Why truth?

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Why truth?

    I'm hoping this is in the right forum, please move it if it isn't.

    I've been reading over Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, again. In it (and I'm assuming in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, although I haven't read it) he poses as interesting question. Why truth, and not untruth? What is wrong with irrationality? I'm trying to understand this from an atheistic materialistic viewpoint that there is no God, no spirits, no soul, and that all we are is our physical bodies and processes of the brain. Feel free to expand upon it with your own view though, although I feel that what I've stated will covered the majority here.

    If all we are is a collection of physical processes, then what is the value of life such that a life of truth and reason becomes more valuable than one of irrationality and untruth if we are all to meet the same eventual fate? Similarily, what role does happiness play--especially when concerned with the individual? If an individual is happy and content with not confronting their irrational beliefs, do we have the right, or is it better, to aggressively come at them in attempt to change their irrational beliefs to beliefs we feel are rational even if they are now unhappy?


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I think these are very good

I think these are very good questions.

In my opinion, however, the questions are not complete.   There is no perspective implied in the questions, and I think one is necessary to answer fully.  In other words, are we talking about individually?  Culturally?  Evolutionarily?  (is that even a word, or did I just make up a word?)   The answers will be quite different.

From an evolutionary standpoint, the only goal is for the species to continue.  From that perspective, irrationality is only dangerous when it leads to enough deaths to threaten the survival of the species, or causes some other threat, maybe mass sterility.  Likewise, happiness is not particularly important unless it can be shown that happy people reproduce more successfully, or have stronger offspring, etc...

I'm pretty sure that's not what you're getting at, though.

On a personal level, why rationality?  Well, humans strive towards happiness quite naturally.  All you need to do is watch a baby.  It cries because it's unhappy and wants things to be different than they are.  I know philosophers argue over the exact nature of happiness, and its exact causes, but for the moment, I'm going to take it as a given that people desire to be happy, and that in general, they also recognize happiness, regardless of their ability to define it exactly.

So, if we agree that people try to be happy, we can ask the question, "What do people do to try to be happy?"  The answer, simply, is that they do things they believe will affect their bodies, their surroundings, and their relationships in such a way as to make them happy.  Sometimes they're successful, sometimes not.

What do they use to decide which actions to take?  Logic.  Many times, they have faulty information, and so make poor decisions, which tends to make them more unhappy than people who have good information, and make good decisions.

So, one element in their decision making process is the truth value of their premises.  The other is the logical validity of their thought processes.  If either element is faulty, the end result is less likely to be good (bring happiness).

This is not to say that irrational thinking based on faulty premises can't lead to happiness.  Clearly it can.  However, in the long term, people who are both factually accurate and logically sound will tend to make better decisions than those who are not one or both of those things.

Taking another angle, in order to make decisions, we need data.  Most of this data is not intuitive.  If a person is irrational, all of their data obtained deductively is suspect, and much of it will be incorrect.  So, in this system where we need both good logic and good data, each element props the other one up, so to speak.

Having said all of this, I admit I have not tackled the question of life's value.  Again, this is a matter of perspective.  Evolutionarily, my life has very little value, since I have decided not to reproduce.  Personally, I value my life very highly because I am human, and have a natural desire to live.  Couple this with my natural desire to be happy, and you naturally arrive at the conclusion that my life is quite valuable.  Since I interact with other people, and presumably my presence makes some of them happier than my absence, my life also has value to others.

Is a rational person's life more valuable than an irrational persons?  Depends.  If a rational person becomes a scientist and invents say, a car that runs on water, his life has had great value evolutionarily, since it is likely that this car will slow down the degradation of the planet from overuse of resources.  He has great value to people individually because they'll save money on gas, etc...  A person who is irrational, and spends his whole life promoting a website advocating drinking honey with lemon to cure skin cancer will have very little value to the rest of humankind.  His life will still be personally valuable, and I wouldn't say that it's any more or less valuable than the rational inventor  -- on a personal level.

So, getting back to my original point, perspective is necessary to answer the question of "Why rationality?" or even "Why happiness?"

 

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

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    Looking at it from

    Looking at it from the individual perspective, your argument is that humans seek happiness, and the more we know the less likely we are of doing something which results in unhappiness. Correct?

    However, in the end (ie death) does it really matter how much happiness we have had, or how much unhappiness? Why life as opposed to unlife if the latter is an unavoidable and ultimate fate? Why keep going at all?


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It's basic evolution. 

It's basic evolution.  Humans, like all other animals, have a desire to stay alive.  In the event that a life form evolves to the point where it does not want to live, it will die, and the entire species will die.

Does it matter how much happiness you've had when you die?  No.

Why would it?

It matters while you're alive.  Why should the inevitability of death cause you to want to hurry it along? 

It's just evolution.

 

 

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

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    Why does it matter at

    Why does it matter at all then? Why not just kill myself to reach the inevitable end where happiness and sadness do not matter?


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Why not indeed. By my

Why not indeed. By my reasoning, the answer to your question is axiomatic: Those who see no point in living would have already killed themselves, and not even be here to engage the argument for killing oneself. By merely participating in the argument, you demonstrate that you wish to continue living.

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Yep, z. Ink, you missed it

Yep, z.

Ink, you missed it when I said it, I guess.

The fact that there are living atheists proves that atheists have enough reason for living.

It's akin to the anthropic explanation for the existence of life.  If a thing exists, the conditions necessary for its existence also exist.

Me, I'm still alive because I want sushi tomorrow.

 

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

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inkwellmusingsdotcom

inkwellmusingsdotcom wrote:
    Why does it matter at all then? Why not just kill myself to reach the inevitable end where happiness and sadness do not matter?

Empathy. Desire. And a survival instinct.

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inkwellmusingsdotcom

inkwellmusingsdotcom wrote:
Why truth, and not untruth? What is wrong with irrationality?

True, rational knowledge can be used to make more-accurate predictions of the future than false or irrational beliefs. The truth is more useful than a lie.

Quote:
If all we are is a collection of physical processes, then what is the value of life such that a life of truth and reason becomes more valuable than one of irrationality and untruth if we are all to meet the same eventual fate?

First I'll answer, but then I expect you to also answer the following question.

A life based on truth and reason has a higher chance of longer and happier survival than a life of irrationality and untruth. This is a direct consequence of the truth being more useful than a lie. So, to acheive one's own purposes, it is best to know the verifiable truth of the universe than some deception or unfalsifiable claim.

Let's turn this around. With your God, what is the value of life? God gives it value, right? So what is the value of God? Who gave him value? If he himself gave himself value, then why can't humans give their own lives value?

In real life, for example in Europe where most people are already atheistic, people give their own lives value by choosing those things they value and pursuing them. You did the same when you chose the Bible. How can you prove that you are not doing EXACTLY the same self-valuation that everyone else in the world does? To prove it, you would have to prove that value actually does come from God, and incidentally that God actually exists. 

Quote:
Similarily, what role does happiness play--especially when concerned with the individual? If an individual is happy and content with not confronting their irrational beliefs, do we have the right, or is it better, to aggressively come at them in attempt to change their irrational beliefs to beliefs we feel are rational even if they are now unhappy?

I would love to believe that there's a refrigerator-sized giant diamond buried in my back yard. It would make me very happy to believe that. But it doesn't make it true. If it's your personal belief, I could care less. But if your false belief, or your general ignorance, causes harm or suffering to anyone, then it is no longer your personal belief, and of course I am going to tell you that it is ridiculous to believe in the giant diamond in your backyard.

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inkwellmusingsdotcom

inkwellmusingsdotcom wrote:
However, in the end (ie death) does it really matter how much happiness we have had, or how much unhappiness? Why life as opposed to unlife if the latter is an unavoidable and ultimate fate? Why keep going at all?

Why not? Seriously. Please give a good reason to give up and end one's life. 

For most people, they have friends, loved ones, and especially children that they care for and love and want them to experience a good and happy life as well, on into the future. So, we do what we can to make the future a better place for humanity. I personally may die, but my legacy can live on in other people. Humanity could theoretically continue living for the end of time. Our descendents could explore other stars and galaxies in the universe. But only if we build that future starting now.

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inkwellmusingsdotcom

inkwellmusingsdotcom wrote:
Why does it matter at all then? Why not just kill myself to reach the inevitable end where happiness and sadness do not matter?

Why would you want to do that and miss out on all the wonderful things you can experience in life? Remember, from our perspective, there's no afterlife, so this current life is the only life we get. That makes it extremely valuable, and we don't want to waste it. We only get one shot to build a good future for our descendents and the rest of humanity.

Besides, what good reason would you have for killing yourself? (Assuming you're not terminally ill and in pain or something.) When you weigh the options, life is almost always better than death. 

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Quote: Let's turn this

Quote:
Let's turn this around. With your God, what is the value of life? God gives it value, right? So what is the value of God? Who gave him value? If he himself gave himself value, then why can't humans give their own lives value?

In real life, for example in Europe where most people are already atheistic, people give their own lives value by choosing those things they value and pursuing them. You did the same when you chose the Bible. How can you prove that you are not doing EXACTLY the same self-valuation that everyone else in the world does? To prove it, you would have to prove that value actually does come from God, and incidentally that God actually exists



I hope this is hypothetical, as I'm an atheist.


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Ah. The 'lol, atheist' threw

Ah. The 'lol, atheist' threw me off.


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Yes, to be fair, 

Yes, to be fair,  inkwellmusingsdotcom's question is not about god's existence, but rather, in god's abscence, what motivation have we for being rational.  Nietzsche as an atheist was anti-science.  It is certainly fair to ask whether a rejection of god points us towards nihilism. 

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It sounds kind of flippant,

It sounds kind of flippant, but if an atheist is asking this question seriously (and I know we're all speaking hypothetically here), hand them a knife and tell them you'll be happy to watch them prove that their life is meaningless.

This is a self-answering question that just gets difficult when people start making it difficult.

Again, it's a variant of the anthropic principle.  If atheists are alive, it is because there is enough value in their life for them to be alive.  Therefore, life has value.

 

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

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zarathustra wrote: Yes, to

zarathustra wrote:
Yes, to be fair, inkwellmusingsdotcom's question is not about god's existence, but rather, in god's abscence, what motivation have we for being rational. Nietzsche as an atheist was anti-science. It is certainly fair to ask whether a rejection of god points us towards nihilism.

The answer is simply pragmatism. Nihilism is useless, so we choose to believe useful things, i.e. pragmatism. Use the best ideas. Science and rationality are good ideas, they produce useful results, they make useful predictions, so we use them. Nihilism, i.e. the belief in nothing at all, produces nothing. 

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