Friday, March 27, 2009

Discussion with Dave Ellis

in response to my discussion with Hermit about morality Dave Ellis, another loyal friend opponent joins in the discussion:

DE:
Experiencing love is not like a preference for chocolate over vanilla ice cream.

If you can experience love deeply with no psychological trauma or distortion of objectivity marring one's judgment I do not believe you can fail to value it.

Meta: But without any sort of metaphysical hierarchy in which to ground that value it is nothing more than sentiment. You can't make it be more important than it is if there is no transcendent place for it to register in the meaning of the universe. If it's just as and that's all there is then its just the way we feel and that's worth nothing more than my own little personal feelings.

It's so odd how atheists smirk and deride and belittle the subjective when it's used in a God argument. then their ethical foundation is based upon the subjective.

You simply cannot have it both ways. Atheists usually belittle the idea of "objective" morality. So that means the alternative has to be "subjective." so which is it?






DE:
Your claim that its just a "matter of taste" is simply a denial of the intrinsic value of love.
Meta: No it's being honest about the consequences of a universe with no transcendence. I am perfectly happy to carry the banner for the cause of the value of love, but only because I think love proves the reality of God in some strange mystical way.



DE:
You seem to think nothing has any value, even love, if that value isn't derived from a transcendent source.

Meta: Not that it doesn't have any value, but it's value is realities, limited and discordable. Come on you know people. One day it's hooray for love and that's why I'm moral, the next day it's "O well there's no sin so I can sleep with a married woman it wont really hurt anything." I mean come on, these things are easy to discord when the time comes and it's more convenient to do so.

you know people do this. How many people talked big about democracy then when the 9/11 happened they were willing to give up freedom for security? Or they supported torture for protection from terrorism, because suddenly all those find words about democracy and decency and all that didn't sound so fine when theyw ere afraid of being blown up.



DE:
I contend that the value of love derives solely from its own intrinsic qualities.

Meta: But how can it have any intrensic qualities if it's just a side effect of chemicals in our heads? It's nothing more than an accident that got out of hand. Unless of course it has some source beyond that.

Me (before)
Love is subjective, another time atheists would saying "that's subjective" meaning it's worthless.



DE:
Here is my central point on meta-ethics. The place where most people go dead wrong on the issue from the very start:

SUBJECTIVE DOES NOT MEAN ARBITRARY NOR WORTHLESS.


Meta: I'm glad to hear that, you are a rare individual. I really do think you are. But how do you base anything on that unless you are willing to see love soemthing beyond just biological organisms in a cold empty universe that has no meaning?



DE:
Subjective simply means experiential as opposed to somethings existence independent of experience.
Meta: Yes and no. It derives from the subject/object dichotomy. So the subject is the individual the object is something everyone can observe. Subjective is more just experience, it's also closed to the view of others, it's one person's view point that can't be shared with another (except in so far as it is inter-subjective, meaning they don't share it but have similar subjectivity). Those are tied in of course.




DE: Naturally, morality is all about the experiential. Where there are no experiences there can be no morality. Rocks and trees don't suffer, they don't hope, they don't love and they don't face moral dilemmas.

Meta: Obviously morality is practiced by subjects, But it's not about experiences. ti's about grounding axioms. That's what makes ethics work. Grounding axioms is what it's all about. you can't ground them in subjectivity.

You are not just listening. You think I'm telling you some Christian stuff this is standard ethical theory that you would get in any college class.



DE:
Its only when subjectivity (combined with sentience) enters the world that morality becomes a possibility.
Meta: of course but that doesn't mean that subjectivity is a grounding for axioms. That's like saying your care wont work without gasoline so therefore you can put gas in your radiator.

I don't know. I'm usually short when I try reaching for a good analogy.



DE:To illustrate what I mean by subjective not being equivalent to arbitrary let's look at the example of physical agony. We'd all agree that the experience is, in and of itself, a bad thing (though, of course, possibly a sometimes necessary thing in some circumstances). No one in their right mind values it in and of itself.

Meta: no now wait a minute. you have hold of the wrong end of the stick here. My argument was never that it's arbitrary. Its' that it doesn't' count for anything if there is no transcendence. Unless there is a higher meaning how can it have higher meaning? The only meaning it has is the meaning you want it to have. but because it is subjective you can't use it to sort between competing feelings. If You feel love dictates that you help people, I say I don't feel that way, what are you going to say to get me to believe that I should care what little personal feelings you have?



DE:
And why is agony to be devalued? If we look for some "objective" reason we go wrong from the very start. Its devaluation is due precisely to the subjective content of the experience itself.
Meta: what if you encounter members of a warrior culture and they don't value agony they see it as something to be ignored, a weakness? How do you sort out the value of it from their person feeling that it should be ignored?


Meta (before):
I'm not saying atheists don't love I'm saying most of the time they don't value the subjective until they need to like now.


DE:
Subjectivity as such is highly relevant (central in fact) to ethical questions (since such questions are in large part about what the subjective experience of life would be like for people as a whole who followed one set of values as opposed to another).
Meta: No it' s not. name one major ethicist who believes this? you don't find that in any major ethical idea. G.E. Moore with emotivism said that morality si emotive but he didn't try to say that that was a grounding, he used it to discorded the value of morality. He was an atheist and as such he felt that morality was an outmoded concept. that's the closest you come in real ethical theory.

do you not understand that there are major conversations that have been highly developed about ethical theory? I( mean you seem to be blazing a trail of your own. Shouldn't you care what the major thinkers have said?

You have not come to terms with duty and obligation nor have you told me how ethical axioms are grounded.


DE:
It is not pertinent to many other questions. Not all questions are about our subjective experience. Many are about how things are independent of that experience.
Meta: how do you choose between competing values if your grounding is relative and subjective?

Me (before):
If love is just a chemical reaction due to a side effect of the neural transmitters how does that ground moral axioms? just subjective.



DE:
Again, subjective does not mean arbitrary. Unlike you I do not dismiss subjectivity in moral questions. Subjectivity is at the heart of the issue.

Meta: saying it's not arbitrary does not expalin how it's grounded.

(1) what grounds it?

(2) how do you sort between competing values

(3) if there is no higher meaning in life why would this meaning anything?




DE:
Some subjective experiences (like love) are intrinsically positive in nature (though of course they can be distorted toward harmful objects and twisted in various ways, one of the things that makes meta-ethics complicated is the intricate ways subjective experience and objective fact are intertwined in questions of morality).

Meta: without prior grounding how do you determine a standard by which we could say the departure therefrom is "twisted?" That would seem to suggest a prior standard.



Meta (before)
If love is the character of God it grounds them becasue God created the universe so love is written in as the basic meaning of our being.



DE:
All I have to do is experience love to see it as the basic value for any sane and psychologically sound human being.


Meta: This is recusive. How do you determine what is "sane and psychological?" without a prior standard? You can appeal to love because that's the thing is question. So how do you say we can see that love is sane and psychologically sound? That's the thing you are judging not the grounding of itself. So you have to have a prior standard by which you judge love in order to say that it is so.

how do you translate "psychologically sound" into ethical? why should we think those are the same thing?



DE:
Lets imagine there is no god. Can you honestly say you would see no valid reason to think it better to be a loving person than a sociopath? Part of a community of loving individuals rather than a community of sociopaths?
Meta: Of course I would, but that doesn't make it moral. You are not answering the basic questions about grounding. All you are doing is telling me what you like. It's just the yeah boo theory. You have no basis for grounding other than "I think think is good." what is good, It's what I like. what if someone doesn't like it, what if I say "no?" How to do you handle that?

hypothetically let's say I answer that by saying "no, I don't care about love you are nuts. I take what I want and the only moral grounding is 'don't get caught.'" what can you tell me to make that bad other than "that's not what I would do?"

why should I care what you would do?

see you have to answer that to answer the thing about grounding.


DE:
The answer is obvious. All you have to do to recognize it is to get over this strange, unfounded idea you seem to have that subjectivity equates to arbitrariness.

Meta:arbitrary is your gig, that was not my statement. i never said that. you are the one with that problem. My argument is your axioms are not grounded. The subjective by its nature as relative cannot ground anything. to ground something we have to objective standards.

that's apt to create a misunderstanding and lead to the conclusion that I'm one of these people who runs around talking about "objective morality." That's not really the issue either. But the point is, yes we are subjective creatures and objectivity is largely a pretense. But we have to have moral grounding that has some teeth. We can't just apparel to feeling niceness and subjective things that can't translate inot standards that everyone can know up front are putting the "ought" into the equasion.

you can't get an ought out of subjectivity.



March 27, 2009 7:01 AM
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Blogger David B. Ellis said...


morality is about duty and obligation not just good vibes and candy ass sentiment.



DE:
What is duty but a codification of the behaviors natural to a person motivated by love?




Meta: no. why would you think that? that's the Hume's fork fallacy. you are trying to derive an ought from an is. Nature says "you are this way." But it can' tsay "You should be this way." It does not have it in itself to say "ought." just saying "this is" is not the same as saying we ought...

March 27, 2009 7:08 AM
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Blogger David B. Ellis said...


it's about doing what you should do.



And are not the things we should do the ones that come naturally to the person motivated by love?
Meta: you are making groundless assertions. you have no ability to slip ought in there. how can you go from 'is' to 'ought?' Hume says it's a fallacy.






DE:
Call it candy-ass sentiment if you like but its the sort of sentiment that makes people willing to risk life and limb. There's nothing candy ass about it.
Meta; no it's not. it's great stuff. but it's great stuff not because it makes me feel nice and it's what I like but because it's written into the nature of reality, the ultimate goal of being, it's the basis upon which being is.

many theologians have recognized a basic connection between being and love. Both are united in God. God is the ground of being and the basis and source of love.







March 27, 2009 7:11 AM
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Blogger David B. Ellis said...


I don't feel that I have the right to force others to like them just because I do. So that's not morality. But don't commit adultery, that can be forced upon everyone, because it's a moral motion.


that which is moral = that which we can legitimately force others to do?

I can see a lot of problems with such an idea.

DE:
I thought you put great stock in free will. In people's opportunity to CHOOSE to do right or wrong rather than their being forced to do right.

Meta: Free will is not canceled by the need to be moral. In fact beign moral would be impossible if it was not a free choice. Moral decision making reqjuires taht one choose freeling to be good. that's the basis of life, that's why God created us in the first place, so we could be free moral agents and willingly choose the good.

but we have to undrsatnd the nature moral agency and then choose it forourselves.

March 27, 2009 9:47 AM

14 comments:

David B. Ellis said...


You can't make it be more important than it is if there is no transcendent place for it to register in the meaning of the universe.


There is no reason to think something must have a transcendent basis for one thing to be more important than another. Any sane person values their house more than their shoestrings---with no transcendent anything involved.


If it's just as and that's all there is then its just the way we feel and that's worth nothing more than my own little personal feelings.


And so you conclude that their is nothing about what its like to be a loving person compared to what its like to be a sociopath which is intrinsically more worthwhile?

The obvious fact is that there doesn't have to be a "transcendent" reason to prefer being loving to being sociopathic. Any rational person who can think objectively and can imagine clearly what both are like will naturally prefer the first to the second.


It's so odd how atheists smirk and deride and belittle the subjective when it's used in a God argument. then their ethical foundation is based upon the subjective.


And you thought I "feared the subjective".

I appeal to the subjective where its appropriate to do so.

I don't think that one can reasonably go from "I feel in my heart that X is true" to "its reasonable to believe X is true."

That doesn't mean subjective content is not highly pertinent in many other issues---including ethics. An ethical theory that ignore subjectivity takes a wrong turn at the very first step.


Atheists usually belittle the idea of "objective" morality. So that means the alternative has to be "subjective." so which is it?


Are you having this conversation with atheists as a whole or me?

I never claimed to be a moral objectivist. I consider morality subjective but nonarbitrary. In particular I subscribe to ideal observer theory as the best approach to meta-ethics.


I am perfectly happy to carry the banner for the cause of the value of love, but only because I think love proves the reality of God in some strange mystical way.

Note that:

ONLY BECAUSE he thinks love proves God.

I, on the other hand, value love in and of itself, for what it is within the living experience of living beings.


But how can it have any intrensic qualities if it's just a side effect of chemicals in our heads?


I'm referring to it's intrinsic qualities as an experience. What does it matter what the physical mechanism underlying the experience is? It could be, at the most fundamental level, the result of Leibnitzian monads or sugar plum fairies for all I care.


It's nothing more than an accident that got out of hand.


As I painter there's nothing more to be thankful for than the "happy accident". The accidental is as to be appreciated as the planned.


But how do you base anything on that unless you are willing to see love soemthing beyond just biological organisms in a cold empty universe that has no meaning?


For the being whose heart is filled with love life can never be meaningless. The universe would be cold and empty and pointless if there was no life and mind to appreciate it.

But here we are. And so it is far from empty or meaningless. We are its meaning (and by we I mean the collective "we" of all mind within the cosmos).


Obviously morality is practiced by subjects, But it's not about experiences. ti's about grounding axioms.


Maybe that's what YOUR meta-ethical theory is about. Mine, obviously, is quite different.


you can't ground them in subjectivity.

You are not just listening. You think I'm telling you some Christian stuff this is standard ethical theory that you would get in any college class.


I subscribe, as I said, to ideal observer theory. Its a position defended by more than a few philosophers today.

You have not, that I recall, even stated what theory you subscribe to.


My argument was never that it's arbitrary. Its' that it doesn't' count for anything if there is no transcendence. Unless there is a higher meaning how can it have higher meaning?


I don't need or want "higher" meaning. Just meaning is fine with me.


How do you sort out the value of it from their person feeling that it should be ignored?


That is not in conflict with my position. They ignore (and therefore, overcome) agony---something that could be debilitating in combat. They devalue it as much as I do. The only sense in which they might be said to value it is as a means to an end---to display bravery and "toughness", etc. They hardly value it in and of itself. So I don't see any warrior culture I've ever heard of as being at odds with my position.


do you not understand that there are major conversations that have been highly developed about ethical theory? I( mean you seem to be blazing a trail of your own. Shouldn't you care what the major thinkers have said?


Are you completely ignorant of ideal observer theory? I didn't just pull this stuff from thin air. Its a highly developed position defended by more than a few theorists.

And at least I've named what theory I subscribe to. You haven't even done that.

J.L. Hinman said...

You can't make it be more important than it is if there is no transcendent place for it to register in the meaning of the universe.


There is no reason to think something must have a transcendent basis for one thing to be more important than another. Any sane person values their house more than their shoestrings---with no transcendent anything involved.

No I already answered that. you are not responding. you are not extending. how do you sort between competing values?


Meta:If it's just as and that's all there is then its just the way we feel and that's worth nothing more than my own little personal feelings.


And so you conclude that their is nothing about what its like to be a loving person compared to what its like to be a sociopath which is intrinsically more worthwhile?


I'm talking about grounding values for moral motions. You are not answering anything I've argued. you are ignoring my arguments as though they aren't there and then to score cheap points based upon subjective feelings.

Love figures into it in a big way. But I can't go into that now. but just ascribing moral motions to nice feelings with no grounding wont cut it.


The obvious fact is that there doesn't have to be a "transcendent" reason to prefer being loving to being sociopathic. Any rational person who can think objectively and can imagine clearly what both are like will naturally prefer the first to the second.

It's not a matter of perfuring. do you see what's happened to you your thinking? you reduced morality to selfishness so taht you think all there is to it is your presonal preference. I keep saying how do you srot between competing values rather answering that you just keep saying 'I liek thsi I prefur this dont' you?" what if I don't?

what if I say No I would rather be an asshole. now give me a reason not to be. you don't have an answer.



MetaIt's so odd how atheists smirk and deride and belittle the subjective when it's used in a God argument. then their ethical foundation is based upon the subjective.


And you thought I "feared the subjective".


you do when it leads to belief.

until you answer the arguments I'v made and the questions I've asked your blowing gas.

You can say it a hundered different ways, you have not grounding that's clear. You can deny teh need for it all you want it's obvious you don't understand the need for grouding because the terms you think in are those personal prefeernce.

meaning you aren ot really doing any moral thinking.

you do not even have a theory of the moral.

David B. Ellis said...


how do you sort between competing values?



Did I not say I subscribe to ideal observer theory?

I sort between competing values by attempting, as best I can, to embody the characteristics of the ideal observer. Obviously, neither I nor anyone else can do this perfectly---which is why I don't hold my moral opinions to be infallible.


It's not a matter of perfuring. do you see what's happened to you your thinking? you reduced morality to selfishness so taht you think all there is to it is your presonal preference.


Comments like this make it clear that you haven't read any of the literature on ideal observer theory and have no idea what you're talking about. The literature is readily available. Read some of it---I'm not asking you to read any books, a few internet articles should be sufficient to acquaint you with the theory well enough not to ask questions like the one above that simply show your complete ignorance of the theory.

At least acquaint yourself with the bare basics of the theory before you try to criticize it.

And, again, you still haven't stated what meta-ethical theory you subscribe to. It would be helpful if you would at least name it.

J.L. Hinman said...

how could you even begin to make a prescriptive statement about axioms, even as ideal observer? As long as you are unwilling to accep that there has to be some sort of organizing principle that enforces one view over another then it doesn't matter how many ideal observations you make, you can't put an Ought into an is.




Comments like this make it clear that you haven't read any of the literature on ideal observer theory and have no idea what you're talking about. The literature is readily available. Read some of it---I'm not asking you to read any books, a few internet articles should be sufficient to acquaint you with the theory well enough not to ask questions like the one above that simply show your complete ignorance of the theory.


you have not read meta ethical theory you are sloppy student of ethics.

now stop trying to intimidate me out out of asking embarrassing questions and start answering them.

you try to pretend that that is such a stupid ass question, any good student of ethics will ask that. that was the first question on my first graduate exame. stop the bs and answer.


At least acquaint yourself with the bare basics of the theory before you try to criticize it.


I don't have to criticize it (and I didn't)> it's not a meta ethical theory. It wont get the jop done.

And, again, you still haven't stated what meta-ethical theory you subscribe to. It would be helpful if you would at least name it.

that says it all right there. I spent all that time lauding duty and obligation and you say I didn't telyou what theory I like.

what theory do you think goes with duty and obligation?

J.L. Hinman said...

If you want it more specific:

I agree Joseph Fletcher's theory.

J.L. Hinman said...

Dave I put the post these comments go to on my boards as a thread. hoping to generate discussion. you are welcome to take part.

David B. Ellis said...

If you follow Fletcher's theory then why are you disagreeing with me? He seems to be arguing pretty much the same things I am.

To quote him:

"Only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love: nothing else at all."

Did I not say that love is an intrinsic good (and the highest one)? Has that not been the centerpiece of my thinking?

And where in Fletcher's writings does he defend the position that there must be a God as the basis of morality---he seems instead to argue what I do, that love is, in and of itself, the highest intrinsic good. From what I've briefly read so far Fletcher sounds much more like me than like you. But thanks for pointing him out. I like his thinking---I suppose I should since its nearly identical to mine.

And I see he became an atheist as well. I look forward to reading more of his writings. What's your favorite Fletcher book?

J.L. Hinman said...

If you follow Fletcher's theory then why are you disagreeing with me? He seems to be arguing pretty much the same things I am.


Not exactly. He didn't say axioms don't need grounding. There is a sense in which what you and I are both saying has a certain proximity to each other. We are not that far apart in some ways. But I think you are going more by "feel" rather than theory.

no offense.

but certain aspects that still separate us by a large margin.


To quote him:

"Only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love: nothing else at all."

Yes, I agree with that. But to be more precise love is the background of the moral universe. he agrees with Augustine on that. And that one line is what swung me over to his view. But that does not mean is that we can forget grounding. What it does is mean is love is the ultimate grounding.

but love for Augustine, Fletcher and me is not merely sentiment, but God.


Did I not say that love is an intrinsic good (and the highest one)? Has that not been the centerpiece of my thinking?


Yes, but then you come back and axioms don't need grounding. Love grounds axioms, but that doesn't mean that just one's own private sentimetns are the grounding. Love implies certain things not just the emotions that you have, but the will to the good of the other. If you are actually seeking the good of hte other then you are not grounded. If you are seeking the good of the other there are certani things you will and wont do.

I wanted to make a post on this on the other bolog but have been held up. I so I might as well deal iwth it now.


And where in Fletcher's writings does he defend the position that there must be a God as the basis of morality---he seems instead to argue what I do, that love is, in and of itself, the highest intrinsic good.

He was a Christian and he based his view on Augustine, so for him "love" implies God directly. God is love.



From what I've briefly read so far Fletcher sounds much more like me than like you. But thanks for pointing him out. I like his thinking---I suppose I should since its nearly identical to mine.


my views have been polorized in this discussion because in trying to get across to you what grounding means and why it's important I've had to lean to side of the equasion and ignore the other side.

The side I'm ignoring is where love turns out to be the grounding. But before I can get to that I have to make it clear why grounding is important.

atheists just saying "I love therefore I am moral" is not neither grounding nor love.

love is not just agreement wit a from of sentiment or an emotive state. It's action.

it's also the will to be good of the other that motivates action on behalf of the others good.


And I see he became an atheist as well. I look forward to reading more of his writings. What's your favorite Fletcher book?

He had it all together with situation ethics. I am not srue that he became an atheist in the sense that these message board people are athetists. I don't he went around going "there's no proof for your God." I don't think his motivation for being one was angrer, hate or becasue he didn't see any reason to believe.

He was back in the 60s with the God is dead movement that's rooted in Hegel. Its' based on a lot of stuff that message board atheists condemn all the time.

J.L. Hinman said...

you can find a good site that shows how to think in the calculus of Fetcher's situation ethics:

J.L. Hinman said...

Fletcher did not become an atheist. Here's a quote from a site:

there is a website that says this the url is here:

www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Joseph_Fletcher
Igot on it before but can't open again form some mother fucking reaon!

"priest, he identified himself as a Humanist. Some of his fundamentalist critics have alleged that he renounced his belief in God and became an atheist, a claim which has not been substantiated.(*)"

the asterisk links to this site:

a fundie complaining about the 60s.



the fundies hated Fletcher because they really saw him as permissively sanctioning gaynes and pre marital sex and drugs all manner of evil in the name of "Christian love." That was a really big thing. the 60s were tumultuous and the fundies who were freaked out by it really totally hated everything connected with it. To them Fletcher was an atheist from word one.

He did proclaim himself to be a "humanist" and so some may see that as atheist. atheists are always trying to swell their rnaks by claiming Buddhists as atheists and stuff. But there's a christian contingent to humanism.

J.L. Hinman said...

I bet you saw the page on Answers.com right? you are confusing "do the loving thing" with "do your own thing" because you assume that what you love to do is the loving thing.

I am not convinced that Fletcher understood being a secular humanist as synonymous with being an atheist.

J.L. Hinman said...

Dave your atheist comreade hatsoff has attacked your views on my message board. I put this post of this thread up there and he reposnded.

Yes he attacked you. he says nothing intrinsic about love.

I don't remember much about him. I know there's something he did to me but I don't recall. I just have a general impression that he's a butt hole.

David B. Ellis said...

It seems to me that the fundamental difference in our perspectives is what I might dub the "metaphysical bias". By which I mean an emotional disposition to only value things which are nonmundane, extraordinary, and in the case of the philosophically inclined its transmuted to the transcendent, the metaphysical.

This tendency is turned by those like you from an emotional disposition into a theoretical construct such that you end up not only with moral theory that require so sort of extra-mundane basis but an inability to even recognize that inherent value might reside anywhere else.


He was a Christian and he based his view on Augustine, so for him "love" implies God directly. God is love.


According to the wikipedia entry on him he later became an atheist. Did his moral theory change? From what I read his moral theory works fine with or without belief in theism.


I am not convinced that Fletcher understood being a secular humanist as synonymous with being an atheist.


That's what, in most cases, the term is used to mean. But I have better things to do than debate it.


Dave your atheist comreade hatsoff has attacked your views on my message board. I put this post of this thread up there and he reposnded.

Yes he attacked you. he says nothing intrinsic about love.


So what? Lots of atheists disagree with me on lots of issues. And lots of theists think there would be moral truths whether God existed or not (Swinburne, for example).

J.L. Hinman said...

Fletcher was a Christian when wrote situation ethics. He lost his marbles latter, that doesn't take away from that book.

he never did become the kind of atheist we see on message boards. I doubt that he would have liked Dawkns for example.