Who decides what is morally good?

Strafio
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Who decides what is morally good?

We've all heard this one to death, we all know the answer to the question, the hard part is explaining it in an intuitive way to help a simpler mind understand. I think I might've found a good analogy.

Theist: Who decides what is moral and what isn't?

Atheist: What's your favourite sport?

Theist: It's <insert sport> Why?

Atheist: Who decides the rules of <sport>?

Theist: It's <sport organisation>

Atheist: If <organisation> said that from now on <silly rule - e.g. pitches are now 80 miles long> is a new rule would that be the rules of the game from now on?

Theist: No. That would be silly.

Atheist: Then <organisation> don't decide the rules. They can only introduce rules that are considered sensible. How do you decide whether a rule is sensible? Why is <silly rule> a silly rule?

Theist: It would ruin the game. The rules are there to make the game play well.

Atheist: So rather than some person decide what the rules of the game are, they are determined by the nature of the game and how well the game plays with them.

Theist: Yes.

Atheist: Morality is like that. It isn't a person who decides what is moral and what is immoral. We live in society and we work out the rules we must abide to in order to make society nice to live in. This is how we decide what is moral and what is immoral. Do you use <organisation> rules when you are playing with your kids?

Theist: No. Playing with official rules doesn't work for fun games like that.

Atheist: In otherwords, you understand the spirit of the game so understand which rules will make a good game and which rules will make a bad game. You use your experience and common sense. The Bible says <insert Bible quote where God orders his follows to commit mass slaughter/eat babies>. Do you consider this to be moral? If not, why not?

Theist: God clearly didn't mean that to be taken literally.

Atheist: How do you know he didn't. It's what he said. You say that the Bible decides you morality and here the Bible tells you that <mass slaughter/eating babies> is morally correct. How do you know that it wasn't meant to be understood in this way?

Theist: Use some common sense! <mass slaughter/eating babies> is obviously wrong so God wouldn't order it.

Atheist: So you have to use some common sense?

Theist: Yes.

Atheist: This common sense is the root of your morality. It decides how you interpret the Bible. The Bible merely inspires your moral thinking with anecdotes and stories. Your true grasp of morality comes from you understanding the spirit of society and understanding the behaviour that will make it work.



It's a first draft/first take but what do you think?
Is the sports (or any game of your choice) analogy good for helping them understand the nature of morality?
The last bit stole the theme of Chris' "Christians must steal from secular morality" to show them that their morality is also secular. Thoughts? Smiling  


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I like it. I said in an

I like it.

I said in an earlier thread that I truly don't understand why it's so hard to grasp morality as a flexible system that ultimately reduces to evolutionary benefit.

I think you've got a good model, there, and I'm going to read it again when my brains not quite as mushy to see if I can play theist and find any holes in it.

 

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Quote: I said in an earlier

Quote:
I said in an earlier thread that I truly don't understand why it's so hard to grasp morality as a flexible system that ultimately reduces to evolutionary benefit.

While I agree with this statement, was it you who, in a thread titled something like "direct challenge to StMicheal" who argued morals were based on scientific formula, not a flexible system stemming from people's grouping instinct?

remember, I mean this as an honest question and not an accusation, because A) it might not have been you and B) I might not have understood

And to the author of this post: It's a good idea, but I can't help but be reminded of some of the ridiculous little stories Christians like to use that can be read in other threads like the one about the barber and the one about the little girl saying god must exist because you can't see him and brains exist but we don't see them or something....although yours makes infinitely more sense, it still feels a bit like that.

That's just me though, and I get the feeling others might find it very relevant and a good example. Good thinking.

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And one more note: the way

And one more note: the way you left off, you would now have to prove common sense dosn't come from god.

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No.  This is another area

No.  This is another area where I am constantly misunderstood.  I said, and have said repeatedly that morality is testable and quantifiable by science, PROVIDED that a definition is agreed upon.  Nowhere have I said that there is a scientific means that will arrive at some sort of "true morality."

Look at it like this.  Morality is an "If-Then" statement.  In other words, Morality has an end, and moral statements boil down to "If you do X, then you will be moral (you will achieve an end -- happiness, charity, whatever is agreed upon.)

For example, suppose we agree that it is morally good to wait until you are married to have children.  We agree because we believe that a married couple will have increased stability, more money, and more support for a child, and that will increase the chances of the child having a happy life.

At this point, we can test this scientifically.  Do children raised in two parent homes have lower rates of depression as adults?  Do they have a higher level of education?  Do they make more money?  Do they have more successful relationships?

If it turns out that children from single parent families do as well as those from two parent families, than we can say that our moral encouragement to wait until marriage to reproduce is flawed.  This is science.

The trick is, just like any other scientific endeavor, we have to have something to test before we start testing.  So, a behavior and a goal are necessary.

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Oh, and to your extra

Oh, and to your extra point, remember, the burden of proof is ALWAYS on the claimant.  Nobody has to prove that common sense doesn't come from god (disproof!).  Someone has to first prove god, then link common sense to it.

 

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I think it's a good

I think it's a good analogy. People can poke holes in it, but you don't have to hold to it literally, you can just use it to illustrate a point, which is exactly what you want to do. The point is that rules are determined by the nature of the game, not by some fiat.

 You must have read those 'atheist professor dumps on some poor christian only to be shown up by another pious christian' tracts. I think you could write this up into a sort of tract like that. Could definitely be a useful thing. You could even make it into a video on YouTube, narrating the story; I think people would like it.

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pyrokidd wrote: And one

pyrokidd wrote:
And one more note: the way you left off, you would now have to prove common sense dosn't come from god.

Yep, that is the same 'hole' I saw in it. However, for the purpose of debunking Divine Command theory (e.g. the 10 commandments, biblical literalism), the sports analogy works very well. 

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pyrokiddAnd to the author

pyrokidd wrote:
And to the author of this post: It's a good idea, but I can't help but be reminded of some of the ridiculous little stories Christians like to use that can be read in other threads like the one about the barber and the one about the little girl saying god must exist because you can't see him and brains exist but we don't see them or something....although yours makes infinitely more sense, it still feels a bit like that.
Yeah. You have to be careful when using analogies. Even the silly Christian ones answer the particular objection they are aimed at but bring up a several other objections in the process. Hopefully mine didn't have similar loose ends.

pyrokidd wrote:
And one more note: the way you left off, you would now have to prove common sense dosn't come from god.

It depends what I was trying to prove.
If I was trying to prove atheism then yes, but I've decided to leave it out of this discussion and aim for a 'weaker' atheistic/deistic/theistic humanist look at morality. (putting it all in one go might be a bit of an overload)
The point was that morality was separate from any particular religious doctrine.

Incidently, Todangst gave us a good argument that conscience isn't divine. (It involves the fact that many of the things the conscience tells us in a 'moral tone' aren't moral in content. E.g. "I should be handle this kind of workload" - things like that.)


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natural wrote: You must

natural wrote:
You must have read those 'atheist professor dumps on some poor christian only to be shown up by another pious christian' tracts. I think you could write this up into a sort of tract like that. Could definitely be a useful thing. You could even make it into a video on YouTube, narrating the story; I think people would like it.

That's a good idea.
The problem I have with those kind of tracts is that they almost always bring out a strawman. However, I wouldn't be aiming a Christians/theists in general, I'd be just arguing against a particular Christian theologist. I could even make the atheist a liberal humanistic Christian, or atleast an agnostic who appears to accept the possibility of God but just disagrees with divine command theory.


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It's the Atheist Avenger

It's the Atheist Avenger Kitty to the Rescue!!

Strafio, you NEVER have to prove that something didn't come from god.  Ever.

You have the option to demonstrate why such a thing is improbable, contradictory, or just plain goofy, but you never have an obligation.

Atheist mantra:  The Burden of Proof is ALWAYS on the claimant, lest we fall into nihilistic oblivion.

 

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WHOA! WAIT A MINUTE! I was

WHOA! WAIT A MINUTE!

I was the one who started the thread with st Michael.

I wasnt arguing that morality is a scientifc formula. That is ridiculous. I was arguing that it could be understood in terms of evolution, cognitive neuroscience, neuroelectrochemistry and sociology, not God.  

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Jinx. I've been involved in

Jinx.

I've been involved in several similar discussions, so I just assumed.  Shame on me.

 

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Hambydammit wrote: Strafio,

Hambydammit wrote:
Strafio, you NEVER have to prove that something didn't come from god. Ever.

You have the option to demonstrate why such a thing is improbable, contradictory, or just plain goofy, but you never have an obligation.

Atheist mantra: The Burden of Proof is ALWAYS on the claimant, lest we fall into nihilistic oblivion.


It depends on what I'm trying to achieve.
If I just want to defend my beliefs then the burden of proof is on them to prove me wrong. However, I like to go further than that. I'd like to be able to tell them that not only do they not have reason to convince me, such a reason cannot exist. To go that far the burden of proof is on me. I personally enjoy the challenge! Smiling


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You could probably come up

You could probably come up with a politically oriented argument as well, but I like this one.

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This is where a lot of

This is where a lot of people get lost. The burden of proof is always, always, always on the claimant. It's just a matter of figuring out who the claimant is.

Suppose I say that there is a gremlin living in the gas tank of my car, and by a process of farting methane and then mixing it with gremlin urine, he makes more gasoline, and my car gets 80 miles to the gallon as a result. The thing is, the gremlin disappears when you take the gas cap off, and he's modified my odometer so that it looks like I'm only getting normal gas mileage. He does this because he doesn't want his kids pressed into slave labor.

Obviously, I'm the claimant. You have nothing to do but sit back and let me offer proof. If I don't offer enough proof, the job is done, and you win by default. That is, the default position is that the gremlin DOES NOT exist.

This is clearly an analogy for theists claiming that god exists. As far as defending your own beliefs, well, there's still a burden of proof, and it's still on the claimant! You are the claimant, and you have a burden of proof. If you examine your beliefs and find them lacking, then you will not believe, right? So it's no different just because it's you. If you believe without examination, then you're just naive or lazy or unconcerned -- it doesn't mean that someone else becomes responsible to prove you wrong, just because you can't be bothered to prove yourself right.

To be precise, nobody has any obligation to try to disprove your beliefs. If you start trying to impose your beliefs or preach them to someone else, the logically correct reaction is for them to ignore you completely and deny you any authority to impose your beliefs -- until you have produced evidence for their validity.

Of course, we're talking philosophically, and in the real world, people often impose their beliefs. The thing is, awareness of the burden of proof can only improve things. It won't fix politics, but maybe it will change a few people's lives individually, and maybe our culture will get just a little bit smarter.

 

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I think a have a response

I think a have a response to what you're saying, Strafio, but before I respond, I am curious to know something.

Strafio wrote:

We've all heard this one to death, we all know the answer to the question, the hard part is explaining it in an intuitive way to help a simpler mind understand. I think I might've found a good analogy.

In the above quote you say that you've explained your position on the root of morality in an intuitive way to help a simpler mind understand. Please, do tell what intuitive way you would explain this to a complex mind. Just curious. As soon as I know that, I will respond to what you've said to the best of my ability.

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I'm chuckling to

I'm chuckling to myself.

Actually, I'm chuckling aloud, but I'm sitting by myself...

Anonymous, if by "complex" you mean "very intelligent," most of them don't need an analogy to understand it.  They figured it out long ago on their own, or after reading one or two books dealing with social structure and interpersonal relationships.

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It just occurred to me that

It just occurred to me that strafio also said something about the burden of proof.  If that's what you're talking about, the answer is: Logic textbook, kiddo.

 

 

 

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Hambydammit wrote: I'm

Hambydammit wrote:

I'm chuckling to myself.

Actually, I'm chuckling aloud, but I'm sitting by myself...

Anonymous, if by "complex" you mean "very intelligent," most of them don't need an analogy to understand it. They figured it out long ago on their own, or after reading one or two books dealing with social structure and interpersonal relationships.

 

Well put.  

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Anonymous wrote:

Anonymous wrote:
In the above quote you say that you've explained your position on the root of morality in an intuitive way to help a simpler mind understand. Please, do tell what intuitive way you would explain this to a complex mind. Just curious. As soon as I know that, I will respond to what you've said to the best of my ability.

Ahem! Embarassed It wasn't supposed to sound so condescending! Smile
My point was the usual explanation requires a technical theory of social concepts and interactions and is certainly more than a mouthful to try and explain in a single conversation, and it would be quite an effort for them to relate this complex theory of technical terms to their own moral practice.

This little 'skit' compares moralilty to the rules of sport (a concept they are familiar with) and pokes holes in their grounding assumption (that morality is divine command) which will encourage them to rethink what morality is and what morality they practice in real life.

Hambydammit wrote:
This is where a lot of people get lost. The burden of proof is always, always, always on the claimant. It's just a matter of figuring out who the claimant is.

I agree with the burden of proof being on the claimant but I don't think the claimant is necessarily the one with the positive assertion. I believe that our intuition gives a mostly reliable evaluation to our beliefs and therefore, if the intuition has given a belief the thumbs up then "your intuition has screwed up" is a claim and the claimant needs to give a reason why the intuition should be doubted.

In the case of a theist we can point out that every attempt to rationalise God has lead to contradictions or even go further and show that their definition of God disallows any rationalisation. "Reasons to doubt" don't always have to be this strong but it's certainly not a case that every belief should be proved from scratch.
This probably didn't convince you. It's actually a topic I'm thinking a lot on at the moment and planning to dedicate a thread to it in the near future.

In the meantime I'll apply it to this thread.
I match my burden of proof to my claim.
If I want to claim that what they say isn't justified then the burden on them is to offer a justification, the burden would be on me to debunk said justification. However, even I was right in this claim then people could think that there was a justification but it just wasn't found yet... the question looks open.
There are many common-sense truths that took hard work to finally prove to be true. People can be quite justified in thinking that if something is intuitively right but there's no proof, a proof will someday be found that will justify their intuited hypothesis.

I prefer the stronger claim that what they say cannot be justified. I do this by proving that their position leads to contradiction or by some other a priori method. This closes the question in a much more satisfactory way. There's always potential that they'll try and debunk this argument but it's still stronger than the "no proof yet but we might still find it" position.


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This is why I tried to

This is why I tried to separate the real world from philosophy.  The brain naturally forms shortcuts to leap over common logical progressions.  Even with our immense brains, we'd never manage to walk out the front door if we had to evaluate each new concept from scratch.

The old saying, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is very appropriate to this discussion.  Do I need to reason from scratch to figure out if this chicken sandwich is safe to eat?  No.  Do theists need to start from scratch to prove super-daddy-in-the-sky?  Yeah... because it's way beyond the realm of self evident, or common sense, or even simple logic.

 

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Hambydammit wrote: Do

Hambydammit wrote:
Do theists need to start from scratch to prove super-daddy-in-the-sky? Yeah... because it's way beyond the realm of self evident, or common sense, or even simple logic.

This I'm not absolutely sure about.
I think that supernatural ideas are more intuitive than you give them credit for. I know that theism is illogical by definition but it shouldn't be taken for granted that people instantly master that definition. After all, the answers to incredibly difficult mathematical equations are just a case of 'mastering definitions' in this way.

Arguments for and against theism are all a priori, most of them transcendental. Such questions are outside the domain of science and require a good understanding of metaphysics. I'm not sure what it's like in America but they don't teach philosophy in schools over here so there isn't a default standard position for people to start their metaphysical 'models' of reality, so they could wind up with any default position. Once they have this default position (wherever they find it) the burden of proof will be on those who wish to change their minds.

Some will say that atheism is the default metaphysical position for everyone because everyone is born without a belief in God. I disagree with this. I say you start with no metaphysical position which means that your default metaphysical position is still to be determined at this point and there is no reason to favour an atheistic one over a theistic one.


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strafio wrote: Some will

strafio wrote:

Some will say that atheism is the default metaphysical position for everyone because everyone is born without a belief in God. I disagree with this. I say you start with no metaphysical position which means that your default metaphysical position is still to be determined at this point and there is no reason to favour an atheistic one over a theistic one.

The problem with this is that atheism is not a metaphysical position--at least not a positive one.  It is a lack of a particular one, usually due to lack of evidence to support it.

If you say that you start with no metaphysical position, that means that one of the positions you don't have is that any gods exist.  And since taht is what atheism means, then being without a metaphysical position includes atheism.  Again, if your metaphysical position still needs to be declared, then you don't hold belief in any gods.  Again, this is atheism.

Now, my naturalism and materialism are metaphysical positions.  However, these are in addition to my atheism, not part of or a result of it.

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"Who decides what is

"Who decides what is morally good?"

 ME. 

 Am I being sarcastic or am I giving an actual philisosphical answer to the querie - or both?

 I'll make up my mind later Eye-wink

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Quote: This is where a lot

Quote:
This is where a lot of people get lost. The burden of proof is always, always, always on the claimant. It's just a matter of figuring out who the claimant is.

True. Problem is, atheists are also claiming something, since nobody actually witnessed humans evolve out of anything. Not to mention, people have believed in god longer than evoloution, and as the new(er) guy, it's up to us to prove them wrong. Remember, these are the people who will die or kill for their beliefs, and sometimes rationality has to be force-fed to them, because they seem to HATE the taste.

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ShaunPhilly wrote:

ooops... extra post...
Didn't there used to be a delete button? 


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ShaunPhilly wrote:

ShaunPhilly wrote:
If you say that you start with no metaphysical position, that means that one of the positions you don't have is that any gods exist. And since taht is what atheism means, then being without a metaphysical position includes atheism. Again, if your metaphysical position still needs to be declared, then you don't hold belief in any gods. Again, this is atheism.

The point was, the 'atheism' you start with isn't a 'default position' that demands burden of proof on it's challengers. If a person's default metaphysical position is theistic then if we want to change their mind then the burden of proof is on us.

Quote:
Now, my naturalism and materialism are metaphysical positions. However, these are in addition to my atheism, not part of or a result of it.

Your justification of your atheism is surely tied to your metaphysical position, especially as the arguments for theism are a priori/transcendental.


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Pyro, why is this question

Pyro, why is this question so difficult?

Atheists are not claiming anything.  Atheists reject the claim that god exists.  That's it.  Atheism does not require belief in evolution.  Evolution just happens to be the theory that most atheists subscribe to because it's the one with overwhelming evidence.

For reference, people believed that bad air caused malaria for longer than they knew that it was a disease... mal (bad) aria (air)...

The duration of a belief has nothing to do with its validity.

The gross misunderstanding of atheism by the public has no impact on the validity of the position. 

 

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Strafio wrote: The point

Strafio wrote:

The point was, the 'atheism' you start with isn't a 'default position' that demands burden of proof on it's challengers. If a person's default metaphysical position is theistic then if we want to change their mind then the burden of proof is on us.

I disagree.  The reason is that atheism is not a position at all, but rather a lack of one particular position--that of god-belief.  You lack any position before you take one, right?  So if I lack any metaphysical position, then part of that is the lacking of the position that any gods exist.  While the person may not recognize this as "atheism," that is indeed what they are, an atheist.  So atheism is one of many default positions, along with afaeriyism, adragonism, and aunicornism (sorry to all you IPU devotees...). 

 A person cannot have theism as a default, because that position must be taught or irrationally derived through experience.  It is not held initially or automatically.  Unless by default you mean that after one accepts it then it's the default position, but this is not how I'm using the term.  

Quote:

Your justification of your atheism is surely tied to your metaphysical position, especially as the arguments for theism are a priori/transcendental.

I don't need to justify my atheism; I need to justify naturalism.  My atheism exists because of the lack of evidence for theism.  That is, without evidence for theism, atheism remains the obvious position to hold.  I start not believing in god and I continue to lack this odd belief until evidence for it surfaces.  Theists start with this lack of belief, learn about the belief, believe it for irrational reasons, and sometime seventually realize taht their reasons are not sufficient and return to the default position.  

The arguments for theism are not a priori. 

Shaun 

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ShaunPhilly wrote: I

ShaunPhilly wrote:
I disagree. The reason is that atheism is not a position at all, but rather a lack of one particular position--that of god-belief.

So far I agree with this. We've both been saying that atheism isn't a metaphysical position. Atheism is a lack of a particular kind of metaphysic so certain metaphysical positions will be atheistic and a lack of any kind of metaphysical position will be atheistic.

My point was as follows:
Although someone might remain completely uninterested and apathetic to metaphysics, most of us take an interest and build some kind of theory/position in it. When you devellop this first position (which will become your default) there is no reason to pick one position as another as you are making your first blind guess. Once you make this guess, you will replace/improve it as flaws arise and need amending.


Quote:
A person cannot have theism as a default, because that position must be taught or irrationally derived through experience.

This is what I disagree with.
How do you 'rationally' construct a metaphysical position?
You can only make a 'first guess' that seems to fit and then rationally evaluate it and ammend flaws. It's a slow 'fine tuning' process.

Quote:
It is not held initially or automatically. Unless by default you mean that after one accepts it then it's the default position, but this is not how I'm using the term.

At some point or other you devellop your 'first guess' at metaphysics which will be your default position. Maybe 'default' is too strong a word because it implies other things too. I basically mean your 'current best' position that you hold until you have reason to update/ammend it to a better position.

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I don't need to justify my atheism; I need to justify naturalism. My atheism exists because of the lack of evidence for theism. That is, without evidence for theism, atheism remains the obvious position to hold.

'Theism has no evidence' is your justification.
What do you mean by evidence? I always associated it with empiricism in which case it seems strange to use it for metaphysics.
For an a posteriori truth then it depends on evidence.
For a metaphysical position (like theism) then the whole position can be determined through a priori reasoning. Rejecting positions for incoherencies and contradictions... etc.

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I start not believing in god and I continue to lack this odd belief until evidence for it surfaces.

Again, "until evidence surfaces" implies empiricism, unless you'd count an a priori argument as evidence.

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Theists start with this lack of belief, learn about the belief, believe it for irrational reasons

Don't we all do this for our 'first guess' metaphysical position?

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and sometime seventually realize taht their reasons are not sufficient and return to the default position.

I'd say; "eventually realise that their 'default' position is illogical and then ammend it accordingly"
How would they realise that their current position is illogical?
One good way would be for us to prove it to them...

Quote:
The arguments for theism are not a priori.

Really? The closest theism has to an a posteriori argument is the  witness of 'miracles' but even then they have to contend Hume's a priori argument whether it's ever rational to conclude an event is a miracle rather than a misunderstood natural phenomenon.

All the rest; ontological, teological, transcendental, cosmological etc. even where they are presented with scientific facts are all a priori arguments at the core.


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Strafio wrote:

Strafio wrote:
We've both been saying that atheism isn't a metaphysical position. Atheism is a lack of a particular kind of metaphysic so certain metaphysical positions will be atheistic and a lack of any kind of metaphysical position will be atheistic.

I guess that's fair. I didn't liek the wording of taht last sentence, but I'll let it slide.

Quote:
My point was as follows:
Although someone might remain completely uninterested and apathetic to metaphysics, most of us take an interest and build some kind of theory/position in it. When you devellop this first position (which will become your default) there is no reason to pick one position as another as you are making your first blind guess. Once you make this guess, you will replace/improve it as flaws arise and need amending.

I'm not sure most people do pick their first position. All I'm saying is that one has to actively accept theism, one does not have to accept atheism. Without even the thought, one lacks theism, so it is automatic. Once you've made your first intentional guess, whether it's rational, irrational, arational, etc it is made from a point of not being theistic, hence atheistic.


I wrote:
A person cannot have theism as a default, because that position must be taught or irrationally derived through experience.
Quote:

This is what I disagree with.
How do you 'rationally' construct a metaphysical position?
You can only make a 'first guess' that seems to fit and then rationally evaluate it and ammend flaws. It's a slow 'fine tuning' process.

I'll agree that for most people, our first metaphysical position is not rationally constructed--although it is possible to have this be the case in principle. And taht's the point; it is possible to rationally construct a metaphysical worldview. To do this, you must hold many, if not all, things in epistemological suspension. Thus, if you start from anywhere but atheism, you are presupposing theism. This does not mean you presuppose that there is no God, but that when you try to construct a metaphysics, you have to leave the question open, wheich means you must suspend belief either way. This fits into the definition of atheism.

The fine-tuning should never end, IMO.

Quote:
At some point or other you devellop your 'first guess' at metaphysics which will be your default position. Maybe 'default' is too strong a word because it implies other things too. I basically mean your 'current best' position that you hold until you have reason to update/ammend it to a better position.

This is an improved version of your point. As you said above, you must make a first choice. whether it is blind or not is arguable. I'm simply saying that if you make the first choice to believe God exists, you are claiming something. If you don't do so, you are not claiming anything. There is indeed reason to do one over the other, whether the person realizes it or not.

Thus, theism is not made by default, it is made as a proposition about the world. Whether the person making the proposition is aware of the implications of making the claim is irrelevant because they are indeed making a claim which is significant. Making a claim about the universe without considering the epistemological implications is possible, but irresponsible. Doing so means that one is responsible for the implications, and it ceases to be a default position (or a "current best" position) because it has not been justified.

This is exactly what is wrong with theism; it is not justified. This is why it can never be accepted as a metaphysical worldview without having been justified--or at least attempted to have been justified. One does not jump from the metaphysical position of "there is a god" to "I lack belief in God." rather, they discard belief in god, in which case they are left without one aspect of their previous metaphysical worldview. Perhaps other parts of their metaphysics remains (or perhaps not) but they don't necessarily make any exchange--they do not take on the metaphysical worldview of atheism (because no such worldview exists) or anything else as a necessary result of dropping god.

You are never left with a choice of the god metaphysics or the lack of god metaphysics. You are left with the possible choice of believing in gods or not accepting that proposition as a sub-set of aother metaphysical workdviews. That is why it is not a question of choosing one position over the other (and making a guess, blind or not). If you simply accept that god exists, you are simply making a leap that is either justified or not. And since no justification has been presented to me, I'll continue to say that this leap is unjustified.

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'Theism has no evidence' is your justification.

It is, but I don't need to declare this, believe it, or even have thought it to be an atheist. if I've simply never thought about the existence of any gods, I'm an atheist.

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What do you mean by evidence? I always associated it with empiricism in which case it seems strange to use it for metaphysics.

Where do we get this information about metaphysics that is not empirical? If it is not empirical, where does it come from? We think about the nature of the world based on experience with the world. What would conscious experience be like--metaphysics included--if we had no perception of anything? How would metaphysics be thought about?

Quote:
For an a posteriori truth then it depends on evidence.
For a metaphysical position (like theism) then the whole position can be determined through a priori reasoning. Rejecting positions for incoherencies and contradictions... etc.

Or so the theist will have you believe. Anyone who thinks they are thinking about metaphysics without using a posteriori or empirical methods, they are deluded.

Quote:
Again, "until evidence surfaces" implies empiricism, unless you'd count an a priori argument as evidence.

I would in some cases. I'm confused here a little because I don't know why metaphysics does not include empiricism.

I wrote:
Theists start with this lack of belief, learn about the belief, believe it for irrational reasons
Quote:

Don't we all do this for our 'first guess' metaphysical position?

Perhaps we all do. The point is taht this is not necessary in principle. It is possible to have a sentient, intelligent, conscious being analyze the world and rationally develop a metaphysical worldview. The point, as stated above, is taht when a theist does do this, they are doing it without justification.

Quote:

How would they realise that their current position is illogical?
One good way would be for us to prove it to them...

Right, that is one way. They could use a priori or a posteriori methods to realize this. In fact, using both seems best.

I wrote:
The arguments for theism are not a priori.
Quote:

Really? The closest theism has to an a posteriori argument is the witness of 'miracles' but even then they have to contend Hume's a priori argument whether it's ever rational to conclude an event is a miracle rather than a misunderstood natural phenomenon.

A clarification; I believe that all argumentation, indeed all communication, thought, etc ultimately have their root in empiricism. Thus, at some point they may use a priori arguments, but they are derived from a posteriori experience.

Quote:
All the rest; ontological, teological, transcendental, cosmological etc. even where they are presented with scientific facts are all a priori arguments at the core.

ontological; one has to have experience with reality to abstract rationalized information about it generally.

teleological; One must have experience with the world in order to abstract the relationship between cause and effect, designer/design, etc in order to abstract that the universe must need a design.

transcendental; this is the closest to being purely a priori. But without real examples from experience to act as the basis for thinking about the structure of logic, I'm not convinced that logic would have been abstracted to be a something in need of design. That is, logic itself is supposed to be the ultimate a priori tool, but to understand it, we need to learn it by use of the same mental tools and cognitive skills that allow us to understand how the world around us--the one we experience a posteriori--works.

cosmological; this is basically the same as the design argument. We need real things, learned from experience, to abstract in order to conceive of the notion of a first cause. In order to understand the concept of a cause, we need experience.

Thus, I would argue that all a priori knowledge needs experience to exist. Once we've developed the tool, we can use it on things without experience. But the tool itself is abstracted by use of a posteriori knowledge. Hence, all arguments are, at the core, derived from experience with the world.

(This was the topic of my MA thesis, btw)

Shaun

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Strafio wrote:Some will

Strafio wrote:

Some will say that atheism is the default metaphysical position for everyone because everyone is born without a belief in God. I disagree with this. I say you start with no metaphysical position which means that your default metaphysical position is still to be determined at this point and there is no reason to favour an atheistic one over a theistic one.

 

Well, if you start out with NO metaphysical position, then you are an implicit atheist.

I'd say that we must start out with some rudimentary position - instinctual. This is non congnitive in that the neo cortex need not be involved in any of these behaviors.

As the infant develops, and as sensory data comes in, I'd say our first metaphysical position is of extreme narcissism/solipsism, in the sense that we confuse ourselves as representing the entirety of the universe. We believe that all that exists, exists by our fiat. Mother exists because we cry out and by doing so, bring mother into existence.  It may even b that we don't even believe in object permanance.... its a world of magic. In a sense, its a very quantum world (!) in that all that exists exists because of us....

And I agree with shaun, it's not of our choosing, it's a developmental stage that in turn is a necessary step given our nature. 

So in an entirely not so surprising way, we begin life not as believers in god, but mistaking ourselves as gods... although even this is too  much because we simply lack the ability to look at ourselves enough to make any sort of judgement....  

The rest of our lives are spent moving away from this solipsistic position, but in one way or another, it likely represents a foundation in our views, in that, whatever way we come to interpret the world, we end up with a projection of who we are, projected out onto the universe.

So the first metaphysic is a simple acceptance, without much of any self awareness, that we are the universe; the key advancement from this position is our to see this as a 'mistake', and eventually re-undertake this process symbolically...  In other words, first we think we are gods, then we think someone else is....

The process works like this:

(I am god) - without awareness

I wish for things and they don't always appear. I am not god

(reality principle forms) 

Ok then, mom and dad are god

No, they aren't either.

Someone still must be....

Those who are overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, ignorance never move from this step. The rest of their life is a search for god. 

 Man is the measure of the world, ergo man understands through analogy to himself, ergo its no surprise that the first 'solution' to 'what is the universe' would be "something made by someone just like me".

It's all so embarrassingly narcissistic that most of us never move past at least questioning the whole thing...

Quote:

Incidently, Todangst gave us a good argument that conscience isn't divine. (It involves the fact that many of the things the conscience tells us in a 'moral tone' aren't moral in content. E.g. "I should be handle this kind of workload" - things like that.)

 

My argument builds from Karen Horney's concept of the "Tyranny of the Shoulds". Modern cognitive therapists like Albert Ellis also advocate the concept. In brief, we all have a series of 'shoulds' inculcated into us as children, some are what we might call 'moral', others aren't. We should be nice to sister. We should finish our homework on time. We should do better in school than the other kids.

If you really look at the 'shoulds' in your life, you'll see that many of them are not moral, yet they ring in our heads just like a Kantian Imperative.

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

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Todangst, I have the oddest

Todangst, I have the oddest sensation after reading your last post.   I don't think I disagree with you in any significant ways, and yet I feel something in the pit of my stomach.  I think it's the use of the word, "god."

The notion of a god is one that contains an inherent complexity that I think surpasses the capabilities of the pre-sentient mind, and so I think your progression is a little misleading.

I suspect if there was a way to describe the pre-aware mind's comprehension, it would not be (I am god).  Rather, it would be something like (I am) or (I make).  We feel hunger, we react, and mother appears.  We don't know what mother is, but it makes us feel better.  Beyond that, I don't think there's any definable assignment.

I suspect you mean something like this, but I don't want to put words in your mouth.  I just think it is giving the god concept too much credit to assign the word to a pre-sentient human.

Instead of (mother and father are god), I'd feel more comfortable saying (mother and father are everything) or (mother and father are perfect).

This kind of wording might cause a problem in following the train of thought all the way to "Well, someone must be god..."   I just think it's a more complicated jump than that.  If people fell so naturally into the line of thought, then the world would be full of children asking about god before being told... maybe not using the word god, but trying to form some language to ask who is all-powerful.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Before we carry on I'm

Before we carry on I'm going to post something I wrote in another forum. (You'll have seen earlier 'drafts' in this forum. This is my best draft yet! Smiling)
Because we're talking about 'rational methods' I thought I should post on what I think rational means. To sum it up, someone's rationality is dependent on their attitude to 'fine tuning'.

Strafio wrote:
The difference between illogical and irrational.
When these guys say 'irrational' they mean 'illogical' and see it as the same thing. I think the following distinction should be made:

Illogical If there is a logical flaw in a persons reasoning then any beliefs based on it will be illogical.
Irrational If someone's beliefs are unaffected by reason then they are irrational.

So Illogical talks about the belief while Irrational talks about the believer.
This means that someone could rationally believe in a logical belief, so long as they were atleast trying to be logical. Good examples are the classical philosophers and scientists who came up with theories that have turned out to be flawed. They were still making excellent use of reason even though it turned out that there were flaws in their work.

I'm also giving the following reasons for the distinction to be made:
1) This definition of 'irrationality' is closer to the everyday use of irrational. If someone says you're being irrational then they mean you're not using reason at all. Someone who puts a lot of thought into something but makes a mathematical error is hardly the same as someone who gets the same wrong result through a random guess.
Irrational implies a lot more in it's use than illogical does and subconscious equivications are made in its use.

2) Illogical does the job of meaning illogical. There's no need for a second word. Illogical is also less insulting as people get a genuine idea of what you mean. If you say someone is being irrational then you're pretty much accusing them of not thinking at all. If you say illogical then you're just pointing out they've made a human mistake that happens to the best of us. It means you can correctly criticise without being really insulting.
"Theism is illogical" makes a lot more sense than "Theism is irrational"


So what do we call irrational? Does the word have a use?
Although it's now incorrect to make sweeping statements like "theism is irrational", this is because theism is a belief. Irrational isn't a statement about the belief itself but about the believer and their attitude towards this belief. So we call individuals irrational based on their behaviour and use of reason. If think the difference can be illustrated through this example:

Jim and Jack believe in God. Both use a form of reasoning.
Jack has currently been convinced by the cosmological and teological arguments but is open minded and will return to atheism if he was to find these arguments flawed.
Jim has always believed in God and will give reasons for it citing science, philosophies, common sense etc. However, any attempts to discredit his belief are seen as work of the devil and must be dismissed as sophistry.

I'd say that Jack is rational in his illogical theism and Jim is irrational.
Jack is using logic and reason and inevitably making honest mistakes.
Jim's theistic beliefs aren't subject to reason at all. He just uses reasonable-sounding arguments to defend them.

Whether you accept these definitions of rational/logic would probably be a topic in itself, but atleast this'll give you a clue to what I'm trying to get at.

 

ShaunPhilly wrote:
I'm not sure most people do pick their first position. All I'm saying is that one has to actively accept theism, one does not have to accept atheism.

Saying people 'choose' their first position was probably a bad choice of words. I agree that the building of a 'first guess' is mostly subconscious.
The problem in the bit of bold is it only applies if a person refuses to do any kind of metaphysical thinking. Once you do think you have a choice to make; is theism unnecessary/incoherent or is atheism insufficient? Whichever first guess you make will be equally naive. Rationality depends on your willingness to fine-tune and fix problems.

Quote:
I'll agree that for most people, our first metaphysical position is not rationally constructed--although it is possible to have this be the case in principle. And taht's the point; it is possible to rationally construct a metaphysical worldview. To do this, you must hold many, if not all, things in epistemological suspension. Thus, if you start from anywhere but atheism, you are presupposing theism. This does not mean you presuppose that there is no God, but that when you try to construct a metaphysics, you have to leave the question open, wheich means you must suspend belief either way. This fits into the definition of atheism.

The fine-tuning should never end, IMO.


I agree that the fine-tuning should never end, but that leaves this question; when do we stop this epistemological suspension? Realistically, our beliefs will never be perfectly analysed so it can't be when analysis is complete. The most realistic method I can think of is that we have to believe in our current best explanation until a better one comes along. So we might have a God-belief that we don't fully understand but so far it is the best fit, and will remain so until someone shows us a fatal flaw in it or offers a 'better fit' worldview. This is how

Quote:
At some point or other you devellop your 'first guess' at metaphysics which will be your default position. Maybe 'default' is too strong a word because it implies other things too. I basically mean your 'current best' position that you hold until you have reason to update/ammend it to a better position.

Quote:
I'm simply saying that if you make the first choice to believe God exists, you are claiming something. If you don't do so, you are not claiming anything.

You are. If you don't accept God is necessary to 'explain the world' then you are claiming that God is unnecessary. That is also a metaphysical claim. The only neutral ground is to be naive and have no opinion either way.

Quote:
There is indeed reason to do one over the other, whether the person realizes it or not.

One can surely act the resources we have.
We all have flaws in our metaphysical positions.
There are always 'reasons to believe differently' that we might not discover until next week or so.

Quote:
Making a claim about the universe without considering the epistemological implications is possible, but irresponsible. Doing so means that one is responsible for the implications, and it ceases to be a default position (or a "current best" position) because it has not been justified.

Part of the fine-tuning is realising the epistemological implications.
I also need to know what you mean by justified. In science there is a method of empirical verification. In metaphysics I don't think that there is such a method for establishing claims/facts - just methods for analysing and fine-tuning our worldviews. Justificatied can't mean 'fully analysed'.

Quote:
Where do we get this information about metaphysics that is not empirical? If it is not empirical, where does it come from? We think about the nature of the world based on experience with the world. What would conscious experience be like--metaphysics included--if we had no perception of anything? How would metaphysics be thought about?

A clarification; I believe that all argumentation, indeed all communication, thought, etc ultimately have their root in empiricism. Thus, at some point they may use a priori arguments, but they are derived from a posteriori experience.

I don't disagree with this, but looking at things this way destroys the possibility of a priori knowledge. The distinction between a priori and a posteriori becomes meaningless. The words only have meaning given that we already have a language/system of conceptualisation/understanding. Given that we have such a system we now distinguish between propositions that can be determined through pure reasoning and those that require further experience. Metaphysics is the investigation into the nature our grounding concepts and what they pre-suppose. All the theistic arguments claim that a necessary being is, well, necessary! Smiling
It's a matter of fine-tuning our metaphysical constructs to see if such arguments hold and whether God ideas are coherent. This is all a priori, if such thing as a priori reasoning is actually possible! Eye-wink

The answer seems obvious to us because we have gone through the effort of analysing our concepts and finding naturalism fits while theism has problems. However, it was only this time last year when many of these things were far from clear to me. My metaphysical picture was incomplete so I didn't have a real opinion between atheism and theism and I thought that anyone who did must surely be getting ahead of themselves. I don't think I ever held the opinion that a God was necessary but I certainly saw it as a possible result I could find from the investigation.

The burden of proof was on Todangst (and the rest of you that chipped in on IG's forums) to prove me wrong and I think you did quite a good job on it.

Quote:
Or so the theist will have you believe. Anyone who thinks they are thinking about metaphysics without using a posteriori or empirical methods, they are deluded.
I'm confused here a little because I don't know why metaphysics does not include empiricism.

My understanding of metaphysics is the investigation into our grounding concepts like substance, causality, physical laws etc (not what the physical laws are, just the nature of what it is to be a physical law.)
My understanding of empiricism/a priori is that given we have a system of concepts/understanding that a priori is using pure reason and empiricism is getting experience beyond that which devellops our understanding.
Consequently, analysing concepts is an a priori activity.

To summarise my points:
1) The distinction between rational and logical.
2) How metaphysics is purely fine-tuning and there is no way of justifying a 'first guess' so rationality is a measure of one's openess to fine tuning rather than the accuracy/logical coherence of their first model.
3) The terms 'a priori' and 'a posteriori' are dependent on there being a system of understanding, and it's given this understanding that we distinguish propositions determined purely on reason and those that require further experience.
4) Metaphysics is the investigation into our fundamental conceptualisations of the world. We look at our concepts of substance, causality, properties etc. and work out exactly what we mean by them and what fundamental truths we can infer from them. e.g. whether we can determine the existence of a necessary being.
(this definition of metaphysics is the point that I'm least sure about.)

They're all open for dispute ofcouse!
I'm quite interested to see how they stand. Smiling


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While I remain sceptical

While I remain sceptical that these are the ways to come to the conclusion of 'God', I did recognise aspects of these in my own personal devellopment.

todangst wrote:
Ok then, mom and dad are god

No, they aren't either.

Someone still must be....

Those who are overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, ignorance never move from this step. The rest of their life is a search for god.


My investigation into spirituality coincided very closely with my taking an interest in social relationships, especially those of the opposite gender. Eye-wink
I'd recently discovered that a life of computer games and entertainment couldn't satisfy me.
Ethics, morality and righteousness suddenly became an issue.
I'd realised that what I'd been brought up to consider 'good' wasn't necessarily so and that 'pop culture heroes' often broke the rules with a kind of 'righteousness' preaching weird abstract principles (like not 'selling out' or being a 'fake&#39Eye-wink that I didn't fully understand but seemed to think that there must be something to them, that they seemed to resonate with people around me.
So I went on a search for the root of all good, the holy grail of morality and righteousness that I might be the next hero! Eye-wink

Quote:
Man is the measure of the world, ergo man understands through analogy to himself, ergo its no surprise that the first 'solution' to 'what is the universe' would be "something made by someone just like me".

It's all so embarrassingly narcissistic that most of us never move past at least questioning the whole thing...

Lol! I never quite saw it like that.
I think what was very influential in my case was the third person 'God' perspective in books and films. Especially as storylines are written with a design, reading to many of them gives you a very teological impression of the way the world works.

Quote:
My argument builds from Karen Horney's concept of the "Tyranny of the Shoulds". Modern cognitive therapists like Albert Ellis also advocate the concept. In brief, we all have a series of 'shoulds' inculcated into us as children, some are what we might call 'moral', others aren't. We should be nice to sister. We should finish our homework on time. We should do better in school than the other kids.

If you really look at the 'shoulds' in your life, you'll see that many of them are not moral, yet they ring in our heads just like a Kantian Imperative.


I remember looking at Wiki when you first posted it.
It turned out to be a lot more than useful to argue against theism with. I've been cursed with a lot of 'shoulds'. Some left over from upbringing, others self-inflicted by dreams of becoming a super hero! Eye-wink
Seeing them in this way (as dogmas I've subconsciously inherited rather than a mystical guidance force) makes it a lot easier to let go of them, or atleast re-evaluate them.


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Hambydammit wrote: This

Hambydammit wrote:
This kind of wording might cause a problem in following the train of thought all the way to "Well, someone must be god..." I just think it's a more complicated jump than that. If people fell so naturally into the line of thought, then the world would be full of children asking about god before being told... maybe not using the word god, but trying to form some language to ask who is all-powerful.

They DO search for god before they know about the concept. Haven't you heard (or been) the child who asks, "Why? Why? Why? ..."

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Hambydammit
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That is searching for an

That is searching for an answer, not searching for god.

"Searching for god" presupposes the existence of god, as in, "I'm searching for the Loch Ness Monster."  Somebody had to tell me what the LNM was before I could begin searching.

Asking why is just asking why.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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