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Faith and Reason 
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:

Robert Tulip wrote:
Horatio Alger is a great symbolic example of how nothing is possible without faith.

Yet another shade of meaning of "faith" but I am fine with it. Note the "values" component.
I would be interested in what you mean by ‘shade of meaning’.

If I remember right, I had distinguished between faith entirely seen in terms of "beliefs in spite of incomplete evidence" and faith conceived of as entailing a values-based commitment at least as important as the cognitive component.

Horatio Alger does not fit well with either one - it is primarily cognitive, involving a sense that the universe will respond positively to effort without the need for prior social standing. But it functions as a replacement story for one narrative about society, in which one cannot trust the "arriviste", with another one, in which pluck (with luck) pays large returns based on intrinsic merit alone.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The ability of people to get rich in America through force of will and talent is a good example of how faith can be rational.

Sure, but so is the distrust of the arriviste. Deciding which one will dominate is a matter for the marketplace of ideas, and under some conditions one will be "more" rational than the other.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
the scientific approach … remains rather clueless about the shaky ground associated with impoverished mythology. More "Future Shock".
“the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaves people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation". I think this impoverishment you are describing within the scientific worldview is precisely around the inability of information without any structure to provide any sense of connection and orientation. The old myths have been destroyed, but a new sense of the mythic has not yet evolved in a rational way, one that is entirely compatible with evidence.

And so we have Donald Trump.
Robert Tulip wrote:
recasting the myth of the fall from grace against a rational philosophy where meaning comes from poetic connection to the holy.

Works for me, but I imagine the average Evangelical would immediately dismiss this as liberal elitism.
Robert Tulip wrote:
In the case you raise, care is a phenomenon, something that actually appears to experience, whereas God is an abstract concept, and so care provides a more meaningful and evaluable frame of reference for ethics than God does.
Harry Marks wrote:
The big problem comes with statements about creation and providence, which can be rendered in meaningful terms using the spirit of caring, but do lose some generality. On the other hand, this approach does not face the theodicy problem.
That has to get top marks for compactness of expression! The problem is that care is interpersonal and involves relations between finite entities, whereas the concepts of creation and providence assert a relation between the infinite and the finite as the basis for their generality. The problem philosophically is that the infinite lacks any form and is entirely speculative as a concept, appearing magical rather than phenomenal.

I think this is very useful analysis.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Theodicy, the problem of how God can allow evil, only arises from the assertion that God is entirely good, an idea that does not arise if we regard the finite spirit of caring as the object of our devotion. Caring is constructed by finite interpersonal relations, whereas God is imagined as an infinite source of grace. God is totally vague as a source of ethical value compared to care.

I agree with that except that I would say the problem of theodicy arises from notions of omnipotence and omniscience, which are eliminated in viewing God as the spirit of interpersonal caring. I told one correspondent, a scholar of Blake, that I felt that Plato had led theology down the path of the wrong infinity: the infinitely many and large, rather than the infinitely dense microcosm of Cantor and Zeno, in which the cosmos appears in a grain of sand (as Blake put it).
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Kierkegaard renders "the eternal" as "that which is unconditioned by time." Brilliant. If we have a value which is essentially instrumental, then our commitment to it is conditioned on the specifics of the age, or even of the hour. But if we have a value which transcends such variegated factors, then it is in the realm of the eternal.
My view is that there are three types of eternity, matching to the three subjects taught in Plato's Academy, logic, physics and ethics.

Logic: the laws of mathematics last forever, outside time. The ratio between the diameter and circumference of a circle is always equal to pi

Physics: the laws of physics last forever within time. The universe appears to be permanently consistent.

Ethics: Human values touch on enduring truths which hold unchanged forever on historical time scales.

The idea is supposed to be that our relation to the matter is unconditioned by temporal factors. If we pursue truth for its own sake, that pursuit transcends time. If we pursue truth for the instrumental ability to, say, save lives, then the pursuit is temporal. The essential proposition of theology is that the eternal (the things we encounter for their own sake) dominates the temporal. So, for example, the ethical value of saving lives, which we encounter for its own sake, gives meaning to the temporal quest for such instrumental value.

Christianity was the first religion, I believe, to assert that the eternal inheres in the temporal, which is the doctrine of incarnation (though some ancient Hindu/Buddhist thought could be read to support such an idea).
A rather clumsy example would be that we cannot encounter Hamlet in the same way that we can encounter our next door neighbor - abstraction lacks something essential about the eternal.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Yes, this idea of unifying time and eternity is the core of rational Christology as a purely logical exercise of transcendental imagination. The transformative ethical basis of Christianity is that the things in the world that seem least important to men are the most important to God, expressed in the Biblical ideas that the last will be first in the Kingdom of God, and the meek shall inherit the earth.

I think this is very helpful.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Christology is expressed vividly in a famous hymn, There’s a Light Upon the Mountain, with the words ‘the suffering dying Jesus is the Christ upon the throne’. By analytic definition, Jesus Christ is the Anointed Saviour. The anointing (Christ) means the presence of eternity within time, while the saving (Jesus) means the transformation of the temporal order against eternal values. In conventional theology, this idea is formalized by the Greek term hypostasis, meaning the person of Jesus Christ, uniting the human/temporal and divine/eternal natures in a single reality. The Christian idea of the presence of eternity within time explains the resurrection idea that temporal power cannot constrain an eternal reality.

Very nice.

There is a movement in progressive Christianity, focused around the anthropology of Rene Girard, arguing that penal substitionary Atonement is inherently scapegoat theology, and that its propagation is antithetical to the Kingdom of God. I find it very persuasive.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Taking the "covenant" heritage of Mosaic Judaism as definitional, rather than the monotheistic purity mindset of Elijah as definitional, the Bible becomes a story about the relation between a society in which life is given meaning by mutuality, on the one hand, and the matrix of technological developments which were fueling an imperialist drive to make dominance into the source of meaning.
You must be more familiar than I am with how Moses and Elijah are perceived in Judaism in terms of the interplay between covenant and purity mindsets.

Sorry, I meant "definitional" in terms of how we as moderns see the social forces at work. I think it was all muddled together at the time, and Jeremiah's essentially specious material (like Elijah, he screwed up a lot of subsequent monotheistic development) demonstrates that with considerable clarity. He was probably epileptic, and his vision of empire as punishment by God was probably authentic but was deeply, deeply flawed. At best it may have given the Jews a way to soldier through as a people.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Unfortunately it is difficult to maintain a redemptive sense of the mandate of heaven when might is right becomes too explicit as a state ideology of legitimacy. That moral problem seems to me to be a big reason why the Roman pantheon eventually collapsed before the call of conscience presented by the gospels.

Interesting. The key here is "legitimacy." If legitimacy is conceived of in eternal terms, that is, not merely instrumental, then might cannot possibly make right.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The Chinese myth of "the Mandate of Heaven" is fully cosmological and fully divorced from any real sense of the source of legitimacy for rulers. Its cosmological dimension undermines any connection between metaphysics and politics.
I am glad that you mentioned this Chinese story Harry, which I don’t see at all as a myth in any delusional sense, but rather as a political justification for dynastic cycle, the recurring process whereby a disciplined king created a dynasty which steadily became soft and corrupt and was then replaced by a new morally severe dynasty. Mandate of Heaven is just a way of saying that corruption loses moral legitimacy, whereas disciplined forces have the right to take state power from effete groups who are using their position badly.

Well, okay, sometimes it was used that way. But the ideas were primarily applied to times of either warring factions or flooding, and the two (not surprisingly) sometimes went together. Now, if you see flooding as due to failure to manage the channel work and dikes, there is some sense to this. But more often it was due to large-scale climate disturbances and there was no role of "effeteness".



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
A new presentation of the process of development of faith has recently come to my attention, mostly from Fr. Richard Rohr and his Center for Action and Contemplation, but not entirely.

A quote from Rohr:
Richard Rohr wrote:
Ken Wilber sees religion as having two primary functions. The first is to create “meaning for the separate self.” The second and mature function of religion is to help individuals transcend that very self.


I think this encapsulates the source of the internal problems in religion very nicely. Note that it is fairly inevitable. "Meaning for the separate self" can come from a sense of belonging, from group solidarity and conformity to group norms, but it leads, as Maslow would observe, to a question as to what "meaning" means.

We are the thoughtful animal, and we are restless within a specific group context (or at least, some of us are) and we seek to understand the source and true nature of the sense of meaning which we find in a sense of belonging.

The answer, both experientially and philosophically, has turned out to be the universality of responding to the other ***as if they were my self.*** And that leads us to embrace the transcendence.

This is the key to understanding religion, but it does not get us to the key to overcoming the tension between the two functions. I believe that key is found in a different tension: between power motivation, which is really security motivation, on the one hand, and affiliation motivation on the other. This is the y axis to religion's x axis: seemingly orthogonal, but related in non-linear, dynamic ways which provide much of the shape taken by history and politics.

Affiliation and security are fundamentally complementary. In the context of the ancient world this was true in the mutuality necessary to fight wars and defend the people. In more modern times this is even more true as zero-sum perspectives are shown to be fallacious. We live in a world in which mutual destruction is the reductio ad absurdum of the logic of superior violence (Donald Drumph notwithstanding) and even low-level exercises of military power are usually self-defeating as the victory turns out to be so costly in soft power that it is not worth the exercise. Putin may be defined, in historical perspective, by his inability to perceive this, or perhaps his unwillingness to let go of kleptocratic power to respond to it.

However it was not so long ago that security and affiliation were not demonstrably complementary but seemed to compete. The threat of dominance was real, (to be fair it still is, but in obscure ways which are hard to give a persuasive account of), and the psychology and institutions built up in such a world are with us still. In that world, for example, dominance was the means to security. Today it disrupts affiliation without being integral to security at all.

The problem for religion is that the language in which religion has tended to settle is one which only does the job on providing a sense of personal meaning, while drawing energy from security motivation for this part of religious functioning. The individual draws a sense of significance from being an important part of the strength of society's structure, and the power structure returns the favor by enforcing the rules which give significance to personal uprightness. For example I heard a lot of sermons, growing up, about the family being the "basic unit of society," and that certainly makes sense, but it also means that threats to family life are threats to the security of everyone.

Conservative politics drinks deeply from this well, and derives its basic validity from the mutual reinforcement process at its heart. It is by no means unimportant, but it has inherent limitations.

One is an inability to assimilate larger perspectives. Because it draws its validity from a sense of threat, anything which demands a deviation from its orthodoxies is experienced as a threat. So, for example, the idea that we should protect flag-burners because they demonstrate the liberty for which the flag stands is too paradoxical. Undermining group solidarity cannot possibly be what liberty is for, because then liberty will break up the solidarity which makes it possible.

Along the same lines, the business of transcending one's own desire for personal significance is actively resisted by this nexus of conservative energy. To use a bit of imagery, if the enemy loves their children too, then planning to dominate the enemy cannot really be right. In a world in which all the children die if anyone tries to dominate, it is difficult to sustain a sense that the other side is really that much of a threat. Any such perspective in which the essential rightness of "us" is no longer an indispensable part of security must be dismissed, else our personal upright behavior loses the energy behind its cosmic significance.

I take this very seriously, by the way. Public service by the police and by a volunteer military depend on a resistance to cynical accounts of the functioning of power. If they have no sense of ideals they become a threat to all of us.

Most commonly the transition to more transcendent religion comes only as a result of "hitting bottom" with an addictive process, (which de-links conformity from the craving for personal significance), or of a devastating loss, (which cannot be squared with a loving God who gives our life significance in the form of "extra benefit" such as security from harm as reward for being good and being pious). The result of deep loss is at least as likely to be a complete rejection of religion, but it does prompt a healthy share of the religious to go searching for the meaning of meaning.

Why is it so hard to let go of the bond between conformity and security? Partly because the bond is functional. To transcend it requires recognizing its functionality, which disarms the associated anxiety of threatening it, without buying into it as the true source of personal significance.

A careful inquiry into the nature of ethics is likely to displace the personal center-of-the-universe illusion at its heart. Likewise the questioning of triumphalist religious claims to exclusive grasp on religious truth can unravel the link. Those are two big reasons why conservative politics and conservative religion experience higher education as a threat.

But for the transition to become a well-traveled road requires, in my view, a practical account of the functionality of alternative visions of security, visions which put on display the complementarities between security and affiliation motivations in a universalistic context. If we can spell out the ways in which economic growth in other countries increases our long-term opportunities for prosperity and sustainability, for example, we can begin to see how the elevation of China out of poverty has made us better off despite loss of some particular jobs.

We can actually begin to see in practical terms how self-defeating it is to attempt to base prosperity on excluding others from prosperity. This will sever the conformity/security link at the practical end, rather than the spiritual end. When people no longer take a Putin-esque view that their security depends entirely on in-group solidarity they are free to experience a quest for meaning as something besides a threat to the orthodoxy on which "the fabric of society" depends.

Perhaps Drumph will actually help this process along. By putting in place personnel who are paranoid and nativist, those views will face the requirement of accountability, and the weaknesses in that worldview will begin to become evident.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Faith is often seen only within the domain of values, as a personal matter of imagination and trust rather than a method to describe objective reality. As a result, in our secular world there are many who say they see no need for faith, but instead argue that scientific reason is sufficient.


A fine message. Let me complement you on the overall presentation before reacting to specifics.
Harry, sorry to be so tardy in tending this thread, and thanks for reviving it again with your most recent comment. I am going back to your comment from 13 November, and would like to respond to some of the very interesting points you raise.
Harry Marks wrote:
I am currently reading "Things Fall Apart" for my book club. It is surprisingly good on this point, since the Ibo people included some subtle thinkers and the Christians had an ambiguous relationship with ideas about the "unseen".
I see that you are referring to a Nigerian novel about the impacts of English colonization. The most famous mention of Things Fall Apart as a concept is by Yeats in his great poem The Second Coming, where the blood dimmed tide loosed upon the world is now seen as presaging the Last Trumpites.
Harry Marks wrote:
I seem to be migrating toward what I hope is a larger frame of reference, in which ideas about the functioning of "unseen forces" can take on effective cultural roles in part because of intrinsic emotional power and in part because of unrecognized sociological roles.
That is the sort of deep sentence that has to be read about ten times to get the meaning and intent. The cultural influence of unseen force could be a definition of God, or at least of angels. To link it to something I read today, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/12 ... bel-prize/ Joan Baez said of Bob Dylan “if you’re interested, he goes way, way deep”.

My own view of the larger frame of reverence begins from astronomy. The sun and moon cause unseen forces that govern the structure of time. However, considering the unconscious evolutionary impact of such natural forces of cosmic order that go way way deep, they are about more than emotion and social construction. Meaning does not emerge from consciousness, but in truth refers instead to the intrinsic patterns of reality grounded in the timeless mathematics of gravity.
Harry Marks wrote:
I fear I may have put too much emphasis on deriving a new set of descriptions for "unseen forces" based essentially on notions of accuracy, rather than accepting the movement toward "contextual theology" which gives primacy to the post-modern analysis of social role as decisive.
The relation between accuracy and truth is a prior epistemological question, even before social role. Truth is not simply a matter of our descriptive models, but, considering unseen and undescribed forces, refers to an actual reality whose presence can be discerned speculatively from effects even though we cannot fully describe the causes with science.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
But the problem with a merely scientific worldview is that a factual description alone can never provide ethical values and a story that gives meaning to life. Values come from faith. Science needs to be reconciled with religion, through a rational approach to faith, in order for us to find stable and durable and productive direction in life.

I think this captures the source of the disquiet I expressed above.
Values that are grounded in faith provide social meaning but are not the product of reason alone. There is always an unconscious intuition operating in the formation of values, simply because we lack both the data and the ability to process information that would hypothetically be needed for a comprehensive theory of meaning based on facts alone.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
How then can we restore faith in faith?

Maybe some of the answer is to accept a certain humility, that we are offering a version we consider persuasive, for both evidentiary reasons and implications for social order. Some people doubt the "binding power" of a faith which relies on persuasive appeal, but I doubt the "faith" of a religion which puts binding power first.
The “binding power” of religion is etymologically (“lig” = bind) the same as the binding power of ligaments for bones. Religion aims to hold everything together in a compelling framework of universal meaning and purpose, just as our ligaments hold our body together for the purpose of the flourishing of life. Binding means connection, and in Christianity appears in the idea of Jesus Christ as connecting earth and heaven, the reconciling mediator between humanity and God.

The persuasive appeal of faith is primarily about the emotional comfort of resonant memes, with the epistemic truth of these memes secondary to their hold on mass culture in the form of myth. The binding power of religion is approached in analysis of its epistemic status, its ability to provide a logically satisfying explanation of reality. So the binding power of religion is to some extent separate from the emotional comfort of popular piety.

Unfortunately the depraved politics of the church in the era of Christendom enabled piety to swamp any possible coherence of Christian theology as far as popular culture is concerned, but that does not mean that the power of religious myth is groundless. Rather, when we look at Bible stories their allegorical content can be point towards a coherent binding power.
Harry Marks wrote:
Individuals may be far from "lost" without religion.
I don’t agree. The religious concept of lostness is quite a difficult metaphysical idea, with its associations with damnation and hell. Revising the old flat earth concepts of heaven and salvation into something meaningful and coherently rational means defining a path for sustained human flourishing on earth. That requires a society based on scientific knowledge rather than on religious fantasy. Such a social understanding of what it means that we who once were lost now are found, as in Amazing Grace, requires that we look carefully at the nature of human identity.

Here, an interesting point is how the myth of the individual is closely bound up with the rise of modern capitalism. For tribal societies an individual only exists in cultural relationship. Under the force of modernity, people can escape from the demands of tribality into the anonymous alienated mass society of the cash nexus. However, it is important to ask whether such personal salvation through the market at the expense of the loyalty, trust, culture and belonging provided by traditional society provides a sustainable cultural model. I don’t believe it does.
Harry Marks wrote:
But "we" as a cultural construction, capable of resolving the conflicts and tensions inherent in life, are probably lost without some principles which function as religion.
Yes, and social construction of identity as being with others illustrates the vacuity of an isolated individual claiming not to be lost.

Heidegger made much of this point in his deconstruction of Descartes’ model of reality based on the isolated scientific rational individual. The Cartesian model of the self as individual conveniently supported the European conquest of the world, providing a comforting myth for science. That may help explain why the absurdity of Cartesian solipsism is such an attractive device for otherwise rational people. The heart has reasons the mind cannot fathom.
Harry Marks wrote:
whether the trend of technology was to impoverish the masses or to empower them
That is a central problem of politics. My view is that automation will deliver universal abundance, which in turn will provide the resources for valuing cultural identity and freeing all of humanity from drudgery, as long as we can open a conversation about how to use technology to solve the impending climate catastrophe.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
We cannot in practice deliver core objectives of modern life without a central place for faith. Any action based on what we consider valuable and important rests on faith. The only things that actually move mountains in practice are either acts of God such as earthquakes, through plate tectonics and the slow action of geology, or human faith, through ability to coordinate a group to achieve a shared goal based on mutual confidence and trust and loyalty.

For a long time I have seen the story of the feeding of the multitude in these terms.

Yes. The loaves and fishes are a parable, not a miracle. The story shows how faith provides shared social vision and direction. Faith grounded in reason offers a path of steady progress towards universal prosperity.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
The cultural influence of unseen force could be a definition of God, or at least of angels.
Except that in today's complex, fragmented society they seem to work a bit more like djinn/ifrit, stirring up a little trouble here and there but never really taking an interest in the process of renewing the world.
Robert Tulip wrote:
To link it to something I read today, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/12 ... bel-prize/ Joan Baez said of Bob Dylan “if you’re interested, he goes way, way deep”.
As an admirer of Dylan, I am intrigued. His song, "Like a Rolling Stone" was voted, not long ago, as the most influential song of the rock era. In my view it perfectly captures the alienation of a generation (mine) in which those best positioned for leadership could not believe in the values which bound the society together. And obviously there is far more to Dylan than that.

Robert Tulip wrote:
My own view of the larger frame of reverence begins from astronomy. The sun and moon cause unseen forces that govern the structure of time. However, considering the unconscious evolutionary impact of such natural forces of cosmic order that go way way deep, they are about more than emotion and social construction.
This conceptual structure still troubles me. You seem to argue at times that people "used to" be guided by astronomical cycles, and at times that broader mythic meaning "is" properly grounded in astronomical cycles, but both are problematic. The basis of morality is essentially independent of the structure of time, and so we find that nature-based systems which provide a deep account of the world's workings take things off in a different direction from the quest for meaning in morality.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Meaning does not emerge from consciousness, but in truth refers instead to the intrinsic patterns of reality grounded in the timeless mathematics of gravity.
Meaning has to find a home in consciousness. I see no reason why the structure of electron shells should provide any less basis for moral meanings than the faithful periodic return of the seasons.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
I fear I may have put too much emphasis on deriving a new set of descriptions for "unseen forces" based essentially on notions of accuracy, rather than accepting the movement toward "contextual theology" which gives primacy to the post-modern analysis of social role as decisive.
The relation between accuracy and truth is a prior epistemological question, even before social role. Truth is not simply a matter of our descriptive models, but, considering unseen and undescribed forces, refers to an actual reality whose presence can be discerned speculatively from effects even though we cannot fully describe the causes with science.

The use of "truth" in everyday religion supposes that religion provides an accurate account of unseen forces at work. It is pretty clear that from the time of Plato, at least, Western culture has tried to harmonize perceptions of these unseen forces with the needs for social order which animate those religious beliefs.

My own personal quest has been to find an account of the referents of religious symbols (e.g. God, Kingdom, eternal life) which permit a more rational approach to discernment of religious truth. I take this to be the project of theology from Kierkegaard to Tillich. I meant to be questioning that whole enterprise, recognizing that contextual theology takes the function of religious symbols as their basis and true content, and critiques them based on a rational account of proper (or perhaps "ideal") social function.
Quote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Values come from faith. Science needs to be reconciled with religion, through a rational approach to faith, in order for us to find stable and durable and productive direction in life.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Values that are grounded in faith provide social meaning but are not the product of reason alone. There is always an unconscious intuition operating in the formation of values, simply because we lack both the data and the ability to process information that would hypothetically be needed for a comprehensive theory of meaning based on facts alone.

Alasdair MacIntyre, one of the great religious philosophers of the 20th C, once proposed that religion requires that the mechanism not be understood (call it "centrality of mystery"). I no longer believe this, although I think that the limitations of our ability to provide a complete account of spiritual forces should be respected.

The kernel of truth in the proposition (centrality of mystery), in my view, is that a mechanistic account must necessarily stand outside the fundamental relationship at the heart of the process. Since arriving at this view, I came across Tillich's argument that the existential is prior to the subjective/objective split, and I think that captures the matter effectively.

Whether or not a comprehensive theory of meaning is possible, it will not be a "true" theory, because one must step outside it (or stand prior to it, one might say) in order to find it at all useful. The essential paradox is fundamental to the nature of morality: we cannot treat our own commitment as "instrumental", that is, as something which can be manipulated toward some larger end. We stand in relationship to such ends in a way which makes impossible the manipulation of the relationship - if they are truly our ultimate ends, we cannot manipulate our relationship to them for some still larger end.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The persuasive appeal of faith is primarily about the emotional comfort of resonant memes, with the epistemic truth of these memes secondary to their hold on mass culture in the form of myth. The binding power of religion is approached in analysis of its epistemic status, its ability to provide a logically satisfying explanation of reality. So the binding power of religion is to some extent separate from the emotional comfort of popular piety.

Well, I think that is what keeps you and me going back and forth about this stuff. We both seek to harmonize a "satisfying explanation of reality" with a "persuasive" or "binding" faith. I agree that emotional comfort cannot be the decisive factor in finding such a persuasive account, as well as agreeing that science cannot provide an account which answers questions of commitment to values.

You seem to perceive the essential element in the perception of eternal stability found in ancient understandings of the rhythms of nature. The fact that these ancient understandings infuse so many religious symbols looks like confirmation that the moral appeal of these symbols draws on the sense of nature's reliability. This certainly looks to me like a rich vein to mine, so to speak.
Robert Tulip wrote:
social construction of identity as being with others illustrates the vacuity of an isolated individual claiming not to be lost.
Heidegger made much of this point in his deconstruction of Descartes’ model of reality based on the isolated scientific rational individual.

There is a kind of paradox here, in which a person must stop seeing him- or her-self as center of the universe in order to assimilate scientific learnings, but must still work with the fundamental human orientation of meaning in which one is the center of the universe. Yes, traditional society located meaning in the tribe and its structures, and that may avoid the pitfalls of anonymity and isolation, but it still cannot cope with, for example, other tribes seeing meaning somewhat differently. A certain rhetorical "anonymity" is needed for objectivity to do its work. The point is not to stop there, but to go back and re-integrate the learnings into a morally-infused overall perspective on life.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The heart has reasons the mind cannot fathom.
Well, a good dialogue can go far in responding to those reasons even if we cannot "fathom" them in the sense of providing a comprehensive objective account.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
The ability of people to get rich in America through force of will and talent is a good example of how faith can be rational.


Yet the majority who invoke their force of will and talent do not get rich. Faith in this context is a sort of availability bias. I don't see that as rational. It's like saying the faith in lottery tickets is rational because it leads some people to become rich. That isn't rational. It's flowery words glossing over statistics.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Interbane wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The ability of people to get rich in America through force of will and talent is a good example of how faith can be rational.

Yet the majority who invoke their force of will and talent do not get rich. Faith in this context is a sort of availability bias. I don't see that as rational. It's like saying the faith in lottery tickets is rational because it leads some people to become rich. That isn't rational. It's flowery words glossing over statistics.

This is an interesting problem in statistics. If we knew the lottery was subsidized, let us say as a way to offer participation in capitalism to the many, so that on average the expected value of the ticket is greater than the cost of the ticket, would it change the rationality of buying one? Evidently so.

In late 19th C. America, the setting of Horatio Alger, economic growth was going forward at a rate similar to China's in the last 20 years, or Japan's in the 70s and 80s. Entrepreneurs were succeeding at an incredible rate, by today's standards. (Although there were some significant downturns, and plenty did go bankrupt.)

Today we try to make sure students know that the odds are against succeeding in small business. Entry is biased toward the unrealistic and the bull-headed. At that time, the problem was more one of getting those with ability to strike out into enterprise, and I suspect if someone ran the numbers, the lottery was in their favor (after all they might become a Vanderbilt, Carnegie or Rockefeller). Those who held back were the cautious and the self-doubters (i.e. those who lacked "pluck"). The selection criterion is the other side of the same coin, but slicing into the same distribution of character traits at different points.



Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:15 am
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Quote:
Entry is biased toward the unrealistic and the bull-headed.


This is interesting. Two of the most successful people I'm close to in small business are successful because they are stubborn and believe reality should conform to what they think. The words Robert used were that they had force of will. In one case, the person is also talented. In the other case, the person isn't especially talented. The one talent they share is that they're good at talking to others. This force-of-will characteristic is also something Steve Jobs had, where he had a "reality warping bubble" around him. He'd out-stubborn reality.

I see this as a type of faith. But I don't see it as rational faith. One reason is that I've known many people who are just as stubborn, but get nowhere. Or use their stubbornness destructively. Another reason is that I often see the specific products of this stubborn mindset be false or mostly false. But once a person crosses some arbitrary threshold of success, people don't argue with much of their bull-headedness, because it goes no where. The minions just conform and keep moving, hoping to get past the rough decisions, or doing their best to mitigate damage and make it work. A stubborn leader who hires exceptional talent has it made, because the person with exceptional talent can turn almost any poor decision into a good one.


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Thu Dec 08, 2016 7:54 am
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Interbane wrote:
Two of the most successful people I'm close to in small business are successful because they are stubborn and believe reality should conform to what they think.

He'd [Jobs would] out-stubborn reality.


Determination (to the point of unrealistic stubbornness) is undoubtedly helpful in the harsh world of start-ups, but one of the things venture capitalists look for is leadership who are willing to be flexible about their vision. The venture capital people can help manage the thousand ways a young firm can fail, but they need the leadership to be able to be realistic when it comes to the secondary issues which make the primary plan work.

Interbane wrote:
I see this as a type of faith. But I don't see it as rational faith.

I have no real issue in that semantic argument. Reason is a whore - the question sometimes is whether you enlist your reason to justify what everyone else is saying, or to inquire into the factors which make your vision different.

My issues are: 1) Faith is not primarily a matter of passive belief, much less belief in the patently unrealistic. Rather it is commitment based on perception of real-time issues. In that sense, the H. Alger example works rather well, though it has little to do with community values.

2) Faith, in general, has a values dimension as well as a cognitive dimension. I have argued that we tend to prefer the term "faith" when values are clearly part of it, (e.g. faith in democracy, faith in the jury system, faith in science) and to prefer other terms such as "belief" or "optimism/pessimism" when a purely cognitive issue is at stake (faith in technical analysis of the stock market? faith in polls? faith in the theory?). It is a bit subtle to find that values dimension in "belief in myself" as shown by the Horatio Alger mythology and the cases you cited.

Interbane wrote:
A stubborn leader who hires exceptional talent has it made, because the person with exceptional talent can turn almost any poor decision into a good one.


One might give Henry Ford II as an example, but his case also illustrates the friction that the real talent experiences trying to make bad decisions work out well. The history of the motion picture industry is littered with the train wrecks caused by the inability of top talent to make up for really bad decisions in a fragile and evolving business environment.



Fri Dec 09, 2016 3:29 pm
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Harry Marks wrote:
If I remember right, I had distinguished between faith entirely seen in terms of "beliefs in spite of incomplete evidence" and faith conceived of as entailing a values-based commitment at least as important as the cognitive component.
Catching up with this earlier comment from Nov 13 at post159029.html#p159029

This distinction that you describe between different meanings of the concept of faith is central to analysis of the relationship between faith and reason. Atheist critiques of religion, such as Richard Dawkins’ argument that faith is a blind vice, rest entirely on the definition of faith as uncertain belief lacking evidence. However, when we look at the Biblical definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1 http://biblehub.com/hebrews/11-1.htm as “the confident hope in things unseen”, the moral value of faith is more important than the cognitive component. The hope structures the belief about what the unseen things must be. The nub of Dawkins’ critique is that when the cognitive component contains factual errors, such as in young earth creationism, or postulating God as a finite entity, the moral structure built upon this error will be like a house built upon sand, as Jesus famously indicated at Matt 7:26 http://biblehub.com/matthew/7-26.htm .
Harry Marks wrote:
Horatio Alger does not fit well with either one - it is primarily cognitive, involving a sense that the universe will respond positively to effort without the need for prior social standing. But it functions as a replacement story for one narrative about society, in which one cannot trust the "arriviste", with another one, in which pluck (with luck) pays large returns based on intrinsic merit alone.
I have not read any of the Horatio Alger novels, so am just responding in terms of the American Dream as a relevant framework of modern secular faith. The American myths of Providence, Manifest Destiny and One Nation Under God reflect the vision of a departure from a stagnant dogmatic stultified sclerotic Old World in which success was barred to the new arrival, into a dynamic free abundant exciting New World where anything is possible, where the man of talent and vision and daring can exploit the fecund abundance of a virgin continent. Of course the American meritocracy is somewhat corrupted, and the virgin purity of the new world is more than touched, but the ideal of the city upon a hill from Matt 5:14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_upon_a_Hill remains a vision of capitalist liberty and prosperity based on equal rights to the pursuit of happiness.

The rival narratives of faith that produced the contrasting cultures in Europe and America reflect these conflicting views on liberty, in terms of ability to trust the arriviste.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The ability of people to get rich in America through force of will and talent is a good example of how faith can be rational.

Sure, but so is the distrust of the arriviste.
Interbane has also commented on this point about faith and wealth. I have just read a book called New World Ronin by Victor Pride, setting out his ideas of business magnate as shogun, in which he argues for faith as rational self-belief as a basis for success in the world. This question of the relation between success and reason is an excellent one regarding the meaning of reason. ‘Rational’ does not just mean “based on evidence”. Successful people tend to be more instrumental, using reason as an instrument to achieve a goal, assessing whether the means they have in mind will achieve their desired end. Instrumental means-end rationality contrasts with principled approaches where the primary question is whether the ends are intrinsically good.
Harry Marks wrote:
Deciding which one will dominate is a matter for the marketplace of ideas, and under some conditions one will be "more" rational than the other.
Reminds me of Humpty Dumpty’s comment about glory. https://philosophynow.org/issues/13/A_N ... n_Argument
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
recasting the myth of the fall from grace against a rational philosophy where meaning comes from poetic connection to the holy.

Works for me, but I imagine the average Evangelical would immediately dismiss this as liberal elitism.
For “the average Evangelical”, meaning comes from a literal faith in Biblical Christianity, generally including belief in the actual truth of the mythology of Genesis. Unfortunately the average Evangelical does not have a rational faith, and that is why religion is regarded with such disdain by much of the modern secular world.

The problem of finding rational meaning within obscure myths such as the fall from grace requires that we start from a scientific world view. I just don’t accept that any belief, such as original sin, which seems to conflict blatantly with scientific evidence, can be regarded as at all rational, except potentially in allegorical poetical ways.
Harry Marks wrote:
the problem of theodicy arises from notions of omnipotence and omniscience, which are eliminated in viewing God as the spirit of interpersonal caring.
Theodicy is the logical problem of how evil can be allowed by a good God. I think theodicy can be answered by observing that it makes little sense to postulate God as an intentional entity. That error, reifying God as making deliberate intentional decisions, seems to me to be the start of the problem of theodicy. If we falsely imagine divinity, which is intrinsically infinite and eternal, on the model of a finite temporal entity, we thereby turn God into an idol. Imagining God as a personal being who is omniscient involves groundless projection of human imagination, attempting to worship a being whom we create in our minds, rather than honestly becoming open to what is really there. The method of openness to what being may disclose enables a rational existential faith.

If we consider the idea of God honestly, recognizing that science is fundamental to reality, the idea that God will prevent evil is absurd. The laws of physics do not prevent human freedom and cruelty, or the evolution of entities such as germs and disease that cause human suffering.

When we look at what is really omnipotent and omnipresent, we find that the laws of physics provide the universally consistent structuring principles of reality. The laws of physics, in gravity, motion and relativity, are actually all-powerful and are consistent across the whole universe as far as we can tell. So these traditional imagined attributes of an eternal and infinite God, omnipotence and omnipresence, are actually present as the structuring principles of scientifically observed reality.

Picking up on how a scientific worldview answers the questions of traditional metaphysics, it makes sense to consider the universe in its structured orderly laws as the object of awe and wonder, even reverence. However, it does not make scientific sense to claim that the universe is omniscient, and that is where the religious vision of human qualities in God starts to look like psychological projection, imagining God as a greater version of humanity.

The idea that God is omnibenevolent, all good, has some evolutionary merit, in that the goodness of nature can be understood as the fact that the universe enabled human evolution. It makes metaphorical sense to say the universe cares about humanity, since earth provides a place where we are safe, but the idea of a God who can deliberately intervene in the world to prevent evil is just idolatry.

The only thing that can prevent evil is the strong application of human values, and this can involve the mythical construction of a God as the projected object of transcendental imagination, as we see in Christianity.
Harry Marks wrote:
I told one correspondent, a scholar of Blake, that I felt that Plato had led theology down the path of the wrong infinity: the infinitely many and large, rather than the infinitely dense microcosm of Cantor and Zeno, in which the cosmos appears in a grain of sand (as Blake put it).
Infinite density is the principle of integration in calculus, from Newton and Leibniz. I have not studied Cantor’s set theory in any depth, but Zeno’s paradox of the arrow and the continuity of time provides the logical basis of calculus. I don’t get your reading of Plato here about the infinitely many and large. I thought Plato’s views on infinity centered more on ideas, that universal ethical ideas such as the good, love, equality, truth, justice and beauty are not finite entities, but are real, and therefore are infinite and eternal.
Harry Marks wrote:
The idea [of eternal values] is supposed to be that our relation to the matter is unconditioned by temporal factors.
This is one of those metaphysical statements that give me a sore brain. I cannot imagine relating to anything that is not conditioned by temporal factors. We can only relate to things in time, and use them to imagine things outside time. It does not make clear sense to say we relate to our imagination as a matter, since our imagination is speculative fantastic construction to the extent it is not temporal.
Harry Marks wrote:
If we pursue truth for its own sake, that pursuit transcends time.
I would be interested to explore a practical example of what you mean by this assertion, since I fear that a pursuit that transcends time will turn out to be a meaningless and empty concept. For example Einstein pursued the theory of relativity as ‘truth for its own sake’ but the only sense in which this ‘transcends time’ is that relativity is permanently true.
Harry Marks wrote:
If we pursue truth for the instrumental ability to, say, save lives, then the pursuit is temporal.
Defining temporal as instrumental is not ringing true to me. Much intrinsic and useless truth is temporal.
Harry Marks wrote:
The essential proposition of theology is that the eternal (the things we encounter for their own sake) dominates the temporal.
Here you appear to define intrinsic value as eternal truth. As I have discussed here previously, my view is that a primary candidate as a proposition containing intrinsic value is that human flourishing is good. This is a claim which cannot be tested by evidence, and yet has important value as an axiom that serves to provide value to other claims as a basis of rational faith.
Harry Marks wrote:
So, for example, the ethical value of saving lives, which we encounter for its own sake, gives meaning to the temporal quest for such instrumental value.
I like to consider such claims against a consequentialist moral logic, looking at the utility of belief rather than seeing ‘saving lives’ as a sacred principle. So for example this idea that saving lives is an eternal ethical value keys into debates about euthanasia and abortion and road safety, where differing attitudes about the value of life produce quite different ethical stances. If we make saving life an absolute principle it can lead us to permit harmful suffering.
Harry Marks wrote:
Christianity was the first religion, I believe, to assert that the eternal inheres in the temporal, which is the doctrine of incarnation (though some ancient Hindu/Buddhist thought could be read to support such an idea).
Plato wrote in The Timaeus that time is the moving image of eternity. Plato held that the properties of things instantiate ideas, albeit imperfectly. This teaching, in my reading, provided the Gnostic origins of what then evolved into the Christian myth of the incarnation. The combination of Platonic philosophy with Egyptian pharaoh worship, Babylonian cosmology and Jewish prophetic mysticism produced the Gnostic Christian doctrine of incarnation, which gave political force to earlier ideas about the eternal inhering in the temporal.
Harry Marks wrote:
A rather clumsy example would be that we cannot encounter Hamlet in the same way that we can encounter our next door neighbor - abstraction lacks something essential about the eternal.
There is a fine book called Hamlet’s Mill which explores the origins of Shakespeare’s play in gnostic cosmology.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Yes, this idea of unifying time and eternity is the core of rational Christology as a purely logical exercise of transcendental imagination. The transformative ethical basis of Christianity is that the things in the world that seem least important to men are the most important to God, expressed in the Biblical ideas that the last will be first in the Kingdom of God, and the meek shall inherit the earth.

I think this is very helpful.
The theme of Transcendental Imagination is one that I first encountered in Heidegger’s great but difficult book Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. German idealism, from Kant through Hegel and Heidegger, and in the ideas of Ernst Bloch, places imagination as a core theme in messianic thought. The messianism emerges in the vision of the eternal within the temporal, seeing the least as first. http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/55128-ernst-blo ... essianism/ describes how messianic imagination is an ethical driver in the modern philosophy of Bloch’s German secular Judaism.
Harry Marks wrote:
There is a movement in progressive Christianity, focused around the anthropology of Rene Girard, arguing that penal substitionary Atonement is inherently scapegoat theology, and that its propagation is antithetical to the Kingdom of God. I find it very persuasive.
Ransom theology is certainly antithetical to messianic liberation theology. The idea that Jesus died as a ransom paid by God for our sins places Jesus as a substitute providing a sacrifice in our place for our salvation through belief. That was the foundation myth of Christendom, based on securing the alliance of throne and altar as a strategic idea, washed in the blood of the lamb. In penal theology Jesus is the scapegoat, killed to save the community, whereas in liberation theology Jesus is the transformative pioneering model of human excellence whose death shows the depraved evil of the world, and whose path of integrity is the way to life in truth.
Harry Marks wrote:

Robert Tulip wrote:
Unfortunately it is difficult to maintain a redemptive sense of the mandate of heaven when might is right becomes too explicit as a state ideology of legitimacy. That moral problem seems to me to be a big reason why the Roman pantheon eventually collapsed before the call of conscience presented by the gospels.

Interesting. The key here is "legitimacy." If legitimacy is conceived of in eternal terms, that is, not merely instrumental, then might cannot possibly make right.
The distinction here is between legitimacy of rule conceived, on one hand, as the mandate of eternal heaven and, on the other, the legal legitimacy of the modern secular state, separate from the church. The idea that God has blessed the king as the one social channel of divine order was the foundation of pre-democratic monarchic politics. The union of throne and altar in Christendom was claimed to provide eternal legitimacy for the state and king. This divine right of kings doctrine actually was a ‘might is right’ theory though, since the conquest by a stronger king demonstrated that the old mandate had been lost in favour of a new dynasty.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:

Mandate of Heaven is just a way of saying that corruption loses moral legitimacy, whereas disciplined forces have the right to take state power from effete groups who are using their position badly.

Well, okay, sometimes it was used that way. But the ideas were primarily applied to times of either warring factions or flooding, and the two (not surprisingly) sometimes went together. Now, if you see flooding as due to failure to manage the channel work and dikes, there is some sense to this. But more often it was due to large-scale climate disturbances and there was no role of "effeteness".
In the world conquests of Chinggis Khan, emperor of the Mongols, the belief that the eternal blue sky justified the success of the Mongols in crushing weak enemies created a doctrine of rule of the strong, known as Tengrism, described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tengrism.

The theory of dynastic cycle is described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynastic_cycle : “There is a famous Chinese proverb expressed in the 16th century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms that says "After a long split, a union will occur; after a long union, a split will occur" (分久必合,合久必分). Each of these rulers would claim the Mandate of Heaven to legitimize their rule.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandate_of_Heaven states “Since the winner is the one who determines who has obtained the Mandate of Heaven and who has lost it, some Chinese scholars consider it to be a sort of Victor's justice, best characterized in the popular Chinese saying "The winner becomes king, the loser becomes outlaw".


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Atheist critiques of religion, such as Richard Dawkins’ argument that faith is a blind vice, rest entirely on the definition of faith as uncertain belief lacking evidence. However, when we look at the Biblical definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1 http://biblehub.com/hebrews/11-1.htm as “the confident hope in things unseen”, the moral value of faith is more important than the cognitive component. The hope structures the belief about what the unseen things must be.

I would agree with that reading if one is careful about what is meant by "moral value." The moral value inheres in nature of the thing hoped for, which I think is what you were saying. Hope that the gremlins will cause me to win the lottery has no moral value, and such "faith" has no saving component.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The nub of Dawkins’ critique is that when the cognitive component contains factual errors, such as in young earth creationism, or postulating God as a finite entity, the moral structure built upon this error will be like a house built upon sand,
I don't agree with you and Dawkins about this. I think we believe in things which contain factual errors all the time. The question of whether the foundation of the moral structure is sound is much more about moral soundness than factual accuracy.

I'm not sure it makes sense to talk about morality "built upon" belief in, say, God as finite entity, much less upon young earth creationism. This is a common fundamentalist argument: without belief in God there is no reason to be moral. I don't agree, except insofar as I might be willing to include valid reasons to be moral as part of who "God" is. The idea that God as judge in the afterlife is needed for morality is quite confused, since rule-following for the sake of escaping eternal punishment would, if it is taken seriously, be instrumental behavior and not moral behavior at all. Of course if one's concept of "right" is "follows the rules," i.e. conformity, then one cannot see this problem, but that is a very undeveloped view of morality.

To give an example of factual errors failing to undermine a morally sound institution, the early American government based its decisions about, say, the vote, on inaccurate views of the competence of women, for example. They were not very familiar with the potential available from public education, or they might have had very different views of who should be allowed to vote (indeed, they changed those rules in part because education demonstrated its potential.) That doesn't mean there was anything wrong with democracy as a principle.
Robert Tulip wrote:
the ideal of the city upon a hill from Matt 5:14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_upon_a_Hill remains a vision of capitalist liberty and prosperity based on equal rights to the pursuit of happiness.

Just so you know, the image does not evoke capitalism in very many American minds. If you read the wiki quotes you will see a much more typical usage of the image.
Robert Tulip wrote:
This question of the relation between success and reason is an excellent one regarding the meaning of reason. ‘Rational’ does not just mean “based on evidence”. Successful people tend to be more instrumental, using reason as an instrument to achieve a goal, assessing whether the means they have in mind will achieve their desired end. Instrumental means-end rationality contrasts with principled approaches where the primary question is whether the ends are intrinsically good.
Yes, I agree, and it is an interesting distinction. Moral reason is about trying to reach a goal, but the goal is not as specifically defined as, say, "making a company profitable." The goal is whatever is good, a rather circular definition from an objective point of view, but quite exact from the viewpoint of the existential effort to seek it.

Of course the really interesting question is where the "desired end" of the successful people comes from. If they are not, in some form, seeking the good, they are likely to find that success disappoints them almost as much as failure does.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Deciding which one will dominate is a matter for the marketplace of ideas, and under some conditions one will be "more" rational than the other.
Reminds me of Humpty Dumpty’s comment about glory. https://philosophynow.org/issues/13/A_N ... n_Argument

I bookmarked the page. Thanks for the interesting reference. Yes, Dodgson's Humpty Dumpty passage is one of the finest in his playful examination of the entertainment available from logic and the insight available from nonsense. But I am quite sincere in saying that when there are competing values, the marketplace of ideas should shed some light on which are more sturdy and functional and appropriate to the current conditions. One of the things which makes moral reasoning frustrating and baffling is that there are many undecidable propositions in its system. One cannot always reason one's way out of moral differences but often must leave the options with equal claim on logic.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The problem of finding rational meaning within obscure myths such as the fall from grace requires that we start from a scientific world view. I just don’t accept that any belief, such as original sin, which seems to conflict blatantly with scientific evidence, can be regarded as at all rational, except potentially in allegorical poetical ways.

See, I think it started out as recognizable allegory with only poetical claims to truth. It works very well at evoking the sense of origins of evil which we still experience today.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
the problem of theodicy arises from notions of omnipotence and omniscience, which are eliminated in viewing God as the spirit of interpersonal caring.
Theodicy is the logical problem of how evil can be allowed by a good God. I think theodicy can be answered by observing that it makes little sense to postulate God as an intentional entity.

A spirit is in between "intentional entity" and "blind force of nature." There were definitely several spirits at work in the most recent election, as there usually are. Did they contemplate anything? Well, sort of, in the sense that discussion between people who share motivations creates a kind of internal dynamic which could qualify as contemplation, even though it does not work in the way that a single human mind or a programmed AI work.
Robert Tulip wrote:
If we falsely imagine divinity, which is intrinsically infinite and eternal, on the model of a finite temporal entity, we thereby turn God into an idol. Imagining God as a personal being who is omniscient involves groundless projection of human imagination, attempting to worship a being whom we create in our minds, rather than honestly becoming open to what is really there. The method of openness to what being may disclose enables a rational existential faith.

I don't think God is intrinsically infinite, and is "eternal" only in the sense I explained of being unconditioned on the temporal.

Robert Tulip wrote:
If we consider the idea of God honestly, recognizing that science is fundamental to reality, the idea that God will prevent evil is absurd. The laws of physics do not prevent human freedom and cruelty, or the evolution of entities such as germs and disease that cause human suffering.

I think this choice of how to understand God betrays the Judeo-Christian tradition in which God's justice and love are primary, and notions of infinity are secondary and poetical. The idea that God cannot prevent all evil is sensible, but the idea that God does not care about evil, in the sense that one might say "the Universe does not care if you live or die, if you do good or evil," is an abomination. Ergo, I do not identify God with the Universe.

Robert Tulip wrote:
When we look at what is really omnipotent and omnipresent, we find that the laws of physics provide the universally consistent structuring principles of reality. The laws of physics, in gravity, motion and relativity, are actually all-powerful and are consistent across the whole universe as far as we can tell. So these traditional imagined attributes of an eternal and infinite God, omnipotence and omnipresence, are actually present as the structuring principles of scientifically observed reality.

I am afraid I find the idea of omnipotence incoherent, in addition to being wrong-headed about God. You say the laws of physics are omnipotent, but there are clearly a number of things they cannot do. So I don't see why the issue of omnipotence would even arise in connection with them. It was originally an assertion about God, and its content was precisely an assertion about that spirit of justice and love. It happened to be an incoherent and distortionary assertion if taken literally, but I see no reason why we should do that.

Robert Tulip wrote:
the religious vision of human qualities in God starts to look like psychological projection, imagining God as a greater version of humanity. -- referred to omniscience
the idea of a God who can deliberately intervene in the world to prevent evil is just idolatry.
The only thing that can prevent evil is the strong application of human values, and this can involve the mythical construction of a God as the projected object of transcendental imagination, as we see in Christianity.

So why should we consider those human values to be independent of God? That spirit inheres in humans. The human values of which you speak express the will of God. Not all human values do - just the Godly ones. And those values, considered as caring process rather than as abstract ideals, deliberately intervene in the world.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
I told one correspondent, a scholar of Blake, that I felt that Plato had led theology down the path of the wrong infinity: the infinitely many and large, rather than the infinitely dense microcosm of Cantor and Zeno, in which the cosmos appears in a grain of sand (as Blake put it).
I don’t get your reading of Plato here about the infinitely many and large.

I am using the mathematics of infinity as metaphor for Plato's infinitely capable and infinitely perfect God. That than which nothing better can be conceived, is the phrase I believe. The infinity in use there is the one of the integers, or, if you prefer, of the extent of a line in geometry. He was barking up the wrong tree (or perhaps just barking). The infinite justice of God is the one which perceives in each individual (which is where Zeno's paradoxes about continuity come in, based as they are on the ability to imagine the infinitely small) the moral value of every other individual.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The idea [of eternal values] is supposed to be that our relation to the matter is unconditioned by temporal factors.
This is one of those metaphysical statements that give me a sore brain. I cannot imagine relating to anything that is not conditioned by temporal factors. We can only relate to things in time, and use them to imagine things outside time.

I find it to sort all kinds of things into marvelous order. Temporal factors are those which will change. Principles of values must be built upon issues which will be the same even as we change. Kierkegaard's "Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing" goes into it very nicely, and I think spelled it out pretty well.

It looks to me like you are distracted by immanence, by the fact that eternal principles are found within time-bound matters. But I am sure that you find geometry to be "eternal" (as Plato did). Its truths do not depend on anything which is only temporarily true. When the universe has burned out in Hawking radiation and it all winds down, propositions of geometry will be every bit as true.

In the realm of values we have similarly eternal matters. It will never be right to treat another person entirely as a means to our ends. The nature of morality demands that we consider each person to be a valid end in their own right. Yes, they will die, but the principle on which their value rested will not.

Thus the "I/Thou" analysis of Martin Buber is seen to be the most revealing insight into the nature of the eternal. The nature of the encounter itself must be something other than instrumental, for instrumental values (happiness, money, self-esteem, etc.) are temporal. The way we encounter others is essential to whether we are part of the transcendence that is God. "Faking" morality, or complying, or conforming, can never be an element in which the eternal dwells.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
If we pursue truth for its own sake, that pursuit transcends time.
I would be interested to explore a practical example of what you mean by this assertion, since I fear that a pursuit that transcends time will turn out to be a meaningless and empty concept. For example Einstein pursued the theory of relativity as ‘truth for its own sake’ but the only sense in which this ‘transcends time’ is that relativity is permanently true.

The truth of relativity is unconditioned by temporal factors. It does not depend on whether we happen to be rich or poor, or angry or satisfied, or whether we need it to get to the moon, or on whether we want it to promote authority in the common life. We must be open to the truth itself, because to do otherwise is to deny its nature.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
If we pursue truth for the instrumental ability to, say, save lives, then the pursuit is temporal.
Defining temporal as instrumental is not ringing true to me. Much intrinsic and useless truth is temporal.

They are not identical, but that which is instrumental is inherently temporal, conditioned as it is on something which may change (our goal). In the concept of the instrumental we most clearly see within the world of values the same eternal/temporal distinction which mathematics brings to value-free rational thought. "The steel is strong enough to support that weight" is about a temporal issue. It makes no claim on our consciousness to consider eternal truth, whose value is in itself and not created by temporary conditions.
Robert Tulip wrote:
my view is that a primary candidate as a proposition containing intrinsic value is that human flourishing is good. This is a claim which cannot be tested by evidence, and yet has important value as an axiom that serves to provide value to other claims as a basis of rational faith.

So lets pick that apart a bit. It can't be tested by evidence. Despite the efforts of utilitarians, we sense that this proposition is about giving shape to our sense of "good", a bit like being able to know in which direction to point to be pointing North.

Yet to say its value is in proving less general axioms is to distract us from the nature of the encounter. We are open to its content because it has that kind of meaning for us, rather than its meaning coming from the fact that its implications may be useful. The meaning is encountered in the principle itself, not in its value for deriving the more specific principles, and yet because of its intrinsic value we can indeed use it to derive more specific propositions about value. It "shines light" for us, but we are interested in the light itself, and not secondarily from our need to see something with it.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
So, for example, the ethical value of saving lives, which we encounter for its own sake, gives meaning to the temporal quest for such instrumental value.
I like to consider such claims against a consequentialist moral logic, looking at the utility of belief rather than seeing ‘saving lives’ as a sacred principle.

Both consequentialist and deontological approaches make the mistake of trying to define objectively something whose intrinsic nature is existential, i.e. prior to the subject/object split. This gives rise to something that Peter Berger calls "the vertigo of relativism," but too bad. That is how things are. Moral truths must be encountered as an exercise by the living before they can be properly defined: if someone is not genuinely trying to understand what is good, then no logical exercise can deliver its goodness to that person. This is a particular case of Sartre's famous dictum that "existence precedes essence." It's goodness is not found in its conformity to a certain moral logic, but originates in the approach taken by the seeker to the question of its goodness.

Must go. More on the remaining material tomorrow.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Plato wrote in The Timaeus that time is the moving image of eternity. Plato held that the properties of things instantiate ideas, albeit imperfectly. This teaching, in my reading, provided the Gnostic origins of what then evolved into the Christian myth of the incarnation. The combination of Platonic philosophy with Egyptian pharaoh worship, Babylonian cosmology and Jewish prophetic mysticism produced the Gnostic Christian doctrine of incarnation, which gave political force to earlier ideas about the eternal inhering in the temporal.

I am sure I do not know how it arrived. But I think in hindsight we can say that there was an error in Plato, in judging moral values to be well modeled by logical analysis, such as geometry, due to their eternal nature (I am distorting Plato, but I think that captures his essential vision rather well).

Heidegger's analysis of caring (if I have understood your explanation of it) is the correct starting point. "If I am not for others, what good am I?" is the right question, but the right answer can only be personal. We have to wrestle with God.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The theme of Transcendental Imagination is one that I first encountered in Heidegger’s great but difficult book Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. German idealism, from Kant through Hegel and Heidegger, and in the ideas of Ernst Bloch, places imagination as a core theme in messianic thought. The messianism emerges in the vision of the eternal within the temporal, seeing the least as first.

Not random imagination, however. One might call it critical imagination. The ability to perceive that how things are is not necessarily how they ought to be, or, to put it more pragmatically, how they could be. Descartes over Leibniz.

Currently progressive Christianity is contemplating these matters under the heading of "the Kingdom of God." That is what Jesus came to proclaim. His radicalism, and his incarnational vision, was not limited to "the last shall be first" or even to "inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me." In the way of the world, other people are to be taken seriously only to the extent that they can threaten the little kingdom I build for myself, or offer exchange of what I want for what I have. The messiah comes saying, "I will show you a still more excellent way," and if we are too busy with our little kingdoms, the messiah goes out and finds the cripple, the blind, the outcast to take our place. The ones, in other words, in whom we can find no material value, but moral value only. The refugee, the incarcerated, the lonely. The fat, the ugly, the simple. It takes some imagination, to say the least.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Ransom theology is certainly antithetical to messianic liberation theology. The idea that Jesus died as a ransom paid by God for our sins places Jesus as a substitute providing a sacrifice in our place for our salvation through belief. That was the foundation myth of Christendom, based on securing the alliance of throne and altar as a strategic idea, washed in the blood of the lamb. In penal theology Jesus is the scapegoat, killed to save the community, whereas in liberation theology Jesus is the transformative pioneering model of human excellence whose death shows the depraved evil of the world, and whose path of integrity is the way to life in truth.

Ransom language is okay. We ransom, or redeem, someone from slavery. It doesn't have to be, and probably in Paul was not, a substitute penalty, like a whipping boy or a noble Damon and Pythias willing hostage.

As a general rule, what Christendom pushes offstage to an otherworldly transaction usually comes from an effort to express a subtle spiritual truth in supernatural imagery. The subtle truth here is that God, who is present in all caring, would be exemplified by a willingness to suffer in order to reveal the essential nature of the Kingdom. That is pretty much exactly what your words said about the liberation theology interpretation. That willingness to suffer ransoms us, but not because we owed a debt. More because violence had made prisoners, and servants of the empire, of us.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The distinction here is between legitimacy of rule conceived, on one hand, as the mandate of eternal heaven and, on the other, the legal legitimacy of the modern secular state, separate from the church.
Yes, that's right. The Reformation, by explicitly giving secular rulers the right to regulate the church, paradoxically liberated the church from the project of legitimating rule by might. The idea of legitimacy has to be set free from an ideology of whatever the rulers want to claim. Eventually it became obvious, perhaps because the Americans, when they gained independence, had to decide how they would be governed, that only democratic government is truly legitimate.

(As a footnote, if Hobbes had been right, some warlord would have seized control of America of necessity. Instead Leviathan, the warlord approach to rule, was revealed to be a product of historical conditions, a temporal outcome rather than a legitimate solution.)
Robert Tulip wrote:
In the world conquests of Chinggis Khan, emperor of the Mongols, the belief that the eternal blue sky justified the success of the Mongols in crushing weak enemies created a doctrine of rule of the strong, known as Tengrism, described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tengrism.

Chinggis Khan, or Genghis, was apparently an incredibly competent guy. And there is no denying that rule of the strong happens. But we can imagine a still more excellent way, in which the strong ask themselves, "if I am not for others, what good am I?" Legitimacy, in the large sense, comes from that exercise. (Legitimism, the idea that the crown should be assigned by legitimate descent, was an effort to tame warlordism, but it failed to question far enough to find a foundation within the eternal. It lacked the true mandate of heaven.)



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Free Inquiry has a series of op-eds on the is-ought problem. I think its faithful to this thread.

https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/articles/8609

Mattering Matters; by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein.

RNG " I'm excited by the approach mattering theory offers to the so-called 'is-ought' gap."



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
It's a good discussion, but of course it doesn't bridge the gap between "is" and "ought". In fact she asserts, quite reasonably, that everyone ought to matter as much as everyone else, without at all getting into the problems with going from such a proposed principle to the "is" of how humans relate to each other.

At one point she asserts that only certain views of what matter are "admissible" but skips over the question of why, to whom, or for what purpose. I think my gut instincts on how mattering work are more layered than her propositions are.

The most interesting of her points puts this problem on display. She says our projects matter to us because they exemplify our sense of what makes people matter, and (interpreting her lead-up) this is "talentism" and therefore an inadmissible proposition about "ought" derived from "is." One could take it a step further and say, the person we choose to attach ourselves to for life (assuming we make such a choice) is an exemplification of an ethically distorted sense of what matters.

This is a rather shallow account of things. One major reason is that her idea of "categorically mattering" is a conflation of two "levels of need" on Maslow's hierarchy. What matters for purposes of self-esteem is not "categorical mattering" or, in other words, what we philosophically find ultimate about the source of anything mattering. That is an issue for the top levels of need, having to do with fulfillment or "mattering beyond the self".

The top level according to Maslow, known as self-actualization, has always left me dissatisfied on philosophical grounds. Essentially he says one finds oneself needing to be the best one can be after one has satisfied the general need to do things that "matter" (a need labelled self-fulfillment). This is unsatisfactory on a number of grounds: for example, being the best World of Warcraft player I can be, or the best street sweeper I can be, are not categorically "beyond" being someone whose life matters, but Maslow claims that being the best cello player I can be, or the best father I can be, are in fact "beyond" fulfillment.

This tension is resolvable, and Maslow's account is, in fact, correct, but you would never get that from the "mattering theory" account. (The result is what a Christian might call "incarnational theology" in the sense that it accepts that particular instantiations of the general good must be related to in order to be dealing with the actual general good. Interestingly, this is an important aspect of "ought" which derives directly from "the way life is.")

A second way of cutting into the spurious uniformity imposed in Newberger Goldstein's account is to ask if there is any difference between the "categorical mattering" of different groups of people, which she correctly asserts must be equal to be ethical, and the "comparative mattering" on which people base a justification of career or partner choice. And of course there is a difference, and the difference is illuminated by "relationality," that is, recognition of what kind of relationship we are in when we make use of one category or the other. I suspect she knows this, and has dealt with it in her real work, but you can't get it from this presentation.

I was hoping for some analytical richness along those lines, but as far as I can tell the author's only significant connection between the two realms is that "ought" is a given, and we don't need a way to "derive" it but only a satisfactory system for sorting it out. Okay, but I think we knew that without any philosophers saying it.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Hello Taylor and Harry. Firstly thank you Taylor for reviving this thread which I was beginning to fear would fall adrift in the magnificent ether of forgottenness. Harry has made so many interesting responses that I felt bad about not having responded earlier. So now I will reply while it is fresh to Harry’s comments on Ms Goldstein, with a valiant plan to go back and continue this conversation.

I also read Rebecca Goldstein’s article. For me the name Goldstein conjures 1984, and his famous principles of oligarchical collectivism, a theory that is the very opposite of Ms Goldstein’s theory of individual mattering.
Harry Marks wrote:
she asserts, quite reasonably, that everyone ought to matter as much as everyone else, without at all getting into the problems with going from such a proposed principle to the "is" of how humans relate to each other.
As often happens with atheist philosophy, Goldstein betrays ignorance of the religious framework of culture, of how philosophy is nested within theology, and of how old ideas of theology persist as subconscious implicit guides for philosophy. Keynes' mot about slaves of defunct influence comes to mind.

Christianity strongly presents the idea that everyone matters equally, through the core ideas of the Bible that God loves the world and has made humanity in his image, that the last are first in the Kingdom of God, and that Christ is found among the excluded. This Christian principle of equality of all before God flows simply through into the crucial virtues of faith, hope and love.

But Goldstein says “The laborious moral progress that we’ve made over the centuries has consisted in undermining, one by one, these ideological claims to comparative mattering.” This is a direct snub to the religious theory of equality before God, although perhaps justified by the hypocrisy of the church which also has too often ignored the gospels.
Harry Marks wrote:
At one point she asserts that only certain views of what matter are "admissible" but skips over the question of why, to whom, or for what purpose. I think my gut instincts on how mattering work are more layered than her propositions are.
What matters and why are the central problems of ethics. Charles Dodgson provided an acute whimsical description of what I call the Freddy Mercury nihilist conundrum (nothing really matters). In Alice in Wonderland, the King of Hearts cannot tell the difference between the concepts ‘important’ and ‘unimportant’. This illustrates the important moral principle that our values are based on assumptions which we consider axiomatic or self evident. If the King of Hearts has no moral axioms, he is left clueless about what is important.
Image
Unfortunately, my reading of Goldstein is that her agenda is to provide a rationalisation for liberal prejudice. This comes through in her assumption that the individual is the only legitimate moral unit and her condemnation of ‘talentism’ as an alleged fallacy.
Harry Marks wrote:
She says our projects matter to us because they exemplify our sense of what makes people matter, and (interpreting her lead-up) this is "talentism" and therefore an inadmissible proposition about "ought" derived from "is."
Goldstein’s discussion of the alleged fallacy of 'talentism' is little more than an effort to justify liberal prejudice. Of course we should discriminate in favour of the talented, by providing resources and opportunities to those with the ability to make best use of them. That is the simple Biblical Matthew Principle, that God gives to those who have and takes away from those who have not.

If we favour the best, the overall talent pool grows, whereas if we favour the worst, the talent pool shrinks. That is a law of evolution. Reconciling this evolutionary principle of competitive success with the equality of all is explained in the Bible (Matt 25) by the duty of noblesse oblige, that privilege entails responsibility, that the king should be in solidarity with the meek.
Harry Marks wrote:
her idea of "categorically mattering" is a conflation of two "levels of need" on Maslow's hierarchy. What matters for purposes of self-esteem is not "categorical mattering" or, in other words, what we philosophically find ultimate about the source of anything mattering. That is an issue for the top levels of need, having to do with fulfillment or "mattering beyond the self".
My view is that what matters categorically is evolutionary complexity, because biodiversity is priceless. Whatever sustains and enhances complexity is good, while whatever harms complexity is evil. That means the planet is the unit of morality, not the individual. Coherence requires system thinking, an ability to analyse the consequences of actions for the whole. Duty is action to improve the whole. Durable old stability is intrinsically good. The meaning of life is the good of the future.
Harry Marks wrote:
The top level according to Maslow, known as self-actualization, has always left me dissatisfied on philosophical grounds.
I am writing a paper on Jung’s essay Aion The Phenomenology of the Self, to deliver at the Canberra Jung Society in May. Jung notes the distinction between self and ego, with self as a much deeper concept than personal conscious identity, instead partaking of a collective unconscious archetypal identity. Self-actualisation as distinguished from ego-actualisation is a good moral goal when the self is understood as a deep real identity. Jung explores these ideas in Aion through the theological framework of Jesus Christ as the archetype of the self.
Harry Marks wrote:
as far as I can tell the author's only significant connection between the two realms is that "ought" is a given, and we don't need a way to "derive" it but only a satisfactory system for sorting it out. Okay, but I think we knew that without any philosophers saying it.

In my last comments in this thread last year I mentioned the Mongolian Empire, as an example from history that provides some challenging problems about the relation between is and ought. Since then I have been reading the excellent book The Mongol Empire: Its Rise and Legacy by Michael Prawdin.

Goldstein’s condemnation of Napoleon reminded me of these problems. The cruelty of emperors instils a general moral repugnance. However, both the Mongol and French Empires had underlying achievements behind their brutality, that they caused the unification of large parts of the earth, enabling subsequent interaction and evolutionary growth and advancement.

Many would say these ends don’t justify the means, but the other side of that coin is that without drastic political change people are left in timidity, stagnation, separation and poverty. Napoleon founded the modern secular state with its dogma of laicity, and therefore was essentially atheist as a follower of Laplace. However, he provided room for divine glory with his view that imagination rules the world, and his claim that to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.

Genghis Khan explicitly saw himself as an agent of God, a bringer of divine wrath shaking up and unifying a sleepy world under the mandate of the eternal blue sky.

I raise these examples here because imperial power best shows the confluence of facts and values, is and ought. An emperor decides what ought to happen based on his views of what is the case. An empire, that most empirical fact, is held together purely by force of will, by the values of the transcendental imagination of the emperor, by the unity of spiritual confidence in duty.

While doubters will always claim that the emperor has failed to derive his oughts from his ises, that his values are not based on facts, the imperial assertion of the unity of is and ought is always the only basis for stability and prosperity. The absence of such moral vision is the source of decline and collapse.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Christianity strongly presents the idea that everyone matters equally, through the core ideas of the Bible that God loves the world and has made humanity in his image, that the last are first in the Kingdom of God, and that Christ is found among the excluded. This Christian principle of equality of all before God flows simply through into the crucial virtues of faith, hope and love.

But Goldstein says “The laborious moral progress that we’ve made over the centuries has consisted in undermining, one by one, these ideological claims to comparative mattering.” This is a direct snub to the religious theory of equality before God, although perhaps justified by the hypocrisy of the church which also has too often ignored the gospels.

Thanks for your cogent remarks. You raise two interesting and related problems here. The first is her critique of the ideological claims to comparative mattering. Her claim is that religion offers (with no thought to the question of whether its most coherent forms actually do so offer) both "cosmic mattering" and "comparative mattering" in a way that is tasty but disguises its unhealthiness (thus, "cheesecake").

Modern theology, and religion informed by it (of all stripes, frankly: even Hinduism has qualifying forms), translates her "cosmic mattering" (the universe really cares about me) into relational ultimate mattering (a relationship with the potential to satisfy us on an eternal, unconditioned basis must be one which regards others as mattering equally with ourselves). That is, it finds "cosmic" mattering of me in metaphysical qualities of reciprocal regard, not in a theory about supernatural entities.

The "comparative mattering" (e.g. I am worth more than a heretic because I worship God) that does, in fact, reside in most religious ideas and practice, then bifurcates in the same way that talentism does. There is an illegitimate version, which wishfully asserts that "the virtues I value are truly valuable", ungrounded in any reciprocal relations. But there is also a legitimate version, the one which regards people within a framework holding values discernment to be a common project between people of equal fundamental worth, and says, "this (e.g. restorative justice rather than punitive justice) I trust, this I commit to, without needing any sanction for that trust, and I find true worth in that commitment even if I have no ultimate grounds for knowing that everyone should." (If you know and love your Kierkegaard, this may sound familiar).

The second problem you raise is the historical presentation by Christianity of exactly the second (legitimate) approach. This is mediated by the principal Jesus taught of looking to our own sins first. Correcting others is cheap righteousness, and easily leads to marginalizing others. The sovereignty of God is a source of authority for this, but the experience of relation to God gives an existential grounding which removes the need for such authority. Goldstein seems to believe that any such authority (presumably including metaphysical) will inherently lead to abusive comparative mattering, but I will remain agnostic on that point until someone can demonstrate it to me.
Robert Tulip wrote:
King of Hearts[/url] cannot tell the difference between the concepts ‘important’ and ‘unimportant’. This illustrates the important moral principle that our values are based on assumptions which we consider axiomatic or self evident. If the King of Hearts has no moral axioms, he is left clueless about what is important.

I tend to think that "right and wrong" or "justice" inheres in the meaning of the term, rather than in some set of axioms, but that is a quibble. Deconstruction of the truth of right and wrong is a fundamentally flawed enterprise.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Unfortunately, my reading of Goldstein is that her agenda is to provide a rationalisation for liberal prejudice. This comes through in her assumption that the individual is the only legitimate moral unit and her condemnation of ‘talentism’ as an alleged fallacy.

I am reading some Richard Rorty (Contingency, Irony and Solidarity) and it is amusing to me to see a similar project: use of "incontrovertible" truths to delegitimize the whole idea of incontrovertible truth in the realm of values.

Still, I tend to see an individual as an irreducible moral unit, if not the only unit that morally matters, and so I believe we should be able to ground all propositions of justice in reciprocity, or moral equality between individuals.

Thus I tend to agree with her that talentism *** conceived of as a statement of true worth *** is a fallacy, a conflation of the instrumental (how much is that guy worth to me in potential income I can make from deals with him?) with the intrinsic (what worth assigns to that person which does not violate the reciprocity demanded by justice?)

And here is where we get into the interesting territory. The "is" of apparent instrumental worth is a legitimate input to the "ought" of arriving at "true worth." Rawls uses the example of market incentives providing a better life for everyone, including the mentally impaired, for example, and thus the inequality they generate being justified by a rule based on equality.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Goldstein’s discussion of the alleged fallacy of 'talentism' is little more than an effort to justify liberal prejudice.
Of course we should discriminate in favour of the talented, by providing resources and opportunities to those with the ability to make best use of them.

Well, I certainly agree that such a procedure is not "inadmissible" but I suspect it is best grounded not in a Rawlsian instrumental result or a relational freedom principle, but rather a relational principle of mutual objectives at the highest level of aspiration. I suspect that imposed equality of outcomes violates an intrinsic quality of a life lived for the sake of virtue. The finest presentation of this with which I am familiar is Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron".

Robert Tulip wrote:
If we favour the best, the overall talent pool grows, whereas if we favour the worst, the talent pool shrinks. That is a law of evolution.

You will not find me endorsing any principle of "ought" based on evolution. My view is that we have long since transcended our biology and that any principle of right which is worthy of the name cannot be derived from any principle of reproductive fitness.
Rebecca Goldstein wrote:
She proposes, "as an additional standard for evaluating the various responses churned up by the mattering instinct, the following: any that are grounded in a form of comparative mattering—including not only sexism, racism, classism, tribalism, nationalism, etc. but also the many versions of talentism—are just as inadmissible as those that are irreconcilable with empirical evidence, logical coherence, and compassion. "

She is actually on the track of something coherent here, which is that comparative mattering at the gut level, a self-esteem issue, easily conflicts with categorical mattering, the basis for justice. Identifying the one with "instinct" is probably right (see Haidt) but she does it in a dismissive way that takes a shortcut past vital questions of context.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
her idea of "categorically mattering" is a conflation of two "levels of need" on Maslow's hierarchy. What matters for purposes of self-esteem is not "categorical mattering" or, in other words, what we philosophically find ultimate about the source of anything mattering. That is an issue for the top levels of need, having to do with fulfillment or "mattering beyond the self".

My view is that what matters categorically is evolutionary complexity, because biodiversity is priceless. Whatever sustains and enhances complexity is good, while whatever harms complexity is evil. That means the planet is the unit of morality, not the individual. Coherence requires system thinking, an ability to analyse the consequences of actions for the whole. Duty is action to improve the whole. Durable old stability is intrinsically good. The meaning of life is the good of the future.

I think there is some nice Kantian validity in this, but it still needs a larger, or at least deeper, context to be fully coherent morally. "Priceless" obviously is the key concept.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The top level according to Maslow, known as self-actualization, has always left me dissatisfied on philosophical grounds.
I am writing a paper on Jung’s essay Aion The Phenomenology of the Self, to deliver at the Canberra Jung Society in May. Jung notes the distinction between self and ego, with self as a much deeper concept than personal conscious identity, instead partaking of a collective unconscious archetypal identity. Self-actualisation as distinguished from ego-actualisation is a good moral goal when the self is understood as a deep real identity. Jung explores these ideas in Aion through the theological framework of Jesus Christ as the archetype of the self.

This is very good. Jung grounds the relational depth of the "self that truly matters" in archetypes, which is at least a functional version of what might ultimately be the solution to these quandaries.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The cruelty of emperors instils a general moral repugnance. However, both the Mongol and French Empires had underlying achievements behind their brutality, that they caused the unification of large parts of the earth, enabling subsequent interaction and evolutionary growth and advancement.

Many would say these ends don’t justify the means, but the other side of that coin is that without drastic political change people are left in timidity, stagnation, separation and poverty. Napoleon founded the modern secular state with its dogma of laicity, and therefore was essentially atheist as a follower of Laplace. However, he provided room for divine glory with his view that imagination rules the world, and his claim that to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.
The best I can say for them is that the alternatives were not particularly better. Our horror may depend on the number of skulls stacked up after the massacre, or the amount of death and misery caused by their warfare. That is not the same as an analysis of whether their conquest, an "is", can be justified, an "ought".
Robert Tulip wrote:
I raise these examples here because imperial power best shows the confluence of facts and values, is and ought. An emperor decides what ought to happen based on his views of what is the case. An empire, that most empirical fact, is held together purely by force of will, by the values of the transcendental imagination of the emperor, by the unity of spiritual confidence in duty.

While doubters will always claim that the emperor has failed to derive his oughts from his ises, that his values are not based on facts, the imperial assertion of the unity of is and ought is always the only basis for stability and prosperity. The absence of such moral vision is the source of decline and collapse.
You would have trouble convincing me that Genghis Khan, or even Napoleon with his re-made code of laws, had any moral vision worth noting. Pax Romana made the same claim: we bring peace by winning. But peace was not the goal, winning was. In this age of specialization it is more true than ever that military victory is created out of military virtues, and there is no reason even in people as smart as those conquerors, to suppose that those coincide with moral vision.

Marcus Aurelius is supposed to be the great exemplar of the ruler who takes his duties seriously. And we know he ruined the best century of Roman rule by opting for biological succession rather than the adoption which had raised up the "benevolent" caesars before him.

Charlemagne gets my vote for most enlightened despot, (with an outside chance for Ashoka) but he is hardly the solution to the problem of squaring ought with is. Instead, the idea is that we are searching for a system which is better because it best solves the ethical problem of ruling justly. Whether "best solves" means "most durably solves" or "most justly solves" is more or less the matter on the table, but I would say that this is a matter of engaging moral instincts on a sustainable basis, not a matter of ignoring moral instincts out of fear of some practical threat.



Wed Mar 15, 2017 2:35 am
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