Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Why morality at all?

It's clearly apparent from almost every comment made here on almost every post about morality that too few readers have too little idea of where morality comes from or why it matters, which to me is just bizarre.

How do you get to be thinking, breathing, (apparently) functioning adults without this basic knowledge?

Put that way, however, the error becomes somewhat clearer. What too many of you fail realise is that being a thinking, breathing, fully functioning adult is the most important key to morality.

Let me explain.

The purpose of morality -- of objective morality -- of morality on this earth -- is not to teach ourselves how to suffer and then to die; it's to understand how to enjoy yourself and live life to the full. Morality is necessary because we if we are to live well we must learn how to live, and how to live successfully: we need to determine principles of good living to guide us (virtues) if we are to acquire what we need and want most (our values).

Morality -- objective morality -- is not the sort of thing that you and and your friends agree to vote on based on your feelings de jour; or that you find by examining your soul -- or your navel; but neither is morality handed down to us by someone's imaginary friend, a list of edicts all starting with the word "don't". (And just remember as Richard Dawkins points out, "The fact ... that people pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty [suggests] we must have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits: a criterion which, wherever it comes from, cannot come from scripture itself and is presumably available to all of us whether we are religious or not.")

Principles for good living are not found in any of these ways. Objective morality -- a system of principles to act as guideposts on our way to success -- is not to be found carved in stone somewhere or by just 'going with the flow' or by unthinking examination of our feelings or of what might feel good this moment. Instead, objective principles for good living are discovered based on the nature of man and of human life and on the very nature of existence itself, principles that lead to long-term success.

It's often asked if one can have morality without religion. Fact is, you can only have morality when you drop religion, when you focus on on existence and life on this earth instead of on the non-existent or the supernatural .

Now the first question of morality is not: "Which particular morality?" but "Why morality at all?" And the answer to that is that morality only pertains to a particular class of entities: to living beings; and specifically to living beings capable of choice for whom actions have consequences -- and the most fundamental and irrevocable consequence in the universe is living or dying. Not much is more irrevocable that that.

Hence the reason that proponents of objective morality (or more specifically of Objectivist morality) say that life is the standard by which all moral principles are judged. As Ayn Rand explains in her own introduction to Objectivist morality:
Life or death is man's only fundamental alternative. To live is his most basic act or choice. If he chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. if he does not choose to live, nature will take his course...

Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man -- in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself which is his own life.
So, to come back to where I started, being a thinking, breathing, (apparently) functioning adult means that you've already mastered some basic, rational principles for good living. That's a start. Most people recognise implicitly in their daily life that basic, rational principles are required to live well -- all that objective morality requires is that you recognise that explicitly as well, and start to plan long range.



  1. I think I can safely assume the comment about nobody on this blog really knows what they're talking about when it comes to morality includes me. I have never taken a course in it, nor have I read a book, yet I find discussions over morality intensely interesting because they are grounded in logic.

    PC I read this post but I'm not sure what I can take from it back to my discussion with Tim.

    My basic understanding of morality is that it is a set of rules which are defined by your purpose in life, however defined. Morals are rules which keep you behaving towards consistently with that purpose.

    When Tim insists the Christian morality is absolute, what I read is that they are the one set of rules that when followed will produce behaviour consistent with God's purpose for us.

    The basic disagreement between Tim and me is that he believes purpose and therefore morality is defined by God, whereas I believe it (somehow) comes from within us all.

    If this is a correct definition of morality, then I don't understand your point as to why religion gets in the way of being moral. A person could choose to define their purpose (Tim would say have their purpose defined as...) to glorify an entity they can't see, touch, hear, etc, and then behave according to the set of morals that flows from that.

    PC I'd welcome your advice on how much of this post is wrong and what it misses; I am both interested in and ignorant of what I am talking about here.

  2. PC said:
    "The purpose of morality -- of objective morality -- of morality on this earth -- is not to teach ourselves how to suffer and then to die; it's to understand how to enjoy yourself and live life to the full..."

    Tim says:
    Bullshit! False whim!
    Morality is a guide to righteous action and a condemnation of evil action.
    Happiness and length of life have nothing to do with it!
    Your morality begins by inconsideration of your fellow man and is subjective “the end justifying the means!"

    Pc continues:
    "Morality is necessary because we if we are to live well we must learn how to live, and how to live successfully: we need to determine principles of good living to guide us (virtues) if we are to acquire what we need and want most (our values)."

    Tim replies:
    Bullshit! False subjective whim!
    As independent minds what Nandor values is completely different to what you value and the means to achieve his values can be conceivably different therefore your definitions of virtue and value are different to his and subjective. And you have no standard that he must accept to vindicate your subjectivism over say Hitlers!...who would laugh at he would call your pathetic notion of’ ‘Success’!

    P.C continues...
    Morality -- objective morality -- is not the sort of thing that you and and your friends agree to vote on based on your feelings de jour; or that you find by examining your soul -- or your navel; but neither is morality handed down to us by someone's imaginary friend, a list of edicts all starting with the word "don't". (And just remember as Richard Dawkins points out, "The fact ... that people pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty [suggests] we must have some independent criterion.

    Tim replies:
    Dawkins is a moron who wouldnt know the difference between Moses, Christ, or St Paul!
    That some Christians may do this is no proof!
    The act of picking and choosing is itself simply reasoning!
    Reasoning whether we accept the bibles explanations or not. If we accept them then we are acknowledging that we comprehend the moral truth of the bible and therefore believe it and own it. Only if we reject it does the idea that a separate morality exists that we prefer. And this rejection is consistent with biblical truth regarding the nature of such morons as Dawkins! Dawkins is a biblical character in that sense just as you are P.C! (Lost soul anti-christs)
    By this post you vindicate the bible!
    ...And Dawkins is the last person you should get your theology from!

    And that is as far as I need to comment on this one as you have said this same nonsense over and over and repetition does not make it true any better!
    Don’t say I don’t get it either! Don’t kid yourself that my rejection is evidence of my stupidity!
    It is bloody rich for Objectivists to say everyone who rejects Rand or criticizes Objectivism does so because they don’t understand it! This is to abdicate your reason as it does not answer the criticisms but simply accuses the critic of stupidity.
    This is not philosophy but pathetic name calling and any Objectivist who does such a thing is simply being an ostrich attempting to hide themselves from truth and reason.
    I understand perfectly well that what you call morality is simply atheistic mumbo jumbo!
    I will not repeat what I have said over and over Re atheism/materialism/nihilism/subjectivism/antichrist
    vs theology/objective/absolute/rights/justice etc.
    Your morality is 'Whatever turns you on apeman!'
    This is your blog P.C and you can repeat yourself one million times
    I must refrain from feeling morally obliged to repeat myself one million times in response.
    In the future I will try to restrain myself and limit my future comments to such aspects or this controversy that are relatively original to this blog.
    Do I hear a chorus of Amens?

  3. Tim,

    In a conversation some time ago you agreed that mathematics - the study of necessary truth - is independent from God. Yet I don't think this argument caused you to temper your belief in God.

    However, you do seem bothered by Socrates' argument that morality is independent from God. Why should that be? That morality is independent from God is not an argument against God.

  4. Matt B., you suggested, "The basic disagreement between Tim and me is that he believes purpose and therefore morality is defined by God, whereas I believe it (somehow) comes from within us all."

    Now, I would suggest that neither is true. The starting point for morality is reality itself.

    Specifically, the starting point is that fundamental alternative that confronts every living being -- the possibility of life or death.

    So your purpose is determined by that standard: the standard of your life. That's what it means to say that life is the standard: choose poison and you choose death (that's bad); choose to work and earn your daily bread and you choose life (and that's 'the good.')

    The reason that morality isabsolute -- absolute for each of us in our own context -- is not because God says so, but because reality is absolute. Because that fundamental alternative of life or death is absolute.

    And the reason that religion gets in the way of morality is that it leads one to focus on the interpretations of dogma instead of our understanding of reality -- of this world, and how to flourish in it.

    Does that help?

    PS: I could respond to Tim's post above, but it's so full of errors that are already explained I think I'd be wasting my time. To give just two examples:

    1) Tim says, "Morality is a guide to righteous action and a condemnation of evil action."

    But this begs the question Tim is trying to prove. What is "righteous"; what is "evil"? And why is it necessary to identify either?

    You say it's because your god says so. So what?

    I say because reality requires that we act in a certain way to achieve our values, at the most fundamental level to avoid our death and further our life. Not that our death is hardly "subjective," and is something that can't be shared by "our fellow man."

    2. Tim says, "Your morality begins by inconsideration of your fellow man and is subjective “the end justifying the means!"

    Well, as I say above, the starting point of morality is the fundamental alternative that confronts every living being: that of life or of death. Our death is not something we can wish away by sharing it with "our fellow man," so it's unavoidable that the most fundamental level of morality is concerned with ourselves.

    That's the way reality confronts each of us: individually. Everything else comes later.

    I explained this in the last 'Free Radical': "The intelligent reader will already have noticed that in seeing morality in this way, the primary issue in morality is not our responsibility to others, but fundamentally our responsibility to ourselves. Without first understanding our responsibility for sustaining our own life, no other responsibilities or obligations are even possible. Tibor Machan observes that this fact is recognised even in airline travel, where the instruction is always given that if oxygen masks drop from the ceiling you should put your own on first before trying to help others. Basically, this is a recognition that if you don't look after yourself first then you're dead, and of no use either to anyone else or to yourself. This might help explain to interested readers why Ayn Rand named her primary work on ethics: 'The Virtue of Selfishness'.

    "To a living being then, facts are not inherently value-free, they are value-laden – some facts we should act to avoid, others to embrace, but all facts we should seek to understand, and we should understand that all facts are potentially of either value or disvalue to us."

    These are objective facts determined by the nature of human existence; that Tim calls this "false subjective whim," which perhaps tells you the full extent of his misunderstanding.

  5. Brian S., you said, "That morality is independent from God is not an argument against God."

    No, it's an argument that God is irrelevant, at best.

  6. I think a large part of the problem is that most people seem to think there is a conflict between morality and self-interest-- that no one could have a selfish interest in being moral --that the purpose of morality is not to serve the individual's well-being, but to subordinate it to 'higher ends'.

    In respect of the Subway fracas - yes, theft is morally wrong and while one should not abandon morality or moral judgement it is rational to recognise their misuse in this context. The manager was clearly not acting in his rational self-interest. As you say in this post, we function better when our perceptions of reality are in alignment with how reality actually *is*.

    One of the reasons for the great deal of suffering in the world is the fact that most people have never been taught a code of moral and ethical principles that would support a truly human form of existence on *this* earth.

  7. I disagee PC: that morality is independent from God does not in itself make God irrelevent. For example, God - having perfect knowledge of objective morality - could still judge us for our actions. [Of course, if this were true, then objective morality would also have something to say about God and how we should relate to him/her/it!]

    I think that to truly establish God is irrelevent you need to consider more than just the sphere of morality. For example, you need to consider physics and whether there is any place for God in the laws of physics.

  8. Well said Amonymous: spot on!

    D'you fancy a co-writing job? :-)

  9. "I disagee PC: that morality is independent from God does not in itself make God irrelevant."

    Well, it certainly makes her irrelevant to morality, except perhaps historically as a destroyer of it.

  10. In relation to your disagreement with me, Brian, you might enjoy this comment from Richard the Philosopher:

    "Religion is wrongly credited with answering the big ("Why") questions. Religion just makes stuff up. Anyone and their magic 8-ball can do that. If you mean to inquire seriously into such questions then you're doing philosophy, not religion. Give credit where it's due."

    Religion is pre-philosophy, beyond which we should have gone by now, and might have done if religion had not so infected philosophy with its intrinsicism and its mystic irrationality, and if so many philosophers had not adopted nihilistic uncertainty-worship as their default position.

    Ayn Rand describes the relationship well: "Philosophy is the goal towards which religion was only a helplessly blind groping. The grandeur, the reverence, the exalted purity, the austere dedication to the pursuit of truth, which are commonly associated with religion, should properly belong to the field of philosophy."

  11. Bryan S,
    In the sense that God did not 'invent' math I agree it is exactly the same with morality in that he did not 'invent' morality either. God is Holy. He did not invent himself. (part of the mystery of the Trinity is the love and holiness and unity shared between the Father, the Son, and the Holy spirit).
    The process by which God is revealing his holiness to us via creation may be likened to mathematical proof (absolute), yet requires a much different method as freewill is key component.
    What we call morality is different to math in the sense that to be bad at math is a very different form of error than to be morally bad (though bad math can be fatal)
    As I have shown elsewhere morality has to do with our relationship with our creator God who sets the rules for our relationships with each other.
    To reject God has this sovereignty over us is to fall into sin and make ourselves our own God and to end up in war/ anarchy just as has happened.

    He does not Decree capriciously but has absolute reason for his determinations in how our relationship to him must be, which sets the tenor for our relationships for each other.

    Whereby free will has no control over the nature of numbers, it certainly has control over itself and how it chooses to relate to other free wills and as such without God we have a license to write our own code of conduct to suit ourselves (subjective) because unlike numbers morality is not predetermined externally in physical nature or our minds like instincts which if it were would destroy freewill and morality and love.
    (Absolute moral abstractions are theological and transcendental as they are founded in God not earth or man though they are applicable to man and earth)

    God has set his own Holiness and sovereignty as the determining objective standard for man's actions who is his handiwork.
    He takes responsibility for making us!
    We have no say on his rules, yet he has given us the liberty over ourselves to govern our own actions, to be responsible for our own actions and set that standard by which our actions are to be judged (oughtness). He has given us the capacity for love or hate. The capacity for faith and trust in his goodness or doubt.
    I have shown elsewhere why our relationship with God must be based upon faith in his Absolute goodness. (It has to do with the impossibility of finite beings having omniscience)
    Yet Being who he is..."God is love"
    "God is wise" "God is just" "God is Holy" "God is merciful" "God is Almighty" etc
    We can be grateful and indeed praise and worship this God out of love for him!
    Which is not only his desire, but our rightful place in the universe that sets up the proper scale of values which mankind ought to live by.
    This is the true lesson of the bible being proved today in reality.
    In God’s time all those who reject him and prefer sin over holiness will be cast into outer darkness as they choose this fate for themselves rather than to be reunited and dwell in his presence.
    They will forever live in the misery of their own godless desire.
    The redeemed shall live in peace and bliss that comes from living with the proper scale of values in the glorious presence of the loving God who did not force himself upon us but gave us liberty and reason, and who will reward the righteous deeds done in this present time of trial. We will willingly submit to his sovereignty.
    We who grasp the holiness and grace of God and acknowledge his right to be absolute moral judge grasp the wisdom and beauty of his character.
    We see his character to be the uncreated objective standard of morality.
    I don’t believe morality as pertaining to mankind has any existence outside this context and while we both hold that God did not invent math, I don’t believe it has any real meaning outside of God and his works either. Eg God may have only made a maximum ten zillion sided object whereas we might perceive a ten zillion and one sided object.
    This perception might be valid but it will have no correlation of any object other than it’s abstract self. I may be wrong on that. I don’t know! I’m not omniscient!
    When I meet him I’ll ask him and I’ll have faith in his answer even if I don’t have the power to apprehend what he says! Amen!
    God is God. We are free but not our own Gods!
    I do agree that should God explain morality to be something external to himself and his creations in exactly the same sense as math can be perceived to be, that I would have no problem with it and then would agree that ultimately your statement regarding such a position on morality as not undermining God in any way.
    The trouble is we cannot prove it, nor hold it to be binding on our fellow man even if we can perceive it to be true without the authority of God.
    We don’t have that right!
    We cannot even impose math upon each other! (we don’t lock up people who cant count!)
    This is the dilemma of our situation! The truth is the truth yet foolish man will be a fool regardless!
    This is why we need the bible to sanction guns and government and politics etc!
    Godless Freewill and anarchy are a terrible mix!
    Self-rule (personal faith)
    and the Law of the gun is all we currently have!
    This tragic state of affairs is the bible story.
    The redemption of it is also found within it's pages.

  12. Tim said...
    I have shown elsewhere why our relationship with God must be based upon faith in his Absolute goodness.


    (It has to do with the impossibility of finite beings having omniscience)
    Yet Being who he is..."God is love"

    Bullshit! God just watches people in Dafur being killed without showing any love to interfere to stop it.

    "God is wise"

    Umm! God never passes NCEA.

    "God is just" "God is Holy"

    God, is just a figment of your imagination Tim.

    "God is merciful" "God is Almighty"

    God is a coward imaginary entity.

    We can be grateful and indeed praise and worship this God out of love for him!

    God doesn't fuck'n love you Tim? What has this imaginary entity given you as a sign of love? NOTHING real except a delusional mind.

  13. PC discredits God for being God!
    "the magic 8 ball"
    Regarding Brians comment that the discredit of God ought to be sought in physics
    You and Brian ought to consider the fact that the universal theory of everything must be God!
    The magic 8 ball!!!!
    The quest of the Holy grail of physics is the quest for God!
    The quest of Objective morality is the quest for God!
    God has extended his hand toward us in The Bible, The prophets, The Incarnation of Christ!
    Our Minds are from Gods mind!
    Our souls from his Life!
    He is the Alpha and the Omega!
    There is no other rational single/universal truth!

  14. At the beginning of this thread matt B said...

    "PC I read this post but I'm not sure what I can take from it back to my discussion with Tim."

    I suggest you take back a good oilskin,an umbrella and a big box of Kleenex to save you from being drenched in foam...;-)

  15. Tim said...
    Regarding Brians comment that the discredit of God ought to be sought in physics.

    Yes, and Physics says that biblical stories are bullshit, Tim? Jesus, walking on the surface of the water? Don't you see that you're clearly deluded Tim? Physics does take an order from God, such as it would suspend itself while God can show its human servant its power, eg: Jesus was walking on the surface of the water?

  16. Correction to my previous message, that it should read as:

    Physics does NOT take an order from God

  17. Well said Amonymous: spot on!
    D'you fancy a co-writing job? :-)

    I am considered odd by most and rude by many. Often I am taken for an imbecile. So I have the right qualifications I guess...but no, I'll continue to chuckle lovingly in the comments ;-)

  18. Off Topic but...

    Free students blog has created a library of Liberal/Libertarian videos of various lengths on various issues.These are great viewing and well worth telling other people about.Check it out and post the link to others.Also if you find a clip you think would be a good addition let them know...


  19. Falaful fisi
    From where does physics take it's order?
    You have no Idea!
    Your living in a tiny box pal!
    You have the smallest conception of reality!
    Like an ant.

    As for your issue regarding Dafur we have already discussed that one earlier on another tread and so I say you are wrong that God did nothing and ask you to go back to that previous argument to see why.
    I will only add that God himself has suffered far more than you!
    He was crucified! The word excruciating was specially invented to describe that torture as no other word was found sufficiently horrible!
    So he is not indifferent to suffering!
    He is a witness of every evil!
    He will see justice served!
    Have faith!

    I will also say that P.Cs morality is a-morality of the variety I described above when I talked about those who draw their motives out of a hat of self interest and are really motivated by such things as popularity and saving face etc and will lie when ever it suits them as they dot ewe anyone the truth!
    All the methods available to make yourself happy and successful when you have no concern for others. When these folk practice free trade it is not because they are moral but because they perceive they can glean more wealth for other that way and use the politics of rights to guard their loot!
    The claim that they respect the rights of others is merely necessary lip service again in self interest!
    Why Rand hates Kant is because he exposes such A-morality of self-interest as a phoney! he said an action is only moral when it comes from a pure motive to duty! (duty to the universal moral code...
    His code was equal to the theological axiom of 'love thy neighbor as thyself')
    Rand sought to destroy that moral ethic and put self interest in it's stead!
    She was a monster!

    Moral souls hold rights to be good and respect their neighbors rights because they believe in duty to God that they ought to love thy neighbor as themselves!
    The difference between Morality and Objectivism is the difference between love and objective truth vs covetousness and expedience!

  20. By the way loving your neighbor as thyself is the principle of equality and respect of your neighbors Liberty as much your own! The very opposite of slavery.
    It is to judge yourself by the same standard as you judge others!
    P.Cs self interest has no real connection of concern for others that has no strings attached!
    Objectivists are notoriously elitist as was Rand!
    I am glad P.C does not practice what he preaches!

  21. So Tim wants to love child molesters and rapists as much as decent law abiding people and how dare you judge between them based on the values you may gain or lose!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  22. PC I agree with most of what you have said. However, I do wish to take issue with your position.

    There surely is an absolute objective morality - we agree on that. Throughout history, people have claimed that they have attained certain knowledge of what values it incorporates. Yet looking back we can see that whilst there has been a broadly progressive improvement in understanding of morality, each generation has been mis-guided in various - now obvious - ways. This is nowhere more evident than amongst religious people who claim to have an absolute morality but change their values more often than Christina Agulera changes costumes. It is a good thing that humanity constantly strives to improve it's understanding of the objective world, including the moral sphere (this striving might reasonably be regarded as the highest value).

    So now we come to 'objectivist' morality which claims once again to have certain knowledge of morality. How can you be certain that a handful of people alive today represent the end point of a process of refinement of ideas extending over the entire history of humankind? How can you be certain that objectivism will not be an irrelevant side road on the highway to our understanding of objective morality? Please be clear that I am not expressing relativism here. I am certain that some values are better than others, but not conceited enough to presume that I am absolutely right on all questions of value. Furthermore, I have a high degree of certainty that both of us are wrong on some such questions - only our descendents will have a clearer view of what we have judged correctly and where we have erred.

    Dave Christian

  23. James you are The Noddy!
    You show how little you actually think!
    Loving thy neighbor as they self means to judge THEM as you would expect them to judge YOU in every circumstance
    eg when you help some one you appreciate them saying thanks and would take offence if they said piss off... thus when some one helps you...you ought to say thanks and not piss off! get it?
    In the case of a child molester, If you yourself committed such a monstrous crime you would expect your neighbors to hang you from the nearest meat hook!... and so you can with justice and not hypocrisy judge a neighbor who commits such a crime as worthy of such a fate! Get it?
    We have a justice system that is supposed to meet out punishment that suits the crime and so this Ideal system is in accord with the moral principle! (that the system falls short does not change the principle)
    I am so tired of kiddie minded adults who could not think their way out of a wet paper bag!
    I cannot expect the majority to grasp much of what I say as you have set your hearts against God and me his servant.
    Only those with truly seeking souls will be enlightened by anything I say.
    The rest of you are blinded by your own hate.
    You have switched off your brains!
    Any of you who say “I don’t believe in God because I cant see him” are so foolish as to have deemed their puny senses as omnipotent!
    You are claiming nothing really exists that is outside their powers!
    That is Mind numbingly foolish and arrogant!
    I would give up and wash my hands of you if I thought you were without hope, yet I persevere in belief that perhaps just one soul will turn to Christ and be saved.
    That one might be saved would be well worth the effort!
    Secondly I must confess to needing dialogue myself so as to grow by exercising my principles and confronting new challenges.
    Thus I don’t mind real criticisms, in fact I love them as they are interesting yet saying I support kiddy fuckers is way way bloody wrong dude! I don’t believe you actually even think that I could!
    It must have been a criticism in bad taste! Very bad taste! I have thick skin but I expect others to do unto me as they would like me to do unto them!

  24. Tim said...
    Falaful fisi From where does physics take it's order?

    From no-one, Tim. Can you prove that your God exist?

    You have no Idea! Your living in a tiny box pal!

    Tim, you're the one who is living in a tiny box. You don't see reality, all you see is your delusional mind.

    You have the smallest conception of reality!

    Yep, I do. Do you? It seems that you're living in a fantasy world.

    As for your issue regarding Dafur ...you are wrong that God did nothing and ask you to go back to that previous argument to see why.

    Tim, yes fuck'n God is currently doing nothing. The killing is ongoing even right at this moment while I am typing. Where is your fuck'n loving God, to just may be appear from the Sky and stopped the killing or perhaps spoken directly to the killers and give some warning to stop. Where is fuck'n God Tim? You're deluded.

    I will only add that God himself has suffered far more than you! He was crucified!

    No, it wasn't God that was crucified. It was a human being named Jesus Christ. God, is above the laws of Physics and the material world according to you isn't it? So, why are you saying that some non-physical entity such as God suffers pain, in which pain is a physical phenomena that exists? Don't you see your view of reality is clearly a huge confusion for you? God, doesn't suffer, doesn't have sex, doesn't drink, doesn't shit, doesn't do anything like you and I do in everyday life. WHY? The answer is obvious, because God only exists in the delusional minds of people like you.

  25. Is there such a thing as an inertial model of morality?

    That is to say that, morality is the sum of all the outrageous actions not taken becasue of fear, lack of money, and laziness.

  26. Jebus - that's some long comments.

    I'm not going to try reading them all, but PC, since you bought up Dawkins I thought it worth commenting.

    He puts forward the very sensible idea that Morality is an evolutionary trait and is, basically, a survival function for a social species.

    So yes, ultimately, morality is objectively about life. But that does NOT make moral judgements objective ones.

    To draw an analogy: emotions are an objective fact of being human (and, possibly, is a fact for some non-humans). But emotional responses are objective only in so much as we can determine that the chemical reactions within our minds elicits this or that reaction (ie, emotion). What we feel, however, becomes entirely subjective (almost by definition!).

    Ironically, it would seem that morality is just an emotional reaction to the 'rules of thumb' of 'evolutionary ethics'. That leaves an awful lot of wiggle room and it is hardly surprising that so few people agree on what morality actually means for individuals.

    Anyway, that's my 2c.

  27. To expand a little: what it seems you are really saying is that there is no such thing as subjectivity.

    After all, if we [safely] assume that all emotion/perception/thought is a combination of chemical and electrical reactions which we fundamentally understand, all 'subjectivity' is really just an illusion in the mind.

    Which, if you think about it, is the point - it's all just in the mind. Unfortunately, that's where we live.

  28. James,
    TV liberty blog looks very interesting.
    I for one appreciate your digression.

  29. Dave,

    Certain knowledge of morality, like certain knowledge of anything, is not possible. This does not mean there is no such thing as truth, it just means that we can never be sure we have it. Everything can be questioned: It is imperative that we look for flaws in our moral theories, for that is the only way we can improve them.

    Clearly, theories of morality have improved over time. Good theories of morality, when taken seriously, lead to the improvement of all other forms of knowledge but also to better theories of morality. We could in fact state it as a moral principle that good theories of morality require that we try to improve them.

    I should point out I am not an Objectivist, so the above is not the Objectivist view. Objectivists look for justified true belief and JTB's form the basis for their worldview, including their take on morality. Don't get me wrong - there is a lot to recommend in Objectivist morality - but the quest for JTB's is mistaken. As Karl Popper pointed out, the quest for certainty impedes the search for truth. Instead of trying to justify our beliefs, we should look for the flaws in our beliefs.

  30. Thanks Brian. I agree with what you said. If my previous comment appears at odds, then it was just my sloppy use of language. I have read Ayn Rand and I am a libertarian but not an objectivist. I wouldn't have used the terminology before, but I concur: The quest for JTB's is mistaken.


  31. BS -- "Certain knowledge of morality, like certain knowledge of anything, is not possible."


    Right now I am typing on a computer. I am secure in the knowledge that the computer will not suddenly turn into a phone or a cup of coffee. If i shut down the computer and go for a walk, I am secure in the knowledge that my house will not turn into a car in my absence.

    What is, is. What is not, is not.

  32. Anon,
    You are so sure of those things, Yet do you think a monkey can turn into a man?
    Do you think space dust can become the human race?
    Can you even tell the difference between a circle and a polygon?
    Can you draw a strait line?
    What shape would an absolutely strait line appear to us here on earth in space and time?
    You live by mere appearances and assumptions!
    You assume your computer wont turn into a cup of coffee.
    You have faith that it will not do so .
    Faith is founded in reason, in the case of your computers immutability, experience and a grasp of how our universe functions normally gives you the confidence that your faith has validity to the highest degree)
    Science and repetition don’t give you absolute certainty.
    Science is merely a guide.
    Ultimately We cannot even tell whether a ruler stays the same length!
    We have faith that a ruler does not change it’s length.
    We perceive that even if we are wrong about that the consequences probably are irrelevant…maybe they are essential?
    Atheism is the most baseless assumption of them all upon which all sorts of delusions and absurdities are founded!
    I don’t think Brian was trying to deny our ability to make reasonable judgments and hold assumptions that work for us.
    What I think he was saying is we must accept our limited capacities to know absolute truth.
    Don’t go saying I am anti-reason here. I am pro- reason.
    By my anti deification of science etc I am putting it in it’s rightful position where it is valid.
    You are deluded if you think your certainty is any better founded than this post suggests.

  33. Hamish,
    If you think about it Objectivism is utterly wrong because if we are merely products of matter and the morality was Objective in atheist reality as P.C claims.
    Don’t you thing atheism would be the universal trait of mankind rather than religion?
    would not atheism be the most natural of assumptions?
    That the opposite is the case and that great lengths must be gone to arrive at atheism tells me atheism and objectivism are the most unnatural of human inventions!
    This is beside the fact that Objectivism is objective in name only!
    Its modus opperandi is definitively pragmatic and it's values mere selfish whims.
    It differs from religious desire for a just world in that it hinges this desire upon "what’s in it for me" rather than and objective standard that upholds righteousness and condemns evil.
    It is mere subjectivism!
    The personal ego is not a valid foundation for objective morality whereas I hold morality to be more important than my own life and thereby would be willing to sacrifice myself for my highest values which are embodied in the mystical/ ethical ideals of such things as freedom, justice, love, truth, in the battle against the mystical realities of evil.
    Murder is simply a form of death without and ethical meaning when divorced from Theological/transcendental/mystical truth.
    The atheist has nothing but a psychological dislike for it, if he is right and we are but material soulless entities, but no real objective standard by which to morally condemn it!
    Atheist 'morality' is psychology!

  34. Tim,

    I don't have 'faith' that my computer won't turn into a cup of coffee - I am certain because I know that things are what they are. A thing is itself. A computer is a computer. A rock is a rock. To be, is to be *something*, as has been said on this blog many times.

    This simple truth is the basis of all rational thought.

  35. Tim perhaps does deserve a Nobel Prize in absurd argument. This is unbelievable. The man is clearly delusional. I am not surprised that PC has ceased to reply to any of Tim's garbage here.

    Did you get what anon said, Tim? Here it is:

    A thing is itself. A computer is a computer. A rock is a rock. To be, is to be *something*, as has been said on this blog many times.

    In the bible, it mentioned that God waters and turned it to blood, just to punish the Pharaohs. This is a violation of Physics. Second it defies logic as pointed out by anon. That means according to you Tim, that water is not water anymore, but it can be blood at one stage if God say so.

    You spewed out rubbish all the time here Tim with things that contradict Physics and Logic.

  36. Correction to my previous message. It should read as:

    God turned waters in to blood

    Here are some biblical verses for you Tim, to read and see how absurd the claims are:

    The Springs of Water Turned to Blood

  37. Well I don't think Tim needs to be singled out. Most of the posts on this thread show varying degrees of mysticism - some by people who have been around libertarianism and objectivism for some time. I have been quite surprised.

    I think PC needs to re-calibrate his expectations...

  38. I concede that a computer is a computer and that by itself it will never become a cup of coffee any more than a monkey will become a man and that laws of physics hold good under normal circumstances.
    If this is what is called knowledge I embrace it.
    If this knowledge is supposed to limit reality to physics then I oppose it!

    Thus I agree with Anon to this extent and I challenge him/her to apply these physics to the theory of evolution and see they annihilate it!
    From that position I say the whole of my argument can be seen on the horizon!
    That is the existence of what you materialists call the super-natural...the mystical… what I call the ultimate truth.
    Thus I maintain the limits of our knowledge. The limits but validity of science. The limits of certainty about the nature of reality… the shallowness of our sences which is as truthful as any person can be and to be in unison with all reality and the human condition.
    Objectivists and Falafulu fisi confuse these distinctions into one wrong view of knowledge and reality. It is their undoing and reason for their mad absurdities.
    As Bacon said Atheists focus on secondary causes. The theist looks to the first cause.
    The ultimate truth.

  39. Anon,

    This is nothing in the laws of physics to prevent the atomic particles in your computer spontaneously rearranging themselves and turning into a cup of coffee. Similarly, there is nothing in the laws of physics to prevent your brain spontaneously reconfiguring itself so that your visual system perceives a computer where there is a cup of coffee. These things are exceedingly improbable, but not impossible. [In fact, according to the multiple universes theory of quantum mechanics there are a Tiny proportion of universes where these things are happening right now].

    To take another scenario, there is nothing in the laws of physics to say that you are not a simulation running on a computer and that this world you are experiencing is a virtual world. In fact the laws of physics predict that universal quantum computers that can simulate reality to arbitrary degrees of accuracy are possible. I don't think we are living in a simulation, yet I cannot 100% rule it out.

    So, according to our best theories of reality it is irrational to be 100% secure in the knowledge that your computer won't turn into a cup of coffee. Our best theories indicate that it is possible.

    How certain can we be about our best theories of physical reality? Can you be 100% certain that, say, quantum theory and relativity will not be superseded by a better theory in the future? Of course not, so your initial assertion is just a load of inductivist garbage.

  40. Brian,
    I am amazed that Quantum physics comes to the same conclusion as theology regarding the potential for miracles in that it is possible to turn a computer into a cup of coffee, yet I am staggered by the assertion that quantum physics asserts this is some sort of random event!
    It is a principle of Christian doctrine that Christ made the universe and that by him all things consist....which puts the constancy of the laws of physics on the faithfulness and integrity of God Almighty. It is this all powerful trustworthiness of God over reality that Falafulu fisi mistakes as innate immutable properties of matter and thinks they eliminate God and miracles as impossible.

    I hold that as God created the universe and maintains the integrity of the universe he can also manipulate it at will, which to men appear as miracles like turning water into blood.
    That this shocks us is the very purpose of them! They declare "the finger of God! and are unnatural events! God could turn a computer into a human being by his super natural powers and dominion over reality but this is a far cry from your quantum theory and in my mind far more believable!

    Forgive me for thinking you are crazy!
    let me explain

    A toaster is not a natural phenomenon.
    A toaster only exists because of the intervention of intelligence.
    Without that no toaster will exist ever! that is a fact of physics that even Falafulu fisi is right about!
    (This is also what undoes the theory of evolution which attempts to defy this law and says complex mechanisms and life can build themselves. If Falafulu fisi comprehended this he would find himself staring at God! Falafulu fisi has let hate and atheist lies lead him to a contrdicton)
    Thus the notion that a quantum flux can spit out such things and even greater things is to my mind impossible as the key ingredient of intelligence/ purpose is missing...end of story!
    Thus like global warming, like the theory of evolution I assert that quantum physics is a phony even if I am a poor mathematician.
    I have reason enough.
    I believe a philosophy of science is much more reliable than crazy ideas like you have proposed via your numbers.
    From my grasp you equate all the universeis the product of a random flux where as I hold the very opposite view that nothing is random but that all thing happen for a purpose.
    I say your equations are wrong and have not factored in God/ intelligence.
    And “The Simulation model” as PC would say simply pushes reality one step away from our grasp but does nothing to explain ultimate reality.
    While I admit the invention of computers does demonstrate the principle you are saying we cannot prove is what we experience as reality…again I say computers themselves are the product of mind not random or blind nature and so even if your notion of a simulation is granted. It can only be done on the basis of God making the computer not random math.
    Again I arrive at my first principle and again your theory is found to explain nothing
    How say you?

  41. Tim,

    Even in classical physics it is possible for a computer to spontaneously turn into a cup of coffee. It's just that this type of event is exceedingly improbable (you need a awful lot of zeroes after the decimal point to express how improbable it is).

    Anyway, I think you grasp what I wrote about certainty and truth.

    Another point I can make is that I can go along with Anon and say that I am certain that my computer will not turn into a cup of coffee. It is hardly an interesting claim and not one that is worth more than momentarily discussion.

    I ask what can be asserted with certainty that is worth more than momentary discussion?

    It is when we move the discussion into the realms of bigger picture explanation - why the universe allows computers and cups of coffee - that things get more complicated, interesting, and uncertain.

    In summary, justificationists seek certainty. But to be certain of something proves nothing. Truth seekers look for error and regard certainty as irrelevent.

    BTW: I am in no way a fan of the simulation argument!

  42. Brian,
    Like you I find what is considered ‘the certain’ in many resects to be mundane yet others here would think this is some how a childish vanity, a denial of reason and science, and a denial of the importance of the mundane. (a false assumption made by those that worship it! Pascal would say these folk are ruled by custom not reason)
    We both grasp the limits of human knowledge and certainty.
    I guess that the physical existence of a computer and the knowledge that a cup of coffee is also within the bounds of being in the universe. That these very facts indicate the possibility of one becoming the other via some redistribution of their energy.
    That we have no scientific grasp of the forces that maintain things in reality it is conceivable that some change in the unseen ultimate forces could cause a spontaneous redistribution of the computer into a cup of coffee and that there exists no reason in classical physics to prevent it. Eg the 1st law of thermodynamics is restricted to how the universe behaves while the ‘unknown’ ultimate forces remain constant.

    Let me ask you a question about statistical probability.
    To my understanding, while pure math says that something that is of mind boggling improbability it is still not certainly impossible yet in reality because of the limits of Time and Space that there is an unknown point on the ratio scale that possibility becomes impossibility as there is not enough time, space, matter, and energy to run the numbers.
    And that this equals certainty.
    From this I draw the utter insanity of some one like Dawkins who will hang his atheism and theory of evolution on ludicrous and in fact impossible odds simply to deny God!
    The above is founded upon ultimate limits, and is without the concept of the miraculous power of Mind.
    This brings me to notions of infinities.
    Your Quantum mechanics requires the postulation of infinite multiple universe’s to come up with enough ‘space’ and ‘energy’ to fit it’s static’s into.
    From this you arrive at your idea that ‘some where out there’
    A random event is taking place that spontaneously makes a computer and spontaneously changes it into a cup of coffee.
    Now to my mind an infinite number of universes of infinite variation of their physics is simply a Mad man’s dream!
    With such a view of ultimate reality anything and everything becomes possible/ probable/ and ever certain!
    This is insanity!
    While I say that God is all powerful this is a far cry from saying everything imaginable is a certainty and in fact a reality!
    I know that you math guys use math to arrive at your conclusions yet I also know you pick and choose the equations and enter arbitrary numbers to ‘boogie’ the math to come up with a sum. From this sum you deduce the implications.
    Thus I am saying there is an arbitrary factor to your math which is where the problem must lay re: you conclusion of infinite universes.

    I have said a lot here. Can you give me a few of the most important point of your view.
    In your view where am I right and where am I wrong?


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