In Praise of Insults

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 3, 2010 in Ethics,Guest Post

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 a recent post addressing Pat Condell’s criticism of ‘polite debate’ the topic of ‘insult’ came up.

Pat Condell uses insult as a way of communicating his ideas. He has been criticized for it by those who think that atheists should instead be engaging in polite debate. Condell has been accused of giving atheists a bad name and in engaging in activities that are, at best, counter-productive. Condell then responded in the video by insulting the advocates of polite debate.

Also, at least judging from the video, at least some of the defenders of polite debate apparently sought to make their point that people should not use insults and condemnation… by insulting and condemning Pat Condell.

And, in a nice piece of irony, Condell, in turn, began his defense on the effectiveness of insult by shrugging off the insults and condemnation of others like so much proverbial water off of a duck’s back.

The topic I will address now is the proper role of insult, ridicule, and condemnation.

Insult has an honored place within desirism. Desirism states that morality is all about using social tools such as praise and condemnation to mold desires – promoting desires that tend to fulfill other desires, and inhibiting desires that tend to thwart other desires.

In fact, it seems to me that it is the only theory that addresses the fact that praise and condemnation are a key component of moral institutions. All other theories ignore the subject entirely. It is not that we can see how they account for the central role of praise and condemnation in morality and compare their answers to those that desirism provides. They do not even address the issue.

Desirism states that praise and condemnation have key roles to play in moral institutions. In fact, it would not be too much of a distortion of desirism to state that it is a theory of the proper use of social forces such as moral praise and condemnation.

Within desirism, polite reasoning is to condemnation what screwdrivers are to hammers. Each of these is a tool which has a particular role to play. It is generally inefficient to mix up one’s tools – to use a hammer to pound in screws, or a screwdriver to pound in nails.

If the attitude that one is targeting is a belief, then the tool that one should use is reason. It is the unimpassioned presentation of a conclusion and the evidence that is available to support that conclusion, along side a parallel discussion of alternative theories and why they fail.

However, desires are immune to reason. Our likes and dislikes are not the subject of logical syllogisms by which a ‘desire’ conclusion is proved true by its relationship to particular premises. At best, we can form arguments that state, “Given that P destroys Q, and you have a desire that Q, then you have a reason to avoid acquiring a desire that P.” This proposition, relating one desire to another, can be used in polite reason. However, the original desire that Q is not something to be proved or disproved by reason.1

Praise and condemnation are the tools to use when what you are targeting is a desire, rather than a belief.

Luke’s post addressed the claim, “You cannot convert a person to atheism by insulting them.”

Perhaps you can, but not through any method that teaches a respect for reason. There is no set of insults that entails that a particular conclusion is true or false. That is to say, there is no set of insults that can be offered as proof, on the basis of which the person who hears the insults finds that the conclusion is the one that is best supported by the available evidence.

However, the person who is using insult as a way of changing beliefs is like the carpenter using a screw driver to pound in nails. The inappropriateness of the tool to the job does not imply that we should get rid of the tool. We should keep the tool, and call upon it when we have a job to do for which that tool is particularly well suited.

With respect to many religious attitudes that people hold, while we can use polite reason to address their false beliefs, we also have reason to use condemnation (including insult and ridicule) to address their bad desires. Not only are they making mistakes with respect to what is true and false, they have adopted a set of desires – likes and dislikes – that are contributing to much of the death and suffering that we see around us today.

Those bad desires need to be addressed, and the social tools to be used when we are addressing bad desires include praise and condemnation, including insult and ridicule.

The chief among these moral failings is intellectual recklessness on matters concerning the well-being of others.

I have argued that none of us have the resources we would need to hold all of our beliefs up to the light of reason, We must pick and choose which get examined and which will sit unexamined. One of the criteria for determining which beliefs to hold up to the light of reason is its impact on others. Those beliefs that have little impact can sit unexamined. But we have many and strong reasons to demand that people give beliefs that affect others a greater amount of scrutiny.

When a religious person attempts to defend some policy that is harmful to others – whether it be to forbid homosexual marriage or to teach creationism in a science classroom or to rewrite American history – then polite debate is not enough. These people are not only engaging in but promoting intellectual recklessness. In doing so, they are creating a world with more death and suffering than the world would have if people had a stronger commitment to the reasoned defnse of propositions affecting the lives of others.

Intellectual recklessness is not a failure of belief to be addressed through polite reason. Intellectual recklessness shuns reason. It is a vice that can only be properly addressed using the tools of praise and condemnation – praise of those who are the practitioners of intellectual responsibility, and condemnation to the practitioners of intellectual recklessness.

In fact, I think that intellectual recklessness may be the most costly and destructive vice in the world today.

Please note, what we are to praise here is not atheism, and what we are to condemn is not theism. Instead, what we are to praise is intellectual responsibility, and what we are to condemn is intellectual recklessness. If atheists are not condemned for intellectual recklessness, we give the impression that the moral flaw rests in believing in God rather than careless disregard for the well-being of others. Thus, we risk creating a society in which its citizens do not believe in God and suffer a careless disregard for the well-being of others.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that we will be any more secure and successful in a community of intellectually reckless atheists as in any particular group of theists. It is intellectual recklessness that threatens our security and success, not theism. Thus, it is intellectual recklessness that deserves our ridicule, scorn, and condemnation. It is the intellectually reckless who deserve our insults.

In light of all this, I think it is safe to say that Pat Condell is a hate-mongering bigot who speaks and writes as if he considers intellectual recklessness to be a perfectly legitimate activity. He condemns in others what he practices himself. Thus, in addition to being a hate-mongering bigot, he is also a hypocrite and intellectually reckless.

Take, for example, his proposition that those who engage in polite debate with theists might be able to reach some sort of compromise in which the atheist only has to get down on one knee. This is a type of statement that shows that the speaker has an interest in evaluating his remarks on their sting value, and not on their truth. It is, at heart, a fundamental misrepresentation of science as absurd as those made by the people Condell likes to criticize.

The purpose of polite debate is not to seek compromise. If one scientific-minded person claims that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, while the other insists it is less than 10,000, the purpose of debate is not to negotiate a compromise position of, say, 2.75 billion years. It is fully consistent with polite debate that the answer to be reached rests firmly in the camp of one of the two participants. If we adopt the position that there is some sort of moral truth, then it is as absurd to claim that the moral truth is to be found in a negotiated settlement among the disputants than scientific truth.

But the statement sounds good.

Is that going to be our measure of things? Are we going to evaluate a comment – not by whether the best available evidence and reason supports the statement, but by how well it strikes the pleasure centers of those who speak and hear it? If that is going to be our standard than we are not going to be the friends of reason that we claim to be. Furthermore, we are going to adopt a standard that would make us as dangerous as any theists – because we will find that a great many untrue and vicious statements have the capacity to please the speaker and listener, particularly when they contain the message, “Members of my tribe are better than members of your tribe.”

Indeed, if we adopt such a standard, we make it quite possible that we will become eager partners in as much injustice and brutality as the worst of the theists.

Another of Condell’s statements is:

Religion is a lie and a threat to civilization.

Religion is not a lie. A lie is an intentional act of deception, meaning that the liar needs to believe that the claims he is making are false.

If religion is a lie, then it must be a lie perpetrated by atheists. A liar must know (or at least believe) that his statements are false. This means that religion must be a crime perpetrated by people who know (or at least) believe that the proposition, “At least one God probably exists” is false.

And how can one take the claim that religion is a threat to civilization seriously in the face of the observed fact that every civilization that has ever existed has been dominated by religion, other than the last few decades?

Condell gives no thought as to whether his statements are true or even make sense. As such, he is teaching other atheists that one has no obligation to ensure that their claims are true or even makes sense. Which means he is giving a moral license to the very types of acts he condemns, flagrantly practicing the fine art of hypocrisy with consummate skill.

We could use somebody like Condell – somebody who is not afraid to insult and condemn others – but with an interest in making sure that those he insults and condemns are those who deserve to be insulted and condemned. Somebody who grounds his belief that others deserve to be insulted and condemned on a standard that is more substantive than, “Do I enjoy insulting and condemning them?” An intellectually and morally responsible Pat Condell would be able to make a valuable contribution.

The mark of an intellectually and morally responsible substitute for Pat Condell is not somebody who refuses to engage in insult and instead practices polite debate. It is somebody who avoids the sweeping generalizations that plague Condell’s work. It is somebody who keeps his comments tightly focused on those whom he can demonstrate as being guilty of the wrongs he is accusing them of.

It is somebody who, if challenged, could provide evidence and reason in support of his conclusions. Somebody who, in short, who is not making the types of intellectually and morally reckless claims that dominate Condell’s rants.

Don’t get me wrong. We need people who are willing to stand up and insult and condemn those who are intellectually and morally reckless. Unfortunately, it means that we need people willing to insult and condemn people like Pat Condell . . . at least up until the day he decides to hold intellectual recklessness as a vice and act accordingly.

- Alonzo Fyfe

  1. There is a difference between proving the proposition that one has a desire that Q, and proving the desire that Q itself. We can make sense of the former, but it is difficult at best to make sense of the latter. []

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{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexandros Marinos June 3, 2010 at 8:14 am

Yvain over at Lesswrong recently put up an article about the role of condemnation from a determinist consequentialist POV. It does a great job of dissecting the issue and may add to the conversation here.

[It is the #2 most upvoted article of all time, which is to say a lot of people found it quite juicy]

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Alexandros Marinos June 3, 2010 at 8:14 am

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lukeprog June 3, 2010 at 10:10 am

Alexandros,

Interesting!

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Thoaar June 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

On the quote “Religion is a lie and a threat to civilization” — Condell’s statement is backed by history, he shouldn’t have to teach that history.

The “Religion is a lie” portion:
If religion was true there wouldn’t be any room for multiple religions with multiple factional interpretations under constant reinvention through time. There would be one and it would be immutable. But that isn’t the case. Somebody made them up, others reinvented them through the ages. All someone has to do is study the histories – it is all spelled out.
For example – Joe Smith dictating the book of mormon. Either he made it up (lied) or he honestly translated golden plates with the help of the magic stones.
Mohammad either made up the koran as he went along (lied) or it was truly inspired by god.
Biblical texts with their myriad of authors, translators, re-translators and re-editors. Somebody originated those books, those stories. If they were made up at some point, they lied and those lies were repeated. If editors/translators changed words to reflect the times – they lied. If Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write their own books, the books are lies attributed to them.
None of the major religions today are unchanged from their origins, and few closely resemble the religions they started out to be. All it takes is a little reading of history to see that. If the religions were true, their truth wouldn’t change over time. Yet it does. And which, of all the religions, is the true one? Can they all be true? What about their conflicts of truths and teachings?

If a person honestly believes what is told them to be the truth then repeats it, and the ‘truth’ told them is a lie, their personal belief doesn’t nullify the original lie. One can’t absolve religion of its lying origins as a whole just because the sheep follow and the parrots repeat.

“And how can one take the claim that religion is a threat to civilization seriously in the face of the observed fact that every civilization that has ever existed has been dominated by religion, other than the last few decades?”
– again just look to history. Every civilization that existed stood on the ashes of the civilization they conquered. Both the christian and muslim religions were behind every destruction and suppression of knowledge that conflicted with their religious dogma. Whole civilizations have been destroyed, their knowledge erased, in the name of religion in both the old world and new. About the only thing that saved humanity from eternal religion-enforced ignorance was the invention of the printing press and increasing literacy in the unwashed masses coupled with humankind’s innate curiosity and imagination.
The religions haven’t stopped trying to rewrite civilization in their own image – we see it happening all the time. How many Americans still learn their science from Genesis? Over half? I can understand Condell’s railing against allowing sharia law in UK. I can only hope Americans rail just as loudly when it’s attempted over here.

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JS Allen June 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Yeah, I had the same reaction when I saw how Luke presented it:

And that was what really got through to me. He hit me with a load of bricks, and finally made me realize:

“Holy shit. I actually have an invisible friend who grants me wishes. I actually believe in magic. Maybe those things are real but woah I’d better look into this.”

Being mocked changed my life forever, and for the better”

I spent 10 years mocking believers and pointing out their absurd reasons for belief. Many of my friends from those days became atheists because of me. To this day, most are still atheists, and would say that it was “for the better”.

However, I eventually allowed myself to realize a few things:

* Being motivated to question Christianity because you don’t want to be mocked by your friends, is just as neurotic and stupid as believing in Christianity just because you want to please your parents.

* Completely independent of Christianity or atheism, we are all compelled to anchor our rationality to values that are essentially arbitrary, and believe some patently absurd things. In other words, there is no belief system that can’t be mocked. As you said, none of us have the resources we would need to hold all of our beliefs up to the light of reason, We must pick and choose which get examined and which will sit unexamined.

* The only irrefutable logical arguments for either Christianity or atheism are irrefutable only because they are unfalsifiable. One’s reason is driven by his desires, not the other way around.

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Hermes June 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Alonzo, a question. Can you provide an unambiguous example of Pat Condell being a bigot?

I’m not saying he can not be or is not one, just that I don’t think it is clear that he is one and the issue may be more of style and not substance.

* * *

I do not think that the example you gave ‘those who engage in polite debate with theists…’ shows clearly that he is a bigot, either when that statement is taken in isolation or as a jab in the midst of other supporting statements. That statement seems to be mocking ‘polite and differential atheists’ and that he’s not going to join them in what he sees is a subservient role.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I’m thinking when Mr. Condell makes those types of statements.

While it is not always the case, most of the conversations I’ve had over the years with Christian theists have a common theme. The Christian implicitly treats me or other atheists as if they were really a Christian who ‘really knows God exists’. Some even insist that I’m not serious, and then proceed to argue with theistic assumptions only, discarding even more neutral assessments.

For less experienced Christians, this is often the default method of argumentation, though this also shows up in degrees even with more sophisticated and experienced individuals and frequently in well known professional evangelists.

So, when Mr. Condell says “save me from the curse of polite and deferential atheists”, I’m thinking of the atheists that go along with those theistic assumptions and reinforcing the attitudes of the Christian theists.

* * *

Details …

I realize that he uses the same affectations that many bigots do. For example, he shares their furor and assuredness. He is proudly intolerant, states bluntly what he feels as well as what he thinks — like bigots — yet regardless he does back up all of that and other snide jabbing with specific reasons why he says what he does. As such, one leg of the bigotry stool seems to be missing; irrationality.

Now, I say that under the full admission that I myself am a reluctant bigot. Most people probably are bigots on some issue regardless if they want to be (see Malcom Gladwell’s Blink for an example where Mr. Gladwell admits and details his own racial bigotry even against part of his own recent lineage).

So, as bookends, I am specifically not including the reluctant bigotry that we individually would like to purge or may not even be aware of, and — on the other end of the shelf — I don’t see him expressing the same flaws of unreasoned and irrational ‘just so’ bigots who are unwilling to talk thoughtfully with any individuals of other groups.

I’ll take it as a given that he is likely — and unremarkably — a reluctant bigot on one or many issues like most people.

As for the unreasoned ‘just so’ bigots, here is an example of why I don’t see Mr. Condell as one them: He is mainly interested in and advocates against Islam, and has very raw comments about specific supporters of Islam, yet he seems to be willing to cordially and thoughtfully respond to and even occasionally agree with individual Muslims who contact him. Plus, Islam is a religion not a fixed ethnicity.

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Hermes June 3, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Thoaar, I took the ‘religion is a lie’ as a brutal abbreviation of this. An excerpt;

[religious theism] forces people that follow religious beliefs seriously to lie even if they would not normally do so. They have no choice, because if they did admit that some things about the religion they follow are invalid, they would have to consider deconverting from all theisms or finding another religion. This is too stressful, where lying is not as stressful and can be blanked out later or justified retroactively.

A simple example: Biblical literalists have to take the great flood story in Genesis as an actual event, and vigorously support that position even when it is trivially absurd to do so. When simple contrary evidence is provided, such as no other societies somehow not noticing that they had died in a massive flood, the literalist must be honest (and stop being a literalist), lie, or blank out that contrary information (effectively lying to themselves), or stammer and reject the information on the assumption that someone … somewhere must have an answer to this seeming contradiction. This, of course, is not limited to literalists, though it is easier to demonstrate it with them.

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piero June 3, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Alonzo, I very much liked your analysis of the interaction between insults and beliefs, especially concerning our desires’ immunity to reason. Your evaluation of Pat Condell, however, strikes me as unfair and mean.

First, as Thoaar has stated, religion is a lie, and we need not even analyze its origins to prove it: just stand outside a church at a funeral mass, and ask yourself how can those people believe in an afterlife and yet cry at the death of a loved one. Maybe they do not intend to deceive others, but they certainly are aware of the falsity of their beliefs.

Second, what you take as a misrepresentation of science on Pat Condell’s part is, I believe, a misunderstanding on your part. Obviously, Condell is not referring to a middle-of-the-road compromise, but to the possible consequences of treating islam as a valid interlocutor.

So, do you think that calling you a dimwit might make you rethink your position?

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JS Allen June 3, 2010 at 7:05 pm

@Thoarr:

If religion was true there wouldn’t be any room for multiple religions with multiple factional interpretations under constant reinvention through time. There would be one and it would be immutable.

I don’t get it. Isn’t this kind of like saying, “If one person always told the truth, nobody else would be able to lie, and at least one person lies, so everyone lies”?

Mohammad either made up the koran as he went along (lied) or it was truly inspired by god.

Huh? Isn’t this kind of like Ricky Bobby’s dad saying, “If you’re not first, you’re last!”? Can you seriously not think of any other reasons that Mohammed may have generated those scriptures? For example, feverish imagination, schizophrenia, etc.

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piero June 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm

@JS Allen:

I’m not sure I’d agree with your criticism of Thoaar.

All religions share the same foundation, i.e. none; this should be obvious to any educated person; the Pope, assorted ayatollahs and rabbis are educated persons, therefore this is obvious to them; hence, they are lying.

Maybe Mohammed had a feverish imagination. That wouldn’t make him any less a liar. His only excuse would be madness. But then, we’d have to assume that every gospel writer, every torah writer, every religious writer in history was a lunatic. Failing that unlikely assumption, religion is a lie.

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Thoaar June 3, 2010 at 8:40 pm

@Hermes:
Entirely possible. I don’t know what the context of the quote was to begin with – Pat has posted a lot of videos. I injected my own defense of the statement. Heh – the very engine that drives religion.

@JS Allen:
The meaning I intended was extending the “religion comes from god” paradigm. If religion comes from god, thus is ‘true’ by nature of that origin, then there would only be one religion and it would be immutable with no room for human interpretation. Instead humankind is assailed not only by multiple religions, but by multiple variations of represented religions. And these multiple variations change over time. Observing this is the case leads me to disbelieve that any religion is divinely inspired, thus my assumption is religion comes from people doing what people do. Someone lied at the outset and those lies have been propagated and reworked through time. The motivations behind the lies? Either to control others (do this or suffer after you die, muhahaha), to cover up their own ignorance (I don’t know why eating undercooked pork makes people sick, so it must be god’s punishment), or the ramblings of the insane and/or drugged. Most likely combination of them all. With a good measure of granting exceptions when one’s desires conflict with previously established ‘rules’.

As for “If one person always told the truth, nobody else would be able to lie, and at least one person lies, so everyone lies” – that wasn’t exactly what I was trying to convey. It was more along the lines of “someone lied. Others propagated the lie. And over time new liars have changed the lies.”
As for Mohammad – I can’t really speak to what his motivations were. I suppose his motivations could boil down to your examples, or, if he were sane, just a way of satisfying his wants and justifying them by claiming they’re god inspired. Historically nothing controls the general populace better than a reward/punishment system set in an unobservable post-mortem enforced by an invisible deity that speaks only to the select messenger. Especially when you can convince them that their life sucks because it is the deity’s will and they should feel blessed that he cares enough to allow them to exist at all because their real reward is granted after they die. And what better way to justify breaking the rules than by claiming divinely granted personal exceptions. In any case, false ramblings of the insane aren’t rendered true by nature of their insanity.

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Hermes June 3, 2010 at 9:16 pm

the very engine that drives religion.

Indeed.

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Rhys Wilkins June 3, 2010 at 10:01 pm

I lost my admiration for Pat Condell the moment he plugged UKIP.

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Hermes June 3, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Rhys, I think that Christopher Hitchens was staggeringly wrong on the disaster of invading Iraq and I question his judgment in general for supporting anything related to the disaster that was communism — did we really have to run that experiment to know it was a bad idea? Yet, I’d still buy him a whiskey in humble appreciation of him.

To continue the comparison, though she is also wrong on so many issues, I do admire Karen Armstrong. As such, and because she probably needs it more than Hitchens would appreciate a drink, I’d rent her a gigolo.

In the same way, Pat Condell can be and is wrong at times, yet he is worthy of admiration. As much as the other two? Perhaps so, perhaps not. I will leave that calculation to each person individually. Perhaps he merits a block of tofu?

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AlonzoFyfe June 4, 2010 at 4:00 am

Toaar

Identifying some examples of religious claims that were probably lies and claiming “religion is a lie” is as bigoted as identifying some black people who are lazy and saying “black people are lazy”.

It is the very type of over-generalization that I am talking about. This is an application of the bigot’s fallacy.

There is nothing wrong with saying, “Mohammad was a liar” or “Joe Smith lied about the golden tablets and everything he claimed that they said” – which are almost certainly true, and “religion is a lie.”

If A tells a lie to B, and B believes it and tells it to C, then B is not a liar. Claiming he is, and defending the claim by showing that A lied to B, is . . . well . . . faulty and reckless reasoning.

A lot of religion is error – a failed hypothesis – a mistake accepted by people who do not recognize the error.

I can understand Condell’s railing against allowing sharia law in UK as well. Sharia law is morally indefensible. But it is also morally indefensible to interpret my posting as a defense of Sharia law in the UK so that you can raise an objection against it.

JS Allen

Being motivated to question Christianity because you don’t want to be mocked by your friends, is just as neurotic and stupid as believing in Christianity just because you want to please your parents.

Think of this:

Your interpretation of being motivated “because you don’t want to be mocked” is a misinterpretation. Ridiculing somebody – when the ridicule is honest – tells them an important fact: that what they are saying is ridiculous. Refusing to ridicule somebody when they say something ridiculous is, in a sense, a type of lie. It communicates respectability for an assertion that is absolutely absurd.

This does depend on the view one is criticizing actually being ridiculous – something the agent of ridicule ought to be able to demonstrate. When it can be demonstrated, ridicule is a legitimate and honest response.

Hermes

You wrote, in defense of Condell, So, when Mr. Condell says “save me from the curse of polite and deferential atheists”, I’m thinking of the atheists that go along with those theistic assumptions and reinforcing the attitudes of the Christian theists.

That’s a bit like saying, “When I say that black people are lazy, I am, of course, thinking of lazy black people.”

If Condell has a gripe with “atheists that go along with those theistic assumptions”, then that is what he should say. However, there are atheists who debate politely debate theists while rejecting those assumptions. Using a term that lumps Group A with Group B, then using a stain on Group A to condemn Group B, is bigotry – a form of hasty generalization that is used to preach hatred of Group B by staining them with some unfavorable quality found in Group A.

You also wrote in response to Thoaar:

When simple contrary evidence is provided, such as no other societies somehow not noticing that they had died in a massive flood, the literalist must be honest (and stop being a literalist), lie, or blank out that contrary information (effectively lying to themselves), or stammer and reject the information on the assumption that someone … somewhere must have an answer to this seeming contradiction.

But notice that options 3 and 4 do not involve lying. They involve intellectual recklessness (which I have condemned). However, intellectual recklessness is a vice found even among a great many atheists – including Pat Condell. In fact, Pat Contell’s videos are filled with intellectually reckless claims, some of which I demonstrated in this posting.

Atheists are not immune from committing the bigot’s fallacy, of being fooled by confirmation bias, of “tuning out” evidence that does not support a favorite hypothesis, of blinding themselves to reason.

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AlonzoFyfe June 4, 2010 at 4:25 am

Piero

…as Thoaar has stated, religion is a lie, and we need not even analyze its origins to prove it: just stand outside a church at a funeral mass, and ask yourself how can those people believe in an afterlife and yet cry at the death of a loved one. Maybe they do not intend to deceive others, but they certainly are aware of the falsity of their beliefs.

Have you never shed a tear when saying farewell to somebody you care about at the airport?

Second, what you take as a misrepresentation of science on Pat Condell’s part is, I believe, a misunderstanding on your part. Obviously, Condell is not referring to a middle-of-the-road compromise, but to the possible consequences of treating islam as a valid interlocutor.

In other parts of the presentation, this is true. However, if this is true of the part I quoted, then the “only getting down on one knee” comment makes no sense, and supports the hypothesis that Condell does not evaluate his claims according to their truth value, but according to their “hits on YouTube value.”

Which has a lot in common with the types of measurements that charismatic preachers use.

So, do you think that calling you a dimwit might make you rethink your position? piero

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piero June 4, 2010 at 5:28 am

Alonzo:

So, do you think that calling you a dimwit might make you rethink your position? piero

Well, yes, it did. But I failed to see what was wrong with it.
Yes, I’ve shed a tear at the airport: I have not been drawn into fits of bereaved despair.
And I still don’t see how you can interpret Condell’s statement the way you do (and by the way, he does not say “only getting down on one knee”; he says “spending only half your life on your knees”). But then perhaps I really am a dimwit.

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Zeb June 4, 2010 at 6:44 am

Toaar:

The meaning I intended was extending the “religion comes from god” paradigm. If religion comes from god, thus is ‘true’ by nature of that origin, then there would only be one religion and it would be immutable with no room for human interpretation. Instead humankind is assailed not only by multiple religions, but by multiple variations of represented religions. And these multiple variations change over time. Observing this is the case leads me to disbelieve that any religion is divinely inspired, thus my assumption is religion comes from people doing what people do. Someone lied at the outset and those lies have been propagated and reworked through time.

The ridiculousness of this reasoning is clear if you apply it to science: The meaning I intended was extending the “[science] comes from [nature]” paradigm. If [science] comes from [nature], thus is ‘true’ by nature of that origin, then there would only be one [set of scientific theories] and it would be immutable with no room for human interpretation. Instead humankind is assailed not only by multiple [scientific theories], but by multiple variations of represented [scientific theories]. And these multiple variations change over time. Observing this is the case leads me to disbelieve that any [scientific theory] is [naturally] inspired, thus my assumption is [science] comes from people doing what people do. Someone lied at the outset and those lies have been propagated and reworked through time.

I’m not saying there aren’t reasons to disbelieve religions, and I’m not saying the validity of scientific claims are always as ambiguous as the validity of religious claims. I’m just saying that considering religion as one thing and rejecting it because as a whole it lacks internal consistency is just as stupid as considering science as one thing and rejecting it because it lacks internal consistency.

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noen June 4, 2010 at 6:56 am

“I think it is safe to say that Pat Condell is a hate-mongering bigot”

Thank you for validating my claim that Pat Condell is a racist and hate-mongering bigot. I guess that my use of insults paid off and was therefore morally justified in your understanding of desirism.

After all, the ends justify the means don’t they?

You see, one big problem with your post above is that you give no means of distinguishing beliefs from desires. Let’s put it more clearly shall we?

1. Desirism claims that insults are morally justified when used against bad desires.

2. Insults are not morally justified when used against bad beliefs.

3. Desirism cannot distinguish between bad desires and bad beliefs.

Therefore: The use of insults can never be justified within desirism.

Hopefully I have correctly understood you. Premise 3 is true not so much because desirism cannot make the distinction but rather because humans cannot do so. To distinguish between desires and beliefs in all cases requires that we be able to read minds. Humans cannot read minds, therefore we can never know if any one speech act is based on desire or belief.

In the Pat Condell thread is indulged in insults in order to expose the hypocrisy of those praising Pat but failing to condemn his racism and bigotry. I presume that it is morally acceptable for me to continue to use insults as a means of altering the bad desires of atheists?

Am I permitted to use insults or not?

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Thoaar June 4, 2010 at 7:14 am

@AF
“If A tells a lie to B, and B believes it and tells it to C, then B is not a liar. Claiming he is, and defending the claim by showing that A lied to B, is . . . well . . . faulty and reckless reasoning.”
I agree. Especially assuming B honestly believes in, and faithfully repeats A’s message.
Thing is – I didn’t call B a liar. I said B’s repetition of A’s lie does not nullify the fact that A’s lie is a lie. The original message is the lie, not necessarily the messengers down the line. However history still bears out that some messengers along the way do alter the message.
And this continues ad infinitum. A lies to B. B repeats A’s lie to C. C alters B’s message and relays it to D. Now we have A and C as liars, with B and D unwitting recipients of the original and compounded lies. Eventually followers of B’s relayed message fight followers of D’s relayed message over the differences. Now we have world history.

Another part of the problem here is that the term ‘religion’ is so general. I was not going to allow it to be synonymous with christianity only, thus I dragged Joe Smith and Mohammad in as representative alternate examples. Those two, along with, say, L. Ron Hubbard and Jim Jones, are easy examples of singular sources of lies turned religion. Judaism and Christianity don’t have convenient single sources to blame, their lies have been refined by many over time. For that matter, neither do the ancient Norse, Greek and Roman religions. But those were stamped out by new religions enforcing new civilization over the old.

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Thoaar June 4, 2010 at 7:30 am

@Zeb
I see what you mean, except I wouldn’t ever argue science is immutable. I agree with you that substituting ‘science’ for ‘religion’ in my statement makes it as absurd as you say it is.
I know full well that science isn’t a “here is the answer” sort of thing. Science is all about hypothesizing, testing, theorizing, refining, conflict. I’m cool with that – I want that. I’m comfortable with the “I don’t knows” and “let’s find outs” and “that was not corrects”. Science, by its very nature, makes its results improve, and we all benefit from that.

Religion, on the other hand, flat out claims “this is the way it is because god decrees it” thus people must accept its assertions on faith. Why would anything change over time? The ridiculousness, IMO, is that religions do change over time despite their assertion its gods laid down the law from the getgo. My statement is absurd because religion makes it so.

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Thoaar June 4, 2010 at 8:08 am

@AFyfe
I’m sorry if you thought I thought you were defending sharia law. That was not my intention nor my assertion.
My intended meaning was that attempts to allow sharia law in the UK are a modern example of a religion being dangerous to civilization, and thus I agree with Condell’s railing against it. I suppose it was a clumsy way for me to disagree with an assertion that Pat Condell is a racist and bigot and tie it back with his ‘religion is dangerous to civilization’ point. My mixed message caused miscommunication. My apologies.

I wish I had the time to go through all of Condell’s videos. I’ve only watched what he’s published to YouTube in the past year without checking his previous postings, and up to now I had never developed an impression that he might be a racist or bigot, so I wasn’t really paying close attention to try to detect anything he may have said that would indicate otherwise.
My impression up to now is that:
He used to do standup comedy.
He’s an atheist.
He doesn’t care what people’s sexual orientation happens to be. Just don’t make laws that single people out for different or unequal treatment.
He doesn’t care if people have religion until they try to force their religion on others. Especially if they try to make or alter laws to bring this about.
He is angry that his government is seeming to allow religious outcry to influence laws to enforce treating people of different faiths (or lack of them) differently.
He rails against allowing religion to be used as an excuse to do things that the community has outlawed.
He’s an advocate of free speech and is incensed when any group attempts to change that.
I don’t recall ever hearing him call people out for being black, white, brown, asian, mexican, spanish, whatever. That’s why I’m not sure where the racist/bigot accusation comes from.
That doesn’t mean he has never done so, I just don’t recall any instances. It could be I have an overdeveloped rant filter that screens things out.
Or does being accused of racism now include voicing animosity toward culturally unacceptable actions performed in the name (rightly or wrongly) of religion?

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JS Allen June 4, 2010 at 8:26 am

@Alonzo -

Your interpretation of being motivated “because you don’t want to be mocked” is a misinterpretation. Ridiculing somebody – when the ridicule is honest – tells them an important fact: that what they are saying is ridiculous. Refusing to ridicule somebody when they say something ridiculous is, in a sense, a type of lie.

I hear what you’re saying, but I disagree. My job requires me to continually interact with people’s ideas, evaluate strategies, and influence in one way or another (completely unrelated to religion). When someone believes or says something ridiculous, there are many ways to point out the ridiculousness without resorting to mocking or insults.

For example, you can cock an eyebrow and say, “Are you sure? That doesn’t make sense to me”. You can restate their argument in a way that points out the ridiculousness, and so on. You can even resort to honest ad hominem, such as, “I think you’re saying that because you are worried about your job security”.

My point is that honestly calling something nonsensical, or pointing out a person’s motives, need not be insulting or mocking. Normally, when someone resorts to mocking and insult, it means that person has already given up on the argument. It tends to make the other person harden their position, and causes them to be even more unreasonable than they already were. In fact, I only use insults and mocking when I want to provoke the person to dig an even deeper hole for himself — and then only very carefully.

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JS Allen June 4, 2010 at 8:53 am

@piero

All religions share the same foundation, i.e. none; this should be obvious to any educated person; the Pope, assorted ayatollahs and rabbis are educated persons, therefore this is obvious to them; hence, they are lying.

You seem to have a glorified image of human nature, as if people are generally able to see the truth, and are only ever wrong deliberately. And you also seem to think that education makes people less susceptible to self-delusion. Neither premise stands up to scrutiny.

People believe ridiculous things all the time. I hear multiple ridiculous things every day, and the vast majority of people don’t even bother thinking their finances through to the logical conclusion, let alone their religious beliefs. As Alonzo said, none of us could defend every belief we hold, and experience has taught me that the vast majority of people are unable to defend practically any of their beliefs.

Now, I’m not accusing you of being one of those people, but I’m challenging the notion that all of those people are “lying”. That defies credulity. They’re deluded, but they’re not lying.

Besides schizophrenia, fever, and mental stress, there are myriad ways that people come to believe things. Hypnotists and seductresses have known this forever, but finally scientists are beginning to admit it. Read anything by Tversky and Kahneman. Or for a good introduction, read “Predictably Irrational”, or “Sway”. Educated people are often the worst, because their education robs them of the humility to be on alert for cognitive biases. Read Taleb’s “Fooled by Randomness” for a different angle, or read Iacobini’s stuff on Mirror Neurons for yet another mechanism.

We’ve evolved for a world very different from the world we live in now. We have all sorts of innate ways of understanding the world that are counterproductive in the modern world. Errors creep in undetected.

But let’s take a more ancient example: falling in love; something more closely related to “religious experiences”. Have you even fallen in love, Been certain that it would last a really long time, and then fallen out of love? Which of the times when you said, “I love you” were you lying, and which were you telling the truth? Certainly it was true some of the time, and possibly false at times, but there were times when it wasn’t so clear-cut. Only a sociopath would be able to clearly draw a line. For real human beings, things like “being in love” are a complex interplay of multiple motivations.

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JS Allen June 4, 2010 at 8:55 am

Doh! ..and by “even fallen in love” I meant “ever fallen in love”

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Andy Walters June 4, 2010 at 9:09 am

@Everyone–

A meta-discussion comment.

Does anyone else think desirism suffers heavily from the subjective and therefore highly ambiguous nature of its application? I mean, while AF justifies his positions on the grounds of desirism, it often seems perfectly plausible to disagree with him on precisely the same grounds because desirism’s only normative factor has relatively little content.

Compare for example Kantian ethics, with which one is entitled to the categorical imperative (roughly, the golden rule) “out of the box”. Now that’s content! You can do something with that. Desirism out of the box leaves you with the command to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires, and discourage desires that tend to thwart other desires. Even though it’s a mouthful, it’s still vague. Of course, principles at the same level of the categorical imperative may eventually obtain in the application of desirism, but unfortunately those principles themselves are up for debate on the grounds of desirism! At least with Kantian ethics you can’t debate the categorical imperative.

None of this is to say that desirism’s ambiguity is a decisive objection against its truth or even its application. It is only to point out that in application, relative to something like Kantian ethics, it leaves much to be desired. :)

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Alonzo Fyfe June 4, 2010 at 9:23 am

Andy Walters

There’s another problem with Kantian ethics that you failed to mention.

Categorical imperatives do not exist. All imperatives are hypothetical.

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Andy Walters June 4, 2010 at 9:42 am

@Alonzo & Everyone

I used Kantian ethics only by way of contrast to show that relative to other theories, desirism is vague in its application. It may well be that desirism is the one true moral theory, but that does nothing to show it has a clear application resistant to subjective warping.

That being said, if we shift to the question about categorical imperatives existing or not, I’ve heard you and Luke take this line before. Can you point me to a post or FAQ or something where you explain why you don’t find Kantian ethics interesting? I’ve read Luke’s e-book on Desirism, but it hardly mentions Kantianism.

As I’ve mentioned on the site before, I take something roughly like the following to be compelling:

1. The reflective structure of consciousness requires that in order for me to act at all, “I”, the persistent I, must have a set of rules from which to endorse or reject possible courses of action.

2. Not only am I free to endorse or reject possible courses of action, I am also free to endorse or reject the very set of rules from which I choose to endorse or reject actions.

3. Such a set of rules will be obligatory for me only because I have chosen them myself, and

4. The only standard for whether a set of rules will be valid is whether I can reasonably choose them.

5. I should, therefore, only act on a rule if I can rationally choose it to be the rule I will always behave by.

6. But since the relevant domain of rules we are evaluating (possible acts) does not distinguish between agents

7. I should, therefore, only act on a rule if I can rationally choose it to be a universal law for all agents.

Thoughts?

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Alonzo Fyfe June 4, 2010 at 9:44 am

JS Allen

We seem to have similar jobs. In fact, according to those who hired me, I have the job I do particularly because I am particularly adept at handling conflicts between people.

However, in this case (as I mentioned in the article) I am talking not simply talking about any absurd beliefs. I am talking about beliefs that feed opinions on who lives, who dies, who is comforted, and who is made to suffer. Being nice to the intellectually reckless person is like being nice to the drunk driver or careless oil company executive managing some well in the Gulf of Mexico.

When we bring harm to others in the equation, kindness has the effect of throwing the victims of intellectually or physically reckless behavior under the proverbial bus.

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Andy Walters June 4, 2010 at 9:49 am

@Alonzo

And to your point about all imperative being hypothetical, I agree. Why is that a problem for Kantian ethics?

IF you want to behave rationally
THEN obey the categorical imperative

There you have a hypothetical imperative that applies to all sentient beings.

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noen June 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

“Does anyone else think desirism suffers heavily from the subjective and therefore highly ambiguous nature of its application?”

I think that Desirism doesn’t pass the laugh test. Alonzo Fyfe is a borderline internet kook. The Time Cube makes almost as much sense.

Desirism states that desires are objective.
Desires are subjective.
Therefore the desirism is false.

At least Gene Ray has the excuse of being insane.

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Zeb June 4, 2010 at 10:13 am

Religion, on the other hand, flat out claims “this is the way it is because god decrees it” thus people must accept its assertions on faith. Why would anything change over time? The ridiculousness, IMO, is that religions do change over time despite their assertion its gods laid down the law from the getgo.

Honestly, the history of science is heavily littered with scientists making overconfident claims for their theories. But you have a point, and I think all religions today would benefit by taking on some of modern science’s spirit of humility and collaboration. However, to some extent many religions do accept the idea of progressive revelation and of evolving understanding of revelation. My own faith is Catholicism, and while there are certain fundamentals that we can’t reject, our church continues to try to improve our understanding and application of those fundamentals and to flesh out the unknowns. Two major doctrines, the Immacualte Conception and the Assumption, were only formally defined in the last two hundred years. Judaism and Hinduism I know to also be faily open to progress. Of course any or all of these my be total bullshit. But on the other hand, there might be something real there that is inspiring some or all of the content of some or all of them. Granted the rest of the content of religions, that which divides them from each other or from their own past forms, must come from misapprehension, misunderstanding, miscommunication, or lies. I’m just saying those division don’t imply that there is no truth in any of the.

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Alonzo Fyfe June 4, 2010 at 10:15 am

Andy Walters

1. The reflective structure of consciousness requires that in order for me to act at all, “I”, the persistent I, must have a set of rules from which to endorse or reject possible courses of action.

Well, however you want to interpret this it must be consistent with the fact that humans evolved from animals and the human capacity to act has its roots in an animal’s capacity to act. What the capacity to act requires is beliefs and desires. Desires can be interpreted as “rules from which to endorse or reject possible courses of action.” However, your terminology sounds overly intellectual – overly conscious. A lot of action that involves endorsing or rejecting possible courses is quite spontaneious and unconsciuos.

2. Not only am I free to endorse or reject possible courses of action, I am also free to endorse or reject the very set of rules from which I choose to endorse or reject actions.

Well, no. Desires are maleable and can be altered through effort. However, even the effort to modify a desire must, itself, have some sort of motivation behind it – some other desire.

This is what I mean when I state that all imperatives are hypothetical. Even the choice as to which “set of rules from which I choose to endorse or reject actions” is a hypothetical imperatives. The only basis on which one can evaluate rules is to relate those rules to reasons for action that exist (desires), which makes the value of those rules hypothetical rather than categorical.

Desirism has a place for evaluating desires according to their tendency to fulfill or thwart other desires. It even argues that moral claims are about promoting or inhibiting desires across whole populations – that a virtue is something that everybody should have and a vice is something that everybody avoids. Yet, virtues and vices (rules, if you will) are evaluated the same way that everything else is evaluated – according to their capacity to fulfill, directly or indirectly, other desires.

There is no other type of value-bearing relationship in the real world but the relationship between states of affairs and desires (hypothetical imperatives), and this applies just as much to the evaluation of desires.

And to your point about all imperative being hypothetical, I agree. Why is that a problem for Kantian ethics? IF you want to behave rationally THEN obey the categorical imperative. There you have a hypothetical imperative that applies to all sentient beings.

How can one (rationally or otherwise) obey a categorical imperative that does not exist? There are no categorical imperatives for me to obey.

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noen June 4, 2010 at 10:39 am

“Well, no. Desires are maleable and can be altered through effort. However, even the effort to modify a desire must, itself, have some sort of motivation behind it – some other desire.”

No, desires are fluid and may be altered on a whim. Walters is correct that we are free to choose the rules which we live by. Desires are subjective.

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Andy Walters June 4, 2010 at 10:43 am

@Alonzo

We seem to be suffering from confusion here. Let me try to clarify.

Desires can be interpreted as “rules from which to endorse or reject possible courses of action.” However, your terminology sounds overly intellectual – overly conscious.

If desires are to be thought of as reasons for actions, I cannot understand how desires can be legitimately interpreted as “rules from which to endorse or reject possible courses of action.” These rules form our identity–who we are. As we go through life one of the reasons we remain who we are is that we have a set of rules according to which we behave–a personal behavioral identity. This is where at least Korsgaard’s version of Kantianism starts.

We may act spuriously, but these actions are then simply unreasonable. And morality, for Kant, is a matter of rationality.

This is what I mean when I state that all imperatives are hypothetical. Even the choice as to which “set of rules from which I choose to endorse or reject actions” is a hypothetical imperative.

What do you mean by a hypothetical imperative, exactly? I take a hypothetical imperative as a normative obligation contingent on desires. The structure then naturally takes the form IF you desire x, THEN you must do y. On this definition, then, I cannot make sense of the sentence “Even the choice as to [...] is a hypothetical imperative.” Imperatives are not choices; they are commands.

There is no other type of value-bearing relationship in the real world but the relationship between states of affairs and desires (hypothetical imperatives), and this applies just as much to the evaluation of desires.

Why is this relevant?

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JS Allen June 4, 2010 at 10:51 am

@Alonzo

However, in this case (as I mentioned in the article) I am talking not simply talking about any absurd beliefs. I am talking about beliefs that feed opinions on who lives, who dies, who is comforted, and who is made to suffer. Being nice to the intellectually reckless person is like being nice to the drunk driver or careless oil company executive managing some well in the Gulf of Mexico.

People who talk the most about others’ intellectual recklessness, tend to be intellectually reckless themselves. I don’t want to get into that game.

Do you see what you just did? We were talking about whether or not it’s wise to influence people’s beliefs through mocking and insults, and you’ve now tried to change the subject to “being nice to intellectually reckless people”. Mocking and insults are not the only binary alternative to “being nice”. You’re setting up a false choice.

You have argued that it’s effective and wise to use mocking and insults whenever you can convince yourself that a person’s beliefs are a reckless endangerment to society. In fact, that’s exactly how people already behave, and we’ve already seen how that movie ends. Christian fundamentalists mock scientists, with ridiculous comments like, “Why don’t women have monkeys for babies?” Islamic fundamentalists mock Westerners. Scientists mock creationists, and so on. All of these groups think that the others are a clear and present danger to society. And all of the mocking and mud-slinging has only 2 results:

1) Causes each side to dig in their heels and cling more tightly to stupid beliefs

2) Creates a class of people who are neurotically afraid to believe anything, for fear that it will be mocked, or who are buffeted around by whoever mocks them the most.

Both reactions are deeply dysfunctional, and not conducive to a healthy society. You are promoting something that has been demonstrated to be harmful to society.

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noen June 4, 2010 at 11:14 am

JS Allen – I can’t endorse that comment highly enough.

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Hermes June 4, 2010 at 11:49 am

Alonzo, my comment was not to definitively refute the charge or even defend Mr. Condell but to ask for substantive support for the comment on him being a bigot. It’s borderline, that I will admit, but to me it seems like he’s not one except in the way that most of us probably are (reluctantly re: Gladwell’s Blink). If I’m wrong even on that seemingly narrow estimation though, I’d like to know it so that I can stop being wrong.

In addition to what I’ve written so far, the key word Mr. Condell used to tip the scales for me was ‘deferential’ (as in cordially shy and self effacing; deferring to another’s point of view). As such, this specifies a specific subset and not just polite people that happen to be atheists. Without that distinction or other similar words and phrases he used, I’d agree with your assessment.

As for intellectual recklessness or general irrational ideas, I agree that atheists are not immune. Those who claim immunity are embarrassing and do deserve mockery. There is, of course, nothing that by necessity comes along with the label atheist except not being a theist though theists and atheists do like to dump on extras to bump up or bust that entire category of people.

As for #3 and 4, you’re technically correct. That said, if someone has to twist themselves in knots or plug their ears to avoid a simple conclusion or even the possibility of one, then they are not being forthright and I see no reason to respect that evasion. The word liar comes close enough, and if it goads them into addressing the issue then without a trace of humility I consider that to be a good thing. Conversely, I don’t say I know there are no gods, but I do say show me.

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AlonzoFyfe June 4, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Hermes

That said, if someone has to twist themselves in knots or plug their ears to avoid a simple conclusion or even the possibility of one, then they are not being forthright and I see no reason to respect that evasion.

Neither do I – on matters where the well-being of others is at stake. That is exactly the issue that I have written about – that these distortions to defend beliefs that others may be legitimately made to suffer or, in some cases, killed amounts to intellectual recklessness. It is a moral crime, but it is not a lie.

A bigot is somebody who speaks in unwarranted generalizations about whole groups of people. I have cited two examples in this post. Those are prejudicial statements. If religion is a lie and a threat to civilization then every religious person is a liar and a threat to civilization . . . a clear case of pre-judging as far as I can see.

If Condell wants to avoid this charge he needs to learn how to focus his insults and condemnation on those who are actually guilty – rather than alter the scope of his comments so that he not only makes accusations against those who are not guilty but he also misses the target and fails to condemn many who are.

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Hermes June 4, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Thanks for your insights, here and elsewhere. I’ll consider your argument again in a few days, though currently I’m unconvinced that Mr. Condell has crossed the threshold into bigotry.

On a practical level, I don’t see a problem even if he’s lock jawed and gritting his teeth to the point of tasting blood just because he is that serious about each and every word he uttered.

That said, I don’t think he is actually as strident as his persona, and he is making a valid point through affecting a style that is unrelenting. Showing consideration of possibilities often is a sign of weakness and blocks the ability to convey a simple idea that has merit and is based in reality. Atheists that muddy the water by deferring to the opinions and perspectives of specific sectarian theists should not be surprised if others take a more forthright position in an effort to actually communicate. Being direct is not bigotry, nor is identifying faults in a subset of a group.

Personally, I thank Mr. Condell for making me reconsider how differential I have been in the past especially when that due deference was rarely acknowledged or reciprocated. Many theists, even ones that are more considerate and thoughtful, don’t really believe that someone can not be a theist. They do think we’re lying or just playing theology games.

Going along with theistic baseline assumptions built on sectarian presumptions — theologically sophisticated or just common “Everyone believes in God.”/”Atheists hate God.” — is not generally beneficial, though in some limited situations they can be. Why not in most cases skip past that and get to the next stage? Being philosophically clever (read: trite and not actually thoughtful) based on the old standard tunes only wastes time. If the theists aren’t convinced, and we’re not convinced, based on those philosophical puzzles why discuss them? What’s the point? Reference them as old ground or note why they are dead ends and move on.

[Note that I am *not* accusing you of being drawn into following theological presuppositions, though *most* of the conversations I've been involved with over the last few decades tend to rely heavily on them even when they are as valuable as conversations about the potential number of angels on a pin-head or other ungrounded and unreferenced abstractions.]

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Hermes June 4, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Edit, 4th paragraph: differential ==> should be ==> deferential

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noen June 4, 2010 at 9:44 pm

“Being direct is not bigotry, nor is identifying faults in a subset of a group.”

I’ve never done anything less and I am also far less “strident” in my personal life than my online persona might lead you to believe. I agree with you that showing consideration for the feelings of others is “weakness”. Those who muddy the waters by showing deference to those of weaker intellect should not be surprised when the strong act in their own self defense against the LIES of the priests!

Onward ever onward shall we march, and we will not rest until we have cleansed Blood and Soil of this scourge upon the Earth. The True Atheist should set his jaw and steel his eye for the task that lies before him: To rid the Earth of this pestilence, this scurrying rat that sinks it’s fangs into our own children!

BROTHERS!! Let us join our hands and walk from the darkness into the light of REASON. Let no one think we are playing games! Now is not the time to be drawn into petty theology. We demand a final solution!

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Hermes June 4, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Go away.

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JS Allen June 4, 2010 at 10:14 pm

@noen – I wanted to believe that I was clever for noticing the link between Islamists and Mojo Jojo, but you‘ve just channeled the illegitimate love child of Nietzsche and the Unabomber (including liberal use of CAPS, “quotes”, and punctuation !!).

Given the prohibitions of Psalm 1, is it wrong to admire the mockery skills of another?

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lukeprog June 4, 2010 at 10:15 pm

noen,

Are you trying to say that atheists who criticize religion are like the Nazis who murdered millions of Jews? It sure looks like that.

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JS Allen June 4, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Are you trying to say that atheists who criticize religion are like the Nazis who murdered millions of Jews? It sure looks like that.

FWIW, it didn’t look that way to me, at all. It looked to me like @noen was personally mocking @hermes’s most recent comment, which did seem rather contorted and “Germanic” to me. More than a bit like Peter Sellers in “Clockwork Orange”, or like Dr. Lionel Jones in Vonnegut’s “Mother Night”.

If you’ve recently read the Unabomber’s “Manifesto” and Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” you would simultaneously acknowledge that @lukeprog pretty much never argues like Unabomber or Nietzsche, and that @hermes did sound a lot like both in his most recent comment. That’s really effing funny.

Please let’s don’t invoke Godwin’s law prematurely. I don’t think that mockery is very Christian, but we needn’t take ourselves so seriously. We are all stupidly hilarious at times. Best to have a good laugh at ourselves, and pray for mercy for our mockery of others.

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 4:42 am

Yep, that’s me. You got me. Can we talk about something relevant and not encourage the nut case?

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Justfinethanks June 5, 2010 at 5:10 am

I am also far less “strident” in my personal life than my online persona might lead you to believe.

What? An internet tough guy who takes advantage of the anonymity of the internet to act more strident and dickish than they would ever dream of in real life?

I’VE NEVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING!!!

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 6:23 am
noen June 5, 2010 at 7:12 am

lukeprog
“Are you trying to say that atheists who criticize religion are like the Nazis who murdered millions of Jews? It sure looks like that.”

The short answer is no. I think that atheists should rationally critique theists and vice versa. I also think that will to power is a very seductive temptation. Given that atheism is very broad it’s understandable that some atheists are fascists. The New Atheists seem to me to be influenced by neo-conservativism which I believe to be a crypto-fascist movement.

Justfinethanks:
“What? An internet tough guy who takes advantage of the anonymity of the internet to act more strident and dickish than they would ever dream of in real life?”

The whole point of this post is that being strident and dickish is not only ok, but is morally praisworthy. Alonzo Fyfe would approve:

“We need people who are willing to stand up and insult and condemn those who are intellectually and morally reckless.”

Someone said something similar once, can you guess who said this?

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

Both quotes express the same sentiment that “we are under attack and must protect ourselves at any cost”. It is a reactionary and deeply conservative response and if pushed far enough it leads to fascism.

The central failure in all of this discussion is that Alonzo Fyfe believes that he can objectively determine just who is “intellectually and morally reckless” and who isn’t. Like Leo Strauss, fascist neo-con philosopher, Alonzo Fyfe seems to reject the fact-value distinction.

The fact-value distinction “is the distinction between what is (can be discovered by science, philosophy or reason) and what ought to be (a judgment which can be agreed upon by consensus).”

Desirism is a philosophical failure because it claims that desires, statements about what ought to be, are really scientific facts, statements about what is. Desirism is also profoundly un-democratic because democracy is agreement by consensus, but if desirism is true then there is no need for us to reach consensus among conflicting desires. All we need do is determine objectively what your desires should be and if you have a problem with that then we are justified in doing whatever it takes to force your compliance. That is conservative extremism at the very least.

Religious conservatives believe that values are objectively real and come from god. Failure to obey god is justification for violence.

Atheist conservatives believe that values are objectively real and come from various sources such as Randian Objectivism (epistemology), Libertarianism (the individual), desirism (objective desires).

I believe that values are objective in the way that the value of paper money is objective. Values, like money, only have the force they do because we all agree that they should.

Desirism is a complete failure and can only be maintained through sophistry in obscuring the fact-value distinction.

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piero June 5, 2010 at 7:53 am

noen, I’m sure Alonzo could clarify your misunderstanding of desirism better than I can. Let me just say that you obviously know nothing about it. Start by reading Alonzo’s blog. That’ll take you a few weeks. Then you can read his book, or Luke’s summary if you are pressed for time. Then come back and say something useful.

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 10:07 am

If someone expresses lack of interest in what you say, then it is only fair to return the favor. On that note, ignore noen or expect nothing but a loss of own time.

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noen June 5, 2010 at 10:31 am

piero
“noen, I’m sure Alonzo could clarify your misunderstanding of desirism better than I can. Let me just say that you obviously know nothing about it. Start by reading Alonzo’s blog. That’ll take you a few weeks.”

If you can’t defend or explain something clearly and concisely then one has to wonder how useful it is.

Desirism commits the Is-Ought fallacy:

He is torturing the cat.
Therefore he should not do that.

I understand that desirism is not arguing that “He is torturing the cat” is objectively bad. Desirism claims that the desire to torture the cat is bad. For societies it says that they can be morally evaluated according to the degree that they fulfill or thwart desires of all its members.

This is obviously not helpful because there is no means of knowing if any single desire is good or bad nor that of any society.

It also claim to bridge the is-ought gap by asserting that desires, mental states, are brain states. This is the “objectivity” of desires i.e. that they exist within the brains of those who hold them.

I have objections to the claim that mental states are brain states but even if I granted that it still does not get you where you’d like. That I have a desire is no reason that I ought to hold that desire.

Desirism claims to achieve it’s, ahem… desires… by means of, as far as I can tell, a form of moral natural selection. We are to praise or blame the desires of others and somehow that will lead us to the promised land of Right Behavior.

It’s a delusion.

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lukeprog June 5, 2010 at 10:37 am

Alonzo has written clearly and concisely about the is-ought gap dozens of times.

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JS Allen June 5, 2010 at 11:22 am

Desirism, as I understand it, is mostly common sense. It describes the way that people actually think about “good” or “bad” choices. People normally have a conscience before they ever are taught any moral theory, and desirism simply explains which sorts of desires would prompt someone to end up with a guilty conscience versus a clean conscience.

I do think that it is underspecified, and thus fails to give much guidance when making complex moral tradeoffs. That is, two different people could make two completely different moral judgments about an identical situation, and both rightly claim to be true to desirism. In fact, that’s pretty much what people do today, without calling it desirism.

To be really useful, I think desirism needs to go to the next level, and get more specific about how tradeoffs are made, how desires are ranked and aggregated, and so on. But as a general description of how our innate morality works, I think it is pretty good.

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 11:59 am

Hermes (commenting on previous ignorance): If someone expresses lack of interest in what you say, then it is only fair to return the favor. On that note, ignore noen or expect nothing but a loss of your time.

Noen: Desirism commits the Is-Ought fallacy:

Lukeprog: Alonzo has written clearly and concisely about the is-ought gap dozens of times.

Yep. He’s like a broken Weird Al record.

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm

( He ==> Noen )

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noen June 5, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Lukeprog:
“Alonzo has written clearly and concisely about the is-ought gap dozens of times.”

It’s not clear to me how it is that desires are like hair color. That is the reply that I got to a previous query of mine. My response then is that is obviously wrong. Desires are not like hair color. That was back in April. Since then I’ve seen nothing but sophistry.

Here:
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=7980
“Desires are subjective in the same way one’s height or hair color or blood pressure or blood-alcohol content are subjective. In short, they are real properties of the human body and can be spoken about as objectively and scientifically as any physical property in the field of medicine.”

I’m sorry but no… just no. My physical height is objective. My desires are subjective. How can I take seriously anyone who makes such a basic error?

And then all I get is “read my book, read my entire blog”.

“If you are talking about something with the power to influence the motion of objects in the real world you had better be talking about something that is real and can be described objectively.”

Behold! I can do an amazing thing! I desire to raise my arm and it goes up! My subjective desires can affect the objective world! How do you account for this remarkable fact? apparently, it would seem, by denying there are any subjective desires at all. Yet it remains an amazing fact: my subjective metal states can affect the real world.

“Yes, different people have different desires. Yet, it is also the case that different people have different blood pressure, height, weight, age, and blood alcohol content. Individual differences are not enough to justify a claim that the property is not objective.”

People can alter their desires at will. That is what it means for something to be subjective, a belief or desire is subjective because it is up to me whether or not I have it. It is not up to me what my height or age is and these are therefore objective.

I agree with Yair in that thread that desirism is descriptive and seeks to preserve moral language at the expense of having anything to say.

Finally, desirism states that desires must be objective because they exist as mental states and mental states are brain states. That seems like a desperate move to me. The test is not whether or not desires must somehow exist in the real world, of course they must. The test for their subjective nature is that it is up to me, I am free to choose whether or not to hold them.

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noen June 5, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Lukeprog:
“Alonzo has written clearly and concisely about the is-ought gap dozens of times.”

It’s not clear to me how it is that desires are like hair color. That is the reply that I got to a previous query of mine. My response then is that is obviously wrong. Desires are not like hair color. That was back in April. Since then I’ve seen nothing but sophistry.

“Desires are subjective in the same way one’s height or hair color or blood pressure or blood-alcohol content are subjective. In short, they are real properties of the human body and can be spoken about as objectively and scientifically as any physical property in the field of medicine.”

I’m sorry but no… just no. My physical height is objective. My desires are subjective. How can I take seriously anyone who makes such a basic error?

And then all I get is “read my book, read my entire blog”.

“If you are talking about something with the power to influence the motion of objects in the real world you had better be talking about something that is real and can be described objectively.”

Behold! I can do an amazing thing! I desire to raise my arm and it goes up! My subjective desires can affect the objective world! How do you account for this remarkable fact? apparently, it would seem, by denying there are any subjective desires at all. Yet it remains an amazing fact: my subjective metal states can affect the real world.

“Yes, different people have different desires. Yet, it is also the case that different people have different blood pressure, height, weight, age, and blood alcohol content. Individual differences are not enough to justify a claim that the property is not objective.”

People can alter their desires at will. That is what it means for something to be subjective, a belief or desire is subjective because it is up to me whether or not I have it. It is not up to me what my height or age is and these are therefore objective.

I agree with Yair in that thread that desirism is descriptive and seeks to preserve moral language at the expense of having anything to say.

Finally, desirism states that desires must be objective because they exist as mental states and mental states are brain states. That seems like a desperate move to me. The test is not whether or not desires must somehow exist in the real world, of course they must. The test for their subjective nature is that it is up to me, I am free to choose whether or not to hold them.

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 5:06 am
piero June 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm

noen, I’ll try to summarize what desirism states and to explain where you go wrong.

Desires are objective because they are brain states. Perhaps you are confusins “objective” with “objectively good” or “objectively grounded on reason”. Your desire to drink water when your body needs it is as objective as objective can be: there is a definite chemical phenomenon going on at the neuron level which we call “thirst”, or “desire to drink”. Analogously, your desire to vote Republican is also a brain state which makes you mark one checkbox instead of another.

So, your height and your desire to vote Republican are objective facts about the universe: we might not have the technology yet to analyze your brainwaves in order to know your desires, but the fact is that you do desire to vote Republican, and your desire is not a metaphysical, supernatural entity.

In any case, the physical or chemical nature of desires is not fundamental to desirism: what matters in the end is that we know through our own experience that our desires exist, and we can deduce their existence in other people by simply watching them act.

Desires influence the real world because they are reasons for action. In fact, they are the only reasons for action. Whatever you do, you do moved by a desire, even aginst your best interests: committing suicide is the action arising out of a desire to die. Since desires are the reasons for everybody’s actions, it is clear that desires ultimately influence the real world.

People cannot alter their desu¿ires at will. Some desires are malleable, some are not. You cannot change your desire to eat or drink. And even the malleable desires, like voting Republican, are not changed with a flick of the wrist. If it was that easy, advertising agencies would not spend billions of dollars in ad campaigns.

You might think you can hold any desire at all at any time, at will. That’s just not so. One of the implications of your position would be the existence of free will, which is a logically incoherent concept. In fact, your malleable desires are shaped by your personal history, your social context, your innate abilities, and several other factors. For example, I doubt you could make yourself desire to be a transvestite queen in Yemen. So in fact free will is an illusion, but desires are real. The whole point of desirism is that the interaction with other people can alter your malleable desires, and the goal is to alter them in such a way that the inevitable desire-thwarting effect of society is minimized.

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm

[ waits for the inevitable ignorance to be proudly stated ]

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noen June 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm

piero – You childish attempts at insults do not become you.

“Your desire to drink water when your body needs it is as objective as objective can be: there is a definite chemical phenomenon going on at the neuron level which we call “thirst”, or “desire to drink”.”

As I am sure you are familiar, I would claim that I “act in the gap”.

“your desire is not a metaphysical, supernatural entity.”

I do not and never have claimed it was. Surely you are aware that someone can disagree with you and not be a dualist?

“People cannot alter their desires at will. Some desires are malleable, some are not. You cannot change your desire to eat or drink.”

Sure they can. You know, just because you keep repeating something doesn’t make it so. People have starved themselves, and died, purely by an act of will. People can and do, just walk away from years of chemical addiction by shear act of will.

There is no such thing as addiction.

“Research done by psychologist Bruce Alexander, and co-investigators Robert Coambs and Patricia Hathaway show that addiction, pharmacologically, does not exist.

Alexander, a psychologist who studied at undergraduate level in Miami University, and later his Masters and PhD at at Madison, came up with the hypothesis, that Drug addiction, was purely socio-cultural.”

Your belief that human behavior is rigidly determined is a product of your ideology. You believe it is true because your philosophical dogma demands that it be true. Then you seek out sources that confirm your preconceived ideology.

“You might think you can hold any desire at all at any time, at will. That’s just not so. One of the implications of your position would be the existence of free will, which is a logically incoherent concept.”

The assumption of free will is a necessary prerequisite for any rational discussion. If you truly do not believe in free will then why are you trying to rationally present arguments for your position? You do not act in a manner consistent with your stated belief.

I’m going to go our to a restaurant now and when I get there I will order something to eat. I don’t know what it will be and I am sure that subconscious motives will have some influence on my choice. But in the end it’s up to me. No one, not even determinists, goes into a restaurant, sits down and tell the waitress “I’m a determinist, I’ll just wait and see what I order.” Direct personal experience belies your claim.

Besides, none of this has much to do with the question at hand. Desires are ontologically subjective. You, along with Alonzo Fyfe and many others, are making a category error. Value judgments epistemically subjective. So my belief that Rembrandt was a better painter than Rubens is an epistemically subjective value judgment whereas the claim that Rembrandt was born in 1606 is epistemically objective.

Beliefs, thoughts and desires are ontologically subjective, regardless of their location in the brain, because they are experienced by a subject. Where consciousness is concerned the appearance IS the reality. If it appears to me that I am in pain, then I am in pain.

Much of this confusion is due to the fear that science must be objective and that if we allow for subjective personal experiences then we are back in bed with Descartes. Science can validate statements which are epistemically objective but are not necessarily ontologically objective. The epistemic and ontological senses of objective vs. subjective are cleanly separable. We are not therefore thrown back into dualism.


Hermes
“[ waits for the inevitable ignorance to be proudly stated ]“

While I do get upset from time to time. It seems that you never really have anything worthwhile to contribute. What’s up with that? Is your personal animosity to bitter that this is all you have?

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Upset has nothing to do with it. As I said before, you are out of your element and I enjoy seeing you embarrass yourself. But, there’s a catch. You don’t realize you are embarrassing yourself by showing your ignorance. You substitute confidence for knowledge. That’s not very satisfying.

If you want to see the quality of what I write, you can find it elsewhere. But, please, do not join those conversations. You offer nothing. You are a waste of time and too predictable. I mean, how many times have you stridently put forth an answer in this thread alone — only to be shown clearly that you don’t know what you’re talking about?

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 2:48 pm

BTW, don’t expect me to address you again.

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piero June 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm

noen, I am not a philosopher, and as I said Alonzo would be able to give you a more robust answer. For what it’s worth, I find the following problems with your post:

The fact that some people starve themselves to death does not mean they’ve done away with the desire to eat. It just means they had a atronger desire to make a point. So their actions are still an outcome of their desires.

When I stated that desires are not metaphysiscal or supernatural, I was trying to clarify in what sense desires are “objective”. They are objective because they exist, and even if you change them, they still exist objectively. Preferring Rembrandt to Rubens is subjective; the fact that such preference exists is not.

You seem to refer to “will” as if it was something different from desires. If you quit smoking, what was your act of will but the outcome of a desire to quit smoking? Perhaps you confuse desires with impulses, cravings, lust, or with whatever makes people say “I could not help it”.

I won’t enter into the free will discussion. There are many good resources on the net. I’ll just say that free will implies that an event is its own cause, and that is incoherent. In order to accept free will you have to accept dualism, and I’m sure you don’t want to do that.

Beliefs, thoughts and desires are ontologically subjective, regardless of their location in the brain, because they are experienced by a subject. Where consciousness is concerned the appearance IS the reality. If it appears to me that I am in pain, then I am in pain.

So? I cannot fathom the difference between “I desire chocolate” and “It appears to me that I desire chocolate”. You can readily see that “It appears to me” adds nothing of significance by simply adding it as many times as you like to the beginning of the sentence: “It appears to me that it appears to me that I desire chocolate”, and so on.

Science can validate statements which are epistemically objective but are not necessarily ontologically objective

I don’t see the need to get into such deep waters. We are concerned with ethics. If I put a gun to your head and pull the trigger, will you really be concerned about the ontological and epistemical status of the bullet?

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Depends on what part of the brain ends up on the bullet. :-)

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noen June 6, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Hermes
“If you want to see the quality of what I write, you can find it elsewhere. But, please, do not join those conversations. You offer nothing. You are a waste of time and too predictable.”

Does the little thief still need attention? You see, this is all I’ve ever seen you do Hermes. All you do is just posture like this. You’re all tough and He-Man like and ya gots da attitude. But that’s it, there is no substance behind the pose. You’re a child.

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noen June 6, 2010 at 10:23 pm

piero
“They are objective because they exist, and even if you change them, they still exist objectively. Preferring Rembrandt to Rubens is subjective; the fact that such preference exists is not.”

But people aren’t interested in the fact that preferences exist. They want to know if Rembrandt really was a better painter than Rubens. They’d really like to know if abortion is a moral good or evil. They don’t give a crap that some people are pro-life and others pro-choice, they already know that. What they’d like to know is what our laws on abortion ought to be.

Desirism can’t answer that question. All it does, as far as I can tell, is to survey the field, notice which desires are out there, and then suggest that everyone maximise their desires I guess. That isn’t very helpful. Many people claim, and this applies to other conflicts beside abortion, that in a world where abortion is freely available and practiced openly, a world where everyone who desires an abortion can have one, that that world is immoral. Desirism has no answer to that.

In pygmy tribes when a girl reaches the age of menarche she is placed in a hut and has sex with every man in the tribe one after the other. From them she chooses her husband. Are such practices morally praiseworthy?

In other tribes when a boy is to become a man part of his initiation involves oral sex with the elder men of the tribe. Are such practices morally praiseworthy?

In both cases no one’s desires are being thwarted because it is part of their culture and frankly it would be unthinkable to them not to perform such rites. Desirism it would seem must condone these native rituals. But are they moral?

“I won’t enter into the free will discussion. There are many good resources on the net. I’ll just say that free will implies that an event is its own cause, and that is incoherent. In order to accept free will you have to accept dualism, and I’m sure you don’t want to do that.”

No I don’t. And I agree that free will does seem hard to explain but so is determinism. Both are untenable and there appears to be no solution. But you see…. I am ok letting the paradox be. I think that the ability to hold contradictory ideas in ones mind at the same time is a valuable ability. That’s what I think faith is really about. It’s about being able to embrace contradiction and to let go of your demands for rigid conformity and dogma. Perhaps you should re-read Kierkegaard in that light.

“If I put a gun to your head and pull the trigger, will you really be concerned about the ontological and epistemical status of the bullet?”

Yes, the ontological status of the bullet would be the most important fact on my mind.

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Hermes June 7, 2010 at 3:08 am

Noen, your words remain unread. Do not bother addressing me.

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piero June 7, 2010 at 3:29 am

noen:
Desirism is not utilitarianism. It does not evaluate desire satisfaction; rather, it evaluates desires themselves as good or bad according to their tendency to satisfy or thwart other desires. But really, I don’t have time to explain the whole thing from scratch. Do your homework.

Concerning your tribes, the answer would depend on whether such practices tend to fulfil or thwart other desires, and should be evaluated case by case. In principle, I find no objection, but I should give the matter more thought.

Concerning free will and determinism, the matter is much too complex to deal with it in a blog comment. Let us just agree that believing that you can hold any desire whatsoever at any time is tantamount to an endorsement of free will, and as such untenable.

Finally, I haven’t read Kierkegaard. You’ll have to wait for me to read him before I re-read him. It’s just the nature of reality that what hasn’t been read cannot be re-read. Or perhaps that’s too deterministic?

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noen June 8, 2010 at 7:58 am

Hermes
“Noen, your words remain unread. Do not bother addressing me.”

LOL!!! Uh.. yeah, that’s right. You didn’t read it at all. Of course not.

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noen June 8, 2010 at 8:14 am

piero
“Desirism is not utilitarianism”

Alfie specifically refers to desirsm as desire utilitarianism.

“it evaluates desires themselves as good or bad according to their tendency to satisfy or thwart other desires”

Yeah, that’s my primary objection. It’s basically amoral and not in the least objective as claimed. It is easy to imagine scenarios where everyone’s desires are satisfied and yet we would consider such societies or situations immoral.

“Concerning your tribes, the answer would depend on whether such practices tend to fulfil or thwart other desires”

Well it’s easy to give examples. Take say… the BDSM community. All the participants in bondage and discipline or sado/masochism do so by their consent. I mean, the only difference between real torture and a good session with a dominatrix is one gives one’s consent. Oh and in BDSM, everyone’s desires are being fulfilled, big time.

It’s doesn’t bother me, I really don’t care muc what consenting adults choose to do, but it seems to me that the question, “Is BDSM morally praiseworthy?” is a valid question. Many people would say no, it isn’t.

Is is always moral to fulfill everyone’s desires?

“Let us just agree that believing that you can hold any desire whatsoever at any time is tantamount to an endorsement of free will, and as such untenable.”

And yet I can do that very thing.

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piero June 8, 2010 at 10:29 am

noen:

Desire utilitarianism is not utilitarianism.

Calling desire utilitarianism amoral does not make it so.

You have no objections to BDSM, yet you claim that most people would. Either you agree with those people, in which case it is not true that you have no objections, or you don’t, in which case mentioning them was irrelevant.
It seems to me that you have a preconceived notion of morality which stems from as yet undeclared sources, and you use that to judge desirism.

If you can do the very thing I referred to, namely holding any particular desire at any given time, then prove it: please desire to smash your balls with a hammer and do it.

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Hermes June 8, 2010 at 11:03 am

Piero, you’re a champ for reading his nonsense and replying. I don’t think he’s capable of understanding you, and who knows how much damage he can do with a hammer unsupervised and still remain in the gene pool. Maybe a buddy can help him out?

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piero June 8, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Hermes:
Lol.
(Actually, I don’t find noen as offensive as all that. I think he is just lazy.)

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Hermes June 8, 2010 at 6:52 pm
piero June 8, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Lol. Yes, a Foghorn button is just what this blog needs!

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lukeprog June 8, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Forhorn? What? I missed something…

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piero June 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Lol.
Foghorn Leghorn, Luke, not Forhorn. You know, the cartoon, I say, the cartoon rooster.

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Hermes June 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Foghorn Leghorn — the closest thing to W.C. Fields in cartoon form worth watching.

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lukeprog June 8, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Oops, typo.

Thanks, I never knew that rooster’s name!

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lukeprog June 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Nice. Those are great sound clips.

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piero June 9, 2010 at 7:33 am

Nice. Those are great sound clips.

Indeed. And useful!

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