Utility of Religion

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guenther
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Fri Sep 04, 2009 7:15 am UTC

Zcorp wrote:Bad choice of analogy. Speeding laws just the like Bible often fail at creating conditions that reflect their original intent. In fact speed limits in America cause a swing in opposite direction of their intent. More deaths, more road rage and worse drivers. It is these poorly created rules that get incorrect or even inverse results.

I don't want to spend too much energy defending the analogy, but let me make a clarification. The links you gave seemed to be talking about highways and I was envisioning streets in areas with pedestrians.

My big-picture point is that some self-interest is good but too much is bad. The trick, just like with most things in life, is to find that good balance point in between. I think this is the job of morality, and without it I think we'll naturally shift to becoming more self-focused to the point where it's detrimental to ourselves and those around us.

Zcorp wrote:no, it really is as likely. The likeliness of something being effective is not at all dependent upon the data that we have on it. New ideas and implementation of those ideas can be highly effective without time and proliferation. It is how progression works. If new ideas effectiveness were dependent upon the amount of time they had been used, then we would never implement new ideas.

I work in design, and I can tell you that the likeliness of something working strongly depends on the data you have. Perhaps you mean that a lack of data is not an insurmountable barrier, and I generally agree with that statement. But morality is not a normal problem. It's incredibly complicated, and we don't even know how to objectively measure it, let alone define what a good system looks like. Look at something like economics; we have lots of ways to objectively measure it, but we still have a hard time declaring what a good system is. For these sorts of hugely complex systems, the only testing ground is real life. And I think the time scales needed to get reliable data out of a moral system is much longer than our patience.

Zcorp wrote:Now you need to define natural and supernatural, there is undoubtably things I consider natural that you consider supernatural. We can take the same path with Buddhism that we are taking with Christianity, although the suttra's are clearer in message they are much less clear in application.

Rather than natural/supernatural, a better divide is evidence-based versus not evidence-based. Clearly beliefs in the supernatural will not be evidence-based. But just because something sounds plausible within our current understanding of the natural laws doesn't make it any more realistic than unicorns. I think we're full of beliefs without evidence because we need to make judgments all the time with insufficient data. And more importantly, I think it's fundamental to how our brain works.
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Le1bn1z
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Le1bn1z » Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:10 pm UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:
Rather, he argues, I think correctly, that religion is a necessary, eternal and strutural part of the human mind, encompassing moral, rational, emotional and heuristic imperatives.

Can you define religion for me? Science does all of those things. I generally think Religion is very productive to society, when using my definition of religion. The definition proposed in the OP is not similar to mine nor is it encompassing of Buddhism, Science, Taoism or others that fit the above criteria.



I find it useful to look at religion as a mental phenomenon, rather than through theological formulae.

Specifically, religion is the intersection of Metaphysics, Ethics and devotion.

Religion is anything that

1.) Attempts to define what the universe essentially is, or, more specifically, the most esential laws by which it functions, in particular, but not only, in relation to humanity. (Metaphysics)

2.) From this, commands or recommends ethical actions or prohibitions, attempting to define what is the "right and good" life. (Ethics)

3.) Channels the human feelings of belonging, self-worth and propriety. (Devotion.)

All three are necessary to define a religion, as opposed to idle speculation, working theory or science, on one hand, and detached superstion, culture or social habits on the other.

For example, Taoism is a religion because it 1.) Proposes an essential understanding of the universe and how humanity relates to the order of things, through the concept of the Tao. 2.) Proposes an ethical system based upon this understanding. 3.) Proposes ceremonies, meditations and modes of communication which channel feelings of belonging self worth and propriety, especially with relation to the fundamental order of the universe.

Other religions not normally understood as religions include Communism and the militant Atheism of Richard Dawkins and all his friends.

Some things which are considered to be like relgions, but are not, include supporting a hockey team (No fundamental understanding of the universe, or ethical demension derived from it), Poilitical parties (also no fundamental understanding of the universe, escepting communism and fascism, of course) and basic superstitions like astrology or fear of cats (no ethical dimension.)

Science, of course, does not include a means of involving the human imperative of Devotion. It's also often sketchy on the ethical dimension as well.

Indeed, there is an excellent argument to be made that modern science is defined precisely by its abandonment of Metaphysical pretensions. Modern science attempts to describe and explain phenomena, and to tie them together into working theories and laws. It does not, however, attempt to gaze BEYOND the physical realm of things offered up to empirical examination.

The Metaphysical position most often associated with modern science is Materialism, but the latter is by no means proven by the former. It is an alliance of convenience more than a necessary bond.

None of these things can replace the function of a religion, entirely. Attempts to do so simply force a shift of the forces that create religion into other spheres.

For example, the atheism of communism and the socialist French Revolution instilled religious fervour at untenable levels into political crusades.

Organised and supervised religion can help prevent the rise of would-be-crusader prophets of violent or dangerous intent.

In fact, Leo Strauss, founder of the neo-conservative school of social thought, believed that religion was the basis of the necessary social divide. No thinking person, he hypothesized, could really believe in religion, as it defies reason. However, religion is necessary for keeping the masses in order. Religion, therefore, is an act of beneavolent cynicism, protecting the masses from themselves, while at the same time, establishing a secret order of savants.

Really pompous stuff. And utter nonsense, based on a rather poor reading of modern political thought (his reading of Locke is particularily dim.)

In any case, this definition should fit for all organised religions, and most unorganised ones as well, for that matter.
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Mindor
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Mindor » Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:29 pm UTC

guenther wrote:...stuff...
@Mindor: I'm very impressed you read the whole thing. I don't think I could do that. :)

Thanks, but I wouldn't feel justified in commenting if I hadn't.
guenther wrote:Let me ask you a few questions. 1.Do you have a complete and robust understanding of morality? 2.If so, can you share it? 3.And how do you know others won't question the moral authority of what you describe?
  1. I am confident that I do.
  2. It is essentially the Golden Rule applied with an understanding of justice through logic and reason.(though it could and should be more carefully defined if I intend to codify it for consumption by others, I have no doubt others have taken the time to carefully do so.)
  3. You already have, but in my experience, any claims against it come from either a misunderstanding of the the golden rule or don't hold up to the scrutiny of logic and reason, as only Truth is capable of doing. Once fully understood, I believe anyone that honestly approached the subject would come to the same conclusions.
guenther wrote:
Mindor wrote:A member of society that gained his moral center through this process, as opposed to being told what his moral responsibilities were, would be much more capable of fulfilling his moral obligations and applying his moral code in new environments and situations because he understands it, not just knows what it is.

How do you know this is true? Is it simply your best guess?
Zcorp gave reference to scientific evidence, I offer anecdotal, and logical. I offer (what I believe is what you meant with) your own claim about design: The more data you have going into a design the more likely it will succeed. Why do you say this is so? I imagine it is either experience, or some logical process, or both that lead you to this claim.
I have for nearly my entire life taught others, I teach others processes at work, I've taught others to program computers through numerous venues, I've taught my fellow students Math, Physics, Philosophy, Grammar, Martial Arts. When I use 'taught' in this sense, I mean I've shown them the rote, but in doing so tried to guide them to an understanding of the subject. Those that reached the understanding, were far more capable of successfully moving forward in the subject beyond where I had helped them. Those that instead tried to memorize the 'rules' of the subject, in general were only able to move forward with additional assistance. Given problems significantly similar to the examples used in the tutoring, they were able to pick
the solution off the list and 'crunch the numbers', but when they had to apply an understanding of what lead to the rules, they falter.

Let me ask you this question: Who would you ask to fix a horribly complex machine that broke down? The one that spent years researching the concepts and techniques its construction and operation relied on and ultimately built it, or the one that has a list of instructions on how to make a working version of the machine produce correct results? Why?

guenther wrote:I agree with you on the hammer analogy. I think it can be damaging to lose faith. But I don't think this faith is as fragile as you indicate. Religion has been losing ground to science for hundreds of years now . But how much has that hurt people's ability to maintain their faith? I'd say not much since the vast majority of the world is still religious. My best guess is that our lives are full of faith, or more generally belief without evidence. (I see faith as an explicit belief without evidence, but we could also mistakenly think we have enough evidence when we don't.) The whole notion that goodness matters in some fundamental way can't be substantiated by science any more than the notion of God. I think the hook that religion uses to grab hold of so many people is a part of us as fundamental as our emotions.

Also, your school-like discovery method for learning morals can work within the framework of religion. I think what's important is that we own the responsibility to act according to a certain moral code, and that we know how to effectively apply it to our lives. Our ability to align our behavior with a moral code is separate from whether the moral code comes from old religious texts or an enlightened scholar. (The quality of the wisdom does depend more on the source of the text, but that's a separate issue.)

I don't see how either of these are an argument for the utility of religion.
I agree with your definition of faith, and even that there are aspects of our mind that allows religion to take hold of them. Do many find comfort in faith?
Yes, as you've said yourself it takes effort to think and to reason, it is easier to accept on faith that somebody else has come to the correct decision, it is easier to guess that your first inkling is correct and not bother to question or examine it. Some find faith comforting because they fear the alternative to what their faith claims, and lack the courage to confront it.
Accepting on faith frees them from the personal responsibility to think, shifting the responsibility to the object of faith.

The claim that 'it can work within the framework of religion' itself shows religion is not necessary for it to work.
That we 'own the responsibility' is itself a moral claim. Why is it true? Is it because the moral code itself says so? Is it because of some higher moral concept that isn't itself derived from the code, but that the specifics of the code are also derived from?
If you agree that understanding is required in application, where does this understanding come from?
If faith is belief without reason, there can be no understanding in faith, for understanding a concept is essentially to grasp of the why of that concept. What good is having the code handed to you? If you are to understand it, you still have to think about it to gain understanding, so there is no energy saved.

by your own claim, a moral action cannot result purely from faith, the action may be the right action, but it cannot be a moral action.
I have two formal arguments for this.
one if morality requires understanding.
two if morality requires responsibility.

1. for an action to be moral, the actor must understand the consequences of the action.
2. for an action to be on faith, the actor must not understand the consequences of the action.
3. an action is taken on faith.
4. therefore the actor must not understand the consequences of the action. (modus ponens 2, 3)
5. therefore the action is not moral. (modus tollens, 1, 4)
6. an action taken on faith is not moral.
Therefore an act purely on faith cannot be a moral act.

1. for an action to be moral, the actor must be responsible for the action.
2. if an action is taken on faith, responsibility shifts responsibility for the action to the object of faith.
I gotta run to class so must finish up quickly here, hopefully you can see where this is going, pretty much the same form as the one above..

Some would say honest belief that the action is correct is all that matters for the action to be moral, regardless of where the belief originates.
If we accept this, I would still argue that an action based in reason holds more moral weight than one based in faith, because the actor both understands and accepts responsibility for it.

guenther wrote:
Mindor wrote:Regarding the Golden Rule: You've said that it is not enough. I challenge you to present to me one moral tenant that cannot be expressed using the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you).

The Golden Rule only equates what behavior I expect to receive with how I behave to others. It doesn't specify how we should behave to each other. Mathematically it says A==B without actually saying what A or B should be.

So one could write "Love your neighbor as yourself" using the Golden Rule. But then someone else could say that they expect no such love from neighbors, rather they simply want to be left alone. Therefore their moral responsibility is merely to leave others alone. So A==B is not enough, we need some indication of what A and B are.


I've never seen the Golden Rule expressed in such a way, but it seems backwards. It is not do to others what you think they will do to you, or do to others what they do to you, it is do to others what you would prefer they do to you. It isn't about expectations, it is about ideals.

See somebody in situation A.
Consider this: Ideally, if I were in situation A, how would I want someone respond.
That is what you should do to/for the person in situation A.
If your response is that you would ideally like to be left alone. Then that is what you should do.

The Golden Rule does run into problems in implementation if used by somebody with a damaged sense of self worth, or other psychological issues. I.E. if someone wants to die, and they see another in mortal danger, applying the Golden Rule may result in 'if I were in mortal danger, I would not want to be saved', however, the full application of the Golden Rule would be to put themselves in the others full situation and result in 'if I were in mortal danger, and I didn't want to die, I would want to be saved.'

At any rate, you give a moral conclusion one might reach if they wanted to be left alone, but don't give the situation. Surely there are some situations, regardless of your moral code, where the correct thing to do would be to leave the other person alone.

Can you could provide an actual complete example where you feel the Golden Rule doesn't live up?

guenther wrote:
Zcorp wrote:no, it really is as likely. The likeliness of something being effective is not at all dependent upon the data that we have on it. New ideas and implementation of those ideas can be highly effective without time and proliferation. It is how progression works. If new ideas effectiveness were dependent upon the amount of time they had been used, then we would never implement new ideas.

I work in design, and I can tell you that the likeliness of something working strongly depends on the data you have. Perhaps you mean that a lack of data is not an insurmountable barrier, and I generally agree with that statement. But morality is not a normal problem. It's incredibly complicated, and we don't even know how to objectively measure it, let alone define what a good system looks like. Look at something like economics; we have lots of ways to objectively measure it, but we still have a hard time declaring what a good system is. For these sorts of hugely complex systems, the only testing ground is real life. And I think the time scales needed to get reliable data out of a moral system is much longer than our patience.


While having more knowledge of a system will affect our ability to make correct claims about the system. i.e. "This system works.", the system will work, or not work regardless of our knowledge of it. Having more data, has no effect on a system working.

Try this thought experiment.
Randomly select two (non-quantum) systems. Ask yourself which system(s) will work. At this point, you can make no justified claims of which will, any such claims would be merely guesses. Label them System A and System B. Test the hell out of System A. Ask yourself again which system(s) will work. You should now be able to make a claim about System A. The data may point to it working, or it may point to it not working, but does our data change the system itself. Is it more likely to work now that we know about it? Can you make any claims about System B? My hope is that you realize you could not.

Now if your claim was that the more data you use while designing a system, the more likely you could develop a working system, that I could not argue against provided the designer understood the data, and the data were relevant to what he wished to design.
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General_Norris
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby General_Norris » Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:00 pm UTC

A clarification, Kant's categorical imperative is exactly as the Golden Rule but with a very important difference, it doesn't tell us what we should want, only that we should want. The Golden Rule runs into a problem and that is that we may want something that we shouldn't.

Let me ask you a few questions. 1)Do you have a complete and robust understanding of morality? 2)If so, can you share it? 3)And how do you know others won't question the moral authority of what you describe?


1) I would say that yes but there's nothing really original about it.

2) I have two basis. The Categorical Imperative to always choose right and the Ubermensch ideals from Nietszche so as to make sure I don't take anything as given but that I start from zero and choose the best option even if it's politically incorrect.

3) The can question it but it doesn't affect it's validity. It doesn't require other's colaboration.

I would say more by I have to go now.

Longstreet85
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:38 pm UTC

A clarification, Kant's categorical imperative is exactly as the Golden Rule but with a very important difference, it doesn't tell us what we should want, only that we should want. The Golden Rule runs into a problem and that is that we may want something that we shouldn't.


Please elaborate on the problem of the Golden Rule versus the Categorical Imperative, since I really don't understand (A) what your getting at and (B) if I do understand what you're getting at, I'm at a loss to understand why it's particularly problematic.

2) I have two basis. The Categorical Imperative to always choose right and the Ubermensch ideals from Nietszche so as to make sure I don't take anything as given but that I start from zero and choose the best option even if it's politically incorrect.


How can you plausibly combine Nietszche with Kant, especially sense Nietszche was very dismissive of the Categorical Imperative and the entire set of philosophical presumptions around which Kant based it. He famously said of the deontologically influenced 19th c. "You can't have Christian morals without Christian metaphysics." [In which case, it's worth mentioning that the Golden Rule for the Christian is No. 2 and ancillary to No.1: Deuteronomy 6:5 V Mark 12:30].

Kant's joke.— Kant wanted to prove, in a way that would dumbfound the common man, that the common man was right: that was the secret joke of this soul. He wrote against the scholars in support of popular prejudice, but for scholars and not for the people.


While he respected Kant, we all know what Nietszche thought of the common man's moral opinions.

If I'm completely off basis with Nietszche or Kant, let me know; since that's a very plausible solution; but I don't think I'm off the ranch. Rather, if you've got a source supporting your interpretation, I'd love to look at it.

General_Norris
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby General_Norris » Thu Sep 10, 2009 2:09 pm UTC

Longstreet85 wrote:Please elaborate on the problem of the Golden Rule versus the Categorical Imperative, since I really don't understand (A) what your getting at and (B) if I do understand what you're getting at, I'm at a loss to understand why it's particularly problematic.


They are exactly the same thing but the Rule tells you what is the best choice and the Imperative doesn't so one is not applicable to all possible situations and the other is. For example, imagine the best moral choice is the total destruction of the universe. The Golden Rule doesn't allow it but the Categorical Imperative does.

The Categorical Imperative is a law and the Golden Rule is a maxim.


On Nietszche and Kant, well, first of all reading Nietzsche is very difficult because of all his fancyness and provocations with little meaning and it's very open to discussion. I don't think Nietzsche was very dimissive of the Imperative, it always seemed to me that what he meants was "It's not revolutionary enough" more than real criticism. Nietzsche sees Kant's morals as very conservative and lacking real practical use, IMHO. I prefer to describe my interpretation of him because it's easier and I'm no expert of Nietzsche.

Kant's moral system is but a tool, it's like the scientific method. It is a law that can't be broken but it doesn't tell you more. For example it doesn't tell you how to do the experiments. Nietzsche to me is a critique of bad ways of doing science.

An example. Being openly gay is , to me, Master morality while being homophobe is Slave morality. Since the Categorical Imperative is so open you may incorrectly fit being homophobe in it, Nietzsche philosohpy helps to overcome that by telling us that a good moral is not enough, you need to have the best moral possible even if you have to be machiavelian about it.

Le1bn1z
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Le1bn1z » Thu Sep 10, 2009 6:37 pm UTC

The Categorical Imperative is the cornerstone of Immanuel Kant's "Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone," which is the worst kind of religion:

1.) Utterly divorced from reality and contemptuous of the actual lives of real human beings.

2.) Composed of thought against feeling.

Kant's moral philosophy was the Platonic microcosm of Totalitarianism within the soul of one human; Kant spins his web of perverse theology, following the logic wherever it leads, never once pausing to glance either at the world around him or even in a mirror.

He makes the Pope's stance on condoms and AIDS look down right pragmatic and compassionate.

I can't believe anyone is considering Kant as offering any useful insight into the righteous life, beyond this Critique of Judgement (the truly great major work he ever wrote.)
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guenther
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Thu Sep 10, 2009 8:33 pm UTC

@ Mindor and General_Norris: (and anyone else that's interested)

We have a very different perspective on morality. Perhaps we can start there, because this is central to the debate.

Morality is defined
You have to start with some basis for morality that we just accept as true. We can't run experiments on "goodness" like we do with gravity because it only exists as an aggregate subjective experience across a group of people. As an economic analogy, we can't do a test on corn to find it's fair market value any more than we can measure to see if an action is moral. "Moral truths" are defined, not discovered. There's no way to test the validity of a claim. (We can "gut-check" different moral statements, and I think this process is very important. But basing moral truths on this is a process of finding an intuitive definition, rather than making discoveries like we do in science.)

Morality is complicated
We can define morality in a way that lends itself to a very clear and robust understanding. But I'd posit that it would be a very simple model that doen't offer much practically. To further the above analogy, that would be like having an economic policy that's simply "Grow GDP" or "Fair distribution of weath". But when it comes time to actually implement that policy in the real world, there's so much more detail needed (taxes, trade, incentives, regulations, etc.). A comprehensive economic policy should include all of those details, but then it would take much more effort to have a complete and robust understanding.

Morality is as complicated as economics, but we don't have the luxury of tracking dollars.

NOTE: To be clear on my language, "morality" is analogous to "economic policy" in that it represents an incarnation of rules regarding behavior. The closest moral equivalent of "economics" (i.e. the science rather than the policy) I've seen is perhaps "behaviorial economics", but I'd say that the science of morality is only a subset of that.

Translating rules into behavior
There's a big difference between describing rules of behavior and actually getting people to behave that way. In theory it shouldn't matter if people believed that the rules are divine in nature, or devised through some clever experiments, or thought up by some elightened scholar. If the people behave in a certain way, it shouldn't matter what they believe. But the issue is that what one believes hugely affects how one behaves.

In my opinion, simply convincing someone that a rule makes sense will likely yield poor results. Logic and reason don't drive behavior. The person needs to feel that following the rule is important in some way, or that it provides some benefit. We are emotion-driven creatures that have learned how to use the tools of logic and reason.

Golden Rule
How much of my time, money, and energy should I spend on serving others rather than myself? The Golden Rule alone lets each person define it however they want based on what they want from others. But not all choices will be equally likely to produce results that we intuitively find agreeable. There's a moral decision to be made that is not well defined by the Golden Rule.

Also, I think there's a lot of self-discipline aspects of morality that are completely not covered by how we should treat others.

Mindor wrote:Accepting on faith frees them from the personal responsibility to think, shifting the responsibility to the object of faith.
...
by your own claim, a moral action cannot result purely from faith, the action may be the right action, but it cannot be a moral action.

I don't get these statements at all. There's a lot of religious deep thinkers. And why does faith make someone less responsible? And we can define "moral action" in any way that we want, but your definition seems very distinct from what our intuition tells us.

Religion
I realize that I didn't talk about religion much in this. :) My current theory on how this relates to the utility of religion is two parts:
1. The quality of the wisdom is still pretty solid.
2. It's wrapped in a structure that very effectively appeals to all of our differents hooks to translate wisdom into behavior.
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Longstreet85
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Fri Sep 11, 2009 8:48 am UTC

They are exactly the same thing but the Rule tells you what is the best choice and the Imperative doesn't so one is not applicable to all possible situations and the other is. For example, imagine the best moral choice is the total destruction of the universe. The Golden Rule doesn't allow it but the Categorical Imperative does.

The Categorical Imperative is a law and the Golden Rule is a maxim.


I see what you're getting at now. Another thing to remember, however, is that the Golden Rule is a maxim within Virtue Ethics; and the Categorical Imperative, as you say, a rule. Ergo, as Kant points out in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (RLRA), if men were devils they could be moral by following the rule. That is, who you are makes little difference, whereby "who you are" I mean the type of person you are. On the other hand, the Golden Rule is merely a maxim of Christian caritas, the unselfish love of other. As such a maxim, it is subservient to the ultimate good of the Christian life expressed in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30. We ought not forget this major difference. In some sense you're bringing that out.

It's worth remember, however, that Kant, at least, did not believe the Categorical Imperative functioned like you did. He did not believe it justified such suicidal situations like world destruction.... or even masturbation. He certainly did not believe it justified homosexuality. Of course, he may have made logical errors: all of this is not to say the Categorical Imperative (CI), cannot be reinterpreted. It's just to point out that Kant "never looked in the mirror," as another poster said. His Pietist Lutheran upbringing remained with him his whole life. When Nietzsche said of Kant's moral system, "You can't have Christian morals without Christian Metaphysics," he was pointing out that Kant merely reconstructed Christian morality, i.e. "slave morality."

An example. Being openly gay is , to me, Master morality while being homophobe is Slave morality. Since the Categorical Imperative is so open you may incorrectly fit being homophobe in it, Nietzsche philosohpy helps to overcome that by telling us that a good moral is not enough, you need to have the best moral possible even if you have to be machiavelian about it.


Well... I'm afraid the problem I perceived above comes out here, and I can express it better. Nietzsche did not believe in moral absolutes and (arguably) did not believe in morality, period. The strong man breaks from such bonds to enforce his power. Kant, on the other than, constructed an absolute system, designed to answer every contingency. So, you're stuck between absolutism and relativism.

Kant's moral philosophy was the Platonic microcosm of Totalitarianism within the soul of one human; Kant spins his web of perverse theology, following the logic wherever it leads, never once pausing to glance either at the world around him or even in a mirror.


And the part about the mirror is particularly telling, isn't it? Kant never saw how dependent his system of morality "within Reason alone" really depended utterly on the pious mode of upbringing with which his parents raised him.

Thus, he is one of many philosophers of the 18th and 19th centuries who famously lacked self-knowledge.

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Idhan
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Idhan » Fri Sep 11, 2009 4:57 pm UTC

I guess my issue here is that I don't think that either religion or some codified secular moral code, let alone extensive knowledge of moral philosophy, is necessary or sufficient for being moral. It is possible to be moral without even being aware of the concept of morality (or [moral] good, right and wrong, etc). Conversely, you can read Kant, the Gospels, the Rig-Vedas, and Velleman every day and still be a evil mofo.

(I suspect knowledge of ethics at a theoretical level may be a small net positive toward being a good person for most people, but it's not determinative.)

So insofar as the issue at hand is practical morality as the social level, rather than some form of abstruse metaethical concern about the foundation of morality or somesuch, I don't think that either religion or secular ethical philosophies like Kant are really the solution to the actual problem at hand.

As for Kant, I find that the actual reasoning of morality that he gives is very weak as a motive. I should be moral because otherwise I would fail to meet certain logical consistency criteria? Oh, and if anything else motivates me toward the same moral actions, I'm acting according to a heteronomous will and my actual morality is questionable.

I'm sitting around with some friends, and the conversation drifts toward mockery and criticism of one of my other friends, who isn't there. Why should I object? I suppose, according to Kant, because otherwise my own actions cannot be consistently willed to be the universal law. This is what's supposed to motivate me to risk being seen as a self-righteous killjoy among my friends -- and if something else motivates me, like personal loyalty to my absent friend or something, then Oh me yarm that's heteronomy and not really moral! Frankly, if Kant's description of morality is right, then I am pretty much indifferent to whether or not I am moral.

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Sat Sep 12, 2009 10:56 pm UTC

Hi Idhan.

Idhan wrote:So insofar as the issue at hand is practical morality as the social level, rather than some form of abstruse metaethical concern about the foundation of morality or somesuch, I don't think that either religion or secular ethical philosophies like Kant are really the solution to the actual problem at hand.

This is a pretty important point for me, and if I'm wrong my case is much weaker. :) (I agree with you on the Kant stuff. If anyone has a good example of logical appeal having a significant impact on behavior, I'd like to hear it.)

Idhan wrote:It is possible to be moral without even being aware of the concept of morality (or [moral] good, right and wrong, etc). Conversely, you can read Kant, the Gospels, the Rig-Vedas, and Velleman every day and still be a evil mofo.

It is possible to be proficient at math without studying or going to class. Conversely, one could study hard and go to every lecture and still be a dumb mofo. Does that mean that math class is neither necessary nor sufficient at getting a student better at math? For any particular student it may not be. But I'd say that having a structured system is the best way we know for getting the population at large to be more proficient.

When you look at the individual, there's so much variability that it might swamp out any other factor, just like there are very long-lived smokers and very short-lived non-smokers. But when you look at the bigger picture, this uncontrollable random variability will get averaged out, and other factors will take over.

In the bigger picture, I think one of the biggest factors in our behavior is the behavior of people around us. This could mean their immediate actions at the moment, or it could mean what sort of behavior is acceptable. The latter piece is sort of a cultural encoding of morality. I think this is a safety net that keeps most of us from misbehaving too badly regardless of whether we follow a structured moral system or not. However, I think the cultural encoding will drift over time away from moral towards self interest. To me it seems that a lot of effort of religion is to keep this safety net in place, to minimize drift. If the effort stops, we may not see the long-term effects for a while.

That's my theory. We have lots of slow, unintended drifts in culture. Sometimes they're changes for the better, but I think there are many more bad choices than good, especially when we have the option to get short-term benefit in lieu of long-term, distant, nebulous gain.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Mon Sep 14, 2009 12:18 pm UTC

Guenther,

I think his position can be maintained only
(1) if he believes that there are no objective answers to moral questions
(2) if he believes that while there are objective answers, knowing them does not necessarily lead to a moral life.

If what he's arguing is (2), which I think it is, it's a pretty silly argument. Technically it is true; but in order for him to cast any dispersion on the discussion of moral philosophy he must argue (3) that self-knowledge in regard to morality does not have the high likelihood of leading to a moral life or rather does not increase one's chances of attempting to live a moral/good life. Or, put another way, that no correlation exists between knowledge of the good life and the practice of a good life.

Unfortunately, the contrary to (3) appears to me to be manifest.

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Le1bn1z » Mon Sep 14, 2009 7:17 pm UTC

@ guenther

If we go by your logic, we should add one more item to your list of definitions of morality:

4.) Morality is useless.

Your Kantian morality specifically does nothing to improve anybody's life. While it makes for pretty logical consistencies, it specifically mandates a detachment from joy, suffering, love, hate, potato chips and indeed any aspect of our lived reality.

To paraphrase Kant, there is a phenomenal world (the world in which we live) and the noumenal world (a world of reason and imagination in which we do not live, except in our minds).

Your morality is specifically that which only has any bearing in Imaginationland.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Mon Sep 14, 2009 11:32 pm UTC

Longstreet85 wrote:Unfortunately, the contrary to (3) appears to me to be manifest.

I agree with your take on it. But I would say we need more than knowledge. I don't know precisely what, but it seems clear that proper motivation as well as a social group that shares similar goals and struggles can help.


Le1bn1z wrote:If we go by your logic, we should add one more item to your list of definitions of morality:

4.) Morality is useless.

I'm not sure I follow. What definition are you referring to? I certainly don't think morality is useless. Quite the opposite.

And I wouldn't call Kantian morality mine. I only know the basics from Wikipedia. And I'm claiming that a moral system based on logic will be of little use.

EDIT: fixed spelling
Last edited by guenther on Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:39 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Tue Sep 15, 2009 7:45 am UTC

I agree with your take on it. But I would say we need more than knowledge. I don't know pricely what, but it seems clear that proper motivation as well as a social group that shares similar goals and struggles can help.


4.) Morality is useless.

Your Kantian morality specifically does nothing to improve anybody's life. While it makes for pretty logical consistencies, it specifically mandates a detachment from joy, suffering, love, hate, potato chips and indeed any aspect of our lived reality.


The problem of moral motivation to which you're both referring was "solved" by Kant with reference to the belief in a retributive God. That he would float such a solution says a lot about the time in which he lived and the weaknesses of his theory in answering this particular problem. Ironically, Christianity itself never posited God's eventual justice as the ultimate reason one should do good, because morality in Christianity is less about scrupulously following moral rules than it is about cultivating oneself into a virtuous person with the ultimate, motivating factor being one's own happiness. It shares this motivating factor with Aristotelian virtue ethics, which influenced Christian philosophers in the Middle Ages.

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Dark567 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 5:04 am UTC

guenther wrote:And I wouldn't call Kantian morality mine. I only know the basics from Wikipedia. And I'm claiming that a moral system based on logic will be of little use.


Just because a morality is useless doesn't mean its not correct. As a matter a fact I would argue any morality that isn't logical consistent is automatically incorrect as it would be impossible to follow.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:33 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:Just because a morality is useless doesn't ean its not correct. As a matter a fact I would argue any morality that isn't logical consistent is automatically incorrect as it would be impossible to follow.

I could have phrased it better, and I agree with you. Though, I'd say believable rather than logically consistent. Part of us believing in it means it has to make sense. What I was trying to say is that it can't be defined by logic alone since we can't be programmed like computers. We have a lot of evolutionary hooks into our behavior that are below our level of awareness. I believe those need catered to by whatever system of behavior we intend to follow. (The struggles of dieting is a good example of how important this is.)
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 11:32 am UTC

Just because a morality is useless doesn't mean its not correct. As a matter a fact I would argue any morality that isn't logical consistent is automatically incorrect as it would be impossible to follow.


But this only makes sense if we assume morality must be deductive rather than inductive, something that is not prima facie true and for which you have not argued.

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Mindor » Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:25 pm UTC

Longstreet85 wrote:
Just because a morality is useless doesn't mean its not correct. As a matter a fact I would argue any morality that isn't logical consistent is automatically incorrect as it would be impossible to follow.


But this only makes sense if we assume morality must be deductive rather than inductive, something that is not prima facie true and for which you have not argued.


Induction is not free from being logically consistent. If a claim is logically inconsistent, regardless of how it was arrived at, it cannot be correct.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Thu Sep 17, 2009 3:42 pm UTC

Mindor wrote:If a claim is logically inconsistent, regardless of how it was arrived at, it cannot be correct.

Do you mean it's not logically correct if it's not logically consistent? That seems definitionally true. If you mean some other sort of "correct", what's your test for correctness?

In regards to morality, I don't like to use true/false or correct/incorrect, because I don't think it's well defined. Rather I like to think in terms of useful/not useful. I think it's useful for there to be some logical consistency to a moral system because it helps us think about it and apply it to our lives.

Our of curiosity, how strict is your test of logical consistency in regards to morality? Is something like Christianity consistent with claims like "three persons but one being" or "God works in mysterious ways"? Or does the test for logical consistency only reject moral systems that say things like "kill" and "don't kill", where the rules are directly in opposition?
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 7:09 pm UTC

Induction is not free from being logically consistent. If a claim is logically inconsistent, regardless of how it was arrived at, it cannot be correct.


Not really. . . it depends if we're talking about the same thing.

My contention is merely that deductive logic aims at certainty whilst inductive logic cannot aim at certainty.

Also, I caught another potential equivocation. I was thinking about a moral act not necessarily a moral system when I made my contention.

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Dark567 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 7:21 pm UTC

guenther wrote:Do you mean it's not logically correct if it's not logically consistent? That seems definitionally true. If you mean some other sort of "correct", what's your test for correctness?

There is no such thing as some other sort of "correct". If something is not logically consistent it is not logically correct. And logical correctness is the only type of correctness there is.

guenther wrote:In regards to morality, I don't like to use true/false or correct/incorrect, because I don't think it's well defined. Rather I like to think in terms of useful/not useful. I think it's useful for there to be some logical consistency to a moral system because it helps us think about it and apply it to our lives.


How can you define what is useful without defining what is moral? Useful for what? Societal value? Human well being? All those things are important to us because of morality. Using usefulness as a judge of morality is simply begging the question.


guenther wrote:Our of curiosity, how strict is your test of logical consistency in regards to morality? Is something like Christianity consistent with claims like "three persons but one being" or "God works in mysterious ways"? Or does the test for logical consistency only reject moral systems that say things like "kill" and "don't kill", where the rules are directly in opposition?


My test of logical consistency is simple. The theory of morality has to not end up with any paradoxes. Most philosophers believe that most peoples moral beliefs in religion are logically inconsistent and therefore incorrect.(but not necessarily the religion themselves). It is possible to have a logically consistent belief in Christian morality, most people just don't. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma) It is possible for logically consistent systems that allow both "killing" and "not killing", the decision just has to be based off some other factors.



Longstreet85 wrote:My contention is merely that deductive logic aims at certainty whilst inductive logic cannot aim at certainty.


This is correct. But the thing is if something by deductive logic is proved wrong, then it is certainly wrong. So even if induction supports a moral act, but deductive logic proves it wrong, that act is wrong. Deductive logic is certain, as you stated above.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Mindor » Thu Sep 17, 2009 7:55 pm UTC

guenther wrote:@ Mindor and General_Norris: (and anyone else that's interested)

We have a very different perspective on morality. Perhaps we can start there, because this is central to the debate.

Morality is defined
You have to start with some basis for morality that we just accept as true. We can't run experiments on "goodness" like we do with gravity because it only exists as an aggregate subjective experience across a group of people. As an economic analogy, we can't do a test on corn to find it's fair market value any more than we can measure to see if an action is moral. "Moral truths" are defined, not discovered. There's no way to test the validity of a claim. (We can "gut-check" different moral statements, and I think this process is very important. But basing moral truths on this is a process of finding an intuitive definition, rather than making discoveries like we do in science.)

Though I agree we have a disconnect that is getting in the way of this discussion, I believe it is more fundamental than our perspective on morality. You (EDIT:don't )seem to labor under the misconception that science holds a monopoly on uncovering truths: That for a claim to be objective, it must be supported by scientific evidence, and since science is limited to the empirical world, anything outside that is open to opinion.
Science does seem pretty much useless for discovering what morality is, or even for supporting moral claims, but that does not mean we cannot determine the validity of these claims. Where the world of science's physical experiments dealing with empirical truth ends, philosophy picks up with thought experiments dealing with concepts themselves, when done properly, the fruits of logic and reason are no less true.
On some level you must acknowledge this is true, or else why start the thread?

Now it is true that words hold definitions, they are signs that point to concepts, the definitions don't 'make' the concepts, rather they describe concepts, if you change a definition, you change the meaning of the word, but you don't actually change the concept, instead the definition describes a different concept. The concepts in-turn try to represent truths, some obviously do better than others, but no concept by their nature can perfectly represent a truth. Again truths don't require conceptualization to be true, concepts are an invention of our thought processes from which truths are independent: truths are absolute,as such require our labeling to exist no more than the moon does.

In the case of this discussion, the word morality holds a particular definition, it points to a particular concept. If you change the definition you now point to a different concept of morality. Both concepts try to represent a truth, one may do a better job or they both may be flawed in some different manner so the net quality of representation is equivalent.

My definition for Morality is simply "Doing what is right."
We can then make claims about what is right, and use philosophy to validate or discard those claims.
There is a whole field of philosophy devoted to doing just this: Ethics.

guenther wrote:Morality is complicated
We can define morality in a way that lends itself to a very clear and robust understanding. But I'd posit that it would be a very simple model that doen't offer much practically. To further the above analogy, that would be like having an economic policy that's simply "Grow GDP" or "Fair distribution of weath". But when it comes time to actually implement that policy in the real world, there's so much more detail needed (taxes, trade, incentives, regulations, etc.). A comprehensive economic policy should include all of those details, but then it would take much more effort to have a complete and robust understanding.

Morality is as complicated as economics, but we don't have the luxury of tracking dollars.

NOTE: To be clear on my language, "morality" is analogous to "economic policy" in that it represents an incarnation of rules regarding behavior. The closest moral equivalent of "economics" (i.e. the science rather than the policy) I've seen is perhaps "behaviorial economics", but I'd say that the science of morality is only a subset of that.

I think it is interesting you choose to compare morality to economics, as the two are so closely related. In fact economics, as the art of making/following financial rules to maximize financial results, is 'doing what is right in the realm of finances', and as such is a subset of morality.
The perfect, most successful economic policy, if followed honestly would also be perfectly moral.

guenther wrote:Translating rules into behavior
There's a big difference between describing rules of behavior and actually getting people to behave that way. In theory it shouldn't matter if people believed that the rules are divine in nature, or devised through some clever experiments, or thought up by some elightened scholar. If the people behave in a certain way, it shouldn't matter what they believe. But the issue is that what one believes hugely affects how one behaves.

In my opinion, simply convincing someone that a rule makes sense will likely yield poor results. Logic and reason don't drive behavior. The person needs to feel that following the rule is important in some way, or that it provides some benefit. We are emotion-driven creatures that have learned how to use the tools of logic and reason.

I think I've been doing this before now, but to be clear, when I use right to describe an action or choice, I mean morally right, when I use correct, I mean an action that matches a morally right action, with the exception that reason for the action is not stated.

On this I categorically disagree with you. If your primary interest is getting people to behave correctly, then it is true that the means of driving that behavior are a secondary consideration. However don't mistake following instructions as acting morally.
An action isn't automatically moral just because it happens to be the correct.

A man performs correct action A because he irrationally believes it will cause a catastrophe. The action does not have the intended consequences, and provides a net benefit. Was he moral? If yes then the ends justify the means, if no, then the quality of the belief that leads to an action matters.

If I decide my every action based of the flip of a coin, statistically 50% of my actions will match those taken by a saint, but none of mine will in fact be moral. I'm not doing them because they are right, I'm doing them because the coin said so.
Following the advice of a coin is either right or wrong, it cannot be both.
Lets assume it is true that coins can give moral advice.
Lets ask the coin, better lets ask two coins, Is X a moral action? Heads yes, Tails no.
Coin 1 turns up heads, we get the answer X is a moral action.
Coin 2 turns up tails, now X is not a moral action.
So If coins can give moral advice, X is both a moral action and not a moral action.
Since X cannot be simultaneously both a moral action and not a moral action, coins cannot give moral advice.

To generalize this, if it isn't morally right to perform an action because the coin says so then it isn't morally right to perform an action because X says so. Where X is an entity that could have said otherwise.

The point is: if you are interested in moral actions, the means that generate those actions is paramount.
If convincing someone that action A is the right action isn't sufficient, then ultimately their decision isn't going to be a right one even if it turns out to be correct.
Given the assumption that a list does happen to contain only correct choices, If people follow it to a t, then you still don't get people acting morally, you only get people acting like people acting morally.
guenther wrote:Golden Rule
How much of my time, money, and energy should I spend on serving others rather than myself? The Golden Rule alone lets each person define it however they want based on what they want from others. But not all choices will be equally likely to produce results that we intuitively find agreeable. There's a moral decision to be made that is not well defined by the Golden Rule.

Also, I think there's a lot of self-discipline aspects of morality that are completely not covered by how we should treat others.

At root here is the question of is it moral at all to serve others.
If serve here entails others receiving time, money, or energy they are not entitled too, then I'd claim it is not moral to serve others at all.
I don't think it is right to accept time, money, or energy that one is not entitled to.
I also don't think it is right to aid another in performing an immoral act, which giving another time, money, or energy they are not entitled to would constitute.
The answer to this is "How much time, money and energy are they entitled to have spent on them?"
There seem to be very few situations in which it is actually right to serve others in this manner, and with careful examination these generally boil down to supporting innocents, those that genuinely cannot support themselves either permanently due to some real disability, childhood, etc. or temporarily due to some circumstance outside their control, like a natural disaster or war. In these cases the correct amount is the minimum they actually need, beyond that they may end up deserving more on an individual basis, depending on what they do with my time, money and energy, giving more may be a good investment.

We can reach these conclusions can be reached easily through the Golden Rule.
For the first part: Would I want someone to take from me time, money, or energy they were not entitled to? No.
For the second part: If I found myself in a situation where I were unable to support myself, would I want others to help me? Yes.
Additionally: Would I want someone to take advantage of my generosity, resulting in my wasting my effort? No.
Would I want someone to give me a chance to show I am worthy their time, money, and energy? Yes.

The whole requirement to serve others in many religions can actually be viewed in a mixed light.

Although on it could innocently be a valid tool to teach someone humility (in particular when it is time/energy that are being employed), prevent them developing into egomaniacs, and show them what it is truly like to be in the submissive position in a relationship (in the hopes that it tempers their utility of a dominant position), through these same results, it can indoctrinate the masses with the idea that they are not better than others, particular others in positions of authority. One particular other would be the deity focus of the religion, that their lives are dependent on this figure, the will of this figure is unknowable and as such shouldn't be questioned, can't take their lives into their own hands. This relationship would extend to any superiors seen as being above ones own station. It becomes a tool for social engineering and control...

guenther wrote:
Mindor wrote:Accepting on faith frees them from the personal responsibility to think, shifting the responsibility to the object of faith.
...
by your own claim, a moral action cannot result purely from faith, the action may be the right action, but it cannot be a moral action.

I don't get these statements at all. There's a lot of religious deep thinkers. And why does faith make someone less responsible? And we can define "moral action" in any way that we want, but your definition seems very distinct from what our intuition tells us.

I'm having some trouble coming up with a general explanation of the responsibility thing atm, so let me give an examples to draw from.
Assume A General has perfect intelligence reports about his enemies strengths, numbers, and positions. Furthermore, his army is more massive, better equipped, and better trained, and by all accounts should be victorious given the right strategy. The General give orders, and his troops perform it perfectly, but are ultimately defeated.
Who is responsible for the defeat? The foot soldier that did exactly as he is told, or the General that gave the wrong orders.

The foot soldier (as he must) abdicates responsibility for battle plans to the General, keeping for himself the responsibility to follow the orders of the General.

When you accept the decisions of another above your own, in any situation, you likewise abdicate the decision making responsibility to them, keeping only the responsibility to do as they say.
This gets back again to the coin. Is it moral to do something because X says so? The conclusion was no.
For the religious deep thinkers, the fact they are deep thinkers would probably indicate they are not just acting off a list but considered the items on the list and the reasons why they are there, then applied those reasons to the situation at hand, if they were successful in their deliberations they succeeded in acting morally, otherwise, they may still have acted correctly, but based on a faulty premise (It is moral to do something because X says so.)

"by your own claim, a moral action cannot result purely from faith, the action may be the right correct action, but it cannot be a moral action."
I've corrected the comment to coincide with the correct vs right paradigm.
Your claim was that the person must understand how to apply the moral code, to act morally. Understanding how to apply it, implies acting not on faith(belief without reason) but on reason.
Conversely to act on faith, would imply without reason, which implies a lack of understanding, without which, you said they couldn't apply the moral code properly, and couldn't act morally.

If my claims above are true...
A. Faith does not aid in moral behavior. (pretty much by definition of both)
B. The reasoning processes required to make moral decisions have no dependence on Religion.
C. Religion does not provide the utility of stronger morals to society.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 9:13 pm UTC

This is correct. But the thing is if something by deductive logic is proved wrong, then it is certainly wrong. So even if induction supports a moral act, but deductive logic proves it wrong, that act is wrong. Deductive logic is certain, as you stated above.


But deductive logic can only show that something does not follow: it can only preserve truth. It cannot discover truth. E.g.,

Where S is ~A.

(1) S is P
(2) x is P
Therefore, (3) x is S

(4) A is P
(2) x is P
Therefore, (6) x is A

Each argument is perfectly deductively logical. If the premises are true, then the respective conclusions must be true. But I said "if." So I've no clue how inductive reasoning could support a moral act but deductive logic "could prove it wrong." Neither do I have any idea how deductive logic could prove inductive reasoning incorrect, unless inductive reasoning is viewed as just a shoddy form of deduction.

Problematically, much of inductive reasoning is deductively illogical; but there'd be no way we could basically function if we ruled these arguments out. Consider the simple scientific form of reasoning [observation of effect]--->[conclusion about the cause].

If we tried to formalize the argument it would go

If C, then E.
E
Therefore C.

If it's raining, I will bring an umbrella. I bring an umbrella. Therefore, it's raining!

But this clearly affirms the consequent! Do you propose that we somehow, however, never use this form of reasoning? Or put no stock in it? At the least, it's more complicated then you've currently considered.

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Dark567 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 10:04 pm UTC

Longstreet85 wrote:

So I've no clue how inductive reasoning could support a moral act but deductive logic "could prove it wrong." Neither do I have any idea how deductive logic could prove inductive reasoning incorrect, unless inductive reasoning is viewed as just a shoddy form of deduction.



I have two things A and B I found out about via inductive reasoning. But lets say they also can't both be true by inductive reasoning.

1.A xor B
2.A
3.B
4???
I can't come up with anything to satisfy the conclusion. I have to give up one of my axioms. Deductive reasoning can often show that a set of observed effects cannot be possible. It can do this equally with morality, whether or not the axioms are observations or just flat out assumptions.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 10:51 pm UTC

I have two things A and B I found out about via inductive reasoning. But lets say they also can't both be true by inductive reasoning.

1.A xor B
3.B
4???


I really don't know what your getting at. I think I know what you're saying; but I don't want to respond unless I'm sure. If all you're saying is that deductive reasoning can root out inconsistencies when we attempt to make explicit our moral ideals or philosophy, then I agree but I don't know that it means much.

Consider the realm of practical morality.

Indeed, consider the following:

I ought to x
I ought to y

Yet I am placed in a situation whereby I must choose whether or not to x or y exclusively. Does, as the famous expression goes, ought imply can? So, if we're talking about practical rationality, I'm afraid the above only serves to clarify the issue and push it back.

If however... you're saying

(1) Murder is wrong.
(2) Murder is right.
????

Well, then yes--deductive logic does have a role but it doesn't appear we should make much of it.

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Mindor » Thu Sep 17, 2009 11:05 pm UTC

Longstreet85 wrote:
This is correct. But the thing is if something by deductive logic is proved wrong, then it is certainly wrong. So even if induction supports a moral act, but deductive logic proves it wrong, that act is wrong. Deductive logic is certain, as you stated above.


But deductive logic can only show that something does not follow: it can only preserve truth. It cannot discover truth. E.g.,

Where S is ~A.

(1) S is P
(2) x is P
Therefore, (3) x is S

(4) A is P
(2) x is P
Therefore, (6) x is A

Each argument is perfectly deductively logical. If the premises are true, then the respective conclusions must be true. But I said "if." So I've no clue how inductive reasoning could support a moral act but deductive logic "could prove it wrong." Neither do I have any idea how deductive logic could prove inductive reasoning incorrect, unless inductive reasoning is viewed as just a shoddy form of deduction.

Problematically, much of inductive reasoning is deductively illogical; but there'd be no way we could basically function if we ruled these arguments out. Consider the simple scientific form of reasoning [observation of effect]--->[conclusion about the cause].

If we tried to formalize the argument it would go

If C, then E.
E
Therefore C.

If it's raining, I will bring an umbrella. I bring an umbrella. Therefore, it's raining!

But this clearly affirms the consequent! Do you propose that we somehow, however, never use this form of reasoning? Or put no stock in it? At the least, it's more complicated then you've currently considered.


I think you are misstating the scientific process, and in so doing end up misrepresenting the inductive part of the process as the whole thing. The scientific method employs both inductive and deductive steps.

Inductive step. [observation of effect] ->[theory of cause]
Deductive step.[ test theory]->[conclusion about cause]

the full form of the argument would then be...
If T, then C
if C then E
T
Therefore C
Therefore E

Induction is used to develop the premises, the premises are then tested using deduction.
It is true that the deductive steps are in practice rarely perfect due to the inability to completely isolate controls in most situations, and so essentially becomes a very strong induction.

Contradictions cannot exist. If you find one then at least one of the premises you are working with is false.
If your induction suggests the premise if C then E, and during tests you discover cases where you get C and not E then your original premise is wrong.
1.if C, then E
2.C and !E
3.C --simplification(2)
4.E --mp(1,3)
5.!E --simplification(2)
6 E and !E --addition(4, 5) oops!

At any rate, you seem to be equivocating fallacies and contradictions.

There is a difference between an illogical, or invalid argument resulting in a fallacy and an inconsistency or contradiction.

Fallacies result from invalid form in an argument, even if all premises are true.
Contradictions result from arguments of valid form, but with one or more false premises.

If the premise you are come up with through induction results in a contradiction when tested deductively, then the premise was false.

seems Dark beat me to it, and even related it to morality, but I think this still offers something for the discussion...
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Dark567 » Fri Sep 18, 2009 2:16 am UTC

Longstreet85 wrote:I really don't know what your getting at. I think I know what you're saying; but I don't want to respond unless I'm sure. If all you're saying is that deductive reasoning can root out inconsistencies when we attempt to make explicit our moral ideals or philosophy, then I agree but I don't know that it means much.


I am saying it can rule out inconsistencies, but I would guess that means more than you do.
For example lets say I think

1. Killing is wrong.
2. Whatever action helps the most people I should try to complete.

Then lets do the perfect surgeon on an stranded island problem. I have 4(random) patients, one needs a heart, another needs a stomach, and two others each need a lung. There is also one healthy person stranded on the island with me? I either can kill one and save the other three, helping the most people, or I can kill a man. One of my beliefs is false. The vast majority of people I would guess have inconsistent belief systems, much like the one above.
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:11 am UTC

I am saying it can rule out inconsistencies, but I would guess that means more than you do.
For example lets say I think

1. Killing is wrong.
2. Whatever action helps the most people I should try to complete.

Then lets do the perfect surgeon on an stranded island problem. I have 4(random) patients, one needs a heart, another needs a stomach, and two others each need a lung. There is also one healthy person stranded on the island with me? I either can kill one and save the other three, helping the most people, or I can kill a man. One of my beliefs is false. The vast majority of people I would guess have inconsistent belief systems, much like the one above.


That's only true if you believe morality is about what you should do (correct behavior) rather than the cultivation of the self (who you should be).

If 1 and 2 are reduced to maxims then they are united in prudence (phronesis in Greek). In short, no problem just as we can at one time say "the early bird gets the worm" and at another "fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
\
I think you are misstating the scientific process, and in so doing end up misrepresenting the inductive part of the process as the whole thing. The scientific method employs both inductive and deductive steps.

Inductive step. [observation of effect] ->[theory of cause]
Deductive step.[ test theory]->[conclusion about cause]

the full form of the argument would then be...
If T, then C
if C then E
T
Therefore C
Therefore E

Induction is used to develop the premises, the premises are then tested using deduction.
It is true that the deductive steps are in practice rarely perfect due to the inability to completely isolate controls in most situations, and so essentially becomes a very strong induction.

Contradictions cannot exist. If you find one then at least one of the premises you are working with is false.
If your induction suggests the premise if C then E, and during tests you discover cases where you get C and not E then your original premise is wrong.
1.if C, then E
2.C and !E
3.C --simplification(2)
4.E --mp(1,3)
5.!E --simplification(2)
6 E and !E --addition(4, 5) oops!

At any rate, you seem to be equivocating fallacies and contradictions.

There is a difference between an illogical, or invalid argument resulting in a fallacy and an inconsistency or contradiction.

Fallacies result from invalid form in an argument, even if all premises are true.
Contradictions result from arguments of valid form, but with one or more false premises.

If the premise you are come up with through induction results in a contradiction when tested deductively, then the premise was false.

seems Dark beat me to it, and even related it to morality, but I think this still offers something for the discussion...


Not saying deduction cannot offer something to the discussion. Just saying that it's application in practical ethics is meaningless at best ham-handed at worse. Of course, I'm a virtue ethicist, so I think 90% of ethical decisions revolves around choosing which premise you'll use. If you want to say that once you've chosen your premise you have to use deductive logic to get to the correct decision--fine; I agree.

(1) [Formalization of "fools step in where angels fear to tread]
Therefore (2) be cautious.

Not really interested in having a discussion about the scientific reasoning and its relation to deductive logic (it's a rabbit hole); but in my defense the problem of the necessarily fallacious [observation of effect]--->[hypothesis of cause] is a well-remarked upon phenomenon in the philosophy of science and philosophy of history; so...I really don't know what you're getting at. And of course I agree with what you've said above, excepting your remark that I am equivocating, which I don't think I was, and your definition of "fallacy" and "contradiction," which don't agree with anything I've read.

Blatant appeal to authority right there, but these are internet forums where I blow off steam before work, so ehhh... w/e.

PS

I hate the use of "!" for "~," drives me bat crazy ;-). Makes me think you're just really excited about that premise. :D

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Sat Sep 19, 2009 4:42 am UTC

We might be coming upon a wall of different perspectives, but let's see how it goes.

Dark567 wrote:There is no such thing as some other sort of "correct". If something is not logically consistent it is not logically correct. And logical correctness is the only type of correctness there is.

Well, Mindor claimed that logical consistency was necessary, but you claim it's also sufficient. However, I think in terms of how we often use the word, both are wrong. Spelling in english has many inconsistencies, but regardless "correct" is how it's defined in the dictionary. Depending on context, "correct" means different things.

Now that I've picked on you for your use of words, I'd like to ask that we don't pick on each other for our use of words. :) I'm using terms like "morality" and "truth" different than both of you, but rather than struggle over definitions, let's get to the concept behind it. I'll write this in my lingo, but if you have a better way of defining terms, I'm happy to do what it takes to make the message clearer.

Mindor wrote:On some level you must acknowledge this is true, or else why start the thread?

Ironically, you have it completely backwards. :) This thread is about why religion is useful. I started it because I got tired of the discussions of whether it's true or not. I think that's undefined and usefulness is a much more important question.

If we want to say that something is "true", we need a test. For logic and math, we can say that it means it's consistent. But for claims about nature, they should be in line with what we observe. What is the test for moral truth? If you say it merely means consistent, can't we come up with just about any moral rule we want, just like we can come up with any logically consistent rules for gravity? But all moral rules don't produce equally good results, just like all rules for gravity don't produce equally good results. So there should be some quality metric for morality other than consistency.

When people do talk about moral truths, I think they're really stating a belief system. But those beliefs have no better foundation in reality than God. Any way you could prove that the Golden Rule is "true", I could use that same framework to prove that God is "true". I think we are filled to the core with beliefs without evidence.

To use the economic analogy again, saying that following the Golden Rule is a truth would be like saying the importance of free trade is a truth. There's really no test to prove if it's true or not. However, if the claim were that they would produce results we find intuitively good, then that is testable. These "truths" need to be tied to reality in some way, not derived.

My definition for morality:
When I speak of morality, I specifically mean rules for behavior that help us balance between self and society. I haven't seen anyone else use this definition before, but it makes sense to me. When I think of iconically good figures or iconically good action, they usually involve personal sacrifice to help others. And when I think of the virtues, they are qualities that make the group function better as a whole.

Also, I think it's important that morality be distinct from the more general rules of behavior. Choosing which TV to buy isn't a moral choice. Even choosing a profession isn't moral, though morality can play a role and certainly places bounds. But being a doctor over an engineer isn't more or less moral as most people understand it. But some morally neutral decisions produce better results than other decisions. So there needs to be a guide to behavior that's outside of morality. (We can think of it as "making wise decisions" as opposed to "being moral".)

Finding quality outside of morality
Ultimately I think it makes sense to use figures of merit that stem from the fitness function of competing cultures. We want a system that makes the society fit enough to survive. However, it's completely impractical to make this metric useful. But we have a lot of common intuitions about what things are important and what things feel valuable. If a certain perception is nearly universal, this speaks about it's importance to a fit society. So, I suggest that the next most practical solution is aligning our values to our intuition. So when I speak about the quality of different moral systems, I might speak about whether it produces results that we find intuitively good.

I also say that something is useful if it's likely to help achieve a goal. This could be useful in a fitness function, useful for building a house, useful for modeling the observable world, or useful for producing intuitively good results. The point is that it's usefulness is derived from measured (or predicted) results. They are based on observations, not definitions.

My scope for morality:
When I talk about morality, I'm speaking at a very different scope. I'm not appealing to some universal law that judges and condemns. Rather I think at the system level. Each of us is a box that receives input, stores memory (past inputs), and produces output (behavior). There's some mapping between input, memory, and behavior. The system contains a world where large groups of these boxes have to interact with each other and function together. If we could program them with behavior patterns, what rules of behavior are most likely to produce results that improves a society's fitness to survive, or to produce results that we intuitively find good? And once we have a set of rules for behavior, how do we practically get the boxes to behave that way? This is the behavioral system, and the moral system is the subset that helps balance between self and society. It doesn't derive from the box's intent, but the box's intent will tell us the likelihood of of behaving properly. So morality is strongly correlated to intent, but it is not derived from intent.

This scope of morality is different from how we normally think about it. Our perception of morality is a list of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts", Or perhaps a guide to molding our character. Or maybe a ways to look at the world around us. But these are all defined within the scope of morality. Unless we want to appeal to a universal right and wrong, we need a different framework to discuss the quality of morality itself. (I.e. Instead of "Should I do this?" we are asking "Should this rule exist at all?")

Conclusion
Sorry for the long post. I'm really looking to clarify the concepts behind the words, hence why it's so long. :)
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Dark567 » Sat Sep 19, 2009 5:24 am UTC

Well, Mindor claimed that logical consistency was necessary, but you claim it's also sufficient. However, I think in terms of how we often use the word, both are wrong. Spelling in english has many inconsistencies, but regardless "correct" is how it's defined in the dictionary. Depending on context, "correct" means different things.
[/quote]
No I am claiming that logic is necessary, and that any moral theory that fails it is obviously flawed. Your right correct does have different meanings in context, but in all of those situations, logical consistency is also necessary.

guenther wrote:
If we want to say that something is "true", we need a test. For logic and math, we can say that it means it's consistent. But for claims about nature, they should be in line with what we observe. What is the test for moral truth? If you say it merely means consistent, can't we come up with just about any moral rule we want, just like we can come up with any logically consistent rules for gravity?
This is basically exactly what I am saying, all morally consistent systems that are logically consistent are equally valid.

guenther wrote: But all moral rules don't produce equally good results, just like all rules for gravity don't produce equally good results. So there should be some quality metric for morality other than consistency.

"Good Results" sounds like you are using a moral system to just these other moral systems. This is begging the question.

guenther wrote:My definition for morality:
When I speak of morality, I specifically mean rules for behavior that help us balance between self and society. I haven't seen anyone else use this definition before, but it makes sense to me. When I think of iconically good figures or iconically good action, they usually involve personal sacrifice to help others. And when I think of the virtues, they are qualities that make the group function better as a whole.

Also, I think it's important that morality be distinct from the more general rules of behavior. Choosing which TV to buy isn't a moral choice. Even choosing a profession isn't moral, though morality can play a role and certainly places bounds. But being a doctor over an engineer isn't more or less moral as most people understand it. But some morally neutral decisions produce better results than other decisions. So there needs to be a guide to behavior that's outside of morality. (We can think of it as "making wise decisions" as opposed to "being moral".)


You say things like "iconically good", making a judgment like that is again judging morality by a moral system you have already come up with. To judge any results as better are always moral judgments. To say we want society to be fit or to make a group function better, are also a moral judgments.


guenther wrote:
My scope for morality:
When I talk about morality, I'm speaking at a very different scope. I'm not appealing to some universal law that judges and condemns. Rather I think at the system level. Each of us is a box that receives input, stores memory (past inputs), and produces output (behavior). There's some mapping between input, memory, and behavior. The system contains a world where large groups of these boxes have to interact with each other and function together. If we could program them with behavior patterns, what rules of behavior are most likely to produce results that improves a society's fitness to survive, or to produce results that we intuitively find good? And once we have a set of rules for behavior, how do we practically get the boxes to behave that way? This is the behavioral system, and the moral system is the subset that helps balance between self and society. It doesn't derive from the box's intent, but the box's intent will tell us the likelihood of of behaving properly. So morality is strongly correlated to intent, but it is not derived from intent.

You are appealing to a universal law that judges and condemns, you basically say that if I purposefully do things that reduce the ability to improves society's fitness or results that aren't intuitively good, I am not being moral and if I do then I am.

guenther wrote:This scope of morality is different from how we normally think about it. Our perception of morality is a list of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts", Or perhaps a guide to molding our character. Or maybe a ways to look at the world around us. But these are all defined within the scope of morality. Unless we want to appeal to a universal right and wrong, we need a different framework to discuss the quality of morality itself. (I.e. Instead of "Should I do this?" we are asking "Should this rule exist at all?")

All morality is simple a list of actions you should or shouldn't do, that is simple what morality is. But to be able to be figure those simple things out you need to make clear what greater moral goods there are, such as societal survival versus societal extinction.
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Sat Sep 19, 2009 4:44 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:This is basically exactly what I am saying, all morally consistent systems that are logically consistent are equally valid.

1. Any logically consistent moral system is valid.
2. I can justify any position with a logically consistent argument. (I.e. God exists, God wants me to be happy, X makes me happy, therefore X.)
3. Therefore, whatever I want is morally correct.

Am I missing something? Does your perspective really boil down to "Do what feels right"? If so, why bother with all the logic stuff?

Also, would you say that all logically consistent models of gravity was equally valid? How about all economic policies? If not, why is morality evaluated purely on logic while models of gravity and economic policy are not?

Dark567 wrote:You are appealing to a universal law that judges and condemns, you basically say that if I purposefully do things that reduce the ability to improves society's fitness or results that aren't intuitively good, I am not being moral and if I do then I am.

I don't look at it that way. In fact, I wanted a perspective that didn't evoke my emotional moral judgment. If I watched ants and I see one isn't behaving normally, I wouldn't say it was immoral. I would either wonder if it's performing a useful function that I'm not aware of, or I'd wonder why it's not doing what it's supposed to do. It's a way to look at the problem without pulling my emotional strings (or at least minimizing it).
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Dark567 » Sat Sep 19, 2009 5:11 pm UTC

guenther wrote:
Dark567 wrote:This is basically exactly what I am saying, all morally consistent systems that are logically consistent are equally valid.

1. Any logically consistent moral system is valid.
2. I can justify any position with a logically consistent argument. (I.e. God exists, God wants me to be happy, X makes me happy, therefore X.)
3. Therefore, whatever I want is morally correct.

Am I missing something? Does your perspective really boil down to "Do what feels right"? If so, why bother with all the logic stuff?

Also, would you say that all logically consistent models of gravity was equally valid? How about all economic policies? If not, why is morality evaluated purely on logic while models of gravity and economic policy are not?


You can justify any one position with a logically consistent argument. The problem is if you have two positions, and most of us have many, then its a lot harder to justify any moral action with logical consistency. (See the "do not kill" and "do whatever helps the most people" example above) Even saying "Do what feels right" is a moral statement, so no, I am not saying that. I am saying that the first step in testing any system of morality is to test for logical validity. Only after that should we pick one of the logical systems that seems to conform with our intuition.(well...maybe... I am not so convinced our intuition is very good)

Any theory on Economic policy or gravity also first should be tested for logical validity. If its not logically valid its not possible. After this then they can be measured against reality to see if they conform. Morality can't be measured by observation until you come up with a system to judge morality by, and as soon as you do that you are begging the question.
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Mindor » Sun Sep 20, 2009 3:11 am UTC

guenther wrote:We might be coming upon a wall of different perspectives, but let's see how it goes.
...
Dark567 wrote:There is no such thing as some other sort of "correct". If something is not logically consistent it is not logically correct. And logical correctness is the only type of correctness there is.


Well, Mindor claimed that logical consistency was necessary, but you claim it's also sufficient. However, I think in terms of how we often use the word, both are wrong. Spelling in english has many inconsistencies, but regardless "correct" is how it's defined in the dictionary. Depending on context, "correct" means different things.

Actually your example shows very well what inconsistencies can do for/against a claim/rule, but you have the relationship backwards.
Rule W in English says word X should be spelled Y.
Dictionary shows spelling of word X is actually Z.
1.if Rule W is correct, spelling Z is incorrect.
2.spelling Z is correct.
3.Thus Rule W is incorrect.-- MT(2,3)
the reality's inconsistency with Rule W shows Rule W is incorrect.
(did you know that some schools have stopped teaching the "i before e except after c rule?" )
guenther wrote:
Mindor wrote:On some level you must acknowledge this is true, or else why start the thread?

Ironically, you have it completely backwards. :) This thread is about why religion is useful. I started it because I got tired of the discussions of whether it's true or not. I think that's undefined and usefulness is a much more important question.

I was not referring to the truth of the claims of religion, I was referring to the truth of philosophy's ability to test the truth of non-empirical claims.
To be specific I meant that on some level you must acknowledge that this philosophical discussion could get to the truth of your question whether Religion serves a useful purpose in society regardless of the truth of the metaphysical claims the Religion makes.
Essentially:
Assuming all religions' metaphysical claims are false, (i.e. there is no afterlife, no karma, no gods, we have the physical world {with our minds if they are separate} and nothing more), which would be better for society: Practicing the religion anyway, or discarding the religion?
'better' for society could be measured in any of a number of ways, and it may be that in practice it helps in one measure, but hurts another.
-stability
-happiness
-standard of living
-growth
-quality of justice
-level of education

You clearly have taken the stance that society as a whole is better off practicing them(in particular one), as you have made claims about what religion contributes. Others have argued the benefits you claim for religion are possible or even stronger without, and that the practice of religion leads to negative consequences as well.
If you don't believe discussion is capable (at least in theory) of determining whether religion has utility beyond its metaphysical claims, then why start the thread?

guenther wrote:1. If we want to say that something is "true", we need a test. For logic and math, we can say that it means it's consistent. But for claims about nature, they should be in line with what we observe. What is the test for moral truth? If you say it merely means consistent, can't we come up with just about any moral rule we want, just like we can come up with any logically consistent rules for gravity? But all moral rules don't produce equally good results, just like all rules for gravity don't produce equally good results. So there should be some quality metric for morality other than consistency.

2.When people do talk about moral truths, I think they're really stating a belief system. But those beliefs have no better foundation in reality than God. Any way you could prove that the Golden Rule is "true", I could use that same framework to prove that God is "true". I think we are filled to the core with beliefs without evidence.

3.To use the economic analogy again, saying that following the Golden Rule is a truth would be like saying the importance of free trade is a truth. There's really no test to prove if it's true or not. However, if the claim were that they would produce results we find intuitively good, then that is testable. These "truths" need to be tied to reality in some way, not derived.

4.My definition for morality:
When I speak of morality, I specifically mean rules for behavior that help us balance between self and society. I haven't seen anyone else use this definition before, but it makes sense to me. When I think of iconically good figures or iconically good action, they usually involve personal sacrifice to help others. And when I think of the virtues, they are qualities that make the group function better as a whole.

5.Also, I think it's important that morality be distinct from the more general rules of behavior. Choosing which TV to buy isn't a moral choice. Even choosing a profession isn't moral, though morality can play a role and certainly places bounds. But being a doctor over an engineer isn't more or less moral as most people understand it. But some morally neutral decisions produce better results than other decisions. So there needs to be a guide to behavior that's outside of morality. (We can think of it as "making wise decisions" as opposed to "being moral".)

6.Finding quality outside of morality
Ultimately I think it makes sense to use figures of merit that stem from the fitness function of competing cultures. We want a system that makes the society fit enough to survive. However, it's completely impractical to make this metric useful. But we have a lot of common intuitions about what things are important and what things feel valuable. If a certain perception is nearly universal, this speaks about it's importance to a fit society. So, I suggest that the next most practical solution is aligning our values to our intuition. So when I speak about the quality of different moral systems, I might speak about whether it produces results that we find intuitively good.

7.I also say that something is useful if it's likely to help achieve a goal. This could be useful in a fitness function, useful for building a house, useful for modeling the observable world, or useful for producing intuitively good results. The point is that it's usefulness is derived from measured (or predicted) results. They are based on observations, not definitions.

8.My scope for morality:
When I talk about morality, I'm speaking at a very different scope. I'm not appealing to some universal law that judges and condemns. Rather I think at the system level. Each of us is a box that receives input, stores memory (past inputs), and produces output (behavior). There's some mapping between input, memory, and behavior. The system contains a world where large groups of these boxes have to interact with each other and function together. If we could program them with behavior patterns, what rules of behavior are most likely to produce results that improves a society's fitness to survive, or to produce results that we intuitively find good? And once we have a set of rules for behavior, how do we practically get the boxes to behave that way? This is the behavioral system, and the moral system is the subset that helps balance between self and society. It doesn't derive from the box's intent, but the box's intent will tell us the likelihood of of behaving properly. So morality is strongly correlated to intent, but it is not derived from intent.

9.This scope of morality is different from how we normally think about it. Our perception of morality is a list of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts", Or perhaps a guide to molding our character. Or maybe a ways to look at the world around us. But these are all defined within the scope of morality. Unless we want to appeal to a universal right and wrong, we need a different framework to discuss the quality of morality itself. (I.e. Instead of "Should I do this?" we are asking "Should this rule exist at all?")

10.Conclusion
Sorry for the long post. I'm really looking to clarify the concepts behind the words, hence why it's so long. :)

10. So much more to respond to here, I've numbered the sections to try to show what I am referring to.

Re: 1. For morality: Yes, given a definition for morality, which is itself internally consistent, we can come up with any rules to attain it as long as they are also consistent with themselves and the given definition. The rules themselves don't define morality though, rather they act as guidelines on how to achieve morality.

To test how good a moral code is, you examine how close it bring people to acting within the definition of morality used, just as you can test how good any theory on gravity brings you to the actual effects of it.

The only way to compare the effectiveness of moral code to another, is to analyze it in reference to a specific definition of morality, in particular the one it was designed for. Any other comparison would be apples and oranges.

If you want to compare definitions of morality you can do this as well, but only the comprehensiveness and consistency of them. It doesn't make sense to claim one definition of morality is more moral than another, because you must choose one definition over the other to test it by. But to do so you have to make the assumption one is better, and of course definition A is going to be closer to definition A than definition B.

Re 2-3 To me the Golden Rule serves as a guideline to achieve morality not a definition of morality itself. I use it as a shortcut to provide a framework for the decision making process because I acknowledge that it is impossible to truly know everything necessary to make a perfect decision, but the framework simplifies it. Do I know that I've never come to a wrong conclusion? No. Could it be used dishonestly or sloppily to produce results that don't match any given definition of morality? Sure it could. It does, however, seem to consistently produce results that are in line with my definition of morality.
So I would not say "The Golden Rule is True" as the Golden Rule doesn't actually claim anything by itself, it is an instruction. Instructions carry no claims. Without the definition of morality to test it with you are correct you cannot test it.
I would say "By carefully applying the Golden Rule we attain results that are consistently moral." This I can test. I've found it to be true.
You still have not shown me an example where it would fail when carefully applied.

4. I'm terribly sorry, but I've looked over this whole section several times, I'm still not sure what your definition of morality is, other than "a set of rules that help us balance between self and society"
and a virtue in it is a personal trait that helps the group function as a whole.
Is this something you are trying to define now? If yes where is it coming from? What does this do for your argument that Religion helps provide stronger morals if you yourself ascribe to a self-defined concept of morality over that provided by your Religion?

5-9. The sum of your argument seems to be that
  1. the ultimate goal of morality is to provide a framework to produce a fitter society.
  2. to this end one, or both of these are true.
    1. The concept of morality provided by religion is better than that attained elsewhere in that it is more robust, consistent, and comprehensive in its aims for producing a fitter society.
    2. The moral code, or rules provided by religion do a better job of helping people live within this concept.
Is this your claim?
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guenther
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Sun Sep 20, 2009 4:28 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:You can justify any one position with a logically consistent argument. The problem is if you have two positions, and most of us have many, then its a lot harder to justify any moral action with logical consistency. (See the "do not kill" and "do whatever helps the most people" example above) Even saying "Do what feels right" is a moral statement, so no, I am not saying that. I am saying that the first step in testing any system of morality is to test for logical validity. Only after that should we pick one of the logical systems that seems to conform with our intuition.(well...maybe... I am not so convinced our intuition is very good)

Any theory on Economic policy or gravity also first should be tested for logical validity. If its not logically valid its not possible. After this then they can be measured against reality to see if they conform. Morality can't be measured by observation until you come up with a system to judge morality by, and as soon as you do that you are begging the question.

Alright, I think I understand better. Start with the test for logical consistency, and then of all the candidates apply some other metric to choose the best option. But I'm still not sure how that works for you in regards to morality? You guess at using intuition as the metric (with some reservation), but later you say we're begging the question if we choose any system to judge morality. It's sounds like there's no well-defined way to evaluate which moral system is better because we can't make that choice outside of a moral system.

My way out of the problem is that I don't define morality as broadly as you do. I don't think all values stem from the moral system we choose, and in fact moral systems often take certain shapes because of the values we intuitively hold. (But it's not always so clear because I think our values can be also shaped by what we hold to be moral.) So fundamentally the concept behind your "morality" is very different than the concept behind mine.

And I still don't agree with the notion that logical consistency should come first. It's certainly important in models and systems where we apply them with a great deal of rigor. But I don't believe we function that way with guides to behavior. We certainly need some consistency, and probably lots, but I think that falls out of wanting a useful system, not a definitional requirement.

Mindor wrote:If you don't believe discussion is capable (at least in theory) of determining whether religion has utility beyond its metaphysical claims, then why start the thread?

I think it's capable of convincing people it has utility. I don't think it's capable of proving it. I do still think it's a solid case.

Mindor wrote:I would say "By carefully applying the Golden Rule we attain results that are consistently moral." This I can test. I've found it to be true.
You still have not shown me an example where it would fail when carefully applied.

I don't know precisely what you mean by "fail", but your example regarding service to others produced results that fail to appeal to me. You say you attain results that are consistently moral, but that's because you use a definition of moral that's consistent with the results you attained. It is inconsistent with my concept of morality. Do you believe you can prove your position on service to others? Do you really believe the answer to this exists as some sort of truth?

Mindor wrote:I'm terribly sorry, but I've looked over this whole section several times, I'm still not sure what your definition of morality is, other than "a set of rules that help us balance between self and society"

I personally follow the Christian moral system. But for the purpose of discussion, I'm not claiming that behavior contrary to the Christian code is immoral. Or if I do, I will qualify the moral frame of reference. My definition of morality was a general one and a framework to describe it's purpose.

And my goal of the thread is twofold:
1. Convince people to not hold religion as a whole in contempt.
2. Make a case for my belief that religion does a good job at producing results that we intuitively hold as good.

As for your version of my argument:
  1. I think morality is one facet of a framework to produce a fitter society. Morality itself helps provide a balance between self and society.
    1. The major religions have a reliable moral code and a surrounding structure that helps yield good results. Mentally I like to separate moral code from the surrounding structure, but it's probably not as neatly divided as I hope.
    2. The areligious community seems to focus more on removing structure than adding it. The strongest advocates that I've heard spend most of their time telling you what not to believe rather than what to believe. Any particular secular moral code might actually do OK, but if we can't get people to follow it, it doesn't matter.
    3. Secular moral codes generally seem easier than what's required of most religions. This goes along with my theory that we will align to self (and in particular short-term self) when given the freedom to do so.

EDIT: I don't know precisely how my tone is perceived in this email, but to be on the safe side, I'm still a happy person, and I hope all other participants are too. :)
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Longstreet85
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Longstreet85 » Sun Sep 20, 2009 7:38 am UTC

Argh, am I talking in a wind tunnel here?

Morality as a set of rules or a code is one possible way to look at morality; but another way is to understand it as the cultivation of a number of virtues within the self, as argued by

-All Classical philosophers
-All Medieval philosophers
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtue_ethics

Guenther, reconsider your approach to morality especially as its very, very rare for orthodox Christian philosophers to understand morality as a set of rules or codes rather than the cultivation of the self in accord with the virtues of Christian life.

Indeed, Jesus didn't so much give a moral code as he gave a moral example.

guenther
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Sun Sep 20, 2009 3:49 pm UTC

Longstreet85 wrote:Argh, am I talking in a wind tunnel here?

Sorry about that. I would have responded more to your earlier stuff, but I didn't have much to say other than, "I agree". :)

I may not have been clear enough before, but my model of morality is meant to be broad enough to include the concept of cultivation of virtues. I try to divide the moral system into two parts: 1) the desired behavior, and 2) the method of producing that behavior. (2) is a guide to behavior because it applies pressure on us to act a certain way. This guide could just be a list of rules that say "In this situation, do this", "In that situation, do that". But if we cultivate within our hearts love, joy, faithfulness, kindness, etc., it will also affect our behavior. Another guide to behavior would be something like brainwashing. But from observing the near universal disgust for this technique, I would guess that it's not very effective in the long term.

EDIT: I should also point out that I boil it all down to behavior because that seems to define the limits of our affect on our environment. Just holding a notion in my head or having a virtue in my heart doesn't actually do anything until I take an action.

And this all stems from my naturalistic perspective. I keep a different mind when I consider Christian theology. And personally I love the notion of changing our hearts rather than directly changing our behavior. I've read that in diets, changing our mindset and lifestyle is much more effective than just following rules.

------------------------------------------------------------

EDIT 2: Sorry for the late edits, but I want to make one more clarification. In recent posts, I've carelessly conflated separate concepts with the same word. Most of the time when I talk about "morality", I mean the science of morality. This would be a framework to weigh the pros and cons of different moral systems outside of a particular moral framework. (Perhaps I could call this moralology or moralnomics. :)) My definition for morality is in this context.

But at least once I used "morality" to mean a particular moral policy (which is what I think most people mean when they use that word). That's a particular frame of reference which defines what moral good and moral bad are. When I say I follow the Christian moral system, that's what I mean. And when I said something was "inconsistent with my concept of morality", I meant within my personal moral policy, it would not be viewed as morally good.

Hopefully that makes the discussion clearer. I think I'm tackling this stuff from a new angle, and I don't have a consistent set of terminology yet for precisely what I mean. I'll try to be clearer though.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

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Atlas.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Atlas. » Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:21 am UTC

Longstreet85 wrote:
Guenther, reconsider your approach to morality especially as its very, very rare for orthodox Christian philosophers to understand morality as a set of rules or codes rather than the cultivation of the self in accord with the virtues of Christian life. Indeed, Jesus didn't so much give a moral code as he gave a moral example.


I would just like to second this. The Christian life is not marked by strictly following a set of rules, but rather trying to be more Christ-like every day. Aquinas's list of virtues wasn't dos and don'ts, but characteristics that marked the life of Jesus that Christians should also adopt.
"I don't believe in a no win situation" Captain James T. Kirk

guenther
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby guenther » Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:49 am UTC

Atlas. wrote:I would just like to second this. The Christian life is not marked by strictly following a set of rules, but rather trying to be more Christ-like every day. Aquinas's list of virtues wasn't dos and don'ts, but characteristics that marked the life of Jesus that Christians should also adopt.

I agree. That's why I'm Christian.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

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Atlas.
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Re: Utility of Religion

Postby Atlas. » Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:00 am UTC

guenther wrote: I agree. That's why I'm Christian.


I may be taking this out of context, and this may not be what you meant but I am not a Christian because of the moral virtues that it has to offer. I believe that there is a preponderance of evidence historically and through my own life experiences that shows Jesus was who he says he was and that he rose from the dead. I am not a Christian because of the virtues, but try to acquire the virtues because I am a Christian.
"I don't believe in a no win situation" Captain James T. Kirk


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