceived is incoherent and needs to be revised.

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MattC March 9, 2010 at 4:19 pm

TaiChi:
But knowledge is not wholly dependent upon what we think, and this is what you believe too. For otherwise your despair about the prospects of our attaining knowledge doesn’t make sense – if all it took to know something was to merely think you knew it, then knowledge would easy and plentiful.
So why are you offering a definition of knowledge which must be, by your own lights, false? I can only think that you are offering a revision to the concept of ‘knowledge’ – perhaps you think that skepticism is so problematic for the concept that it renders ‘knowledge’ incoherent, and that we should therefore reinterpret it as something non-traditional. In that case, I want to know what grounds you have for thinking that ‘knowledge’ as traditionally conceived is incoherent and needs to be revised.  

I’m not an anti-realist, I think we can make true assertions about reality. My contention is there is no relevant difference between having a desire actually fulfilled and having one thought to be fulfilled – inasmuch as it does not affect the outcome. In the aforesaid analogy with the niece, the aforementioned differences would not ultimately change the outcome for the one experiencing it.

Moreover, you are missing my more general point. Knowledge is based on verisimilitudes. We make reasoned assertions about reality based unilaterally upon our experience of it. Unless we can rule out all epistemic possibilities with absolute certainty we cannot know reality (if knowledge = certainty about certain facets of reality), we can only think we know it. For instance, how would you prove the metaphysical proposition that the earth was created five minutes ago with the appearance of age false?

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fraukus March 9, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Not going to critique Fyfe’s stance at the moment, but I thought I’d pass this along. I’m sure that many of you are familiar with it, or have read something similar.

http://www.danaanpress.com/hsex.html

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Hermes March 9, 2010 at 4:41 pm

MattC. proof is for formulas. Do you mean a less exacting standard?

The last-Tuesdayism style example you give is one of many that could be true … yet if time were spent verifying that they aren’t actually the case would suck up all available time and probably an early death. After all, how do you know that the food you are about to eat isn’t some alien creature that will winnow you down and replace you from the inside once you eat it? Maybe stepping onto a train track just as the train arrives will transport you to another dimension?

Reject practicality and general (but not absolute) trust in our senses and what we have learned since childhood if you want for philosophical reasons, yet admit by doing so you’re not advancing any case you wish to promote.

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TaiChi March 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm

MattC: My contention is there is no relevant difference between having a desire actually fulfilled and having one thought to be fulfilled – inasmuch as it does not affect the outcome. In the aforesaid analogy with the niece, the aforementioned differences would not ultimately change the outcome for the one experiencing it.

I’m having a hard time seeing an argument here. Fyfe agrees with you that the actual satisfaction of the desire makes no difference to the internal state of the agent. His analogy relies on it. And you’ve now just used Fyfe’s distinction between having a desire fulfilled and thinking it is fulfilled, so your complaint can’t be about that.
The only difference I can see is that you don’t think external factors are ‘relevant’, though you haven’t said what they are being judged relevant or not to. Presumably, if you disagree with Fyfe, then you’d be arguing that they are not relevant to morality. But the psychic case purportedly shows that external factors are relevant to morality, since we tend to think of the psychic as an immoral scoundrel, despite the positive experience the dupe enjoys.

MattC: Moreover, you are missing my more general point…

Your general point seems to have nothing to do with this discussion, since you now admit (by using) the distinction between desires being fulfilled and thinking of desires as fulfilled (so that the fulfillment of desires would depend on external reality), and that was what my comments on knowledge were supposed to support. Nevertheless..

MattC: Unless we can rule out all epistemic possibilities with absolute certainty we cannot know reality (if knowledge = certainty about certain facets of reality), we can only think we know it. For instance, how would you prove the metaphysical proposition that the earth was created five minutes ago with the appearance of age false?

Well, I think you’ve just sketched a reductio for the view that knowledge requires certainty, since plainly there are epistemic possibilities we can’t rule out, and yet everyone goes on making knowledge ascriptions as though your fantastic epistemic possibilities didn’t matter. To be blunt: your conception of what “knowledge” means fails to accord with the general usage of “knowledge”, and is therefore a false description of the term.

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MattC March 9, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Hermes, I’m not proposing that we give up hope of ever knowing anything. I am suggesting, on the other hand, that it is ridiculous to discount any particular desire on the basis of the impossibility of its actual satisfaction. To say that the desire to serve God can never be satisfied is to make a categorical statement about a metaphysical proposition – it is a claim to inaccessible knowledge. What he is REALLY saying is that he THINKS the proposition can never be satisfied. Moreover, to say that a desire cannot be satisfied unless certain external conditions are met is to make desires the property of an external state – which they are not a property of.

@TaiChi
What is the general usage of the term knowledge or the one you prefer we use? In your understanding of knowledge, is there a relevant difference between the statement, “I know” and “I think I know?” Or is the latter merely redundant?

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antiplastic March 9, 2010 at 11:33 pm

“However, morality is not primarily concerned with whether there is reason to act given a particular set of desires, but whether there is any reason to have those desires to begin with.”

Hilarious on multiple levels.

Morality is not concerned with whether a pedophile is or is not justified on acting on his urges?

But let’s move along to “reason to have those desires to begin with”. Whatever happened to that old dogma, “desires are the only reasons that exist”? By substitution, from “reasons to have those desires” we get “desires to have those desires”.

Are you kidding me?

Desires are “reasons for action that exist”, except when they’re bad, in which case they’re “bad reasons for action that exist”.

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TaiChi March 10, 2010 at 1:54 am

MattC: What is the general usage of the term knowledge or the one you prefer we use?

You’re asking for a theory of knowledge? I lean towards reliabilism, but I haven’t looked at it for a while.

MattC: In your understanding of knowledge, is there a relevant difference between the statement, “I know” and “I think I know?” Or is the latter merely redundant?  

Yes, there’s a difference. People can be mistaken about the extent of their knowledge. And they often are.
So why must you be wrong, instead of them? Because, if you were correct, then informing people of a skeptical hypothesis should cause them to change their linguistic behavior to what you think it should be. That change would be an admission that you were correct (that knowledge requires skeptic-proof certainty), and that they were wrong (about their knowledge ascriptions). But this doesn’t happen, so we have strong evidence against your conception of knowledge.

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faithlessgod March 10, 2010 at 2:29 am

Hi Antiplastic

[Alozo said] “However, morality is not primarily concerned with whether there is reason to act given a particular set of desires, but whether there is any reason to have those desires to begin with.”
Hilarious on multiple levels.Morality is not concerned with whether a pedophile is or is not justified on acting on his urges?

Huh? That is exactly Alonzo is saying! “a reason to have those desires” is another way of saying “is or is not justified …”.

But let’s move along to “reason to have those desires to begin with”. Whatever happened tothat old dogma, “desires are the only reasons that exist”? By substitution, from “reasons to have those desires” we get “desires to have those desires”.Are you kidding me?

This is quite correct.The analysis is meant to show whether a desire under question is desirable or not. Surely you of all people, know the distinction between what is valued and what is valuable don’t you?

Desires are “reasons for action that exist”, except when they’re bad, in which case they’re “bad reasons for action that exist”.  

This conclusion does not follow from your argument.

A desirable desire – where the scope of desirable is everyone – can optionally be labelled “morally god” and similarly an undesirable desire can also be labelled “morally bad”, such labels having illocutionary and expressive force, to influence people into promoting desirable desires and inhibiting undesirable desires.

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faithlessgod March 10, 2010 at 2:42 am

svenjamin:
I think I disagree. Knowledge is a property of a mental state, not a mental state itself.  

Knowledge is justified,true, belief (Gettier statements are not a fatal objection to this).

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faithlessgod March 10, 2010 at 3:53 am

Michael:
Having thought about it, his logic is actually a bit question begging. He says that the person who condemns homosexuals, or at least the act, is wrong because he does so because they think they are pleasing God. This assumes that they aren’t in fact pleasing God, which is at least possible. For if they were pleasing God, then it could be considered a reason.

Noting that is not one of Alonzo’s better written articles, I know he does not argue that they are “wrong” because they think they are fulfilling god’s desires, but rather they are both mistaken, believing falsely that god most likely exists and therefore that such a desire unfulfillable- however much satisfaction they might get from acting upon it.

Now if a god does exist, one still needs to know that they they have the correct god and has determined the correct theistic desires to fulfil – but no-one has ever shown objective grounds for either.

Even if one happens to have got all of this correct, it is still the case that such a god’s desires are not immune to moral evaluation and no-one has ever been able to any give non-question begging objective justification for such an immunity.

So one can evaluate god’s desire to condemn homosexuals in parallel with any other argument to condemn homosexuals and Alonzo’s analysis remains intact.

Going back to his original assertion, that there are no good reasons to torture children, and some good ones not to, I would say that the same is true of homosexual desire. There is no good reason other than personal preference (it is not serviceable in other manners), and there are good reasons not to, such as heterosexual desire leading to reproduction. This is what i thought it was saying originally, (I was reading on my iPhone as an RSS feed) and so got confused.  

It is easier to understand that by applying the subjective labels “good” and “bad” after the analysis, not before or during it. It is the establishment of what these labels refer to in the real world that is what is in question.

Your argument over what is or is not a “good” reason for homosexual desire does not at all parallel with torturing children. In addition, presumably, no homosexual makes the claim that they have this desire to reproduce, that is just silly.

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faithlessgod March 10, 2010 at 4:04 am

svenjamin: I honestly get a little lost when Fyfe runs through desires, reasons to act, desires for reasons to act, desires for desires for reasons to act as to actualize a state and so on..So here is a test question for a defender of desirism (Luke). Consider an attractive female celebrity, say Angelina Jolie (because I think she would understand if I use her as an example here). Angeline Jolie has a desire not to be raped. But I am also sure there are possibly millions of young men and women with a desire to have sex with Angelina Jolie. Her desire not to be raped then, seems to thwart many desires. Furthermore, if no women had a desire not to be raped, there would be a great many more desires fulfilled. It seems to follow, from my admittedly poor understanding of desirism, that the desire not to be raped is then a bad desire, and so desires to rape women are good desires, and should be actualized.  

One needs to look at the cause-effect relations.

The desire to have sex, not caring about consent, is the causal and active or proactive desire.

The aversion to unconsenting sex is the affected, passive or reactive desire.

Now it is the causal desire the needs to be evaluated, as without it there are no affected desires.

In this case, its presence leads to an increase in desire thwarting of the affected desires, its absence leads to an increase in desire fulfilment of the affected desires. And these are the reasons to promote an aversion to unconsenting sex.

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faithlessgod March 10, 2010 at 4:35 am

cl: I’ll give it a more thorough objection later, but for now, I’ll say this is just the same old laundry re-washed: since Fyfe can’t or hasn’t conceived of a reason to promote [you mean inhibit surely?] the desire to torture children, or aversion to homosexuality, he launches into his own condemnation of other peoples’ desires based off of his own values.

You may agree or disagree with his arguments, but it is just bullshit to assert the above. He has provided real-world reasons not just “his values”. You can dispute those but to claim that he has not provided such reasons is just false.

Honestly, I see Fyfe’s condemnation of Christians as parallel to Christians’ condemnation of homosexuals (for reasons that extend beyond this post, too). I was unimpressed that Fyfe chose to frame those with an aversion to homosexuality in exclusively Christian theist terms, as if “the desire to please God” is the only possible reason one might object to homosexuality.

There are other reasons but given Proposition 9(?) etc. this more than just an illustrative example it is quite topical, that is all.

I also object to Fyfe’s assertion that those with such reason do not “truly” have their desires fulfilled when homosexuality is condemned, but that’s a minor objection.

See a previous reply of mine to another commenter above.

Personally, when I’m evaluating act X to decide if I think it’s morally good or not, I’ll consider how the world would be if every person did act X. Mind you, this is not my sole criteria for moral evaluation of act X, but it certainly comprises a large part of it. In the context of homosexuality, if every person was homosexual, our species ends. In such a case, the desire for homosexuality would thwart the desire for the proliferation of homo sapiens.[bold added by me]

What justifies the switch from act to desire? Alonzo provides no argument that homosexual desire or acts is to be promoted nor why should he or you make one? Whilst no-one makes the argument that acting upon homosexual desire with a consenting other directly promotes reproduction of the “species” ( really the population). However there is plenty of empirical evidence to show this happens indirectly lookup “kin selection”.

The question here is as to whether others should inflict harm on those who do have homosexual desires. This you have completely failed to address.

Whether that’s “good” or “bad” I’ll leave for each reader to decide. Speaking for myself, I can see valid arguments for both conclusions.

For what conclusions? Since the above fails to address the topic at hand.

I understand Fyfe’s delineation of desires and reasons to act, but I, too, got discouraged when he added “desires for desires” into the equation.

This was, in my opinion, a poor use of terms by Fyfe. We are talking about the desirability of desires, as I explained in a previous reply in this thread.

The way I see it, there are desires and lack thereof, and I don’t see that desires even need identifiable reasons.

I think you are confusing motivations (desires) and justifications for those desires.

Also, to echo my primary objection to desirism, whether or not there is a reason to have desire X remains subjective.  

In ethics the important meaning of subjective is there are no facts independent of one or all’s opinions. However here, and elsewhere, Fyfe gives arguments that are not dependent on, and is clear, very often contradictory to the opinions of both agents and assessors. You seem to be using “subjective” with a different meaning here, which is not relevant to such debates, unless you provide an argument to establish relevancy.

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Hermes March 10, 2010 at 5:11 am

TaiChi, that was a joy to read. Good reply.

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Hermes March 10, 2010 at 5:25 am

Faithlessgod, you write more than I do! Good stuff.

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Michael March 10, 2010 at 6:05 am

faithlessgod: Noting that is not one of Alonzo’s better written articles, I know he does not argue that they are “wrong” because they think they are fulfilling god’s desires, but rather they are both mistaken, believing falsely that god most likely exists and therefore that such a desire unfulfillable- however much satisfaction they might get from acting upon it.

I have not read anything else from him, but I think I get what your saying. My thoughts were that he was rejecting them as wrong a priori, without any real reason to do so, as it really is entirely possible that it could be true. But I would agree with your corrected statement in that one could be mistaken. But again, not necessarily, so if one could show they were right (which I also agree hasn’t really happened), then it would undermine his argument. Thank you for the clarification.

faithlessgod: Your argument over what is or is not a “good” reason for homosexual desire does not at all parallel with torturing children. In addition, presumably, no homosexual makes the claim that they have this desire to reproduce, that is just silly.  

I feel that homosexuality has no reason for being desirable other than that it is pleasurable to some, just as in torturing children. Now don’t get me wrong, they are not equal offenses. But the desires stem from entirely selfish roots in both cases. I did not mean to say that homosexuals desire reproduction, apologies for the misconception. My point was that homosexuality is not beneficial other than producing pleasure, which is the same for the person who tortures children for pleasure. But heterosexuality, on the other hand, while also led predominantly by selfish roots, also has the function of reproduction.

Also, what if everybody behaved homosexually, our species would cease to exist. I believe this point was made earlier, but it was a point that Alonzo made about torturing children himself. His answer was that it isn’t “majority rules” when it comes to his idea of morality, but whether there were reasons to have the desire in the first place. For homosexuality, I see none, just like for torturing children, and a few reasons why one should not, transmission of STDs, no chance of reproduction, etc.

Now I will humbly admit that if one could find good reasons for being homosexual, that on desirism, it would be morally good. So a few questions to wrap up. Should one prefer homosexuality to heterosexuality if both are good, is one better than the other? Would they be considered equal in their goodness or would one be favorable? And if one is favorable, why shouldn’t everybody strive for the more favorable one?

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Hermes March 10, 2010 at 6:38 am

Michael: I feel that homosexuality has no reason for being desirable other than that it is pleasurable to some, just as in torturing children.

The same could be said of heterosexual sex. Yet, I find heterosexual sex desirable even if I do not find it fulfilled at the level that I desire it.

Michael: Also, what if everybody behaved homosexually, our species would cease to exist.

Yet, back in reality, people aren’t all heterosexual or homosexual.

More importantly, though, as has been shown elsewhere, there may be primary and secondary benefits to the species by having homosexuals as a percentage of the population. As such, not having homosexuals in a population could be a detriment to a society or even our species.

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Charles March 10, 2010 at 6:41 am

I don’t see how having an aversion to homosexuality is any different than having an aversion to eggplant. We all have likes and dislikes. Some people really do like eggplant. It’s when we fail to recognize our aversion is something beyond personal preference that we have a problem.

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piero March 10, 2010 at 6:46 am

Michael, you need to learn the distinction between malleable and non-malleable desires. Being sexually attracted to people of the same sex is not a matter of choice, just as being attracted to people of the opposite sex is not. Sexual attraction escapes the realm of morality, because all the evidence point to its not being a malleable desire. Do you think you could change your sexual orientation? If not, why do you expect gay people to be able to change it?

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faithlessgod March 10, 2010 at 6:51 am

Michael:
I feel that homosexuality has no reason for being desirable other than that it is pleasurable to some, just as in torturing children. Now don’t get me wrong, they are not equal offenses.

This is the point, they are empirically radically different in their objects and the means to bring them about, the question is how can we objectively determine this, rather than rely on “feelings”.

We must not assume, in advance, if either has moral implications, at least when one is being objective, which requires one to transcend one’s preferences, prejudices, perceptions and so on.

But the desires stem from entirely selfish roots in both cases.

All desires originate from someone, the issue of “selfishness” is over the objects of the desires, not their origination.

My point was that homosexuality is not beneficial other than producing pleasure, which is the same for the person who tortures children for pleasure.

The radical difference is that a desire to torture requires thwarting the desires of another, whereas a homosexual desire does not.

Looking at the desire-desire relations context and not their content, there is no difference between two homosexuals fulfilling their desires mutually or two people engaging in a successful financial transaction and so on. This is radically different in the case of a desire to torture (which might compare, say, to a fraudulent financial transaction).

But heterosexuality, on the other hand, while also led predominantly by selfish roots, also has the function of reproduction.

Also, what if everybody behaved homosexually, our species would cease to exist.

This another question. Yes the above is indicative that there is no justifiable reason to promote homosexual desire (noting also that one can only use the social forces to modify malleable desire). However because there is no reason to promote this desire, that is not itself a reason to inhibit it. Many desires are outside the scope of moral praise and blame, they are permissible or neutral (even disregarding the evidence supports that this is not a malleable desire – so promotion is as likely to fail as inhibition).

I believe this point was made earlier, but it was a point that Alonzo made about torturing children himself. His answer was that it isn’t “majority rules” when it comes to his idea of morality, but whether there were reasons to have the desire in the first place.

This is not his idea of morality but how most people conceive of it, AFAICT. His formulation is specific over reason and desires and is an adumbration of this generally held idea.

For homosexuality, I see none, just like for torturing children, and a few reasons why one should not, transmission of STDs, no chance of reproduction, etc.

This is no comparison that you have yet established AFAICS.

In addition the issue over STDs is applicable to heterosexual desire so I do not see its relevance. The reproduction issue mitigates against recreational heterosexual sex that protects against STD too so you are argument is at worst confused and at best unclear.

Now I will humbly admit that if one could find good reasons for being homosexual, that on desirism, it would be morally good.

For sure a desirist analysis could provide an answer that could conflict with one’s intutions or opinions, but that is a virtue of the model, it cannot be made to arbitrarily conform with one’s predetermined desires. It would force one to re-consider those intuitions and opinions to seek sound and valid justifications for them, if they exist.
Anyway in this case Desirism provides no such reasons. There are no moral reasons either way, to have homosexual desires or not AFAICS.

So a few questions to wrap up. Should one prefer homosexuality to heterosexuality if both are good, is one better than the other?Would they be considered equal in their goodness or would one be favorable? And if one is favorable, why shouldn’t everybody strive for the more favorable one?  

AFAICS this is not a question of moral goodness, you have failed to establish that it is, so far. The rest is up to the individuals concerned. So there are no questions to answer here, rather you need to provide a justification for those questions.

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piero March 10, 2010 at 6:55 am

Hermes, I do not think the survival of the species is relevant to the discussion. First, our species has managed to survive just fine with its share of homosexual members. Second, even if the presence of homosexuality was a threat to our survival, that would not bear upon its morality. Since sexual orientation is not a malleable desire, the only valid comment in that case would be: “Tough!”. In any case, even if the whole of humanity turned homosexual (a genetically impossible scenario) we could still reproduce by artificial insemination.

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Hermes March 10, 2010 at 6:58 am

Charles: I don’t see how having an aversion to homosexuality is any different than having an aversion to eggplant. We all have likes and dislikes. Some people really do like eggplant. It’s when we fail to recognize our aversion is something beyond personal preference that we have a problem.  

Well said.

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Hermes March 10, 2010 at 7:22 am

Piero, good points.

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cl March 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm

faithlessgod,

I’ll get to your response when I’ve got a bit more time. I just wanted to hop on really quick to say I dig the conversation MattC started that involves TaiChi and a few others. MattC’s sentiments nicely summarized the “minor objection” I alluded to here:

I also object to Fyfe’s assertion that those with such reason do not “truly” have their desires fulfilled when homosexuality is condemned, but that’s a minor objection. (cl)

Without getting into the whole “is knowledge a mental state or a property of a mental state” discussion, I tend to agree with MattC that from the agent’s perspective, there is no ontological difference between believing a true belief and believing a false belief: in either case, it seems to me the agent’s desire has been fulfilled. I’d even bet that neuroscientists could test that theory, albeit perfunctorily: they could measure brain reactions in agents whose belief has a known referent in reality, then compare them to agents whose belief lacks a referent in reality.

However, when considering the position that true beliefs are the best type to have – which is a position I tend to accept and I’m pretty sure Fyfe does, too – I had originally wondered if there might be an ontological difference between believing a true belief vs. a false one, but still, at the end of the day, I’m going to conclude that the net effect on the agent would be identical.

Here’s one more hypothetical situation, admittedly a stretch and probably less testable than the first one: if there was some sort of “truth field” that somehow rewards believers of true beliefs and punishes believers of false beliefs, then I’d say there might be an ontological difference between believing a false belief and believing a true belief. I realize that may sound absurd, but it seems plausible to me.

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TaiChi March 10, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Piero, good points.” ~ Hermes.
Seconded.

..at the end of the day, I’m going to conclude that the net effect on the agent would be identical.” ~ cl

I doubt anyone disagrees with you over this. I don’t – I just take an ascription of ‘desire’ to be telling us about the world as well as the agent who is embedded in it, which is why fulfilled and unfulfilled desires count as different mental states in my view. But I wholeheartedly agree with you that the internal component of a desire, which you take for the whole, is the same whether a desire is fulfilled or not. I presume Fyfe does as well.

Let’s go with your terminology for a bit. In your view, desires are completely internal to an agent, and so the fulfillment or non-fulfillment of desires is not a proper part of what desires are. So what Fyfe believes, put in your terms, is that ethics depends upon these internal states called desires as well as the world, and that the ways in which it depends on the world derive from the content of those internal desires. He does not believe, on the other hand, that internal feelings of satisfaction associated with these states have much to do with ethics.

So, now that I’ve recast Fyfe’s position to avoid a diversionary terminological difference, is there anything here you substantially disagree with? Your comments suggest that you think feelings of satisfaction are relevant to ethics, whereas the worldly correlates of desire are irrelevant. Is that right?

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faithlessgod March 11, 2010 at 2:12 am

Hi cl and TaiChii

I have not followed the MattC vs TaiChi debate except to note that I thought TaiChi was handling this well. So here I am only going to reply to the last posts of both of you. So I might have missed something already covered/resolved. I apologize in advance if that is the case.

cl,

Satisfaction (and frustration) are brain states, fulfilment and thwarting are not. The latter are relations between certain brain states and states of affairs. The distinction was create (not by Fyfe but by previous desire-based theorists such as Griffin) to resolve the ambiguity over the term “satisfaction”. Here we use it to mean an internal brain state (or property, whatever). This disambiguation enables the following to be said clearly.

1. An agent can have a false belief that their desire has been fulfilled and so their desire is satisfied even though it is not, in fact, fulfilled.

2. An agent can have a false belief that their desire has been thwarted and so their desire is frustrated even though it is, in fact, fulfilled.

3. An agent can have a true belief that their desire has been fulfilled but they are not necessarily satisfied, since its fulfilment might not provide they expected.

3. An agent can have a true belief that their desire has been thwarted but they are not necessarily frustrated, since its thwarting might not provide what they expected

Of course in many cases fulfilment with satisfaction, and frustration with thwarting do co-occur but as the above shows this is not necessary relation, they can diverge.

There are also desires that one may not ever know if they are fulfilled and so the additional requirement of gaining satisfaction that they are fulfilled e.g. wills.

cl: “there is no ontological difference between believing a true belief and believing a false belief: in either case, it seems to me the agent’s desire has been fulfilled.”
There is an ontological difference, in one case the desire has been fulfilled and the other not. In both cases the desire has been satisfied, only in one has it been fulfilled. Th other issue is “from the agent’s perspective”, which the above explains but only by looking at the problem in an agent-neutral not agent-relative fashion. I hope you can now see that neuroscience has irrelevant to this distinction.

“I’m going to conclude that the net effect on the agent would be identical.” but that is not the moral question here. That is only relevant if one denies there is or define away the moral question. The moral question is the net effect on all affected recipients of the agent’s beliefs and desires.

As for the “truth field” point not sure what that is, unless you are disputing that generally one is more likely to fulfil one’s desires given relevant true beliefs versus false beliefs. I have to say this sound absurd to argue otherwise, so maybe I am misreading your point.

TaiChi

Really just clarifications, you seem to be grokking desirism.

Desires are internal states, we know that via their conditions of fulfilment (the targets of desire). Fulfilment and thwarting are not (part of) internal states, they relations between desires and the states of affairs that are the targets of those desires. Fulfilment and thwarting are extrinsic to both desires and the states of affairs to which those desire refer.

Regarding satisfaction as you correctly understand, I have written in the past that “It is not the satisfaction of your desire that concerns me, but the material and physical affects of its fulfilment on my and other’s desires that do and vice versa, surely you have similar concerns over my and other’s desires?”

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MattC March 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm

@TaiChi
What good reason can you give me for believing that Reliablism is true – without begging the question, of course? Remember when I said that we can only know things in accordance with an epistemology that we THINK to be true? You are merely reaffirming my point by your hesitant affirmation of an epistemology that you think may be true. Knowledge is based on verisimilitudes.

How does this relate to the matter at hand? If Desirism is not concerned with the internal satisfaction of a desire (the very substance and purpose of desires) but rather the external fulfillment of it, then we must be able to know the truth of these external conditions when making moral discernments. But we do not know the truth of these moral conditions, we only THINK we know. Does Fyfe know that God does not exist? His entire argument resides on the truth of his unstated premise that God does not exist.

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faithlessgod March 11, 2010 at 1:51 pm

MattC: @TaiChi
If Desirism is not concerned with the internal satisfaction of a desire (the very substance and purpose of desires) but rather the external fulfillment of it, then we must be able to know the truth of these external conditions when making moral discernments.

It is concerned with the internal satisfaction of desire but not directly. Everyone seeks to substitute a more fulfilling state of affairs over a lessor one and morality is the social institution that helps avoid and resolve clashes over conflicting states of affairs, amongst other things. A well grounded, coherently and consistently applied version of such an institution will better enable everyone to achieve such goals and hence obtain more satisfaction than frustration. IMV Desirism provides the currently best objective framework to determine the structure of such institutions. It avoids the mistake of presuming to know what will satisfy everyone and imposing such a utility on everyone.

But we do not know the truth of these moral conditions, we only THINK we know.

This looks like you are presuming subjectivism, what is your meta-ethical and therefore objective argument that this is the case?

Does Fyfe know that God does not exist? His entire argument resides on the truth of his unstated premise that God does not exist.  

It is not an unstated premise and it is not a premise, it is a conclusion given the evidence. Speaking for myself the non-existence of god is the only rational, empirical, honest and ethical conclusion I can come up with when I look at the issue objectively. Regardless, Fyfe’s argument does not depend on this premise, since even if gods exists they are not immune to moral evaluation and Fyfe has argued that way to.

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MattC March 11, 2010 at 2:46 pm

“It is concerned with the internal satisfaction of desire but not directly.”

In what way is Desirism concerned with the internal satisfaction of a desire if a desire’s entire weight in the equation rests solely on its ability to be externally fulfilled?

“This looks like you are presuming subjectivism, what is your meta-ethical and therefore objective argument that this is the case?”

I do not need to support any metaethical theory to make these rather simple observations. All we can do is go off of what we experience reality to be. If you can prove your epistemology or at least give good evidence for it without begging the question then you would have adequately shown that our ways of knowing are not wholly based on premises we THINK are true.

“It is not an unstated premise and it is not a premise, it is a conclusion given the evidence.”

A conclusion that stems from an epistemology that inherently excludes the possibility of supernaturalism. There IS evidence for theism. In fact, some of the best evidences for theism conveniently rests on the same foundation that all other ways of knowing rest upon – experience.

“Regardless, Fyfe’s argument does not depend on this premise”

His argument here certainly does. He argues that the desire to serve God is a false desire insofar as it cannot be fulfilled. Moreover, if God DOES exist he IS very much immune to the moral criticisms of the creatures he created.

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Hermes March 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

MattC: There IS evidence for theism. In fact, some of the best evidences for theism conveniently rests on the same foundation that all other ways of knowing rest upon – experience.

Great. Got an example? (Preferably one that doesn’t require a subjective presupposition.)

Meaning: An explicit example, not an abstraction or theoretical category that could potentially contain some unknown example that remains unspecified. (I’m not requiring all answers include a physical object to be valid.)

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Hermes March 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm

MattC: Moreover, if God DOES exist he IS very much immune to the moral criticisms of the creatures he created.

If the deity Yahweh exists as described in the Christian Bible and is an independent entity or being, it is very much available to be criticized. Nobody gets a pass on that and I’m constantly amazed that is even brought up. After all, why does a deity need shelter from criticism?

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faithlessgod March 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm

MattC: “It is concerned with the internal satisfaction of desire but not directly.”In what way is Desirism concerned with the internal satisfaction of a desire if a desire’s entire weight in the equation rests solely on its ability to be externally fulfilled?“

It does not matter what you chose with respect to your self in private, and desirism, unlike, say, religion, does not dictate nor force a uniform utility on everyone. Every individual is most likely the best person to determine what their own utility is whether serving god or maximising satisfaction or whatever. Morality is only concerned about how that pursuits affect others and they key factor there is fulfilment not satisfaction.

I do not need to support any metaethical theory to make these rather simple observations. All we can do is go off of what we experience reality to be. If you can prove your epistemology or at least give good evidence for it without begging the question then you would have adequately shown that our ways of knowing are not wholly based on premises we THINK are true.“

A conclusion that stems from an epistemology that inherently excludes the possibility of supernaturalism.

Well that is not my epistemology and AFAIK nor Fyfe’s. Rather the its the overwhelming and repeated failure of supernaturalistic that condemns it.

There IS evidence for theism.

Looks like you are playing semantics over “evidence”. There is subjective experience but,as Wittgenstein said “An inner process is need of an outer criterion” and every time we have looked for an outer criterion for such inner processes in support of theism, none has been found. All that is you have left are subjective, contrary and relative claims, there is no objective for theism and massive evidence against it. Even if the a priori probability of god existing was 50%, the posterior probability is virtually zero, hence god most likely does not exist.

In fact, some of the best evidences for theism conveniently rests on the same foundation that all other ways of knowing rest upon – experience.

Not reliable, repeatable, independently and objectively verifiable experience. Yours is not real evidence, certainly not the best, more likely the worst, if called evidence at all.

Moreover, if God DOES exist he IS very much immune to the moral criticisms of the creatures he created.  

This is looks like an empty assertion, where is your evidence and argument? And don’t waste our time providing question begging arguments please and I hope you don’t assert objectivity based on only subjective and relative basis, that is a at lease a performative contradiction if not a logical incoherence.

Finally you have failed, at least in our correspondence, to answer whether you agree with Fyfe’s conclusion in this post. Even if people are really fulfilling god’s will in harming homosexuals, this seems clearly an immoral desire and so fulfilling such a god’s will condemanable.

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TaiChi March 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Desires are internal states, we know that via their conditions of fulfilment (the targets of desire). ” ~ Faithlessgod

The targets of desires are (usually) extra-mental. So I’m puzzled as to why you think that this fact shows desires to be wholly internal.

Fulfilment and thwarting are not (part of) internal states, they relations between desires and the states of affairs that are the targets of those desires. Fulfilment and thwarting are extrinsic to both desires and the states of affairs to which those desire refer.” ~ Faithlessgod

Ok, so we have these relations between internal states and external states of affairs, which are relations of ‘fulfilment’ or ‘thwarting’. What do we call them? I don’t think you’d disagree with me that we should call them “fulfilled desires” and “unfulfilled desires”, respectively. But then it looks as though these relations are species of desire, and so, prima facie, desires need not be wholly internal to their subjects.
A stronger argument (since it would show all desires to depend on the external world, not just those we describe as ‘fulfilled’ or ‘unfulfilled’), which you probably already know, comes from twin-Earth style thought experiments…

In the famous “Twin Earth” thought experiment in Putnam (1975), we are asked to imagine that in 1750, there was a remote planet, Twin Earth, which was exactly like Earth except that instead of water (H2O), it had a different substance twin-water, say a different chemical compound XYZ. The macro properties of XYZ are supposed to be just like water : it looks and tastes like water, and it could be found in the rivers and oceans on Twin Earth, and so on. However, back in 1750 nobody on Earth or Twin Earth could distinguish between water and XYZ. Still, according to Putnam, an individual on Earth in 1750 who used the word “water” would have been referring to H2O and not XYZ. Of course, this person did not know that water is H2O. But according to the externalist, this should not have prevented him from referring to H2O when he used the term “water”. If he had pointed to a sample of XYZ and said “That’s water,” he would have said something false. Similarly, when an individual on Twin Earth in 1750 used the word “water”, he would have been referring to XYZ and not H2O.” ~ the SEP

… which seems to demonstrate that the reference of natural kind terms depends upon the external world in which the speaker is embedded. But the same goes for desires: if the speaker belongs to Earth, then what he desires when he is thirsty is H2O, but if the speaker belongs to twin-Earth, then what he desires instead is XYZ.

Not everyone accepts this argument, of course. Some might reply that, really, “water” just refers to a colourless, odourless, potable liquid, and so “water” is ambiguous between H2O and XYZ. But that response is not open to you, because if “water” is just any old colourless, odouless, potable liquid, then we’ve defined “water” in terms of how it appears to us, and so the obtaining of water would be the obtaining of mere appearences. If so, then it seems the satisfaction of desires would be a matter of a satisfaction experience.

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TaiChi March 11, 2010 at 5:50 pm

What good reason can you give me for believing that Reliablism is true – without begging the question, of course? ” ~ MattC

Well, I can give you all sorts of reasons, which compare Reliabilism to its competitors. I suspect that’s not what you’re asking for, though. What you want, instead, is for me to set aside everything I think I know about the world and justify my belief that we have reliable cognitive mechanisms which, in the right circumstances, deliver us knowledge. But what I take myself to know about the world just is what I would use to justify a belief such as the one you question, for that is how justification is done. So what you request is impossible*.
The question is, should I be bothered? Well, if what you request is impossible, then it cannot be a normative requirement on me, since I can only be required to do what is within my power to do (ought implies can). But further, it cannot be a normative requirement of justification either, since no one can do what you would require them to do in order to be justified, and so this requirement has no relevance to the question of whether a particular person is justified. In that case, your skeptical worry doesn’t imply the universal lack of justification for beliefs.

* (Heck, even an omniscient God couldn’t do that).

Remember when I said that we can only know things in accordance with an epistemology that we THINK to be true? You are merely reaffirming my point by your hesitant affirmation of an epistemology that you think may be true.” ~ MattC

So we do know things now? I’m sure you didn’t mean that. Anyhow, I’d like to point out to you that, because Relibilism doesn’t require justification for knowledge, but belief-formation via reliable belief-forming mechanisms, we can have knowledge without being certain of how we know it. We can know, without knowing that we know. For example, I might be entirely ignorant of epistemology, but according to Reliabilism, it is sufficient for my having knowledge that I am in front of a computer screen that my belief in this is formed via my eyes and visual cortex, and that these last are reliable (truth-preserving) mechanisms. So any residual doubts I have about Reliabilism as an epistemological theory fail to rob me of knowledge, since whatever I have in the way of knowledge isn’t supported by my concept of knowledge anyway.

But we do not know the truth of these moral conditions, we only THINK we know.” ~ MattC

So we should be skeptics, right? Apparently not. Apparently, you think it appropriate to twist our moral terms so that we don’t have to be skeptical of their application. But you have no convincing argument for this extra move, even if I grant you the plausibility of skepticism.
It also seems to me you’ve overlooked something rather important: if skepticism is true, then not only do we fail to know whether or not the external correlates of desires obtain, but we fail to know about the internal states of other persons either. Given your scruples, it seems that ethics should then contort itself to exclude reference to other persons than oneself. But that leads to ethical egoism, which doesn’t seem like ethics at all.

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MattC March 11, 2010 at 5:57 pm

“It does not matter what you chose with respect to your self in private, and desirism, unlike, say, religion, does not dictate nor force a uniform utility on everyone. Every individual is most likely the best person to determine what their own utility is whether serving god or maximising satisfaction or whatever. Morality is only concerned about how that pursuits affect others and they key factor there is fulfilment not satisfaction.”

This does not respond to my criticism. If the moral aspect of desirism requires that we know whether or not certain external conditions obtain, then it really renders the moral aspect irrelevant to human life – insofar as it can never be discerned.

“Well that is not my epistemology and AFAIK nor Fyfe’s. Rather the its the overwhelming and repeated failure of supernaturalistic that condemns it.”

What epistemology allows you to assume absolute knowledge about the existence of God? Saying that there is evidence against God =/= the conclusion that God does not exist. Therefore the premise that serving God is impossible is actually just question begging.

“Looks like you are playing semantics over “evidence”. ”

To whom? You? There is evidence for God according to any relevant definition of the word evidence.

“There is subjective experience but, as Wittgenstein said ‘An inner process is need of an outer criterion’ and every time we have looked for an outer criterion for such inner processes in support of theism, none has been found. All that is you have left are subjective, contrary and relative claims, there is no objective for theism and massive evidence against it.”

Theistic reality rests precisely on the same foundation that we rest physical reality – experience. To claim that I need evidence for theistic reality is merely to practice a form of epistemic imperialism. Unless you can prove that physical reality exists without begging the question, I see no reason to even engage your reasoning as substantive.

” Not reliable, repeatable, independently and objectively verifiable experience. Yours is not real evidence, certainly not the best, more likely the worst, if called evidence at all.”

These are properties of physical reality and are no more applicable to theistic reality than pirates are to global warming.

“This is looks like an empty assertion, where is your evidence and argument?”

My reasoning stems from something I’ve heard Vox Day say. Imagine that a game designer creates a world where matter could be both created and destroyed. Do you think it would be correct reasoning for the entities of that created world to wonder why the designer is not bound by his own programming? To critique God according to a system that is unilaterally a property of his creation is simply illogical – even worse to think it meaningful.

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piero March 11, 2010 at 7:16 pm

MattC:

Theistic reality rests precisely on the same foundation that we rest physical reality – experience. To claim that I need evidence for theistic reality is merely to practice a form of epistemic imperialism. Unless you can prove that physical reality exists without begging the question, I see no reason to even engage your reasoning as substantive.

If I may tie this with desirism, I’d argue that experience is a meaningless word unless it provides reasons for action. In other words, unless it gives rise to desires. For example, you might dream you are about to be cooked in a cauldron by a tribe of cannibals: your dream is certainly an experience, as your sweat clearly shows. Yet it would be foolish for you to, once awake, take measures against the possibility of being capturedd by cannibals.
Conversely, the experience of seeing a bus coming towards you at 70 miles an hour is certainly an experience that would reasonably cause you to act and move out of its way.

In short, I cannot prove that physical reality exists because “exists” is a meaningless tag. Instead, I would propose to replace it with “physical reality is the source of your reasons for action”, whereas “transcendent”, “spiritual”, “supernatural” realities are not.

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faithlessgod March 11, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Hi TaiChi

First of all you are making a radical argument over desires, one I have considered in the past. However as far as an ethical framework goes I do not see it as making any substantive difference to an analysis of the interactions of two or more agents, do you? That is desirism works with the conventional approach or your radical approach.

As for the Twin Earth argument. First I am not convinced this is over desires but rather beliefs, that is what it was originally addressed to, was it not? Second desires do depend on the external world for their fulfilment and it is only desires that are acted upon to affect the external world to are of ethical concern.

TaiChi:
which seems to demonstrate that the reference of natural kind terms depends upon the external world in which the speaker is embedded. But the same goes for desires: if the speaker belongs to Earth, then what he desires when he is thirsty is H2O, but if the speaker belongs to twin-Earth, then what he desires instead is XYZ.Not everyone accepts this argument, of course. Some might reply that, really, “water” just refers to a colourless, odourless, potable liquid, and so “water” is ambiguous between H2O and XYZ. But that response is not open to you, because if “water” is just any old colourless, odouless, potable liquid, then we’ve defined “water” in terms of how it appears to us, and so the obtaining of water would be the obtaining of mere appearences. If so, then it seems the satisfaction of desires would be a matter of a satisfaction experience.  

Surely desires can still refer to the same macro properties which provide the same nutritional/health benefits in both worlds? These are not just appearances.
The chemical structure is irrelevant to such desires.

This sort of relates to referential opacity and the two desires retains the same intension with respect to the substitution of external world referents.

Anyway unless you can show this argument has substantive implications for desirism I do not see the need to pursue this line of thought, interesting as it is.

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faithlessgod March 11, 2010 at 11:18 pm

MattC: This does not respond to my criticism. If the moral aspect of desirism requires that we know whether or not certain external conditions obtain, then it really renders the moral aspect irrelevant to human life – insofar as it can never be discerned.

This looks like nonsense. Please unpack this so this make some sort of sense.

What epistemology allows you to assume absolute knowledge about the existence of God? Saying that there is evidence against God =/= the conclusion that God does not exist.

No idea, since that is not an epistemology either I nor Fyfe use as should have been made clear by my previous reply.

Therefore the premise that serving God is impossible is actually just question begging.

No I said “most likely false” or equivalent making any desire to fulfil a god’s desires most likely unfulfillable. On the balance of probabilities one can shorted this to saying “impossible” in a pragmatic not logical sense.

There is evidence for God according to any relevant definition of the word evidence.

Um no. For example in the last Simon Singh vs BCA appeal we had

“What if Simon Singh had said there was no reliable evidence?”

“We wouldn’t be here today.”

But, responded the judge, isn’t that what “evidence” means, especially in a scientific context? Is that not how medicine and science develops? Is that not what a reader of the Guardian article would understood the statements to have meant?

As I have already said you have no reliable (etc.) evidence and that is the only type of evidence available in the public domain where we have the ethical issues that are being discussed here.

Theistic reality rests precisely on the same foundation that we rest physical reality – experience. To claim that I need evidence for theistic reality is merely to practice a form of epistemic imperialism. Unless you can prove that physical reality exists without begging the question, I see no reason to even engage your reasoning as substantive.”

That is silly, theistic reality rest on the existence of physical reality it is this common ground we both share, it is up to you to show there is more than nature and that supernature exists too.

I said:”Not reliable, repeatable, independently and objectively verifiable experience…
you said:These are properties of physical reality and are no more applicable to theistic reality than pirates are to global warming.

So what you are saying is that your theistic reality is not a reliable basis for knowledge? Lets see how far our shared reliable natural basis for knowledge takes, certainly sufficiently far in the domain of public morality. Feel free to believe and act what you will in private but in public you have just admitted you have no case to make to interfere with the lives of others.

My reasoning stems from something I’ve heard Vox Day say. Imagine that a game designer creates a world where matter could be both created and destroyed. Do you think it would be correct reasoning for the entities of that created world to wonder why the designer is not bound by his own programming? To critique God according to a system that is unilaterally a property of his creation is simply illogical – even worse to think it meaningful.  

This is a very poor analogy. On that basis it is perfectly acceptable for parents to perform infanticide, torture their children and so on. Second your god can be quite irrational and capricious, it openly and proudly takes the subjective horn of Euthyphro which (a) thereby denies you any objective basis to interfere with the lives of others (b) such a god is most certainly is not immune to (in this case successful) ethical criticism.

In short, just because you have believe in a Vox-type evil tyrant gives you no right to interfere with the lives of others.

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TaiChi March 12, 2010 at 12:21 am

That is desirism works with the conventional approach or your radical approach.” ~ faithlessgod

Oh, absolutely. I meant to make the same point myself, before launching into the twin-Earth stuff.

First I am not convinced this is over desires but rather beliefs, that is what it was originally addressed to, was it not?” ~ faithlessgod

Yes, but it is easily extended to desires. The reason why beliefs differ on Earth and twin-Earth is due to their propositional content, and since desires are propositional attitudes along with beliefs, the same lesson applies to both kinds.

Second desires do depend on the external world for their fulfilment and it is only desires that are acted upon to affect the external world to are of ethical concern.” ~ faithlessgod
I’m uncertain as to what you mean here, with regard to our dispute over the in/externality of desires.

Surely desires can still refer to the same macro properties which provide the same nutritional/health benefits in both worlds? These are not just appearances.” ~ faithlessgod
Macro-properties exist in virtue of micro-properties on which they supervene. So, in order to understand the reference as successful, and without going the descriptivist route, we’d need to identify the micro-properties as the referents of “water”. But that means identifying “water” with H2O on Earth, and with XYZ on twin-Earth.

Anyway unless you can show this argument has substantive implications for desirism I do not see the need to pursue this line of thought, interesting as it is.” ~ faithlessgod
No, I’ve no intention of showing that. Never had. Carry on.

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MattC March 12, 2010 at 12:30 am

“…you want, instead, is for me to set aside everything I think I know about the world and justify my belief that we have reliable cognitive mechanisms…”

I said nothing about justification for belief. You make reasoned assumptions about reality based on your experience of it. This much is unavoidable and therefore, like you have stated, justified. But justification is a nonissue. The question is, are these beliefs true? To this you must respond one of two ways: “I think so” or “yes, it is according to [insert assumed epistemology here].” Moreover, Reliabilism is self-refuting, insofar as if it is true it fails according to its own measurements. So we must admit that our knowledge is unilaterally dependent upon assumptions that we cannot prove to be true.

“So we can know things?”

Yes… But only according to an assumed epistemic framework. This means all our knowledge is formed according to verisimilitudes. But which does desirism require, that certain external conditions be true or merely verisimilitudinous? Well, let us reconsider the niece analogy. If desirism required a verisimilitude, then since the desire appeared to be truly fulfilled, than it was (even though it was not actually) – inasmuch as it appeared that you had spoken to your niece. But that is not what Fyfe argues. He argues that it must be ACTUALLY fulfilled. So it requires not that an external condition be verisimilitudinous, but rather certainly true.

So here, then, is the burden. Prove that it is certainly true that God does not exist and that serving him is therefore impossible and Fyfe’s argument will succeed.

“This looks like nonsense. Please unpack this so this make some sort of sense.”

Sorry. The moral imperatives of desirism require that we know the truth of certain external fulfillments. Since we can only think we know whether or not certain external conditions are fulfilled, then we cannot make actual moral discernments – defeating the purpose.

“No I said “most likely false” or equivalent making any desire to fulfil a god’s desires most likely unfulfillable”

Most likely false is not sufficient. Essentially, then, you are saying that serving God is likely false. But in order for it to be IMMORAL to want to serve God by opposing homosexuality, it requires it to be necessarily a false belief, or else you are just saying that it is possibly immoral.

“As I have already said you have no reliable (etc.) evidence”

That smells of No True Scotsman. You know nothing of the evidence as I have yet to furnish any, how then have you already deemed it unreliable?

“That is silly, theistic reality rest on the existence of physical reality it is this common ground we both share”

There is certainly some overlap, but I see no reason to believe that theistic reality rests on the existence of physical reality. I could very well be a solipsist (well almost) and believe in the existence of theistic reality based on the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. The inner witness is not a property of physical reality and therefore does not rest upon it.

“So what you are saying is that your theistic reality is not a reliable basis for knowledge? ”

No, I am saying that it need not be repeatable, testable and objectively verifiable according to a framework for which it is not a property of. It is like me asking you to prove physical reality without first assuming its existence – it simply is not possible because all the tools used to prove physical reality are necessary properties of it. All the tools used to prove theistic reality are necessary properties of it.

“On that basis it is perfectly acceptable for parents to perform infanticide, torture their children and so on. ”

This sounds obtuse. There is quite a difference between a programmer not being bound by his own programming and parents killing their children. Fortunately the quality of the analogy is not contingent upon your appraisal of it. Moreover, your assumption (using Euthyphro) is that set principles cannot be arbitrary.

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faithlessgod March 12, 2010 at 2:13 am

But that is not what Fyfe argues. He argues that it must be ACTUALLY fulfilled. So it requires not that an external condition be verisimilitudinous, but rather certainly true.So here, then, is the burden. Prove that it is certainly true that God does not exist and that serving him is therefore impossible and Fyfe’s argument will succeed.

I have already addressed this and you have failed to respond. You are erecting a straw man that is of no relevance to the argument he put in this post, or to his arguments generally (which IMHO are better put than in this post). The burden of proof is on you to establish your position and you have failed to so far.

The moral imperatives of desirism require that we know the truth of certain external fulfillments.

There are no moral imperatives in desirism. Desirism is a ratio-empirical theory of how moral prescriptions work.

Since we can only think we know whether or not certain external conditions are fulfilled, then we cannot make actual moral discernments – defeating the purpose.

The whole modern we live in is based determining such conditions in history, science and reasoning in general. If you want to be a universal skeptic, go ahead, but then you have disqualified yourself from any useful contribution to this debate.

“No I said “most likely false” or equivalent making any desire to fulfil a god’s desires most likely unfulfillable”Most likely false is not sufficient.

You need to provide an argument for absolutism in that case and you have not. Most likely false is all we have in the real world, get over it.

Essentially, then, you are saying that serving God is likely false.

No not at all. The desire is most likely unfulfillable is what I am saying.

But in order for it to be IMMORAL to want to serve God by opposing homosexuality, it requires it to be necessarily a false belief, or else you are just saying that it is possibly immoral.

No this does not follow at all. The above is a red herring. Please address my arguments, I will not waste time repeating myself.

That smells of No True Scotsman.

This response indicates you do not know what that means.

You know nothing of the evidence as I have yet to furnish any, how then have you already deemed it unreliable?

Unless you can produce something radically novel, which you given absolutely no sign of, I, as have many others, long considered those “evidences” specifically in the case of theisms, and generally in any claims over the real world and seekers after truth not comfort have found them to be too unreliable to be of any use.

”There is certainly some overlap, but I see no reason to believe that theistic reality rests on the existence of physical reality. I could very well be a solipsist (well almost) and believe in the existence of theistic reality based on the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

You do indeed come across as a solipsist, I resisted saying this myself previously. If you want to be one fine how about practicising in your own mind or hand rather than in this thread.

The inner witness is not a property of physical reality and therefore does not rest upon it.

That is an empty assertion for which you have provided no evidence plus there is plenty of contrary evidence that the consequences of such beliefs are wholly unreliable and morally repugnant specifically the history of religious conflict in the world.

If you wish to take this stance than you have dismissed your self from any constructive, rational debate. Nothing will change your mind. Society needs to be protected from people like you. You are entitled to your own religious beliefs and I would never say otherwise. However the world would be better off if everyone considered your religion is like masturbation (what else can a solipsist do) and practice it in private.

“So what you are saying is that your theistic reality is not a reliable basis for knowledge? ”No, I am saying that it need not be repeatable, testable and objectively verifiable according to a framework for which it is not a property of. It is like me asking you to prove physical reality without first assuming its existence – it simply is not possible because all the tools used to prove physical reality are necessary properties of it. All the tools used to prove theistic reality are necessary properties of it.

It is fine by me if your unable to provide any real knowledge of such a reality. However this disables its application in any way wiht regard to the real world issues we are considering here.

“On that basis it is perfectly acceptable for parents to perform infanticide, torture their children and so on. ”This sounds obtuse.

It might sound it to you but that is not an argument. It is not.

There is quite a difference between a programmer not being bound by his own programming and parents killing their children.

Glad you realize that so your analogy does not apply to the world we live in then?

Fortunately the quality of the analogy is not contingent upon your appraisal of it.

That is obtuse.

Moreover, your assumption (using Euthyphro) is that set principles cannot be arbitrary.  

What on earth is this about? Please try make some sense in your argument.

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MattC March 12, 2010 at 11:53 am

” Even if successful, their desire to serve God will go unfulfilled, because the proposition, “I have served God” can never be made true.” – Fyfe

“In doing this, I have not, in any manner, fulfilled your desire to talk to your niece. If you have a desire to talk to your niece, this can only be fulfilled by realizing a state in which, “I am talking to my niece” is true. However, I cannot make that proposition a true proposition, so I cannot fulfill your desire to talk to your niece. ” – Fyfe

“They haven’t really accomplished what they wanted to accomplish. They have only been made to believe that they had done so. The difference is that the person tricked into believing he has talked to his niece is the victim. In the case of taking a stand against homosexual marriage, the people with the false beliefs victimize others.” -Fyfe

This is the part of Fyfe’s argument that I am responding to. How is the difference between true and versimilitudenous states not relevant and, even worse, a straw man?

“The burden of proof is on you to establish your position and you have failed to so far.” - Faithlessgod

My position is that it seems clear from the above stated that Fyfe’s argument requires the truth of certain propositions and not just the appearance of truth.

“This response indicates you do not know what that means.” – Faithlessgod

“There is no evidence.”

“Yes there is. Here you go.”
“There is no TRUE (reliable) evidence.”

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TaiChi March 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm

But justification is a nonissue. The question is, are these beliefs true?

This is like saying “Yes, I realize that the suspect was found over the victim covered in blood, that the suspect had a personal vendetta against the victim, and that we have the signed confession – but that’s a non-issue! The question is, did the suspect kill the victim???”. Justification is what we adduce in order to decide whether to believe a proposition as true, and to dismiss it in pursuit the truth, as somehow improving our prospects for finding the truth, is the height of absurdity.

To this you must respond one of two ways: “I think so” or “yes, it is according to [insert assumed epistemology here].”
I’d say “yes”, and if you pressed me, go on to give justification for them. Of course, you wouldn’t be satisfied, as you’ve already decided that we share no common ground from which I could argue to convince you that my beliefs are true, but I fail to see why that should threaten my beliefs that they are true, since I justify them to myself. That’s not to say I’m dogmatic – argue from beliefs which I accept that other of my beliefs are false and I’ll take notice – but I’m not going to be impressed with mere hardheadedness.

Reliabilism is self-refuting, insofar as if it is true it fails according to its own measurements
I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.

My position is that it seems clear from the above stated that Fyfe’s argument requires the truth of certain propositions and not just the appearance of truth.
Grand. Now if you could just get your head around the fact that the appearance of truth (i.e. justification) is grounds for thinking a proposition is true, that’d be swell.

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faithlessgod March 12, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Hi MattC

I already said that I thought Fyfe has made this argument clearer elsewhere, however you are quite entitled to address only his argument here. However I have also provided highly relevant additional supporting arguments and so far you have failed to sudcesfully address or misconstrue all these arguments so far. Lets proceed.

MattC: This is the part of Fyfe’s argument that I am responding to.

Fine, Fyfe’s Niece Analogy shows how someone can believe that an unfulfillable desire is not only fulfillable but is (falsely) fulfilled. Further their subjective experience of satisfaction due to a false belief that an unfulfillable desire is fulfilled is still not evidence that the desire is in fact fulfillable.

What Fyfe was addressing with respect to theists claim to be serving the will of a god, in other words fulfilling the desires of that god, has the same problem of pragmatic proof as in his niece analogy. Subjective experience is not pragmatic proof.

I provided two additional arguments based on if somehow you overcame the overwhelming probabilities against being right about god and its desires, that this still does not support homophobia. First that god would be morally condemnable for promoting homophobia and second his supporters would still have no objective evidence to support their claims.

I would add another argument now, that dominant conception of god in the states seems to be the evangelical god, the apologists god, but that is a logically incoherent or impossible god, that particular god we can say cannot possibly exist, and so Fyfe’s argument can show how people can be deluded into thinking they are fulfilling the unfulfillable desires of an impossible god.

One way or another there is no evidence to support their claims, it is just their opinion and they have no facts to back it up. As I (and Wittgenstein) said “An inner process is in need of an outer criterion”.

However you look at it fulfilling god’s homophobia is not a sound and valid argument to make in the public space and should carry no weight.

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cl March 14, 2010 at 9:34 pm

In general, I’m a fan of the attention to nuance I see from several regular commenters here.

That said, my main objection to Fyfe’s post is that he has nothing other than his own subjective opinion to ground his closing statement that, “those with a genuine aversion to homosexual desire may be justifiably classified as evil, and condemned for their sentiments.”

faithlessgod,

Note that I’m only responding to your initial response to me, and for the sake of brevity, I’m going to ignore the question of child torture and frame my response strictly in the context of aversion to homosexual desire:

1) Considering this exchange,

I’ll give it a more thorough objection later, but for now, I’ll say this is just the same old laundry re-washed: since Fyfe can’t or hasn’t conceived of a reason to promote [you mean inhibit surely?] the desire to torture children, or aversion to homosexuality, he launches into his own condemnation of other peoples’ desires based off of his own values. (cl, brackets faithlessgod)

You may agree or disagree with his arguments, but it is just bullshit to assert the above. He has provided real-world reasons not just “his values”. You can dispute those but to claim that he has not provided such reasons is just false. (faithlessgod)

..not when you see where I’m coming from: I meant promote because although he acknowledges the distinction between “real” and “falsely believed” reasons to inhibit homosexuality, Fyfe responds only to latter. Worse, his claim that the proposition “I have served God” cannot be made true is mere assertion with nothing to ground it. If a God that has reason to inhibit homosexuality exists, then real world reason inhibit homosexuality exists. Fyfe simply asserts that no such God exists. His example of the desire to make true the proposition “I have talked to my dead niece” is not categorially equivalent to the desire to make true the proposition “I have served God” because in the case of the niece, it’s known for a fact that we began with a charlatan. It’s not known for a fact whether God exists or not. IOW, apples and oranges.

2) When I said,

Honestly, I see Fyfe’s condemnation of Christians as parallel to Christians’ condemnation of homosexuals (for reasons that extend beyond this post, too). I was unimpressed that Fyfe chose to frame those with an aversion to homosexuality in exclusively Christian theist terms, as if “the desire to please God” is the only possible reason one might object to homosexuality.

You replied,

..and even after re-reading that five times I still had no choice but to chalk it up to lack of sleep and/or coffee.

3) You said,

The question here is as to whether others should inflict harm on those who do have homosexual desires. This you have completely failed to address.

While that might be a question you were discussing with some other commenter, the reason I “failed” to address it is because Alonzo’s OP also “failed” to address it. A careful re-reading of the OP will reveal that it contains not one single scintilla of language indicating reference to “inflicting harm” on homosexuals. In fact, Fyfe in his second and third paragraphs identified the issue at hand:

..homosexuality – or, a desire to have sex with somebody who is the same gender as oneself.

There seem to be a great many people in this world who have an aversion to the desire to have sex with somebody who is the same gender as oneself. This aversion to homosexuality, in desire utilitarian terms, would provide reason to act so as to make it the case that homosexuality did not exist. (Fyfe)

So don’t sit there and tell me I’ve “completely failed to address” that which was not addressed in the OP when it’s really you who’s somehow managed to address that which was not addressed in the OP.

4) If nothing else, at least we can agree that Fyfe’s “desires for desires” was inarticulate.

5) I understand what subjective means. I simply disagree that,

..Fyfe gives arguments that are not dependent on, and is clear, very often contradictory to the opinions of both agents and assessors,

..but if you can show me a single objective reason to accept Fyfe’s closing statement, please do.

To restate my position, the only support grounding Fyfe’s closing statement that “those with a genuine aversion to homosexual desire may be justifiably classified as evil, and condemned for their sentiments,” is Fyfe’s unsupported assertion that the desire to make the proposition “I have served God” cannot be made true, and Fyfe has not adequately addressed those with a “real” reason to inhibit homosexuality.

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faithlessgod March 15, 2010 at 1:23 am

Hi CL

OK lets just Fyfe’s arguments in this post.

I meant promote because although he acknowledges the distinction between “real” and “falsely believed” reasons to inhibit homosexuality, Fyfe responds only to latter.

OK I will grant that this was the primary goal of his post.

Worse, his claim that the proposition “I have served God” cannot be made true is mere assertion with nothing to ground it.

No, his Niece Argument was to correctly show that any such claim cannot demonstrate that one actually serving god’s will (or whatever).

If a God that has reason to inhibit homosexuality exists, then real world reason inhibit homosexuality exists.

But that is no different to you, me or anyone else having a reason, say, due to a disgust reaction or any other subjective feeling. It is a fact that you (well certainly me) does have such a disgust reaction, therefore I do not have a homosexual desire and I do have an aversion to homosexual desires (well actually only of the male kind, for females no such disgust reaction ;-) ) However the question being asked here is such an aversion something to be promoted? No-one in this comment thread has provided any real-world justification to promote this aversion.

You either have it or you don’t (presumably not if you are gay or lesbian) but this is not a reason to inflict harm on those who have homosexual desire. It is just a reason not to engage in homosexual desires but we (well at least me) does not want to and that is the end of the matter.

Fyfe simply asserts that no such God exists.

This post was not an argument over god’s existence. It was about publicly promoting an aversion to homosexual desire.
If you want to keep to his core argument then he is saying that subjective claims that one is fulfilling god’s desires is not a valid justification to promote homophobia (as for being evidence that such a god exists that is secondary in this post). This is the core point in this post.

Independently when you look at the question objectively god most likely does not exist and given the contrary and contradictory conceptions of god and it’s desires, there is no non-subjective and non-relative grounds on this that can be used in the public sphere – certainly not any claims that one is fulfilling a god’s desires. That is there is no real-world evidence to support any such claims.

His example of the desire to make true the proposition “I have talked to my dead niece” is not categorically equivalent to the desire to make true the proposition “I have served God” because in the case of the niece, it’s known for a fact that we began with a charlatan. It’s not known for a fact whether God exists or not. IOW, apples and oranges.

The burden on you is to show you have not been conned but where is your real-world evidence that this is not the case? Until you do show this, we have no good reson to believe your claims.

If nothing else, at least we can agree that Fyfe’s “desires for desires” was inarticulate.

But I have already clarified that and so on the principle of charity you are no longer entitled to interpret this otherwise.

5) I understand what subjective means. I simply disagree that,..but if you can show me a single objective reason to accept Fyfe’s closing statement, please do.
“Yet, there is no good reason to have the desire (or aversion) that causes these people to act as they do. At the same time, the fact that this desire or aversion motivates those who have it to do real-world harm to others gives us real-world reason to condemn that desire or aversion.”

It is up to you to provide such a reason and you have not yet. Until you do surely his conclusion follows.

To restate my position, the only support grounding Fyfe’s closing statement that “those with a genuine aversion to homosexual desire may be justifiably classified as evil, and condemned for their sentiments,” is Fyfe’s unsupported assertion that the desire to make the proposition “I have served God” cannot be made true, and Fyfe has not adequately addressed those with a “real” reason to inhibit homosexuality.  

I agree that this post was not the complete set of arguments on this issue but then his post would have been much longer. He was addressing a specific (and popular) claim and showing it was not justified grounds on which to promote homophobia, that is all he was doing.

To repeat the claim that one is following god’ desire ad gaining satisfaction from so doing is not evidence that such (or any) god exists. That is really the only point I am interested in here. Do you not agree that this cannot count as objective evidence for such a god?

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Alonzo Fyfe March 17, 2010 at 10:42 am

Yes, my statement that one cannot fulfill a desire to serve God because the proposition, “I am serving God” was made true was grounded on the unargued premise that no God exists.

In my own blog I often make the disclaimer that in this blog I am not going to argue over the existence of God. I will leave others to do that. I am simply going to assume that no God exists.

This is true in the same way that I am not going to argue that objects are made up of atoms, or that 2 + 2 = 4. I am not going to prove every proposition that shows up in one of my posts. I am going to take some as background knowledge and not waste time on them.

If somebody disputes the proposition that no God exists, they are free to discuss the merits and de-merits to that question in any of the thousands of blogs where people are discussing that issue. The internet does not need to have that topic discussed again on blog thousands and one.

Now, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that there is a god and that this god has an aversion to homosexual desire.”

Question 1: Why did God create a desire to which he is averse?

That’s a side question.

The moral question is:

Question 2: Does this make homosexual desire bad, or does this make God evil?

Let us assume that God finds pleasure in torturing young children (which related directly to the post from which this one sprang). Does that make the torture of young children good, or would that make God evil.

I would hold that such a desire in any God would make that God evil. God would have a desire that tended to thwart other desires – a desire that no good person (or being) would have.

In the same way that the desire to torture children would make God evil, any desire to fulfill God’s desire to torture children would also be evil. It would not be enough to argue that ‘my acts fulfill God’s desire’. One also has to take the additional step and argue, ‘And God’s desire is good.’

One could argue that God, being good, could never find pleasure in the torture of young children. Yet, one could also argue that God, being good, could never condemn homosexual desire. Religions that attribute an aversion to homosexual desire to God are like religions that attribute a fondness for torturing children to God. They are simply mistaken – a human error when humans made when they decided to attribute their own bigotry to God to give it an illusioin of legitimacy.

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cl March 18, 2010 at 8:08 am

TaiChi,

Sorry for the delay in responding. I understand the distinction you made between internal feelings and the external results of desire fulfillment. For example, it’s possible for an agent to have an internal feeling that their desire has been fulfilled without the corresponding external results one would expect to see were that desire actually fulfilled. We see this each time we act on the assumption that our recipient received our email. Accordingly, I see four possible ontological states regarding agents and the belief that desires have been fulfilled:

A) External proposition = T, Internal feeling = F

B) External proposition = T, Internal Feeling = T

C) External proposition = F, Internal Feeling = F

D) External proposition = F, Internal Feeling = T

So when you say,

..I wholeheartedly agree with you that the internal component of a desire, which you take for the whole, is the same whether a desire is fulfilled or not[,]

I take that as saying that we can have the internal feeling of desire fulfillment whether the external proposition is actually made true or not. Right? If so, then we’re on the same page there, but I don’t take the internal feeling to be “the whole” of the matter. So when you ask,

Your comments suggest that you think feelings of satisfaction are relevant to ethics, whereas the worldly correlates of desire are irrelevant. Is that right?

Absolutely not. I believe that an accurate moral evaluation must include the “external effects” of any particular desire’s fulfillment, expressed in the question, “how would the world be if every person made X true?”

Let’s back up to my comment you prefaced your response with:

..at the end of the day, I’m going to conclude that the net effect on the agent would be identical. (cl)

I said that in response to Fyfe’s statement that,

One thing to point out in this issue is that many people think they have a reason to oppose homosexual desire when, in fact, they do not. There are people who have a desire to serve God, and they have been taught to believe that serving God means eliminating homosexual desire. However, these attitudes do not give these people any reason to condemn homosexual desire. Even if successful, their desire to serve God will go unfulfilled, because the proposition, “I have served God” can never be made true. (Fyfe)

My emphasis on the internal feeling was to illustrate the weakness of Fyfe’s counterargument: like those who assume encouraging an aversion to homosexuality makes the proposition “I have served God” true, Fyfe simply assumes the proposition “I have served God” can never be made true, and offers that as the extent of his response. Both responses rest on assumption. I offer this as an answer to your closing question:

now that I’ve recast Fyfe’s position to avoid a diversionary terminological difference, is there anything here you substantially disagree with?

Yes; Fyfe’s response is founded on assumption – just as those who promote aversion to homosexuality “because God says so” found their responses on assumption – and though he alluded to their existence, Fyfe did not address those with “real” reasons to inhibit homosexual desire.

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piero March 18, 2010 at 8:51 am

cl: TaiChi,Yes; Fyfe’s response is founded on assumption – just as those who promote aversion to homosexuality “because God says so” found their responses on assumption – and though he alluded to their existence, Fyfe did not address those with “real” reasons to inhibit homosexual desire.  

I disagree. There are two separate issues here: obedience to God because it is the supreme being, and obedience to God because it is good. If you condemn homosexuality because that’s God’s will – full stop -, then you fall into the first category, and leave yourself open to the retort “Prove that God exists” (which you won’t, because it can’t be done). If you condemn homosexuality because
God is good and God says it is bad, then you leave yourself open to the retort “Well, if God has desires that thwart other desires, then God is not good”; you could reply “But God is the supreme being”, and you are back to square one. Sorry.

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piero March 18, 2010 at 8:53 am

Oh, and could you tell me one “real” reason to inhibit homosexual desire?

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Alonzo Fyfe March 18, 2010 at 11:17 am

The ‘internal feeling’ that you refer to is what I call ‘desire satisfaction’. To say ‘we can have the internal feeling of desire fulfillment whether the external proposition is actually made true or not’ makes little sense, because ‘fulfillment’ only happens if the external proposition is made true.

This is a semantic issue, but useful in avoiding ambiguity.

The net effect on the agent – satisfaction with the proposition being true, and satisfaction with the proposition being false but believed true – is the same.

However, the value of the two states are different.

Give a person with a desire that P, where P is some external fact, and the option to choose, “satisfaction with the proposition being true” and “satisfaction with the proposition being false”, he chooses the former.

The parent who will feel a sense of satisfaction if they believe their child is safe and healthy is given two options – satisfaction where the child is safe and healthy in fact, and satisfaction where the parent falsely believes the child is safe and healthy. Parents quite routinely choose the first option. This suggests that equal satisfaction does not translate into equal value. Value depends on truth – on the fulfillment, as opposed to the satisfaction, of desires.

If an agent is indifferent between these two states we would be justified in concluding that the parent does not care about the child at all. He only cares about his own satisfaction. He has no desire that P where P = “my child is healthy and happy.” He only has a desire that P where P = “I am feeling satisfaction.”

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cl March 19, 2010 at 8:07 am

faithlessgod,

..this is not a reason to inflict harm on those who have homosexual desire.

I never said it was, and to my knowledge, neither did anybody else. Nothing in Fyfe’s OP even mentions the infliction of harm on homosexuals. Since the outset, I’ve understood his core argument.

This post was not an argument over god’s existence. It was about publicly promoting an aversion to homosexual desire.
If you want to keep to his core argument then he is saying that subjective claims that one is fulfilling god’s desires is not a valid justification to promote homophobia

I assure you I understand Fyfe’s core argument. The allusions otherwise are somewhat distracting, especially when you yourself keep bringing up “harm to homosexuals” which was not addressed in the OP, and especially when I never said a single word about evidence for God’s existence — I simply noted that Fyfe’s defense is based on the assumption that God doesn’t exist. That statement of mine was not a challenge to debate God’s existence, it was an explanation of why I don’t accept Fyfe’s defense.

While I obviously disagree with your assessment of God’s likelihood, I agree with you that “..there is no real-world evidence to support any such claim,” i.e., that one has, through their aversion to homosexual desire, made the proposition “I am serving God” true. Similarly, there is no real-world evidence to support Fyfe’s claim that the proposition “I am serving God” can never be made true — hence my objection.

But I have already clarified that and so on the principle of charity you are no longer entitled to interpret this otherwise.

What did you clarify, such that Fyfe’s phrase “desires for desires” should no longer be considered inarticulate?

It is up to you to provide such a reason and you have not yet. Until you do surely his conclusion follows.

I’ve provided such a reason, a few times, as even a brief perusal of the thread will testify. Again, for the sake of argument – if every person became homosexual, our species eventually comes to a grinding halt. Now, provided we agree the desire to reproduce and propagate the species should be fulfilled, such is a real-world reason to inhibit homosexual desire. To my knowledge, nobody’s provided a sound objection to that. There was a brief mention of kin selection, but nothing else that I recall.

Second, to say that Fyfe’s “conclusion follows” until a real reason is provided is a near-textbook example of an argument from ignorance: it essentially implies that Fyfe’s conclusion is true because the believer has not yet successfully demonstrated theirs.

He was addressing a specific (and popular) claim and showing it was not justified grounds on which to promote homophobia, that is all he was doing.

Similarly, I’ve shown that Fyfe’s counterclaim is equally unjustified, as it rests on the converse assumption. Fyfe has in fact said as much:

Yes, my statement that one cannot fulfill a desire to serve God because the proposition, “I am serving God” was made true was grounded on the unargued premise that no God exists. (Fyfe)

If anybody (besides Alonzo) has a reason why I should accept Fyfe’s statement despite its presumptuous nature, I’m interested in hearing it. I say ‘besides Alonzo’ because I intend to address his comment next.

To repeat the claim that one is following god’ desire ad gaining satisfaction from so doing is not evidence that such (or any) god exists. That is really the only point I am interested in here. Do you not agree that this cannot count as objective evidence for such a god?

Yes, I agree that such cannot count as objective evidence for God, but if the topic isn’t “evidence for God” — as you’ve reminded me of three times now — then why would you even ask me that, let alone state that such is “really the only point” you’re interested in?

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cl March 19, 2010 at 9:05 am

Alonzo,

In response to your comment March 17:

If somebody disputes the proposition that no God exists, they are free to discuss the merits and de-merits to that question in any of the thousands of blogs where people are discussing that issue. The internet does not need to have that topic discussed again on blog thousands and one.

I completely agree, as it was not I who transitioned this conversation into a side-issue about “evidence” for God. I simply sought to mention what you’ve already acknowledged: that your counterclaim is assumption-laden and not grounded to any sort of “real world” evidence that might mandate its acceptance by those who don’t already share the assumption.

Now, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that there is a god and that this god has an aversion to homosexual desire.”

Okay..

Why did God create a desire to which he is averse?

That’s a side question.

Correct. It’s also a question founded on the implicit assumption that God created homosexual desire, which I would state is not an assumption I share, if we were to go down that road, but let’s address the moral question:

Does this make homosexual desire bad, or does this make God evil?

I think you’re destined for difficulty running your argument against the proposition that God is – by nature – good. If such a God exists, then said God’s desire to inhibit homosexuality must also be good, in the same way that the desire to serve an evil god must also be evil if an evil god exists. When considering such a God – a God that is by nature good – your question,

..or does this make God evil?

..becomes meaningless: a God that is by nature good is incapable of evil desires. This is the type of God most Christians and many monotheists assume. Since it’s unlikely you’ll be able to share the believer’s assumptions and vice-versa, I suggest a defense that doesn’t require us to assume that the proposition “I am serving God” cannot be made true, and that works in instances where “I am serving God” is not the proffered reason for action to inhibit homosexual desire.

I would also note that the Euthyphro dilemma arises regardless of the agent making the moral prescription: e.g., would a God with reason to inhibit homosexual desire be evil because that God is evil, or because Alonzo Fyfe says that God is evil?

One could argue that God, being good, could never find pleasure in the torture of young children. Yet, one could also argue that God, being good, could never condemn homosexual desire.

Of course, one “could” argue pretty much anything; what I’m looking for is how any proponent can ground their arguments in something besides subjective opinion. Here’s my initial effort, recast in your vernacular: one could also argue that God, being good, could never find pleasure in a homosexual Homo sapiens, as procreation becomes thwarted. Unlike the other assumptions, this one at least rests on a “real-world” reason, as opposed to either a) the believer’s assumption that the proposition “I am serving God” has been made true, or b) your counter-assumption that the proposition “I am serving God” can never be made true.

Though you alluded to their existence, you offered no objection to those who do not use “I am serving God” as reason to inhibit (or at least reason not to promote) homosexual desire – for example, my initial response that if every person was homosexual, such would thwart the proliferation of our species.

I don’t mean to be so contrarian, it’s just that I think we need to be sure before we can start labeling entire groups of people as “evil” simply on behalf of disagreement.

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piero March 19, 2010 at 9:25 am

cl, yu know full well that procreation can be accomplished through artificial insemination. Why do you insist on a non-argument?

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faithlessgod March 19, 2010 at 10:21 am

Cl

Three points.

First Alonzo far more eloquently stated a point I already made, namely that even if a god exists fulfilling its desire is not a moral justification to promote an aversion and so to justify discrimination against homosexuals.

Second his language in the post was less eloquent or clear, at least IMHO. As I thought I made clear, the issue is not over promoting or inhibiting homosexual desire, but inhibiting or promoting an aversion to homosexuals – that is inflicting harm on them or not.

Finally your point over promoting homosexual desire is irrelevant in this discussion. That is not what is being argued for by me or Alonzo.

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faithlessgod March 19, 2010 at 10:43 am

CL

Two related points in response to your reply to Alonzo.

You complain of arguments being “assumption laden” and yet now you assert without any argument that god is good, or maybe you are just playing devils advocate on behalf of theists. Either way, as opposed to any claims we make we can provide arguments if challenged, you cannot here, since one can just as easily assert that god is evil and there is no way to objectively differentiate one assertion from the other. There are no sound and valid arguments to differentiate the two and so one could never know and it is unsound to assume nor assert one or the other.

Secondly the assertion that good is part of god’s nature and that there objective moral values is logically incoherent. This is what the many theists who believe goodness is part of god’s nature assert. However if theists insist that both are true then such a god does not exist.

So either way there is no sound or coherent basis for claiming that god is good (or “God is – by nature – good” or what have you). It should be irrelevant in any ethical debate.

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TaiChi March 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Cl,

Thanks for the reply.

My emphasis on the internal feeling was to illustrate the weakness of Fyfe’s counterargument: like those who assume encouraging an aversion to homosexuality makes the proposition “I have served God” true, Fyfe simply assumes the proposition “I have served God” can never be made true, and offers that as the extent of his response. ” ~ Cl

Then I think I understand you perfectly. What confused me was that you endorsed MattC, who was arguing that internal feeling was all that mattered to the satisfaction of desire..

Moreover, to say that a desire cannot be satisfied unless certain external conditions are met is to make desires the property of an external state – which they are not a property of.” ~ MattC

..and your comments seemed to carry on in that spirit. But yes, I quite agree that something more than theistic versus atheistic intuitions is required to settle the issue of whether desires are being fulfilled.

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TaiChi March 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Pardon the interruption, but I can’t resist..

I think you’re destined for difficulty running your argument against the proposition that God is – by nature – good. If such a God exists, then said God’s desire to inhibit homosexuality must also be good, in the same way that the desire to serve an evil god must also be evil if an evil god exists. When considering such a God – a God that is by nature good – your question [..or does this make God evil?] ..becomes meaningless: a God that is by nature good is incapable of evil desires.” ~ cl

With that hardline stance in mind, Fyfe could just as well argue..

1. If God exists, then God is good, and therefore his desires are good.
2. If God exists, God desires to inhibit homosexuality.
3. So if God exists, the desire to inhibit homosexuality is good.
4. The desire to inhibit homosexuality is not good. [From Desirism]
5. So God does not exist.

.. so asserting God’s undeniable goodness really isn’t a panacea to moral condemnation. Rather, it opens the way to a disproof of God’s existence.

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cl March 25, 2010 at 6:32 pm

piero,

In response to your comments March 18:

..Fyfe’s response is founded on assumption – just as those who promote aversion to homosexuality “because God says so” found their responses on assumption – and though he alluded to their existence, Fyfe did not address those with “real” reasons to inhibit homosexual desire. (cl)

I disagree. (piero)

What do you disagree with? 1) That Fyfe’s response is founded on assumption? 2) That Fyfe alluded to the existence of those with “real” reasons to inhibit homosexual desire? 3) That Fyfe did not address those with “real” reasons to inhibit homosexual desire?

If none of those, can you explain the relevance of your comment?

Oh, and could you tell me one “real” reason to inhibit homosexual desire? (piero)

I did. I said that if all people yielded to homosexual desires, there would eventually be no more people. You countered March 19 with,

..yu know full well that procreation can be accomplished through artificial insemination. Why do you insist on a non-argument?

Likewise, you know full well that if all people had yielded to homosexual desires, our species would never have reached a state where artificial insemination was possible.

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cl March 25, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Alonzo Fyfe,

In response to your comment March 18:

The ‘internal feeling’ that you refer to is what I call ‘desire satisfaction’. To say ‘we can have the internal feeling of desire fulfillment whether the external proposition is actually made true or not’ makes little sense, because ‘fulfillment’ only happens if the external proposition is made true. This is a semantic issue, but useful in avoiding ambiguity.

My only concern is that we’re understanding each other. If I were to use your language, I suppose I would reword my statement to, “we can have the internal feeling of desire fulfillment satisfaction whether the external proposition is actually made true or not desire is actually fulfilled or not.

That said, I would also agree with you that “satisfaction with the proposition being true” > “satisfaction with the proposition being false,” where “>” = “more desirable” or something similar. However, correct me if I’m wrong, but that we agree on this point seems to have no import to my primary objection, which was that the defense offered here was founded on an assumption.

Also, not that I’m claiming it’s anything, but as a courtesy, I thought you should know about:

Questioning Fyfe’s Desirism: Introduction

I know that you’re a busy guy, and I’m not expecting anything, but if you’re interested, it’s there. Some commenters here do a better job of summarizing desirism’s main points than others. For the sake of giving desirism as fair a shake as possible, I’d much rather receive criticism from you than those who interpret you. The cited post expresses my understanding and my questions much more clearly and thoroughly than the piecemeal comments I’ve left around here over the past few weeks.

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piero March 26, 2010 at 6:45 am

piero,In response to your comments March 18:
What do you disagree with? 1) That Fyfe’s response is founded on assumption? 2) That Fyfe alluded to the existence of those with “real” reasons to inhibit homosexual desire? 3) That Fyfe did not address those with “real” reasons to inhibit homosexual desire?If none of those, can you explain the relevance of your comment?

1 and 3. Desirism is not founded on assumptions, but on facts: desires are the only reasons for action that exist.
Furthermore, the interplay of conflicting desires affords us a rationale for morality: the relentless pursuit of your own desires will not, in general, be an effective way of preventing your desires from being thwarted. The best way to protect your own desires is to promote desires that do not tend to thwart other desires.

Likewise, you know full well that if all people had yielded to homosexual desires, our species would never have reached a state where artificial insemination was possible.

You keep referring to homosexuality as a kind of perverse temptation. “Yielded” to homosexual desires? I do not see myself as “yielding” to heterosexual desires: that’s just how my biology works, and I have no choice in the matter. Similarly, homosexual desire is not a choice, so how can it be praised or condemned?

Yes, if at some point in the past everybody on earth had been born homosexual, the human species might have disappeared (though I doubt it: artificial insemination does not require a lot of technology). But so what? A smallpox epidemic could also have wiped us out. Would you hold those who contracted it responsible? (not that you would be here to hold anything at all, but you get the idea).

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cl March 26, 2010 at 8:55 pm

faithlessgod,

Regarding your first comment March 19th,

..even if a god exists fulfilling its desire is not a moral justification to promote an aversion and so to justify discrimination against homosexuals.

That depends on whether or not said god’s desire is good or not; if it is, then we have sufficient reason to condemn homosexual desires. Note such is different than having sufficient reason to justify discrimination against homosexuals, which I’m not advocating.

..the issue is not over promoting or inhibiting homosexual desire, but inhibiting or promoting an aversion to homosexuals

The issue is, as Fyfe stated,

..whether there is any reason to praise or condemn this aversion to homosexual desire. (Fyfe)

Regarding your second comment March 19th,

You complain of arguments being “assumption laden” and yet now you assert without any argument that god is good,

I asserted no such thing; I explained to Alonzo why I think he’s destined for difficulty running his argument against the proposition that God is – by nature – good. This is not tantamount to “asserting without any argument that [God] is good.” My objections to Fyfe’s OP are not founded on assumption, but on the fact which remains: Fyfe conceded that his statement that “the proposition ‘I am serving God’ cannot be made true” was founded on assumption.

I submit that this makes Fyfe’s response at least as unreliable as the believer who simply assumes “I am serving God” is being made true when they promote an aversion to homosexuality.

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faithlessgod March 27, 2010 at 3:47 am

Hi cl

That depends on whether or not said god’s desire is good or not; if it is, then we have sufficient reason to condemn homosexual desires.

Yes but we have to evaluate whether god’s desire is good or not. If it is good, it is irrelevant that it is god’s desire, it is good regardless and god could be praised for having it. If it is not good, then such a desire of god is equally condemnable.

I explained to Alonzo why I think he’s destined for difficulty running his argument against the proposition that God is – by nature – good

Yes but you have not answered my (and Alonzo’s AFAIK) objection to such an empty assertion. Until you can you have not provided much of any explanation.

Finally you say

I submit that this makes Fyfe’s response at least as unreliable as the believer who simply assumes “I am serving God” is being made true when they promote an aversion to homosexuality.

What? After all your argument you have now conceded Alonzo’s original point! (And it is unclear what your “submission” refers to)

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BorisG June 11, 2010 at 11:39 pm

cl

“I did. I said that if all people yielded to homosexual desires, there would eventually be no more people.”

Some points:

1. Why is this necessarily true? Homosexual desire does not preclude a desire to have children, as the struggle for gay adoption rights shows. It’s entirely reasonable to believe that, were EVERYONE homosexual, we’d still be doing our duty to produce offspring to continue the human race. Currently, lesbians and gay men are regularly “joining forces” to produce offspring that mainstream culture is trying to deny them.

2. Even if homosexuality was universal and that meant no more reproduction, by what I understand desirism to be, that wouldn’t make it a problem. If there’s nobody desiring to make babies, then there can be nothing immoral about people not making babies. So citing the non-making of babies as if it would be bad, in such a universe, is nonsensical.

Moreover, the simply fact is that only a small fraction of the population is homosexual, or will ever be. So the argument that, “well if everyone did X, Y would happen” is completely useless, because it has zero bearing on reality. We could spend all year inventing hypothetical “If everyone did X, then Y would happen” horror stories. “If everyone only listened to rock music, then Beethoven wouldn’t exist!” Does that make listening to rock music immoral? Of course not.

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cl May 6, 2011 at 6:09 pm

BorisG,

Homosexual desire does not preclude a desire to have children, as the struggle for gay adoption rights shows. It’s entirely reasonable to believe that, were EVERYONE homosexual, we’d still be doing our duty to produce offspring to continue the human race. Currently, lesbians and gay men are regularly “joining forces” to produce offspring that mainstream culture is trying to deny them.

You’re right. Good catch. What I meant was more like, “If everyone was homosexual and only homosexual.”

Even if homosexuality was universal and that meant no more reproduction, by what I understand desirism to be, that wouldn’t make it a problem. If there’s nobody desiring to make babies, then there can be nothing immoral about people not making babies. So citing the non-making of babies as if it would be bad, in such a universe, is nonsensical.

That assumes nobody would want to make babies, which may or may not be the case.

So the argument that, “well if everyone did X, Y would happen” is completely useless, because it has zero bearing on reality.

I think you’re wrong there. That metric is quite useful for determining the overall quality of a given desire.

Even given these concessions, desirism is still a circular theory with no empirical evidence to support it. That’s the larger point here, an argument that stands or falls whether or not my hypotheticals are intact.

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